ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 10

Let’s get back to A Tale of Memories! We’ve been slowly winding our way through this production for a while now, and I’m certainly having a fine time with it. The show is divided between two very different narratives, but its obsession with the idea of truly existing and leaving an impact on the world carries through each of them. On the Hiro/Rei/Miyako side, Miyako is the most stark example of this theme, constantly panicking at the thought of being neglected until she simply fades away. On the Renji/Chihiro side, Chihiro has obvious reasons to be preoccupied with memory and the nature of being, assailed every day by questions and fears regarding her ability to truly engage with the world, as well as whether the active voice in her mind is even really “her.” That thread, along with the show’s wild visual experiments, have kept Ef engaging regardless of its romantic twists and turns, which have stuck to more traditional melodrama territory. My preference for the show’s thoughts on memory over its romantic drama likely informs my preference for the Chihiro story over the Hiro story, but I’m certainly enjoying both the show’s halves, and am very interested in seeing how all of this comes together. Let’s get right to it!

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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!

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ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 8

Let’s continue our journey through A Tale of Memories! Last episode was a serious spirit breaker, with its first half dedicated to the seeming dissolution of Renji and Chihiro’s relationship, and its second half diving deep into Miyako’s heretofore unknown childhood trauma. The sudden reveal and immediate consequences of that trauma were a little clumsy, but the visual execution was terrific, and the episode overall placed us in a fraught dramatic space for this here eighth episode. I’m not exactly sure how things could get worse at the moment, so I’m hopeful we’ll see some actual, much-needed honest communication between our main pairs. But then again, ef is an unabashed melodrama, so things very well could get insanely worse in any number of ways. Let’s find out!

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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!

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ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 6

And we’re back with more ef! I’m actually really enjoying this show at this point – it’s far from perfect, but it’s exactly the kind of messy I like. Chihiro and Renji’s narrative is legitimately great, and the other narratives continue to swing for the fences, even if they sometimes end up in the cliche romcom nonsense infield. The show’s visual style matches its narrative ambitions – consistently throwing everything against the wall, succeeding at least as often as it fails. Messy shows that try really hard are pretty great. Let’s see what this episode brings!

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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!

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ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 4

And we’re back with more ef! Last episode accomplished something absolutely crucial for this story – it made me actually care about Chihiro and her strange condition. Chihiro seemed designed as that classic mix of frail, demure, and doomed that’s pretty much death to my investment, but by immediately acknowledging and exploring the lived experience of her condition, the show was able to make her feel not just pitiable, but actually relatable. Fantastical situations inherently dampen an audience’s ability to relate to drama, but if those situations are framed in terms of understandable human feelings, that bridge becomes easy to cross. Let’s see what episode four brings!

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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!

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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.

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Ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 1

Hey everybody! Today I’ll be running through some notes for a new series: Ef – A Tale of Memories. I’ve heard this franchise was one of Shin Oonuma’s greatest contributions to studio SHAFT, before he went off to reign over Silver Link for all eternity. I’ve also heard that it’s both extremely visually compelling and exactly my kind of thing, full of sharp character writing and romance and visual storytelling that actually elevates those things. Either way, the die has been cast for the first couple episodes, so we’ll see what Ef has to offer. Onward!

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