12 Days, 12 Moments: Day 12–Words, Words, Words…and the rest is silence

And I close this series of 12 Moments with what I think is the greatest moment in anime I’ve seen this year. It comes from the show I liked best this year, ef-a tale of memories, episode 7. Those of you who’ve seen it know what I’m talking about. I haven’t seen a scene in an anime that rattled me so much since the genesis of my fandom watching the psychodrama parts of Evangelion.

Words, and silence.

Day 12: Words, Words, Words…and the rest is silence

I am one of those few people who not only liked those weirdo pseudo-existential moments in anime, like the endings of Evangelion–I probably wouldn’t be the fan I am today without them. I also got into anime and probably continue to watch it for largely self-indulgent reasons; I felt at the time that Shinji vocalized a lot the feelings I had at the time, and I tend to be most attached to shows that offer insights that seem to apply to me personally. Evangelion was first; the next show that did something similar was Honey and Clover and then Welcome to the NHK!. It’s no accident that those also happen to be my top three anime.

Looking at Miyako’s desperation in the second half of episode 7 was like looking back in time for me. It was so reminiscent stylistically of the more emotionally harrowing parts of Evangelion that I almost laughed; but the more I listened to her messages and her words crowding out even her silhouette on the screen, and her voice rose to a fever pitch before collapsing into brokenness–suddenly I remembered what it was like to be that way. It was a different feeling, of course; it didn’t have the sense of immediacy that watching the other three shows provided, but it did resurrect some of the emotions. Few anime do this sort of thing anymore for me. That alone deserves commendation.

Moreover, the scene is emblematic of what SHAFT has accomplished in this show; using unconventional art style and good writing, they have elevated the genre. This is as close as anime gets to stream of consciousness and an evocation of what a person sees through his or her eyes. It’s also for once a more or less serious discussion of the life of the artist, which I found surprisingly cogent and related to the main “romance” plots. They’re doing in 13 episodes what other series take a very long time to achieve.

SHAFT seems on track to succeed or continue what Hideaki Anno started in that regard–take the raw emotion and artsiness which Gainax was once synonymous with and continue it into this century. In a strange way this scene is both an homage and a declaration of war. Hardly anyone, not even Gainax itself, does this sort of anime anymore. They are doing it in a much maligned genre, harem eroge romance, much as giant robots were once seen as juvenile. I am told that the original game actually is the source of this artistic approach, though, so perhaps SHAFT is merely following their footsteps, and it is minori that deserves the accolades for turning what seemed like a truly unpromising show from the preview to one of the year’s ultimate triumphs. You might even call it “the eroge adaptation for people who hate eroge adaptations.” I think that accounts for some of my incredible enthusiasm for this show, in that it was doing things that I didn’t think shows of this sort ever could do.

In the end, there was only Miyako, the color and the lines of her life fading away. She, at least, received her happy ending. And it felt earned. We don’t get to those places easily in life; sometimes, we have to pass through moments like these. And it is the artist who is brave enough to capture them and channel its ugliness and horror in such a way that when we watch, we feel a semblance of them too. That experience can be strangely beautiful, though. And at the least, an experience we aren’t likely to forget.

This concludes the 12 Days, 12 Moments series. Thanks for reading and commenting! And Merry Christmas to all.

This is an Anime Blogging Collective post. Other participants include

Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at mike.huang@animediet.net. You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.

11 thoughts on “12 Days, 12 Moments: Day 12–Words, Words, Words…and the rest is silence

  1. So much talk on ef…I really need to catch up on that show.

    But what I can say, as a student currently reading the book…Hamlet! What are you doing in my anime? XD

    Congrats on getting to the end of this series as well, hope it’s been fun for you too. ^^ Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

  2. Well, I’ve read the first installation of the visual novel, and I can tell you it’s nothing special. The music and illustrations are very well done, but the writing is mediocre at best. It does manage to flesh out some characters a lot better than the anime though, Yuu and Yuuko in particular, but then again, it DOES have a lot more time on its hands to do so (around 15 hours of reading for me, and thats just the first installment, which doesn’t deal with Renji and Chihiro’s story at all).

    Shaft’s adaptation really managed to capture the essence of ef’s themes and characters, and at the same time added in their own brilliant imagery, direction and artistic touch, (which were all but non-existent in the original material).

  3. @Ray: still haven’t watched episode 12 yet…still waiting for the translation. Let’s hope the happy ending isn’t forced.

    @CCY: hey, I was an English major. I’ve read Hamlet in three different classes, I’d hoped it rubbed off on me some. 🙂 (I personally like Othello and King Lear more.) It seemed awfully appropriate to conflate those two quotes this time, though. For the negative reviews I could always pull out “full of sound and fury/signifying nothing” 🙂 Perhaps for Gundam 00?

    @usagijen: thanks. And a Merry belated Christmas to you too!

    @lulu: thanks for the info. It seems we are in good storytelling hands, then, much as KyoAni improved the Fuko arc from the game’s ending. The few visual novels I’ve tried out have not impressed me with the storytelling quality or writing so I’m not so surprised. The Shibo/Oonuma double team is definitely getting an award from me this year.

  4. Amen to that.

    It’s great to hear from a fellow ef fan who saw the Anno-isms in the show – I can only repeatedly agree with you about how this is the ‘eroge adaptation for those who don’t like adaptations’ and how it’s the very sort of marvellous stuff that not even Gainax do any more.

    That scene is one of the most powerful of the entire series – well chosen! Thanks for making such a superb job of capturing the magic of that scene and the show in general. Merry Christmas indeed. ^_^

  5. im so psyched that i found someone to share same feelings with..hehe.. well,i mean i really love this anime.. some would think,it’s ridiculous to say this,but it influenced my life alot.. i wanted to share it.. too bad i think i’m the only person here who have watched it already(haha)and im looking for someone to talk about it and say,’have you watched ep 11?its soo sad huh?’..yeah.. like that.=)its unexpected actually ‘coz i was just looking for pics of clannad on the net.. I’ve seen this page below one of the pics and i was surprised to see talks about ef..
    gosh.. thanks,, i appreciate you..

  6. Can we start a study of early exposure to Evangelion in the fandom (it was my second or third show after Vandread) to see if it leads to impeccable and eccentric taste, already? (: I wholly agree with what you said about ef doing for eroge being similar to that of Eva and mecha. Hope you had a great Christmas, and don’t mind my late comments. Catching up on the blog backlog.

  7. I found the ending to ef, very strange. It was too much for me. I enjoy an enthusiastic shouting at each other for an ending after hope finally appears (I just read Catch-22, and I loved that ending), but it happened three times!

    I learned to type a warning from Macdonalds coffee, so: I’m going to type a spoiler here. I don’t particularly enjoy being sued.

    Hiro went to fix things up with Kei and it led to them yelling and crying to each other through the door, and then they were OK.

    Miyako called Hiro to say goodbye, but it led to Hiro getting irritated at how she thought it could never work out, and again more yelling, only this time it was through a phone and Hiro biked to find her and yell that he loved her, and then they were OK.

    Renji saw Chihiro and she didn’t know who he was, so he started running around in despair, then he found a piece of her diary and frantically ran around looking for her pages/memories then he ran up to her covered in scratches, bruises, and shreds of clothes(how the hell could he get that messed up? It doesn’t seem right) and started yelling that he would find all of her memories and make her remember, then she started yelling back that she did remember him, that she couldn’t not think about him for 13 hours, and then they were OK.

    Goddamn. There were moments when I had to let out a frustrated “GAH!” Too much. Far too much. Plus, the ending when they all stated what had happened, and what they will do was unnecessary.

    There are anime shows where you find yourself wishing that the characters will find a happy ending, but know it will never become true and find yourself in a despair. (Keep in mind I’m using a hyperbole.) Those endings, when your hopes are crushed, whether instantly or slowly, are the best endings. This show ended covered in cheese. It was a brilliant and beautiful show, it just felt too something at the end. I can’t quite comprehend it. The only way to describe it using my vocabulary is “great but ‘gah!'”

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