ef – a tale of melodies [ep 6]

by eternal on November 17, 2008

The story seemed pretty innocent so far, didn’t it? Considering the genre, as well as the first season, we all knew that a few heartbreaking twists were bound to come at some point – forgotten memories, a painful childhood, something of the sort. We’ve seen these things all too many times in Key anime to be surprised any more. On top of that, I myself assumed (and hoped) that we would get another awesome love triangle in the second season, because even though my choice was made from the first episode, I throughly enjoyed – in a perfectly ordinary manner – watching Kei and Miyako fight over Hiro. It added a little flair to an otherwise ordinary plot, and the romance overtones are something that can bring me to watch almost anything.

But this…this isn’t ordinary. Nor is it cliche, or romantic, or in any way moe. This is one of the best episodes of anime I’ve ever seen in my life, and this is serious business.

While watching the episode, I recall making a few witty comments in my head of things I could make fun of for the sake of the readers who only read episodic posts for the screencaps and accompanying captions. However, by now, I think all trace of wit and/or sarcasm has been completely wiped from my memory, and there’s no way I could ever defile something like this, even for the perfect joke. After all, this is the episode; the episode in which the most disturbing plot twist I’ve ever seen in a VN adaptation, including School Days, was releaved.

First up, Nagi’s story suddenly hit an all-new high point with her soliloquy. Above is likely an image of what she sees as herself, and as we can see, she’s unable to move.

A little piece of cruel foreshadowing that one would only notice with the use of a pause button.

Yuuko reveals that she, too, wears a mask, and it’s probably the most elaborate mask in the show.

Something that would have been an amazing kiss scene if the world wasn’t so twisted.

A melancholic line accompanied by the soothing waves of the sea and the empty beach.

Things couldn’t stay that way forever, Nagi. Someone was bound to change.

This is what I had in mind when I first heard the phrase “euphoric field”

Yuuko’s words against an utterly black backdrop.

A reality far more powerful than fiction.

I died. I really, seriously died.

Even a ten year old could understand the meaning behind this image.

Yuu’s heroic speech still wasn’t enough.

And that was only the beginning.

Even though she hated it…

…This is what became of her.

This is the girl that you threw away.

I cried. Figuratively, of course, because I can never bring myself to cry while watching anime even if I wanted to (which I so often do), but I might as well have cried nonetheless. How long has it been since 22 minutes of Japanese animation has left me as nothing more than a sniveling ball curled up on his sofa, crying like a girl after the end of a soap opera? Probably since I saw the ending of AIR two years ago, or perhaps when I first finished Narcissu or sola.

But that’s not the point, because this sadness is something entirely different. This has nothing to do with romance or moe or a relatable story line; nothing to do with the loss of a person character dear to you, or even the death of a heroic figure. This is purely sympathy – sympathy, mixed with helplessness and a plethora of rage.

The current developments in the Yuu/Yuuko arc have brougt us to a place that I never expected to end up and never wanted to end up, but – as you can tell from my reaction – I find myself “enjoying” the story nonetheless. I was very impressed with Nagi’s developments, and even though they were sudden, I found that they shed a lot of light on her character, especially since I never paid her much mind at first. She was always in the background, somewhere far away from Yuu and Kuze…or maybe that was the point all along.

The truth of the matter is that her life and relationships started to fall apart as the two guys drifted farther and farther away from her, and it appears as if she lost her ability as an artist as a result of that. Listening to her thoughts, however short, about the nature of art and how she perceived her own life in connection to it gave me considerable insight into her character, almost instantaneously making her someone worthy of thought. Her romance continued to go unfulfilled, she was unable to find happiness, and now, she was losing the last thread that connected her to Yuu and Kuze. The winds were blowing, things were changing, and she was being left behind. Unfortunately for her (and partially for the viewer), it looks as if things ended shortly after they began; Yuu already walked away, leaving her behind with her empty canvas.

And now for the real point of the episode: Yuuko.

Pain is one thing; we’ve all seen pain in the world, and we’ve most certainly seen it in anime. Sadness is also another thing that we’ve seen more than enough in so-called nekige, and it’s something we hopefully have all learned to cope with. But the pain held within Yuuko’s past and the pain Yuu must be feeling to realize that it was all his fault, emphasized by SHAFT’s and Shinbo’s brilliant direction and use of visual symbolism, is something far deeper – and far more real.

This is why, I believe, this episode destroyed me mentally; it isn’t something you see every day, and much like AIR’s parent-child relationship as opposed to Kanon’s boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, the fact that it’s original and equally painful makes it score above 9000 on the sadness chart. This is something I intend on analyzing in more detail later, but for now, my thoughts on this episode are concentrated on the brilliant yet heartbreaking revelation of Yuuko’s past, and the fact that our male lead now finds himself in an awfully awkward position. No matter what happens from here on out – an innocent girl repeatedly violated, a dying violinist trying to cut his ties with the world – I get the feeling that things can’t possibly end well.

And that’s precisely what I love about the genre; the emotional rollercoaster that the writers force you on from start to finish, and the fact that the conclusion of said rollercoaster is completely out of our hands.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

M12 November 20, 2008 at 6:45 am

Alright, everyone’s been talking about how fantastic this episode is. I’m about to watch it now. It’d be be excellent, or I’m going to eat everyone >:(!

M12s last blog post..V-ko Lives!


ETERNAL November 21, 2008 at 7:37 pm

In that case, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about being eaten XD


Fang-tan November 26, 2008 at 10:57 pm

Ah gosh darn it, Eternal, you’re making me watch more crap (well not literally because this appears to be the most brilliant thing ever and it brought me to tears not even knowing what the heck was going on) I wouldn’t normally watch. Curse you. Curse you.

Fang-tans last blog post..Greatest Website Ever


Gerey December 27, 2008 at 6:23 am

Infamous episode how i remember thee. Watched it on sat morn and couldn’t get over the sorrow and horror during the weekend. Memories and melodies are strong stuff.

Gereys last blog post..Anime-themed Ads


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