ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 9

Let’s return to ef – A Tale of Memories! The show’s run through a battery of dramatic twists over the past couple episodes, as Kei has fought to keep Hiro away from Miyako and the Renji/Chihiro relationship has run up against the limitations of Chihiro’s disability. Miyako has revealed herself to be the deeply scarred child of a broken home, while Renji has finally witnessed Chihiro at her most vulnerable. Considering the ways Kei has worked to keep Miyako out of Hiro’s life, I’m not sure it sounds terribly healthy for him to end up with either of these girls, but I’m certainly still invested in their drama. And the Renji-Chihiro story has risen from seemingly contrived origins to stand as a smartly articulated and very compelling romance. I’d frankly be happy if this episode focused entirely on the two of them establishing a relationship beyond the constraints of Chihiro’s diary, but I’ve got a feeling Miyako will be taking center stage this time. And hey, I guess Kyosuke still also exists? Either way, I’m excited to get started on one more episode!

Episode 9

This one’s called “Forget Me Not.” A title that obviously applies to Chihiro and Renji’s story, but also reflects on Miyako’s terror at the thought of being abandoned and forgotten, and also works for the various central artists’ attempts to capture feelings or moments in their work

“I haven’t disappeared yet.” Yeah, we’re already raising that specter in Miyako’s story

This show’s title cards are interesting. The flipped white-against-black single words imply a sense of absence that echoes the show’s overall focus on disappearance and forgetting

Alright, starting off with Renji and Chihiro!

Chihiro reading the diary to regain “most of her former self.” The show is very good about depicting all the consequences of basing yourself on a pre-written facsimile like this

“It’s your pain I’m talking about, Renji.” A very good point. Renji can say now that he wants to be by Chihiro’s side, but her condition will just make it harder and harder for him to maintain that feeling as time drags by. The longer he spends with her, the more memories he shares with her that she then can’t remember, the more distant he’d actually become from her present self. In a way, Chihiro can get closest to those who’ve known her the least, because those people have the fewest expectations built up based on prior interactions that current-Chihiro couldn’t possibly know about

Some pretty wild dutch angles for this conversation

Renji slams Chihiro’s caretaker into the wall, but can’t really say anything. He knows this man is right, and that he’s chosen an extraordinary emotional burden to place upon himself

Realizing he’d basically disappeared from the narrative entirely, Kei kindly calls up Kyosuke and asks him to meet up

Priest why are you sitting on the church roof, you are not supposed to sit there

Oh good, looks like Renji stuck around

“Why do I have to read this? Every day is the same. Do I have to keep on living like this?” As Chihiro makes some very reasonable points about her mental captivity, the drawing of her and her background actually starts to fade away. First the color disappears, then the shading, then even the lines that make up her and her desk start to fade. Another great articulation of this story’s focus on disappearance, and what makes up our real “self”

This match cut of Renji’s drop of blood shifting into Kei’s basketball isn’t the most graceful, but I suppose it’s hard to add much congruity to these two scenes

Kyosuke says Kei is “shining,” but that she’s lost some of her glimmer lately, and thus needs to shack up with Hiro

Kei feels outshined by all the people striving towards their passions around her, another kind of “disappearance”

Gorgeous profile shot of the two of them on this cobblestone bridge. When this show’s default style works, it really works

I like this moment of Miyako gathering herself before Hiro arrives, though the show’s character acting isn’t really strong enough to completely sell it

Miyako’s phone card has the dango family on it

Now the screen itself is reduced to that bar of the title card, like a bookmark

“My freedom is an empty freedom. You fought for your freedom.” I can see where Miyako is coming from. She’s never had the constraints necessary to give her purpose. She’s lost in an ambiguity of life meaning that keeps her from feeling attached to anything

Miyako lightly attempts to tempt Hiro with her kind of empty freedom, but: “I’m responsible for the choices I make. I can’t just get involved in something and then just run away and pretend it never happened.”

Miyako straight-up kisses him. The glowing outlines around these characters emphasize the unreality of the moment

This feels like desperation, though. She’s trying to hold on to him any way she can

“You’re a shoujo manga artist, right? Say something romantic.” “I’m not good at ad-libbing.” This is a very endearing ending to this scene, even if this seems like an unhealthy relationship from the get-go. Also, same: being good at writing and being good at pulling off charismatic in-person one-liners are tragically not the same skill set

Well dang, they actually have sex. And even there, Miyako relates a story of a baby who was totally isolated and then died because of it. This relationship sure sounds healthy to me!

“Chihiro has wanted to… ‘end’ for a long time. I’m scared of her.” “That’s a normal reaction.” “Even if it’s cruel?” I appreciate that the show is respecting how difficult this situation would be for Renji, as well. Frankly, if not for the “destined love” end-of-the-world tone of all of this show’s stories, it’d almost break my suspension of disbelief that he’d stick around at all. Renji might like Chihiro, but he’s a high school student and she’s a girl suffering from a life-defining disability. There’s still time to dedicate yourself to a tragic Bronte-style romance even after college

“Do you know why people feel loneliness?” “Because they’ve experienced joy.” Last episode also touched on this same truth in Miyako’s story, where she could no longer go back to her fringe existence after having grown close to Hiro

Renji says his path was “inevitable,” the priest pointedly asks him “does it make you feel better to say that?” This guy is sharp. Renji is casting around for good ways to justify bad ideas

“Confront what Chihiro has written in her story. Why do you think she wrote those things?” Yeah, this guy’s pretty on top of this whole show’s thematic thrust. Chihiro’s story was very clearly a straight metaphor for her own life, which Renji probably would have realized if he hadn’t had his head in the clouds

And Chihiro’s “painted pictures” are essentially her diary. In the world of the diary, she’s living out happy days getting closer to Renji. In reality, she is the diary’s reader, only experiencing all of those happy emotions secondhand

Now we get some letterbox montages of the two moving closer to their prior relationship. I appreciate knowing that these were probably big self-contained sequences in the visual novel, lol

“Am I the same Chihiro I was before.” Speaking of totally healthy relationships, here’s Chihiro attempting to live up to an embellished image of herself drawn by herself, in an attempt to create a happier history. Whew

Chihiro sorta accidentally confesses. It seems awkward having everything you know about yourself be framed from the assumptions of your consciousness’ own perspective – the diary is full of “I love Renji,” but she doesn’t realize those are feelings she’d never overtly articulated

We get the twin of the earlier sequence where Chihiro’s background disappeared, now being steadily filled in by Renji’s presence

Chihiro wonders if the death of her memories “killed” that particular Chihiro

Renji denies this thought, but actually feels she’s right

And Done

That was a pretty par episode, on the whole. Our focus was mostly on Renji this time, as we got to see him internalize the true scale of Chihiro’s disability. A story like this can easily run the risk of being about Chihiro simply as a vehicle for Renji’s pain, but I felt the story so far has done a great job of getting us inside Chihiro’s head, and so this episode’s focus on Renji actually felt like a necessary break. Over on the Hiro side, it seems like we’re returning to the classic melodrama of Kei walking in on her naked rival, but ef has generally been okay about subverting such cliche scenarios. We’ll have to see what happens next!

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