ef~a tale of memories 3–A Moment, A Memento

 Time……and sight.

This is quickly shaping up to be not only the most original, but also the most ambitious show of the season. Shinbo is definitely going to be heavily represented in the Originality Awards at the end of this year…and, if the emotional promise that this show makes is delivered, it just might be one of the more meaningful and affecting ones too.

The rolling waves–a wonderful metaphor for this kind of amnesia

This is a slice of life show in a different mode; they are slices of subjectivity as much as slices of different characters’ lives. For me there is a definitely hierarchy of interest, though; I’m far more interested in the Renji-Chihiro relationship than the other stories, though each has its own peculiar charms. But the Renji-Chihiro situation is the thematic key which holds the show together, where the theme of memory is starkest and most meaningful. I remember when I first read the show’s logline “do you have memories you don’t want to forget?” that it sounded like a standard ren’ai tagline, an invitation to remember lots of girls wanting to jump your bones. I didn’t quite expect that it would be taken so literally, and so effectively shown through the artistic directing.

I watch my director friends do this all the timeYou’re just too artsy for us, Shinbo

One pleasing thing to me too as a wannabe writer myself is how much of the show is about artists. All three male characters are artists of some sort: Renji the novelist, Kyosuke the filmmaker, and Hiro the manga-ka. (Of shoujo manga, of all things–but he seems rather clueless about women!) There have been a few comments too about the artistic process that are worth mentioning, and they too are connected to memory and to the subjective vision which the artist is supposed to rely upon to create. That’s why the filmmaker insists on taking his own shots, on trying to find that place where he can somehow capture a dream. It’s no wonder that Shinbo includes so many closeups of eyes, and that it’s significant that Chihiro has lost one of her eyes; so much of this show is about seeing. So much about creativity is about seeing things differently, and so much about memory is being able to see with the mind’s eye, and both eyes for Chihiro are damaged. For her, the ability to tell a story may be literally lifegiving; to write things down, as she does already by reading her diary before going to bed every night, and to make sense of her life, is the only thing that keeps her from disappearing from her own consciousness and from those of others’. I haven’t seen in anime a more potentially good exploration of that idea except perhaps, indirectly, in Serial Experiments Lain where the notion of memories sustaining our very existence comes in at the end.

Oh I know! You’re the spunky girlThe shoujo manga artist builds his harem

The typical romantic comedy scenes with Hiro are more cliched and less interesting to me, and that is perhaps reflected by how the visual style returns to “normalcy” during that time. There’s almost a harem situation with his kouhai and Miyako, not to mention his “little sister childhood friend” Kei. I suppose it’s one of those instances where even daring and experimental shows need some kind of ballast, much like the way Evangelion needed an entire first half of “monster of the week” scenarios to prepare the viewer for the chaos to come. This is a show that grows out of the ren’ai game genre after all, and it’s refreshing to see that the usual identity markers of the genre are there mainly as starting points for something much bigger.

I will be very impressed with the show if they decide to focus on Renji and Chihiro trying to write a story together. Perhaps Hiro, Renji, and Kyosuke and Chihiro will somehow get together to create something. What a beautiful outcome and metaphor that would be. I haven’t been this interested in the artistic potential of a show in a little while and I really hope they don’t waste it.

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.

7 thoughts on “ef~a tale of memories 3–A Moment, A Memento

  1. This is quickly becoming my favorite show of the season (well, Ghost Hound is in there, too) — rather surprisingly, since I didn’t expect much from yet another bishoujo game adaptation, even one coming from Shaft.

    For another in-depth look at memory, take a look at Nadesico. Underneath that silly exterior, there is a lot of thought devoted to memory and forgetting in all its forms: from the personal (memory is important to several characters) to the social (a critical plot element is an event that was written out of history, and therefore forgotten).

  2. Ah, excellent, your downtime hiccup seems to be over! This is a great post that really helped me appreciate certain details of the show – until you and Owen pointed out that there really is a point to the quirkiness, I was beginning to doubt my judgement on this one.

    It was quite ironic I think that in ep #2 Kyosuke is trying to argue his case for making films that won’t appeal to the majority of would-be viewers – isn’t that what the series itself is doing? Yeah, the devil’s in the details. The idea of Chihiro having a ‘memory defect’ felt a bit odd and almost too convenient but as you pointed out (if I’m interpreting what you said right) it’s another example of the symbolism that this series is using so extensively.

    Initially I was drawn in by Tenmon’s music, then the possibility of the separate story arcs being connected in some way, but now I have yet another reason to keep watching. Cheers again and I hope your downtime problem is sorted properly now. 🙂

  3. Well, thanks a lot for the associations. I enjoyed very much. But what surprised me in most of the comments that I readed about ef is the ausence of art apreciation. It’s a great piece of well done work. The care with colours and scenarios is touching.

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