ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 7

Let’s get back to ef – A Tale of Memories! It’s been quite a while since we ran through an ef episode, but the show is always a fine thing to return to. Marrying Shin Oonuma’s wild visual flourishes to a story that constantly contrasts romance against creative ambition, it’s a messy but consistently rewarding experience, the kind of strangely personal production anime is renowned for. The show also seems to be hitting its stride at the moment – with Kyosuke having been fleshed out in the last episode, basically all the pillars of the narrative are now carrying their own weight. I’m invested in all three of ef’s potential couples, and would also be happy to see the show contrast the creative visions of Kyosuke, Hiro, and Chihiro. Whether it focuses on romance or art, ef always finds a way to keep things interesting. Let’s get right to it!

Episode 7

“She was the only one there, so she was a god.” Starting off with a return to Chihiro’s story. Her isolation emphasized through the white silhouette of her body against the full black of an empty world, another application of ef’s general love of frame-in-frame silhouettes

Chihiro’s narrative seems to be the lynchpin of the series. And the text of her narrative is draped over the OP, further emphasizing her preeminence

“Tryst”

Renji runs into Chihiro at the library

Chihiro has made a barricade of books around herself, and the combination of that and the stone-lined windows actually make this seem like her narrative world

Renji sits on the other side of the barricade

Some of this show’s shots look so abrasively unnatural. This mid-distance shot from across the library is full of plants and chairs that look like they were pasted on top of the background, and only Renji and Chihiro look actually drawn. I’ve gotten somewhat used to it, but this show’s type of visual unreality is an inconsistent trick

And now we see the opposite side of the coin, where the show’s visual experimentation actually leads to a smart dramatic effect. The blackness that has already been defined as the emptiness of her world is here cut away by the flame, and even though she doesn’t end up being rescued, the fact that the flame teachers her something is represented as her hands cutting through the darkness to the blue sky

And of course, concrete knowledge being an escape from darkness makes perfect sense for Chihiro

“This girl is cute.” “I think I’ll rewrite this part.” Nice going, Renji

“This girl is supposed to be… ‘off.’” A line accompanied by a profile shot of Chihiro where the two sides of her face are slightly misaligned. Sometimes the visual embellishment tells us something new, and sometimes it just emphasizes the dialogue

“The fact that she treats these little episodes so seriously should provoke a sense of unease. The fact that you think she’s cute means I’ve mischaracterized her.” Sometimes this show really does pull off some solid art criticism

“You and Chihiro aren’t lovers yet?” Oh, Renji-mom

Intercutting this sequence of Renji preparing lunch for both of them mainly seems to underline the fact that Renji was trying to give Chihiro a complement, and wasn’t really focused on her story

The screen devolves into static as we cut to a prior conversation about Renji’s career aspirations. Renji feeling the strain of trying to get closer to a girl who can’t remember his moments of vulnerability

“Aren’t you together yet? Do you have fun with Chihiro?” His mom’s questions underline Renji’s own anxieties

“Romance is like running downhill. But love is like marching uphill.”

The narrative Chihiro stand-in draws Renji into her world. But he’s just “a picture of a person,” which kinda reflects the real Renji’s dishonesty

The two potential endings are now entering the painted world or having the boy come out into the real one. Based on the use of static, I’d assume this is a conversation Renji has played out with Chihiro several times

Chihiro decides the story should end with the protagonist going insane. Meaning Renji can’t save her

“It’s kind of depressing how little I contributed.” Oh Renji. They’re really pushing the development of this story as a metaphor for their relationship

“Do you want to kiss me?” We get a reprise of the earlier scene, but this doesn’t seem romantic. Renji’s vision seems to be blurring over with red

“Why doesn’t Chihiro look happy? Why doesn’t she look embarrassed?” The course of the book narrative has taught Renji that he doesn’t really understand Chihiro’s feelings, so he no longer feels comfortable getting romantically close to her

Some great animation of Renji’s silhouette, visually illustrating his panicked feelings

“Don’t write this in your diary. It’s all wrong.” Fiction promises us the power of revision, the ability to erase and eventually acquire the correct ending. Chihiro’s diary possesses the power to turn fiction into memory, to write the life you wanted to have

“I had finally found it.” We see images of Miyako repeating versions of that contrasted against images of Hiro. Initially in black and white, these images of Hiro slowly start to fill with color, and that color expands to the world around him. The implication is as clear as ever – Hiro brought color to Miyako’s apparently fading world

And now here’s yet another great visual shift. Two images are contrasted, one a pencil sketch of Miyako’s home, the other Miyako herself in an uneven, linework-heavy alteration of the show’s usual style

The effect is very similar to how Penguindrum presented Ringo’s childhood in the style of her own simplified drawings. We see the dissolution of Miyako’s family “through the eyes of a child,” emphasizing the senselessness and Miyako’s emotional vulnerability

Those bright pastel colors are contrasted against black and white shots of dishes shattering as Miyako’s mother methodically tosses them on the ground. The dividing line between her two lives is made painfully clear

“I disappeared from their hearts as well.” And there it is. Well, I was hoping for more good Miyako material, and this certainly qualifies

Well great, now I feel terrible for Miyako being stood up for Kei’s sake. You can’t make all the parties in a love triangle sympathetic, it hurts my heart too much!

This sequence of messages, and Miyako maintaining her chipper performance, are excruciating to listen to. Ef really knows how to hit you

“How many hours are you going to make me wait?” All we get are these messages, but they tell a crushing story all by themselves. The steady focus on the cellphone gives us nothing to distract from Miyako’s feelings

To be fair, it is entirely not Hiro’s responsibility to bring color back into Miyako’s world, and it’s both presumptuous and unhealthy of her to demand that from him. But having come from a broken home and just now found someone who inspires her, it’s also easy to see why she’d hang so much hope on this relationship

Her messages get angry and then desperate, blotting her out from the screen. It’s a very bold sequence, but I’m not sure it entirely works – mostly because we just learned the reason for her desperation a few minutes ago. I like the concept, but we only just learned how badly Miyako was relying on this relationship, meaning we can’t really relate to her desperation. On the other hand, this is a very accurate and inherently distressing articulation of a panic attack, when all your thoughts start to pave over each other and you feel buried to the point where you can barely breathe. Articulating that visually is its own kind of achievement

Oh god, Kei deletes all the messages. KEEIIIIIIII

And Done

Well jeez, that was a brutal episode! Things went terribly, horribly wrong for both Miyako and Renji, and I’m not sure how either of them will be able to repair their fledgling relationships. Renji’s drama was the more effective of the two, as it built naturally out of the classic fault lines in his relationship with Chihiro. But both of these conflicts were given terrific visual ornamentation, with Miyako’s offering a mix of smart visual storytelling and bold, risky pacing choices. I’m not sure all of this episode’s gambles paid off, but there was a lot to love here, and ef remains a striking show in all regards. I’m very ready for the next one!

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2 thoughts on “ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 7

  1. The voice message scene is basically the only thing I can remember from this series years down the line, but I can still remember it vividly.

  2. The message scene still hits me hard. I remember the first time I watched it. Starting off by making me squirm in second hand embarrassment and beg her to stop leaving messages, leading into horror and then finally pain. Then that new ending animation. Perfect.

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