Archive for the 'ef' Category

ef begins

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

I am unable to give ef justice with one screenshot, so here’s a little stack.

Kulons worth of electrons were expended on critiquing ef’s frame composition, with complaints about the streetlamp taking up space here and odd split-screen techniques there. I found these innovations only a little annoying, and most of their kin working for what they were (like Miya’s clones talking). And the bulk of the show is done normally, so I don’t see a case for fuss. It’s pretty and “anime-ish” looking, like a major upgrade to Pokemon.

What peeved me were the references (I suppose everyone have seen the “NICE BOAT” screenshot by now, so the one below is something else). I can see why Lucky Star is full of them: it’s a successor of Excel Saga in that regard. But in both ef and Sketchbook the references were singularly inappropriate, as if the decisions to insert them were done without the consent of directors. What is this clowning at a funeral? Wrong type of anime, people!

The stories of insanity is not something I enjoy as a rule, moreso because creators in America seem to exhibit unusual tropism to them. Sometimes they come out ok, like Forrest Gump or Brilliant Mind, but most of the time it’s clearly the unhealthy fascination with the deviancy moving the script. In anime these trends are mostly under control, but only mostly. Chihiro seems not too bad by comparison, I think I can take her.

I suppose what keeps me watching is the suspense. At one point it seemed as if the rest of the characters existed in Asou’s fiction. So, I want to know what is going on and what is going to happen. Sort of like with Murukami’s books. And it’s a comfortable watching, so we shall see.

BTW, Nice non-pop OP and ED (ED was a hybrid).

ef more

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

If I drop a series, I use it as an excuse to rip the unfortunate show to shreds. Jeff Lawson is not one to make a big production from dropping; he just quits one day (it’s an utter mystery why his Mahoraba reporting stopped at ep.19). Yesterday he made the abandonment of ef official (in comments, scroll down). It was a matter of time after this:

All in all, ef – a tale of memories is a fascinating show.

And it bores me to tears.

I’m exaggerating, yes, but I have to admit that, after four episodes, I don’t find the show the slightest bit engaging. While watching, I feel completely detached from what’s going on, a little voice in the back of my head whispering, “you could be watching something else right now, you know.”

Ouch.

But “fascinating” is spot on. I’m only done with two episodes, but so far, ef is a treasure trove for weaboos, more so than Lucky Star was (which only had Miyuki for such purposes, and we know how little screen time she received).

There’s no complex grammar, it’s all だ and です with a smattering of ありません. One can enjoy it after a cursory reading of a textbook for a month. I thought I’d melt when Chihiro said “あそうさんのこと 試してました” together with a missing particle “wo” and “i” out of “iru”. In the same time, a few of one-word oddities to delight the non-fluent:

いらそう — Translated as “arrogant” (the mangaka guy on the roof with the crazy girl). Not in any dictionary.

ごしょう — Translated as “an incorrect form of addressing someone”.

Now, if you do not fall for this sort of thing, I think it’s still an ok anime. We have a somewhat convoluted story, but not excessively. Surrealism is kept in check. A comfortable viewing, in other words.

UPDATE: Jeff says the blogging about Mahoraba fell victim to real life and its end coincided with the end of Nowhere. He did not actually abandon the series.

Badger on ef 3

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

I had to delay a reply to Concrete Badger’s ef 3 post until I collected some material, but here it is now.

It’s a show that has divided opinion (and dropped off quickly in popularity, judging by the BT download speeds and stats) but the very reasons that have earned it so much derision are part of what make it so intriguing […]

I suppose I wasn’t reading the right blogs, but I didn’t see much derision. Someone mocked the retarded streetlight, but I cannot find who that was: seemingly nobody in my feedlist did, so it must’ve been a visit through Antenna. OK, Lawson dropped it, but I don’t recall derision there either. He just got bored.

Actually, ef looks really cinematic. The reason why it comes across as pretentious I think is because it’s taking an approach normally associated with feature films, but unusually doing it in an episodic TV format.

I am inclined to think that the impression of pretentiousness happens more because some of techniques fall flat. For example, I am pretty tired with off-center camera… where it does not work.

The beach scenes were great, but this is just not it.

It’s not that ef makes no effort to appeal to its otaku audience: there are a number of clichés and plot devices in use which feel a bit out-of-place when placed next to the more quirky aspects but to my mind are an attempt at keeping the otaku viewers on familiar ground; they often have more experience with other anime than arthouse cinema, after all.

We can speculate about the reasons, but yes, I noticed that too. Sometimes it’s more blunt, like NICE BOAT and directly presented characters of Lucky Star, sometimes it’s generics:

Non-otaku symbols range in their intricacy quite a bit. Here’s something very overt:

This one is confused. I think the idea was to present a “dark emotional state”:

And sometimes one can’t help thinking that creators do these tricks for shits and giggles:

I didn’t connect the cinema club meeting with the show itself. That would probably be too arrogant or too self-flaggelating, depending on how you slice it. I suppose they could have thought it. Anyway, on a different topic, new weaboo’s treasures:

“読んでいのは そこまでです。” — I don’t understand what the “ino” is supposed to be. Chihiro does not mumble, but it’s just hmm… I wrote before about her propensity to omit syllables, just to make poor gaijins miserable. Here she probably meant “よんで いるのは〜”.

いじわる — “mean”, the dictionary form is “意地の悪い” (いじのわるい). Grrrr Chihiro.

だっこする — “(to) hug”. I know “だきしめる”, but this is new (although it can be the same stem, who knows).

ef early discussion

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

It looks that produced some fruitful blog discourse as watchers grapple with the concepts. I was behind on the series, and I regret that I haven’t read it before, because of concern for spoilers. Some of it is spoilerific indeed, but I see now that ef is strong enough to weather them, so it’s all good (as an aside, it’s a mark of all strong shows: we all know that Nia dies, right? but doesn’t hurt watching).

First, apparently, was Anime Diet.

One pleasing thing to me too as a wannabe writer myself is how much of the show is about artists.

Hah. In my book that actually comes very close to meta, like blogging about bloggers, and thus is a black mark. Fortunately, ef is not some kind of abnoxious artistic wankery at its core, like Adaptation, so I can watch it. Chihiro banzai.

Next came Owen with a typically longish piece. He refined my understanding of b/w shots used for Hiro and made a few other useful comments.

Finally, Impz chimed in. He didn’t attempt to manufacture any “insights”, but he probably has done a lot to spread the appreciation of ef.

I saw quite a bit of scattered bloggage floating around as well. IIRC Omo wrote something unusually episodic at some point, and there was a number of screenshot heavy episodic summaries, but of course nobody beats Random Curiosity for this sort of thing. I won’t even try.

ef stampede

Monday, November 19th, 2007

The blogging enthusiasm about ef has caught me by surprise. It is my top pick of the season, but I was certain that most people would share Jeff Lawson’s sentiment and get bored quickly.

DS has posted a strip at Daijobu, which runs like so:

BLOGGER (spotts a torrent): Oh noes! Everyone’s gonna be posting about “ef – a tale of memories” in an hour!!!
BLOGGER: I haven’t even seen it yet, and there isn’t time to read all the summaries at RC!
BLOGGER: I have to think of something or I’ll be left out this time!
Wait a minute!! I have an idea!!

Check out the original strip if you want to know what the idea was. But the point is, a certain blogging fervor is clearly in the air.

I find ef engaging mostly because I feel for Chihiro in a way I felt for Reki. The difference this time is, Reki had a hope. Along the way her window is shrinking and this creates a feeling of raising stakes; it is a Japanese production after all, it does not have to have a happy end. Chihiro does not have any hope, we know it from the start. So, what should we root for? Her accomplishments, against impossible odds. I would love to see her children to carry on her memories (although this is very unlikely in ef).

ef astroturfing

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

I thought they liked it, but according to TJ the bloggage spike was manufactured by Owen’s stooges.

ef in Newtype USA

Monday, November 26th, 2007

The November 2007 issue of Newtype USA is on the shelves, and it has a one-page feature about ef. It isn’t even an article, just a collection of one-paragraph blurbs in the collage with a poster, and a summary of about 200 words. The anime they write about has little in common with the real ef. For one thing, Chihiro, who is essentially the main character, is not even mentioned in the summary. The show looks like yet another school romance, and the feature would not encourage me to watch at all.

It is obvious how this catastropy has happened (or I think it’s obvious). The article must have been written in Japan, long before the series hit the air, and translated for Newtype USA months later. It’s not their fault really, but here it is.

My family quit the subscription a few months ago. “Not interesting”, they say. At the time I did not pay attention, but I think I understand it better now.

BTW, Newtype attaches a DVD with each issue, which contains an episode of a series. When fansubs get destroyed by Ledford, Sevakis, et. al., this practice is going to up the value of the magazine significantly. And they will be able to continue to put an ugly watermark on the video.

DbD on ef

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Seen at Derailed by Darry (I cannot get used that name, I just cannot. It’s like lguest and Rustivisor (eat this analogy, sports fans (I suppose I could add a link… But they never do it when they discuss sports!)).):

One thing ef does is that at no point in time are the multiple stories at the same story progression point. Using the three heroines as the barometer, they are either at a high point, a so-so point, or a low point, but they are never all three at a high point or a low point.

It’s true. The ef is designed like a braid.

ef and anime crazies

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Moe-Moe on ef ep.7:

By the end of this episode, and the same with the last, we get the overall feeling that Kei is the bad person in this love triangle.

I think things took upon this turn in ep.5, when Miyako suddenly offered insights about Hiro’s career, which completely took Kei aback.

However, that is not to say that Miyako is any better really, simply because she’s crazy and unbalanced. She is genuine and is not a nasty, scheming bitch like Kei. But it helps the object of her affections very little. She can help Hiro to have a good look at his life, but so can a normal girl.

In general, crazy girls are a staple of anime. I suppose they are offered by creators to stir things up and make the life on the screen more interesting. But personally I find it more and more difficult to look at them in a positive light. Getting stuck with one is no fun, and so any attempt to relate to characters ends in pain. And watching the whacky hijinks is not that entertaining either. So, I am completely disillusioned with the approach. Kodachi sealed the deal in back in 1989.

There is just one exception, and that is Mahoraba. The whole show revolves about the mental disease made cute, and does a good job of presenting sympathetic characters. Kozue is one of those exceptions that confirm the rule.

Chihiro, by the way, is not crazy. Her mental function is drastically impaired, but it’s supremely satisfying to watch how she deals with it. This is why no matter what SHAFT manages to squeeze out of Miyako, the show is about Chihiro for me.

But in the end, the Chihiro and Renji development can’t beat Miyako’s one this episode.

I say, a nice try for the other crazy Miya of the season, but no cigar.

Hashi-hime on 2007

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

HH Hashi rolls out her year-end summary, and opens it with:

Another great year. Maybe not as great as 2006, which produced three classics: Simoun, NANA, and Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. But 2007 was full of interesting shows.

What can I say. “Thanks for the warning” would be most appropriate, I guess, and then of course tastes differ.

That said, here are a few highlights:

ef ~a tale of memories~ was a complete surprise. The preview made me fear that the voice actors — who came over from the game — might not be up to the task. How wrong I was. This show is true art, made by Shinbou Akiyuki’s protege Oonuma Shin from an ero-game by minori.

Once again, many animephiles were put off by the show’s style. Its visual complexity seemed pointless and confusing. In fact, every one of those odd angles and strange palettes has an emotional purpose. This show is great romantic melodrama, underpinned by powerful music from Tenmon, who does background music for Shinkai Makoto’s work (e.g., Byousoku 5cm). The interwoven romances are fascinating, and the characters really have individual character.

How true. I was fortunate to come into ef cold, and so I am here to tell everyone that Natsumi Yanase’s work is top notch. She adds more meaning beyond reading the script and I appreciate that.

It’s a little early for final judgments, and Blue Drop and ef could yet end badly, but I have come to trust the people making them, and I don’t think that will happen.

Same here. I saw enough shows screwed by their endings, too. But the above sounds encouraging indeed.

Manabi Straight — Here’s another show that I loved at first, but that seemed to dry up as it went along. The emotional bonding of Nonaka Ai and Hirano Aya’s charcters in episode 4 made that one of the year’s outstanding episodes for me. The animation was sharp, bright, and attractive.

We can see that the first paragraph warning was not pro forma only. I thought that Manabi suffered from a poor start (relatively speaking, of course; it is one of only three series ranked “Masterpiece” on my ANN list, and it what is poor for Manabi may be outstanding for Stellvia level show).

Dennou Coil — Outstanding animation from Madhouse, and every so often an episode stands out, but in general I don’t find the show very interesting. The seiyuu cast is stunning, particularly with Kuwashima Houko and Paku Romi (as in Claymore).

Fair enough and tastes differ again.

Sketchbook ~full Color’S~ — I love some episodes of this gentle slice-of-life comedy, but sometimes a pall of sameness seems to descend. Being fairly calm already, perhaps I don’t need further calming. However, Hanazawa Kana’s moeness is off the scale at all times.

Ouch, pall of sameness. My word, she is brutal.

Minami-ke — I didn’t really get the first episode. I thought it was too imitative of Ichigo Mashimaro, especially with Inoue Marina’s wholesale theft of Orikasa Fumiko’s Miu voice. But since then, the show has grown and grown.

Was I too quick to drop?

But since then, the show has grown and grown. Inoue-san, Chihara Minori, and Satou Rina are doing very well. There are a couple of LOL moments in every episode. And now we have warm, humane, rather loony versions of both the trap and the reverse trap.

I guess not, maybe even not soon enough. Interesting choice of words though.

The review ends with a panegiric to 5cm, but not very quotable. I haven’t seen the movie anyway, and do not plan on it.