ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 3

And we’re back with more ef! The second episode did a great deal to increase my confidence in this series, largely because it was so quick in revealing the dark and tragic secret of Chihiro’s memory. Chihiro’s problem is a Maeda-style device that would have made for a totally inert reveal if it were dragged out – her problem is tough to relate to, but that doesn’t actually matter if we can relate to her feelings about her problem. When dramas like this hide their tragic twists, they trade the audience’s ability to sympathize with their characters for a cheap combination of suspense and surprise. By revealing her condition right now, the show can work to put that condition in tangible, relatable terms through her future actions.

Anyway! We’ll see soon enough whether the show actually takes its variables in compelling directions. Let’s get right to it!

Episode 3

“This is due to an accident that happened four years ago”

Even her eye patch is given some sort of explanation

“First, you must read this diary every morning.” Yep, there’s the confirmation for her relationship with with Renji. Fifty First Dates, here we come

I really like this OP using flowing text as its background. SHAFT are generally very good about finding something emotionally resonant in typography – reframing text as one more visual object, in the same way characters themselves are often reframed as physical objects divorced from individual intent. The focus on unbiased visual organization of objects on screen can create a sense of emotional dissociation from the show, but can also result in new emotive constructions


These shots by the beach are beautiful. And already, the reframing of Renji as a window to view the sea implies a certain emotional distance in his reading about Chihiro’s condition. His feelings are inscrutable

“Older?” “Time stopped for me four years ago.” Nice immediate acknowledgment of how she’ll permanently feel younger than she is. Looks like they’re treating this conceit pretty carefully

“This is ‘me.’” Yep. The diary contains all of her personality since the accident

“By midnight, I can’t remember anything before 11 A.M.” Carefully outlining the details of her condition could feel superfluous or silly, but this is nicely conveying the specific horrible nature of her condition. What a terrifying feeling, to have hours just disappear from your mind one by one

She “remembers” key events by refreshing and reiterating them in her mind every few hours, before they risk disappearing. Jeez

“It’s very easy if I relinquish everything.” The more we invest in the world, the harder it becomes to live, and that’s doubly true for her

“I become a burden just by living.” I hear you

The career path questionnaire. Returning to questions of life after high school

And we meet Kuze, a new guy

This meeting is given odd dramatic significance, but offers basically nothing of meaning so far

The motif of a single sheet of paper fluttering away is an excellent metaphor for Chihiro’s progression of days

Meeting new people is difficult, and Chihiro embodies that difficulty

The black box tightens on the screen, emphasizing Renji’s feelings of self-doubt and entrapment

“My biggest fear is not of losing my memory, but of being forgotten”

“What can a knight do to protect his princess?” Chihiro is as “sad doomed girlfriend” as you can possibly get, and here’s Renji framing himself as an actual knight. Kinda hoping these perceptions cause some trouble for them

The fear of being forgotten contrasted against the hope of creating something artistically

I like how the unnatural black boxes of the earlier scene are now reappear as actual windows in the real world

“Chihiro can’t retain memories, so she tries her best to keep promises”

After a full half episode with Renji, we jump over to line two

Hirono rushing against a deadline

And now he’s getting boobs squished into his head. Times are tough

Whoa, this is a next-level pout by Miyako

Hirono apparently has a special key to the school roof. Feels a bit like a Chekhov’s gun

Kyosuke complaining about his clubmates’ lame photography again. His story really hasn’t gone anywhere yet

They’re talking about the sights of Otowa, their town, but it’s basically impossible to get any sense of place from this show. Characters just float through visual setpieces without grounding, which works for some concepts, but definitely doesn’t create a sense of a lived place

Apparently the town’s been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Echoes of Chihiro’s identity

“I don’t hate school. I just hate being bored”

Hayama, a pigtailed girl, shows up

“You forgot my name so easily, my heart is broken.” Miyako continues to be the most naturally personality-filled member of the cast. Well, I guess she just expresses herself more confidently than most

Hayama is snarky and gay. Nice that she just mentions that in a casual aside with no reaction from Hirono

“I don’t know what I really want to do.” Kyosuke is a pretentious asshole with a martyrdom complex, but at least he’s willing to admit one of his fundamental problems

Also appreciate that these two were dating, and that they can casually end it like this. Nice to see romance treated in such a mundane way in a show that could theoretically lean into absurd notions of romantic love. Though I guess Miyako is also too much of a pragmatist for that

The isolating window surrounded by darkness returns as Kyosuke wanders alone into the wreckage

“Don’t look over your shoulder at the remnants of the past.” And another reflection on Chihiro’s condition, this time framed through the debris of the earthquake

“I want to capture… a dream”

Damn, looks like Miyako actually was offended by Hirono not using her first name

Ah damn, drama arrives!

And Done!

Welp, that was a perfectly reasonable episode. I wasn’t thrilled by that drama at the end, mostly because I really like the largely platonic dynamic between Kei and Hirono – if Kei starts acting lovesick over him, I think that’d weaken one of the show’s more unique relationships. But on the other hand, the Chihiro material this week was handled phenomenally, and now I’m actively invested in that relationship. With three separate narratives to choose from, the show can switch between leads pretty gracefully. I’m ready for whatever comes next!

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3 thoughts on “ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 3

  1. I know the last thing in the world you want is more pointless comparisons to Rei, but I think that in Chihiro’s case, it may prove to be interesting. The similarity is obviously not in the personalities but in the conditions, or at least how they view their conditions. For Rei, its “I know I can always be replaced.” For Chihiro’s perception of her own problem, its more along the lines of “no matter what, I’m always being replaced.” Does that seem valid?

    • Interesting.

      I never really tried to connect Chihiro and Rei with the conditions they are troubled with, but it actually works a lot. Both have some sort of self-hatred, or death drive (Thanatos as fellow evangelionists would say).

      I disagree with your take on Chihiro though, I think it’s more like: “I’ll always be a burden”.

      But yes, I believe the two characters are fairly similar here. Rei’s death drive comes from the fact that if she can be replaced, she is redundant – a form of excessive energy, natural state of which is to disappear (*). Chihiro being destined to always be a burden (perhaps even increasingly so) also creates a redundacy. One avoiding of which would simply help everyone in the world.

      I always get a chill when I remember the scene of Rei giving the kitchen knife she is holding THE LOOK.

  2. “it’s basically impossible to get any sense of place from this show. Characters just float through visual setpieces without grounding, which works for some concepts, but definitely doesn’t create a sense of a lived place”

    Very much intentional in my opinion, and regardless, it definitely plays into the “big reveal” in Melodies, which follows the main story. I don’t know if the reveal will be up your taste, and I’m not spoiling it here. I’ll simply say that the town is supposed to feel like an artificial miracle place, a fake, yet earnest sanctuary. It’s not a dramatic twist per se, although thematically a major one. I’m not sure if it is that well articulated and I’m slightly confused (since the VN and anime are a bit mixed up in my head at this point), but I like that the story makes no big deal out of it, so there is a contrast in the seeming an actual importance of it.

    All I can say is that if you get the vibe of a “detached isolation” then it’ not entirely without a point. I always feel like the characters of this town are living in a haze, in a place obscured and perhaps molded by a stuck dreams of the past and the town is given almost real presence, with will and all. I think this is a bit more noticeable in the anime, because the game shows more of the character’s everyday lives and thus the place they live in feels more grounded in reality as you would say. On the other hand I think the game takes care of the place with more grace and is more sublime about its importance, which perhaps paradoxically make’s its impact more profound.

    If I remember my experience correctly, in anime I went “Wait what? Interesting, but, ah well, its a nice touch”, while in the game I was more like “That’s sooooooo maaaagicaaaal, I wish to become part of it all.”

    Anyway, I don’t think Memories will talk much about this, but it’s good enough to keep in mind that there is a whole another theme running through the stories of these characters and it is what truly connects Memories and Melodies, because without it Melodies could be just a good expansion on the original story. I’ll add that the anime somewhat mitigates the problem that plagued the “Ef ~ The tale of the two” game, which is the fact that it joins two games (in anime speak Melodies and Memories) and the glaring difference in the writing (which could in theory just be a translation thing, but I dont believe it is) between them. Looking forward to the story of Melodies only to have to play through all the stories of Memories first, one by one, angered me several times, each time another one popped up, “preventing” me from playing the main dish. At times it was boring too.

    But the order of the stories was worth it. I think it is similar to Fate Zero and Fate Stay Night. You just have to see FSN first even though it is a sequel. Of course, then after Z you have to watch FSN again, because watching one enhances the experience of the other… In the same vein, Memories first, then Melodies to go “so that’s what happened!” and then Memories again for the “it all connects together!” effect and then Melodies again cause why the hell not.

    I’m sure many people could find many faults with the anime adaptations of Ef, and even the games, but I still love Ef to bits.

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