It Took me 10 Months to Realize that ef is Brilliant

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.

13 Responses to “It Took me 10 Months to Realize that ef is Brilliant”

  1. 1 soloista
    September 11, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Oh wow. I have to watch this. I’ve been putting it off for some reason.

  2. September 11, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Overall, Ef was a very decent series. The high production quality played a big role. I watched it til the end because Chihiro is WIN :3.

  3. September 12, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    “It’s almost a year since this aired and I only watched it now to catch up with the newer season.”

    I’m watching it right now for the very same reason. The first episode was a little on the meh side, but I’m digging in for the long haul (straight through to the second season when it starts).

  4. September 14, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I was like this for Iriya no Sora… too. I think I was like 1 and a half years behind when i finally watched it cause I was dead bored. But Iriya was a very superbly well made anime. One of the few source of inspiration I really get ^^

  5. September 15, 2008 at 2:37 am

    ef is easily one of my favourite anime ever, so it’s good to see more people enjoying it as well. Can’t wait for the next season!

  6. September 16, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I can’t remember much about ef now, but i do remember really enjoying it a lot when I watched it (as it was coming out). I really liked how it brought out so much emotional response from me, even though at first I thought the style was pretentious. Still IMO one of the best anime ever.

  7. September 18, 2008 at 2:09 am

    Shaft really did a great job in animating ef, and hopefully the second season will be just as good.

    Oh and the music is fuckawesome.

  8. September 18, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Hooray, another ef fan! Here’s a cookie:

  9. September 18, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    I forgot to mention – I liked Miyako’s story the best. Call me weird.

  10. September 30, 2008 at 12:15 am

    its not yet too late. go watch it. then go watch the 2nd season, due… this october! yaaaay! ohhh… I need to buy this DVD, too.

    thanks! 🙂

  11. September 30, 2008 at 11:30 am

    oh yeah, play the game. very good. 😀

  12. 12 Algester
    October 1, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    the second season will be a tear jerker Y_Y i assure you WRRRYYY!!!!! i played the game and year thats what i call successful drama

  13. October 1, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    The anime is indeed awesome and the songs and music, great.
    I liked Miyako’s story the most too, with Chihiro’s the least. I seem to have this sort of repressed hate against overly moe and high pitched voices.
    The game is still, most unfortunately, in Japanese, and unlike in college where you can be considered a 暇暇成人 half the time, high school isn’t so lenient when it comes to free time, so I can’t play the game in Japanese just yet. Must learn l337 JP skillz 😦

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