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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.

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.

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