ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 5

And we’re back for another episode of A Tale of Memories. Last episode was, as usual, a mix of the good and the bad. On the positive side, Chihiro’s story has surprisingly turned out to be the strongest narrative within this series, with Chihiro’s condition being handled in a thoughtful way and her personality coming through gracefully throughout. On the negative side, Kei’s material last week was pretty much all romantic comedy cliches, as she flipped from a misunderstanding in the first half to a walking-in-on-her-rival moment in the second. But considering ef was able to turn Chihiro’s story into something compelling, I have reasonable hope that Kei will turn out the same. Let’s find out!

Episode 5

Opening with Chihiro in chains, an obvious metaphor. More ambiguous is the setting – she’s huddled on massive stained glass windows. So the church that we’ve seen before is her prison?

“When did I stop trying to step outside the circle?” As last episode reflected, it’s easier to accept a terrible situation when you don’t feel you have any hope of changing it. Presumably Chihiro once had real hopes of achieving her dreams in spite of her disability, but since then she’s accepted that she won’t amount to anything. And now Renji’s insistence that she pursue her dreams is causing her pain

Some really beautiful shots from above here

Renji’s gift sits on her desk. A more tangible reminder of his existence than anything she can actually hold in her mind

“Outline”

Welp, looks like this episode’s planning on offering something the show has desperately needed – a reason to give a damn about Kyosuke’s story. The dude has been far and away the weakest pillar of the narrative, so hopefully these flashbacks will help

His mother used to work as an actress, but is now too ill. A clear reflection of his current motivation – capturing something precious before it fades away

“My dream came true, even for a moment.” But a camera can make a moment last forever

“Your dream doesn’t have to be big. Just something you want. Something that lasts.” Triple-underlining that point, lol

So capturing Kei is his dream

And a natural transition right to her. Ef’s tendency towards massive, unbelievable sets can be off-putting, but it works well for both of these scenes, which are attempting to convey a sense of isolation

They finally speak!

“The next time you film me without permission, I’ll use my right hand.” Kei’s a lot better when she’s not pining over Hiro

Chihiro sits on Renji’s bench for the first time

She agrees to try writing the novel

Oh my god, Chihiro wrote that he actually kissed her. Friggin’ Chihiro

Hah, she’s actually fucking with him. Chihiro’s turned out to be a much more multifaceted riff on this type than you usually get

Chihiro’s condition was revealed by episode two, and Renji confessed by episode four. Not your usual romcom nonsense

At times like this crossing in the hallway, ef’s visual identity feels pretty lopsided. Plenty of very pretty shots, but also shots like this, that are so bland it’s actively distracting. Even SHAFT shows, which never really concern themselves with presenting a consistent world, have to strive for some base level of consistent visual execution

Oh dang, Kei’s actually calling Miyako out. If the two of them have a productive conversation, all of last episode’s sins can be forgiven

Nope, Miyako’s decided to be a jerk about it. Miyako’s her own bag of dramatic issues

I don’t really understand why Chihiro’s wearing an apron

I really like how they set up this sequence, with the consistent cuts to Renji’s back as his mom talks with Chihiro. You somehow feel his sense of unease even more than if we actually cut to his face

“What part of Renji did you fall in love with?” Goddamnit Renji-mom

Kei frames her anger at Miyako as concern for Hiro’s future. Both of these things are true – she’s jealous of Miyako, but she also is deeply concerned for Hiro’s future, while Miyako is just kind of doing what feels fun at the moment

“Isn’t that something Hirono should consider for himself?” That’s not really a convincing response, but it sounds reasonable enough to put Kei off-balance

“Taking responsibility for dreams” is raised both here and by Chihiro

“Can you guarantee that if he goes to school, he’ll be successful?” Another absurd question

Miyako makes a couple strong points, though. First, that he’s not goofing off, he’s actively prioritizing manga work over school, and abandoning that could very well destroy his one chance at his dream. And second, that Kei is lying to herself here, and that fighting for Hiro without being honest with herself will likely cause her pain in the end

“It seems our family and cooking aren’t very compatible.” A cute reflection on Kei’s troubles from Chihiro

Chihiro describing her issues with writing is pretty harrowing stuff. Writing a novel is next to impossible at the best of times, but when you can’t even trust your mind’s intimate familiarity with the assumed characters and details, that can easily shift to literally impossible. After a certain amount of time writing a character, you don’t really have to construct conversations one imagined sentence at a time – you understand them well enough to be able to speak in their voice, and thus dialogue should flow somewhat naturally. But Chihiro is robbed of that familiarity before she could ever achieve it. That situation might demand a specific approach to writing, or even a story whose structure supports it – like a series of vignettes, or more general reflections on an overarching topic

“I seem to have made 31 attempts in four years.” Ouch

Chihiro brings up a question about a sheep tied to a post from her math class. A clear reflection of her own self-image, and the image that opened this episode

Kei jogging along the beach, thinking about her conversation. The beach seems to have become a place of emotional revelation

Kei used to feel possessive of Hiro around Chihiro, as well

Oh my god, Chihiro’s accident happened because Kei lied in order to keep Hiro from her. That really couldn’t feel much worse

And yeah, that’s why she feels she can’t confess her feelings now

“You’re always stuck in the same place.” Magical hat girl is framing Kei as the same as the other characters – trapped in stasis on the edge of making important life choices

Ah good, Hiro finally calls Kei

We’re even getting some slight humanization of Himura, the caretaker at the church

Hiro asks Kei over so… Kyosuke can ask her out? Goddamn it

Ef’s active typography is working overtime this episode. I really like these shots of Chihiro’s writing layered over her story

“The length of the chain is twelve years. The length of my reach is thirteen hours”

And Done

Another fairly solid episode this time! Kei’s material is still a little iffy, but I liked the ways her and Chihiro’s stories reflected off each other this time. Having two of the heroines be twin sisters is actually enabling both small character details and big dramatic turns, as the progression of one narrative offers slight bits of commentary on the other. And with Chihiro’s story still going strong in general, ef is still an eminently watchable ride. Now we just need Kyosuke to start pulling his weight!

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