Category Archives: ef

How to Build Your Own Euphoric Field

Yes, ef – a Tale of Memories is awesome. Yes, I think it is a masterpiece. Yes, I think you should watch ef. No, I don’t think you’ll enjoy it (most of you anyways). Yes, I know I am elitist. Someone once said that all the visual tricks for the show is akin to putting lipstick on a pig, but sometimes shows like ef expose who are really the pigs around here. Oink! And yes, you should watch ef anyways and decide for yourself. Yes I could be wrong!

Kiss me baby one more time?

So. How do you build your own euphoric field? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can either read some of those nice episode summary blogs or just watch the anime (I recommend this, as always). If that doesn’t help, well, I’m sure you’re not alone. Think of it as a top 10 list about ef, in no particular order.

1. Expect opposition. The road to life is narrow and treacherous. But like many other things in life that’s hard to do, it’s also worth doing. Like cheering for a show that most people probably won’t get or enjoy. Or better yet, making one of such.

2. Use your head. Even if you appeal to the most basic of instincts and emotions, it is still not going to make you better than the next guy or the guy before who also appeal to the most basic of instincts and emotions. Masterful storytellers weave coherent, internally consistent and effective narratives. ef is, for the most part, just that. Sometimes it takes time for ef to do its thing, but all signs point to that the people behind it thought it through, and spend the time putting it together.

3. Plant a secret message in your episode titles. I mean, com’on, this guy obviously never looked it up on ANN, right?

4. Have a ball. Having fun is always a prerequisite to greatness. Sometimes it’s not so fun, but all the more to keep this one in mind.

5. Open your mind’s eye. Perhaps miracles are, as Menclave puts it, “inevitabilities and accidents, and what you’re going to do.” But for a people blind to their dreams and visions, they need all the help they can get. As clichés go, believing is seeing. Kuze puts it forth pointedly. All it takes is a gust of wind to change fate.

6. Repetition is the real test. Fact is most people (myself included) just don’t have the time to watch new shows and find time to rewatch old shows all the time. Most of my experience with a show happens inside my head or when I talk about it with someone, long after I’ve finished watching it. What a good show does is, well, what Renji does with Chihiro. I have to like to recall that show. It has to leave an impact. It has to withstand repetition, both in viewing (and ef does this well; watching it twice is almost necessary to understanding it fully) and being able to withstand analysis. Plus, of course, all that fuzzy warm feeling you have associated with something rushing back each time you remember the realization of a wish engraved into memories you don’t want to forget. That leads to…

7. Intercorse is good when you make it meaningful. It is pretty tough if you want to try to forget about meaningful sex the day after.

8. Cheer. Praise is an instinct, and it should be kept as an instinct. Not empty, calculated praise but genuine and heartfelt appreciation of something worth sharing with each other. The word cheer seems to be a little down to earth and gets the idea across a little better I think. Regarding to this anime, though, it’s exactly the sort of shows I watch and follow anime for. It’s edgy, it’s flawed, but the humanity shines through. All the while it’s entertaining and emotionally charged. The fact that it’s clever is just icing on the cake.

9. Field questions. Give answers with comment and suggestions. Pingback and trackbacks. Good o’ electronic mail. The postal service. Digital or analog telephony. Community and communicate have the same word root for some unknown reason that I cannot even begin to fathom. Right.

10. Stop being lazy–don’t do what I do.

I’ll just repeat myself slightly and say that like what X-Men the movie did to the comic book adaptation industry in Hollywood, finally we got one right in the eroge visual novel adaptation side of things. I’m not so much afraid that new shows following the same footsteps will get it wrong as much as just having that kind of production happen at all. Even among eroge, the ef game (soon games?) is peculiar. But without failures there cannot be successors, as ef itself only followed countless others that fell in the wake of the late-night otaku TV war. So, bring it on please!

Year in Review: Shafting of the Shrewd

This is really a two-fer (or three-fer): ef, Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei and Hidamari Sketch; and anime as animation, doing what it is suppose to do.

Not long ago I finished the last episode of ef – a tale of memories. It’s by far the most impressive anime of 2007. Sadly that’s just my impression and not a lasting opinion tested with time, but it was hard to deny that ef was a gimmick intended to impress. Much like Zetsubo Sensei and Hidamari Sketch, ef is the product of SHAFT, the same studio and pretty close to the same production team.

Well, except Shin Oumura, the credited director. He gave ef that touch that reminded me why Makoto Shinkai’s film will probably never break into the mainstream. Akiyuki Shinbo being the “supervising” director only contributed to how some of the scenes look. Can we say red and black railroad crossings? The other two works are Shinbo’s direct results, probably, with him labeled as the director (and who can forget his happy mug in the OP for Zetsubo Sensei?).

I can also really care much less about Sunshine Sketch’s healing properties. The serendipitous 4-koma original stuff is, I’m sure, good on its own. But that’s not here or there. The TV animation series is brilliant in how it transforms your typical manga adaptation into something unexpected, clever, but all the more expressive. And the stuff it expresses are not merely words from a book or plot points in an outline, but feelings and perspectives and attitudes. And you know Sunshine Sketch is good because, I guess, what was good to the animation staff has been transmitted through the show and to your soul! L33t haxxorz they are.

In fact, with all three series there’s this kind of connection that I see with the anime and its viewer. It’s a bridge, a protocol that transmits the beyond-mere-words content of a story to its viewer. Sure, it’s not unusual for anime to achieve this, but so few bridges are so weird and daring yet charming at the same time. It was fun.

Well. That’s that. But in the context of what’s notable in 2007, we should compare these three shows with stuff like like Denno Coil and Seirei no Moribito.

Because, lol, can you say SHOESTRING BUDGET?

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Feeling Like Aoi – Am Sure Stuffed, Myself.

So I cooked like a madman today. Only problem was I planned out of sync with my fellow family-chefs that my dishes were a scale above the cut. What would’ve been a homely end to a scrumptious and wholesome Asian-American Thanksgiving meal was a dash too Italian and a pot too foreign for the familiar tongue. Recalling new episodes of Iron Chef America (which is by all means inferior than the original, but nonetheless inspirational and educational) I saw last night reminds me the importance of cohesion in a multi-course meal, even if it is a half-potluck between me and 8 other people. I should’ve known what they were bringing anyways…

And I should’ve known that I’m out of my reach when I had to wiki up what the hell is parsnip and stopped there. But hey, I like to try new stuff. And for that matter the dishes were successful as themselves.

But when Renji Asou’s mother noted about the fastest way to a man’s heart, it just occurred to me: Just how many western anime viewers can relate to that culinary aspect to modern Japanese life? Sure, we have stuff like actual anime involving the various culinary arts–East Asian societies love to cook and eat so it’s no surprise that it makes a good topic–but what does that mean to you when it isn’t prominently the subject of the show?

What does it mean for Aoi, the dressing character and your neighborhood squeak toy from Myself;Yourself? Or Renji Asou himself? Or those lunches made by each of them? In my own estimate cooking and eating is a tight knit to the Japanese soul–if it’s anything like your typical Korean or Chinese souls–and it has a pretty big role in life generally unlike what we’d imagine in the west. In fact, I don’t even know if we can properly imagine it.

But on the flip side, eating and fellowship over food is just another cultural thing like family dinners and starving as a poor artist. People take it for granted, but when it’s written into a show like ef, you know it’s anything but.

Just what kind of cuisine paves the road to an otaku’s heart? Choco coronets? Canned stew? Akiko’s jam? I don’t know and I would hope we’re a more sophisticated lot than that. But in anime, manga and game, just how does it work together? Do you even care?

But I do know anime goes well after a good, hearty meal that you cooked yourself and am proud of, partook with friends and family. That’s feeling like Aoi, I hope.

Captive Audience

I think the first 8 minutes of ef – a tale of memories episode 6 is made of pure win. It is the sum of a delightful dialog that I have been trying to have with the rest of you in these past few years, boiled down in a very pointy and simple, directed scene about living for yourself and living for others, tersely paralleled with a creator’s dilemma in his artistic pursuit.

The subtle irony presses on even in the soundscape. Tenmon’s accompaniment with Makoto Shinkai’s early days is not without meaning. The simple chords (or whatever those wiggly lines next to them are called) pierces a slightly heated, poorly acted, but lively dialog. What leaks out was that subtle, fourth-wall prodding that have been pressed through the scenes of this anime series since episode 1. The writing and the dialog talks about a weird, artsy show like ef itself. And the people who make and appreciate them.

The episode started patently out of the DVDs of Soul Taker; flat-pressed rail road crossing, a silent parting only dressed by a roaring locomotive; but it is a declaration of war rather than an unconfessed complex.

But how does a girl figure into all of this? I’m sure a lot of you are rather more interested in the plot elements. Kyousuke was always “that special something” which made the ef anime different than anything else out there for me, so it is good to see the main romance story involving him.

The sharp declaration, the clever, alter-perspective recap to connect episode 5 and 6, well, is electrifying but also a little wacky. I guess I will have to live with that.

As the episode progressed the intensity of the direction dwindled. With Chihiro we see a lot of softness (although it makes good material to spike up things like with that sheep, those painted glass, a singular reaching arm). It’s that Renji-puppy-love, maybe. His mom is definitely a pretty lady that is also pretty funny. A little less funny was his neighbor-friend. And probably way less funny is Renji’s adviser. I guess they’ll save that for his back story with Yuuko.

The episode ends with some tender moment between Kei and Kyousuke, and Kei and Hiro, and showing you why ef is taking advantage of the anime format by doing some cool stuff that wouldn’t be so easy to do.

A Girl’s Last Regret

…is not getting to know November 11 a little better.

Eternity approaches. The feeling of solitude escapes its frail shell through the cracks of the oncoming holiday season. Weather changes from warm to chilly; perhaps your coworker has caught a cold and you try your own best to beat the bug. At any rate, all of this is to pass through the flight of time. In a blink of eye we will be reading Jeff Lawson’s post about his favorite anime being better than yours, along with everyone else that partake in the half-trollish, half-festive tradition. The urge to recall what happened early this year fills you invariably with happy and sad memories at the same time, or worse, a chilly void of “wow, what have I been doing with my life?”

Eternity is here, in some sense. For girls like Chihiro Shindou eternity has been severed into pieces; each night’s sleep leapfrogs her from one small reality to the next, guided by written continuity from the hands of an equally fragmented author. A little sheep grazes at the lawn it is chained, perhaps, to its eventual death. However, what that little sheep fails to realize is that life keeps going. She may be limited by her chains but the sum of herself is more than the recollection of self. It’s the fact that eternity is here. It’s the story about memory, and how we perceive them and express them.

Pop quiz: Why did Nayuki asked Yuuichi if he remembers her name?

Answer: Kanon 2006 FAILS.

But good o chap Jack Simon will live on with those who remember him. And I think even if he doesn’t exist as a real person, he is pretty inspirational as an icon of those who can keep his cool all the while doing the thing he has to do.