Why not ef- tale of memories?

Warning: I will not use the words pretentious or overrated in this post. If you’re expecting them, well I don’t know now what to tell you. But they won’t be here.

Okay, so that’s out of the way. Now I have a confession to make, I’ve always had a soft spot for a good romance. For all of their faults, I do like Paradise Kiss and Kare Kano a lot.  I’m comfortable enough admitting that and ef is a good romance show.

In fact, the parts people would complain about (the crazy artwork, the overly dramatic, heavy-handed theme) all worked in the course of the story. Now, I will say that ef didn’t really do that much that Paradise Kiss and Kare Kano didn’t already do. They essentially had the same themes of following your dreams and the perception of self versus the perception of others. In this case, the show used memories as a way of dealing with those themes (go figure the thing is called “a tale of memories.”) But unlike those shows, ef was the perfect length. It is an exceedingly rare thing when I find a twelve episode series that should be twelve episodes.

I would say that the visual symbolism for the most part worked for the show. Granted there are parts that I’m still not sure that I understand, and parts where I think the creators just ran out of money. But the symbolism is consistent with the characters and except for a couple situations isn’t completely over bearing. (The stained glass window bit got really old.)

(Spoiler Alert!)

But good lord, the pathos. This show had enough angst to power an entire emo city. Now, I realize that this is part and parcel to the entire romance genre. (What would a romance show be if the main characters didn’t whisper each others names three or four times an episode.) But there are several moments in the show where it pushed it too far. For instance, there is a scene where one of the love interests is calling this guy she was supposed to meet. Now she’s in the process of getting stood up, but we get privy to the messages she’s leaving for him.

All of the messages she’s leaving for him.

All twelve or thirteen messages she leaves for him.

One or two would have been alright. It would have been heart-rending without being over bearing. Three would have been pushing it. I could have accepted five, but after that I started thinking about fast forwarding it through the scene. Simply because it felt like a trick so that I would feel bad for the character.

Oh yeah, and then there’s Chuhiro, the girl who loses her memory every thirten hours, who is essentially a Teddy Ruxpin playing a Country-Western tape. Oh yeah, and she’s lost her eye too, because she didn’t have enough going against her. Her storyline is nothing BUT angst. Granted, it’s not bad angst. It is understandable. But the one moment in the show where she stops being the little angst-girl who could was like a breath of fresh air.

But it didn’t last long.

But enough about the angst.

Because I have to talk about a film student.

Now, I give the show credit his name didn’t come up enough for it to stick in my head, which means that his dangerously self-referential remarks only have a face to pin to it. Honestly, when I heard the line, “I want to make the film that I want to make.” I just about shot out of my seat, grabbed a copy of “In Our Time” and smacked the computer with it.  Come on SHAFT, you don’t need to tell us to go screw ourselves if we don’t like your show.

Really, we can figure that out all by ourselves.

——

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail iniksbane@gmail.com

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12 Comments

  1. I think the cell-phone messages scene wasn’t a trick, or, if it was, it was a really well-executed trick. Directing is mostly about utilizing tricks to get the viewer emotionally wrapped up in the scene and characters, creating tension, and what-not, so I fail to see how describing it as a “trick” is a negative comment about the scene.

    What I liked about the message scene was the mounting tension in both the music and Miyako’s voice. You are correct in that they could have just had three or four messages to convey MIyako’s distraught; however, I think that in so doing much of the emotional impact of the sequence would be lost, and that’s what Shinbo/whoever the actual director is were shooting for. It’s like the pay phone countdown scene–the repetition serves a purpose in the overall impact of the episode/series.

    And I’m not a “film student” or even someone who’s taken a film class (and I don’t plan to, as the sort of films we would watch in that class would inevitably bore me to tears), so I could be totally wrong here, but I doubt it.

  2. @OGT – Okay, so there’s a trick that feels like a trick and then their’s a trick that doesn’t feel like a trick. To be honest, I think it would have been far more subtle if it was one or two at most five messages. What I mean by it was a trick was it was meant for us to feel bad for Miyako, and it was over done.

    Now the pay phone scene I’ll agree was actually extremely well-executed.

    And to be honest, this is my opinion. To other people those same scenes could have been great. Hell a lot of people loved this series. I just thought it pushed the angst button a little too hard.

  3. I don’t think being angsty is particularly a problem in this case. Angst ended up being a part of the characters in the show. Let’s be honest. If you pass out as 12yr old, woke up in the body of yourself at age 16 and can’t remember anything in between, do you think your mental psyche will be ok after that?

    As for Miyako, the message scene made us realize why she is so clingy. Again the angst here ended up being another one of her character flaws. I don’t consider it much of a “trick” since it did serve the purpose of waking up the audience to the issues behind her fun/outgoing exterior. If the buildup to finding out her past was more traditionally slow, I don’t think we’d be talking about it.

    When I think of ef now, I don’t really think of it as pure romance show. The show will be thematically remembered for being closest to the “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” of anime. And in my opinion, that’s not a particularly bad way to be remembered by.

  4. “What I mean by it was a trick was it was meant for us to feel bad for Miyako, and it was over done.”

    I had figured that we were supposed to feel pity for Miyako, but at the same time, feel disturbed at the sudden change from someone who seems confident and in control to someone who seems to have a couple of serious issues. 😛

  5. koneko – I think “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is a good comparison. And to be honest, I did like the show.

    TheBigN – Yeah, I don’t think that that part did that for me. I think the part where she was talking to Kei at the railroad tracks did that for me. (Which is probably why I think it was overdone.) But I do see your point 🙂

  6. Someone that picked up Kyousuke! FTW.

    Best character in the show IMO.

  7. Mm, angst, in at least light parcels, is a staple of the visual novel genre (I’m kind of afraid to use that word at this point, but I digress) to me, in that it’s the driving force behind a lot of character introspections, the ’emotional journey’ of sorts. The characters really spend a lot of time finding themselves in ef, and in order to do that they have to do a lot of soul-searching and throwing out of their old beliefs.

    How much a viewer can stand angst is probably a function of age; it sounded like you are an older blogger, so I can understand why you think ef is a bit angsty. The target audience, I believe, teenagers like me, can handle this stuff because it’s oh so true *slits wrists* similar to the process we are going through in finding our true goals and beliefs. I enjoyed ef as such, as it really struck a few cords and it didn’t come off as overly angsty to me.

    Then again, that could also be a result of the fact that I’ve seen shows twice as pathos-filled; School Days is probably the most infamous one, seeming almost a parody with it’s angst level, and Myself;Yourself pulls some intense moments of this kind as well. I think they’re good shows but not the type of the broad appeal (relatively) like ef.

  8. @CCY – Those are both great points. And I think it might be my age, I found a similiar phenomena when I read Crisis of the Infinite Earths (only much stronger, because that has sooo much cheese.)

    As Koneko pointed out the scene with the pay phone at the end, I absolutely loved it. I thought it had great tension, a really wide range of emotion and I didn’t know where it was going to go. But I totally understand and can totally agree with you, that it’s me, it’s not the show necessarily.

    But I was kind of wondering if other SHAFT shows are along the same lines, because they’d be fun to watch.

  9. Incidentally, for completion’s sake, this segment:

    “oh so true *slits wrists*”

    in my previous comment was meant to be in strikethrough, but I guess your comment box didn’t take it, or I failed, or whatever, since it just looks like I broke a sentence mid-thought. Since you’re with WordPress now, “LMB^Box Comment Quicktags” is a great plug-in for having easy formatting options for comments. I suggest you take a rainy day and mess around with WordPress plugins, they’re what really make it tops over Blogger.

    And about other SHAFT shows, I don’t -think- they’ve done anything else in this genre; the two I can think of from SHAFT are Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Hidamari Sketch, both slice-of-life. The first is a fun watch still, if you’re into dark comedy.

  10. To be honest, I was thinking about giving SZS a swing, just because I like the whole “Goodbye Mr. Despair” thing.

    And are the WordPress plugins on the WordPress site?

  11. I don’t really see angst as a bad thing in anime (or anything, really), nor do I think there was “excessive angst” in ef, and I’m 23. I have real issues with the word “angst”, though, because I think people use it to mean something the dictionary doesn’t say it means, or else I don’t really understand the dictionary defintion, or I’m too wrapped up in the negative connotation of angst to really be able to apply it to things I like. I like it when characters are unsure of themselves, and have to spend some time coming to grips with whatever it is that’s troubling them. It’s probably because I see life as a series of things with which you must come to grips with, so it’s nice to see those sorts of things reflected in fiction.

    And Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is hilarious. SHAFT/Shinbo really didn’t get good uintil they made Hidamari Sketch and they knocked it out of the park with SZS and ef. I hear that ZSZS is even nuttier than the first season, too.

  12. @ OGT – I do understand your point. How I tend to define angst is a whole lot of anxiety and worry. Now, I don’t know if it’s a factor of age or just a factor of taste, but I like my angst moderated by happy moments or arguments. Perhaps maybe it should be I felt like I should be under a whole lot of tension all of the time when I was watching it. Even at moments when a different emotion, like sadness or regret or nostalgia would have been nice.

    Arguably I like it too when characters are unsure of themselves. But I don’t like it all of the time. In fact, I like it better when the characters are sure of themselves and completely wrong. Or where they’re sure of themselves and what they’re sure of isn’t really what they’re sure of.

    Too much worrying on the part of the character leaves me feeling like I’m in the middle of a “bathtub” story. Where the character isn’t doing anything but thinking. Now ef didn’t push it that far. And I do think it’s a good show for that. But I do think it did try to amp up the tension where it didn’t need to. And where another type of feeling probably would have been nicer.


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