ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 2

And we’re back to ef! I’ve spent a little time away from this one, but I’m excited to continue Shin Oonuma’s big SHAFT treatise. The first episode mostly impressed through visual invention, though I did also enjoy the banter between at least one of the couples we’ve met so far. The implied melodrama of the narrative seems to match nicely with the aggressive theater of the presentation, making for a beautiful and cohesive overall package. If the writing can hold up, this could be a pretty special show!

Alright, let’s get right to it.

Episode 2

This episode is titled “Upon a Time.” Leaning into the show’s theatrical tendencies with a fairy tale title

Opening with that “will you be my friend” again. I’ll be very impressed if this show convinces me to like this style of character

A basketball bouncing in black and white. The first episode seemed to tether all the key girls to objects like this, perhaps associating them with some crucial past event

I love this title screen. This show has a confidently ostentatious style of framing, like a less tongue-in-cheek version of an Ikuhara show

And this gorgeous shot of candles in the church

This time it’s Chihiro at the church her friend was visiting. This seems to be a familiar place for her

Odd steady shot of her walking into the building. It strives for fluid animation, but it’s so brief and jerky that I wonder at its purpose

Wonderful rich colors here. This show demonstrates you can pull off bright, almost garish color palettes without becoming afflicted by GoHands

“Don’t get too close to anyone or let anyone get too close to me.” Of course

“Himura-san, would it be okay to tell someone about my condition?” I’m glad they’re not dragging this out. It’s clear she’s afflicted with some kind of tragic condition, no reason to keep the audience in endless suspense

And now we actually see Chihiro playing basketball

“I don’t even have the ability to regret my mistakes.” So she used to play basketball, suffered some serious injury on the court, and now has some form of repeating amnesia?

Wait, fuck, does this show have TWO SEPARATE GIRLS with short-cropped purple hair and yellow eyes? Was that the other girl playing basketball? God damnit

Well, whatever. Looks like we’re now following manga artist boy and his sister

We open with birds in flight after the title drop. Falling feathers was also one of the key black and white motifs, but it looks like we’re sticking with this same pair for the moment

This purple-haired, yellow-eyed girl is called Kei

The animation in this show is super jerky. Part of it comes down to the thick linework just not looking particularly graceful in motion

He’s Hirono, and here’s Kyosuke, the guy with the camera

The two siblings have a pretty believable sibling rapport

Kyosuke’s a playboy

Oh my god, what is all this crazy visual stuff. Live action shots of the school interspersed with commentary on a violin concerto. And now back to the black and white shots, as Kei runs up stairs

This doesn’t seem to be a memory of any kind, which puts a damper on the idea that the black and white images signify key moments. That’s sort of the risk you run with this much visual experimentation – if you apply wacky ideas to every shot, nothing ends up conveying anything specific. A visually aggressive style is a fine aesthetic choice, but lots of visual noise doesn’t necessarily elevate a story’s drama

“I felt as if my world was missing a color”

“I believe that if your dreams come true, you have responsibilities.” A sharp and understandable thought. Having achieved success as a manga artist, he has a responsibility to see his dreams through

He talks with the girl in the silly hat in a sequence that seems like a dream

And Miyako arrives

“Your shots are too bold. They’re hard to sequence.” Feels like Kyosuke’s classmates are complaining about this show itself

“You should start taking shots that appeal to the general public.” It’s always interesting to see this argument play out in art like this. The desire to break away from the public’s approval and express your own identity is perfectly understandable, but what if what you’re expressing… just isn’t that interesting? I feel like that characterizes a lot of Imaishi’s work – a passionate drive to shake the public’s expectations and make… a whole lot of boob drawings and poop jokes

Feathers again in the corner of the frame as Kyosuke walks out of the photo club

Chihiro and not-Chihiro actually know each other, and are friends. You are fucking with me, ef

And she’s in a shot with a basketball, so yeah, it seems Kei is the basketball girl

“He has a deadline” juxtaposed against Hirono idling away the day with Miyako

This show sure does love fucking with perspective

“Read my manga. It’s full of even deeper lines than that.” These two have a very solid rapport. They casually make fun of each other in a way that consistently reaffirms their friendship

Ah I see. Chihiro’s hair falls over her left eye, while Kei’s falls over her right eye. Obviously

“From the ‘me’ of yesterday to the ‘me’ of today…” More alluding to Chihiro’s Big Problem

I feel like this sort of dramatic structure, the way they’re sculpting Chihiro’s story, is just not all that naturally effective. Usually, the way to make an audience care about a character’s problems is to make them care about that character in general – but with these tragic girls, often what’s supposed to make you care is the severity of their problem, the amount of tragic-ness packed into their life story. But if you don’t care about the character, that’s not really a meaningful thing

Oh my god, the repeated cuts to his sad expression. Ef plz

“You’re being sarcastic.” “No, I was just…” “Just being sarcastic?” Dang, looks like Chihiro actually has some snark in her too. Maybe this couple is alright after all

Discussing their future plans. All three of our male leads are artists or potential artists of some kind, and all of them are grappling with how to pursue that passion as their high school years end. Self-expression in the real world seems key to ef’s overall concerns

“I have a twin sister who tells me all about school.” Answering one question while raising several more. If Chihiro and Kei are twins, doesn’t that make Chihiro Hirono’s sister as well? Or does Kei just call Hirono her brother out of familiarity?

Renji negotiates his way to being called “Renji-kun.” A great victory for Renji

“If you want to be with Chihiro, you better brace yourself.” More building up of The Condition

“Will I still be here tomorrow?”

“Are you Renji-kun?” Okay, so she can only remember a single day, but writes all her prior memories in a diary? That would fit the information so far

They establish their relationship as like that of an older brother and younger sister, because, well, yeah

I actually like how this lengthy extended shot of them talking on the beach keeps us from seeing any of their actual expressions

“I can only retain 13 hours of memory at a time.” Yep. And again, extremely happy the show’s not dragging this out. “Solving” this sort of thing isn’t particularly interesting, but the consequences of both of them living with that reality certainly could be

“I’m going to be like this forever.” Also a nice choice. Don’t make this about the “search for a cure,” make it about living in difficult conditions

And Done

Alright then! I’m not sure if I’d call that episode “stronger” than the first (for one thing, it was a lot less visually compelling), but I’d say it gave me a lot more confidence in the show going forward. We’ve already moved past cryptic riddles about identity, and are now pretty solidly in understandable drama territory. Chihiro’s condition is strange, but not so strange that it makes it impossible to invest in her story, and she actually got a lot of solid characterization this episode. Things are looking up for A Tale of Memories!

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2 thoughts on “ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 2

  1. Anterograde Amnesia (ie: cannot form new long-term memories) is a real thing that real people have to struggle with. While obviously fiction takes some liberties to dramatize the situation, such as the exact 13 hour timer, calling it “strange” seems a bit odd to me. It’s just a disability some people have.

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