It’s almost a year since this aired and I only watched it now to catch up with the newer season. I prepared myself for a soap-opera-like show, sappy romance, or any of the trappings one would normally expect from visual novel adaptations, exceptions aside. Yet I got so much more than that.
Do excuse whatever I will begin to write from here on if it has any deficiencies in intelligibility, sense, logic, and so on.
In my opinion, there are two ways for the viewer to appreciate ef: to take the show at face value, or to dig deeper and to decipher all the symbolism.
During my first viewing (which just finished 3 in the morning today), I ended up taking the first route. Having not watched anything further than the third or fourth episode, I picked up from there and completed the series.
The Kei/Miyako story is, to be honest, nothing new. It’s the characters that truly drive the show forward. Chihiro’s side is, while not exactly groundbreaking, interesting, and very much embodies the show’s tagline, “Do you have memories you don’t want to forget?” Which isn’t to say that the former narrative doesn’t tackle the issue, but Chihiro’s does more explicitly so.
Kei clings onto memories of her and Hirono together, assuming they would last forever, Miyako doesn’t want to feel the pain of disappearing from people’s memories once again, and Chihiro didn’t want people to forget about her, despite her inability to remember.
For some reason, I found that the characters’ personalities emphasize the moe attribute to a significantly lesser extent, making more dynamic, more round, and ultimately, more human. Most sub-par shows often end up with flat, static characters who are embodiments of the moe trait, leaving little room for change, growth, and development, as well as being less endearing to the viewers (at least, the ones who still use their heads). Therefore, one of the greatest strengths in the show is the characters. The way the couples changed through their interaction with one another was a defining factor in propelling ef to becoming one of my more unforgettable series.
The other way of appreciating the show – reading between the lines and getting all the symbolism found in the show – is quite the gargantuan task, for ef is rife with symbolism. It also demands subsequent watchigs, as this necessitates viewing things from a different perspective. Now I’ll be frank. I’m a somewhat shallow guy – I can never get into the nitty-gritty of things and somehow piece together deep analyses or whatnot. Owen and a number of other people have done an exponentially better job at deciphering the meanings behind all the weird shots, strange colors and filters, and whatever else. Still, it fascinates me that ef is able to say so much without saying a single thing. Particularly:
First, a lot of outdoor shots in the show present the sky in a very vivid, attention-grabbing manner, as if it was the subject, rather than the characters themselves. And this is done with good reason. I’ve noticed that the sky’s colors mirror the temperament of the people onscreen. When Miyako questions Kei’s beliefs, clouds of doubt begin to show, only to clear up once they break off, and so on.
Second, some of Hiro’s shots, particularly when he’s at work on his manga, were in monochrome showing that he is, literally, searching for the color in his life. Later on in the show, when Miyako bursts in the room, color is restored to the scene, a telling occurrence that perhaps she is the one to bring color into his own rigid life.
Third, is the sort of translucent-silhouette shot that I’ve only remembered seeing showing up with Miyako onscreen, wondering if she will “disappear” again. As the viewer later learns, she slowly disappears from her parents’ hearts – traumatized by her lonely childhood, she feels that her existence is almost ephemeral, possibly a cause for her happy-go-lucky self that lives only for the moment. Because she’s afraid of disappearing from someone else’s heart, hence, transparency, she avoids commitment, until she meets Hirono.
There is tons more worth of symbolism to be found in the show, and to even try to scratch the surface of the series would be an exercise in futility.
It’s funny how I dissed the show almost a year ago for being an eyesore, with all its visual effects, yet find myself appreciating it more and more, the further it lingers in my head. And it’s also strange how despite the steadily improving quality in graphics for today’s shows seems to matter less and less to me and my enjoyment of a show. Ultimately, ef is a show deserving of anyone’s viewing. Beyond the fancy filters and eroge roots, the anime distinguishes itself by having solid, compelling, and human characters, a good plot, beautiful symbolism hidden in every nook and cranny, and an overall great presentation.
This show is definitely something I wouldn’t want to forget.