2008 in anime – #1: extreme fear

by Grungi

And so, this is it. As the year comes to an end, we’ve reached the top of this list. The icing on the cake, if you will. What made me happy to be an anime-loving person – I wouldn’t qualify to a full-fledged otaku – and made all these episodes feel they were worth the time spent watching them. And that would be ef.
Before I go on, I guess I need to warn you : the two seasons of ef (a tale of memories and a tale of melodies) still have a firm grasp on my mind as I’m writing this. I guess I’ll need a little time to completely free myself of their emotional aftershock. So this is probably going to sound a little fanboy-ish, but who cares ?

That being out of the way, which is the particular moment of the series I want to remember ? Honestly, I changed my mind a dozen of times before settling for something that’s probably not very original : Miyako Miyamura’s breakdown, in episode 7 of ef – a tale of memories.

If you’ve seen it, you probably know exactly which scene I’m talking about, and if not, I won’t spoil it too much, but know that one of the female protagonist experience a really sudden and horrible nervous breakdown, and that it’s depicted in a way that does nothing to soften the blow.
I don’t even know if this is really the best scene of the show, but it’s at least the first real big shock ef will throw at you. Admittedly, the situation itself is not the worst in an anime to date, but the text piling up and covering the screen, the increasingly distressed voice of Miyako, and the way you mostly don’t see it coming make it unforgettable.

In the end, it’s a prime example of how SHAFT (the studio behind ef) manages to turn a somewhat standard visual novel adaptation into something much, much more than that. Well, wait a minute, that’s not totally fair, as the visual novel itself is already praised as particularly heavy on artsy stuff, so in a way SHAFT is only following the lead. But anyway, they’re awesome at making it work.

But was that scene alone what made me choose ef as my favorite anime of the year ? Certainly not! The two seasons of ef have managed to make me feel things with more intensity that I could’ve possible have imagined a couple of year before now. It wasn’t as powerful as when I saw 5 centimeter per second, and maybe not even as shocking as the end of Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~ because the overall tone of the anime prepares you better for dramatic events, but it was gripping nonetheless.

As I said, the premise of ef sound particularly mundane : it’s a story about people falling in love. Me ? Watching that kind of things ? I know, I know, my comments on Sora and Gouta in the previous post make this claim dubious, but honestly I used to hate stories focusing on love affairs. And ef probably wouldn’t have gained the attention I gave it without the already mentioned art direction. That and its music, composed by the very, very, very talented TENMON (who, coincidentally, also did the soundtrack to every Makoto Shinkai movie, especially 5 centimeter per second). Both sound and image are used to convey points in a great variety of ways, and much more effectively than dialog alone could have achieved.

And there is a lot of meaning contained in those 24 episodes. I’ll definitely have to rewatch the whole thing, because I surely missed many subtle thing, seeing how taken I was by the story itself. You can’t stay all cool and analytical when you’re in the emotional state ef put me in…

I’ll tell you, I’m really glad to have experienced ef, and some of its characters have earned a special spot in my memories. Writing this post reinforced my wish to rewatch those two tales in the not-so-distant future. I’ll probably take the time to blog about it then, in an episode-by-episode fashion, to help me better express what ef now means to me, and thus will stop praising it too much here. I guess giving it this first spot is already a good indication of how I liked it.

This concludes this mini-series of posts, and the year. I wish everyone a very happy new year, and 365 days filled with brand new memories.