Genre: Drama, Psychological, Romance, Art!
Main Studio: SHAFT
Amnesia. Is there any more wretched word than amnesia? The moment I hear it when watching anything, my brain lets out an audible groan. Amnesia is associated with many things; bad writers crutch, pointlessly dragged out mysteries, lame filler episodes even seasons sometimes. You almost always can’t go right with amnesia. Almost… So with that said, I must continue by saying that Ef has probably the best use of amnesia in an anime ever.
Oh yeah, I am going to heartlessly spoil a bunch of the plot here, so hah!
One of the main themes of ‘Ef – a tale of lowercase subtitles’ is art. The three main male characters are all artists of various types. There’s a mangaka, an author and a film student. The show is also more than a little arty itself. It’s produced by Shaft who are a studio with a definite artistic flair to them. They have been working on the amazing Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and in the past made arty shows like Pani Poni Dash and the disappointing Tsukuyomi -Moon Phase-. Ef is a technically seinen renai show, or as normal people would understand it, it’s based on a visual novel for adults, uh the type of adult without rape that is. Man, classifying these things is hard.
Yes, but is it art? Well yes pretty much.
The animators use a wide variety of animation techniques, with to generally great effect. There’s super-flat shots, CG shots, and others that while traditional, just look plain stunning. You could take almost any frame of this show and end up with something that would look great hanging above your mantlepiece. Here are a couple more shots to waste some space:
One of the main characters is Asou Renji who wants to be an author. One day while hanging around an abandoned railway station like a normal person, he meets a girl named Chihiro. She is very timid, and appears to have an eye injury. They become friends, over the course of a few days, but it quickly becomes apparent that Chihiro has something deeper wrong with her. It turns out that she forgets everything that happened longer than PRECISELY THIRTEEN HOURS ago. A lot of the show deals with the practical details of her attempts to live with this condition, and her attempts to write a depressing yet symbolic book.
Renji is totally into girls with disablities, and severe mental problems, the cad.
She records everything that happens to her in her diary, including enough information to re-educate herself if she ever sleeps for longer than thirteen hours. If that happens, she wakes up with only the memories of her twelve-year-old self, and is terribly confused about what happened to her eye, and why she’s aged four years. Of course Chihiro and Renji fall in love with each other, and they both have to work out how the hell the relationship is supposed to work when she’s got the mental development of a twelve-year old, and Renji is just a bit of a non-entity.
“All I want is a guard rail. Right there.”
The other main story is about mangaka Hiro Hirono and his attempts to do too much with his life. He get’s his bike nicked by spunky harlot and all-round ne’er-do -well Miyamura Miyako who attempts to steal Hiro away from his childhood friend Kei Shindo who also wants to get in his pants. This half of the show is probably the weaker, but it’s still plenty entertaining. Lots of jealousy and moody talks on beaches. Infact I never really got a handle on where this show is set, and wikipedia ain’t helping today. It’s set around this town, there’s a beach, a school, and a weird area where there are tons of destroyed buildings like the aftermath of a war. You can definitely feel it’s video game roots showing through anyway.
“Why did my plot just sort of trail off without any resolution?”
The film-maker character Kyosuke Tsutsumi gets forgotten half-way though and never really gets a conclusion. I guess they just ran out of time. The two main plots are interconnected by a bunch of characters, but never directly cross. There’s also this mysterious girl who always shows up to offer helpful advice before vanishing without the characters really seeming to care. She also may be a nun or paper aeroplane, depending on who you ask.
So I’ll stop spoiling the show now, and wrap up by saying that the plot is gripping, emotional and beautifully told. I think the thing that has the most impact is the amnesia plot, which is something I absolutely never expected to say in a thousand years. For record, the best amnesia plot outside of this show is Planescape Torment, and the worst is Alias Season 3, or maybe that ridiculous part of first season of 24 where a character gets amnesia for about an hour and fifteen minutes.
Arbitrary Rating: 9 – I can’t remember why though.