ef episode 1: Zetsubou shita!
After the first episode, so was I

I made the decision to start from the beginning, going back and slingshotting forward. Not having much breathing room for the past two weeks has left me with my own memory gap, and really the only thing I can remember with any clarity about ef – a tale of memories is the initial uproar, ranging from how the imagery made no sense to how cheap everything looked.

I’m no judge of quality (or QUALITY) but it’s dismaying to read about judgments based on whether or not a product wears bling or otherwise screams fistfuls of money, although I concede that life would be much easier if everything could be distilled into a price tag.

The first point is certainly valid, perhaps not coincidentally, up to the second episode. I did stop at that point, and the opening developments are still rough going. Chihiro’s “I’m on the verge of tears” voice isn’t any less grating, and SHAFT’s pet hobby of embedding things is to the detriment of this particular show’s viewing experience.

“Wow did I just see a reference to Zetsubou Sensei/Touhou/Lucky Star/Zetsubou Sensei/Nice Boat/Zetsubou Sensei…?” is the last thought before whatever has been stored in short memory is purged in a moment’s distraction.

ef episode 2: Huh?

It does get better, though. To argue over imagery like the above is pointless beyond the second episode as resources are put to less abstract (or random) use. If anything, messages are conveyed as bluntly as possible. Body language has some ambiguity and it’s within the realm of possibility for a character to hide or fake it, but there’s no questioning a red wall stuck in your face, or the transparency of a character being seen straight through.

Instead of art without a manual, ef‘s imagery is almost spoon-feeding the answers. It’s forcing the mood, the connections and juxtapositions with a ruthless efficiency that is unsettling at times. At its strongest, characters are laid bare and the connection isn’t a bridge, but the tail of some large reptile that wraps around your throat and drags you into the depths of chaos.

ef episode 7: Erase

The events of the series are mostly ordinary in much the same way that the fear of rejection is ordinary because it happens all the time, but even the ordinary will generate a response if sufficiently amplified. The sinking feeling, the gnawing doubt, the useless railing and subsequent whispered plea; they are made terrifying against a backdrop of mounting clutter that evolves into an emptiness as barren as Miyako’s soul.

ef may yet turn out to be a profound experience, and there have been some of those moments. For now, its defining trait is its encapsulation of emotion – joy, torment, savage determination – within the four white walls of a padded cell.