The autumn season has rolled around, bringing along a potential watch list long enough to leave one at despair. (heaven and Hell?) Of course, among the abundant choice of titles there were some i was anticipating more than the others, and SHAFT’s continued adoption of ef was definitely one of them. And if the first episode is anything to go by, we are going to be treated to more of what made the first season so well acknowledged – controversial visual effects, excellent musical score, interesting set of characters and sky animation that will leave you searching for your jaw on the floor. And more drama.
A new season on ef, and with it – a new set of main characters. Of course, those who have watched the first season are going to recognize them (except one … but she does an exceptional job at imprinting her image in everyone’s memory on first meeting ) as the side cast of the first tale, having stepped forward to tell their own tale. With quirky Mizuki and Kuze taking the spotlight, together with the mysterious Yuuko and enigmatic Yuu, we are in for a quite interesting ride, which promises to be quite dramatic as well. I am sure many are hungry for answers regarding Yuuko after the first season and her confusing appearances, as well as puzzled by exactly what sob story does Mizuki has to offer — and all i can say is – wait for it, the answers will come this time around :)
Love it or Hate it, SHAFT is back with their unique efforts at visual stylization
After being treated to a nostalgia filled dialog from Yuu against an artsy background, we join our spokesman in what seems to be an event taking place in past, which is where, apparently, the bulk of Yuu/Yuuko storyline is going to take place. After picking up a paper airplane that just landed at his feet, a younger Yuu notices a girl standing on rooftop of a nearby building. Armed with chivalric intents that all anime male leads seem to poses, he advances to said rooftop to inform the girl about the dangers of being on a rooftop, but to his surprise it turns out the girl is someone who apparently knows him – Yuuko. And much to the viewers surprise, she announces she still hates Yuu. Given what we had seen of their interactions during the first season, i must admit being equally intrigued and surprised by the statement.
Seems like any explanations are going to have to wait though, as scene shifts back to present, with Yuu leisurely enjoying a drink on a veranda,soon joined by Kuze. They engage in a friendly conversation, eventually coming to a conclusion thet neither has changed since back then …
And sure enough – a scene from past establishes that the two have known each other since their school years. It turns out Yuu can’t accompany Kuze in whatever scheme the later has cooked up this time, as he has been summoned by someone else alreay – and by a girl at that, though Yuu doesn’t look very happy about it.
On his way to the art classroom to meet said person, he crosses paths with one of his teachers, who ends up pestering him about joining the art club — which Yuu promptly refuses to, as he has no interest in art. (i must say, the way the teacher was introduced and presented made him look like one heck of a shady character. Something devious coming from him would be less than a surprise). Yuu refered to him as Amamiya-sensei, which should give a clue about a connection to a certain character ;)
Having sucessfully avoided the draft attempt, Yuu arrives at the art class, to be faced by a new ‘problem’ (can i have his porblems?) – Nagi, who happens to be drawing a self-portrait. (Incidentally, Nagi happens to be Hrio’s older sister, which is likely where he pulled his pen name from … not very imaginative, was he ^^). Why a problem ? Because she happens to be drawing a naked portrait of herself … while actually being naked!
What surprised me here was Nagi’s absolute nonchalance regarding the situation – she didn’t seem to mind or care one bit about her state of (un)dress, and simply asked Yuu to wait a bit, as she was on some important detail. I must say Yuu demonstrated nerves of steel in that situation as well, though he was quite embarrassed at some points. It seemed this wasn’t the first time such had happened either, which would partially explain Yuu’s ability to keep his cool in face of Nagi’s dedication to her art. She eventually gets dressed (demonstrating her rather ample bust size along the way) and the two leave for some shopping.
On their way home Nagi offers him a sketchbook as gratitude for accompanying her, though Yuu seemed as oblivious as i was why he would want it. At which point Nagi notes that someone has been following them from the school, and Yuu turns around to find a smiling Yuuko standing there. As Nagi demands who she is (do i see a spark of jealousy there ? Why …yes i do!) from Yuu, Yuuko introduces herself and says she knows Yuu, even if he has forgotten all about her. Which earn Yuu an angrili delivered sketchbook in the face and Nagi leaving, leaving him alone with Yuuko.
The two arrive at a beach, where Yuu reveals he hasn’t forgotten at all, and remembers all of it. Looks like the memories of 10 years ago aren’t very fond for either of them. Yuuko refers to him as onii-chan, and says she is living together with another brother right now. (Which leads me to believe Yuuko was likely adopted by Yuu’s family at some point, but something went wrong), to which Yuu gets somewhat upset and tells her not to get close to him, as he doesn’t want to remember those days.
As to what exactly happened we are unlikely to learn anytime soon just yet though, and definitely not now, as this is where the Opening finally kicks in, essentially splitting the episode in half. Given the fact that the second half focuses on different characters, i must say i rather liked the move.
The OP is done in a similar artsy and symbolic fashion to the first one, only forsaking colors this time altogether (except for 2 ‘strings of fate’ scenes). The song, Ebullient Future, was very much to my liking, and reminded me of Euphoric field in many ways. I can’t say the former has outgrown the later in my books, but this will be a pleasant piece to listen to never the less.
Watch the OP
Much like the first season, the second one is following the same pattern of split episode focus. And with first half being over, it’s time to arrive at the second one. Which starts with Mizuki being awoken by Renji from some strange dream, and she finds herself to be holding on to his arm. She seems half asleep and has trouble acknowledging her surroundings, which leads Renji to reminding her that she is in Australia now (something to think about, keeping in mind the first season ;)), staying over at his place after being admitted to a university there. (On that note, it is revealed that they are relatives, as she is Renji’s cousin). After a fun and quirky conversation between the two, Renji’s mom comes in and comments how the two are getting along well (with Mizuki still holding to his arm), and teases him asking if she should ‘report’ this to Chihiro.
Mizuki gets out of the bed soon after (and i should note that by this moment her cuteness rating was already over 9000 … she is absolutely adorably fun to watch, much more so than i had imagined … and she is mine, hands off!) and teases Renji if he is going to watch her change, which causes him to quickly scramble towards the door in minor panic. Before he leaves though she comments on the dream she had – the one she always sees – a dream of beautiful flowers, but she says this in a rather serious/grim mood.
During breakfast Mizuki goes sparkly eyed, remembering a violin she heard yesterday, as she thought the music was beautiful. Renji suggests it must have been Kuze, their neighbor, who happens to be a world class violinist. He is a bit weary about Mizuki’s request to introduce them though, as he considers Kuze a womanizer ^^’. Mizuki gets half-jokingly angry at the comment, saying that he is being rude, as she is not looking for a boyfriend. And true to her first season self, claims that she wouldn’t care aboyt males hitting on her, as she is fully dedicated to Kei-senpai. (Mizuki Mizuki … you don’t want to bet on that ^^)
Over at Kuze’s house no one seems to be answering the bell, but when Renji’s mother calls out to him, there is instant shuffling inside, someone approaching the door at break-neck pace. (Morale of the day: to lure out a womanizer, bring along a woman. Doorbells are useless) Sure enough – Kuze opens the door and presents himself in a typical sweettalker manner, taking aback Mizuki for a moment (Apparently Kyousuke is the image of a womanizer she holds in her mind ^^). She quickly forgets it though when Kuze turns his attention to her, and she greets him in her cheerful manner. (And with their handshake, we have tied the metaphorical knot of the second relationship of the season).
Much to Mizuki’s surprise, the inside of the house is almost empty, as Kuze had most things recently removed for a change of pace. Much to his surprise, she seems to find it preferable, as she liked the feeling of freedom. (Which she doesn’t get in her room, which is quite stacked with manga and stuff, according to her). Upon Kuze’s invite to vist whenever she likes, Mizuki starts roaming around the place and stumbles upon one thing he hadn’t thrown away – his praised school uniform collection! As he comments he will throw out these as well, Mizuki says not to. From this point on we can declare her as Kuze’s unofficial model, as she immediately changed in to one of them.
She notices the violin case and excitedly asks if Kuze could play something, which earns a strangely upset reaction from him. Before she catches on though, he explains the violin is broken, so he can’t do it today. He does promise to play the next time though. He does give her a CD of his music however, which makes her happy.
A clock suddenly rings, but Kuze sidesteps Mizuki’s question about it and asks if she wants something to drink, which she does. Apparently Kuze doesn’t know the meaning of proper food though, as his fridge is used for storing only juice and alcohol. (And ice, which was proudly proclaimed as the third category of items in his fridge). As Mizuki is busy with her juice can (having changed in another uniform), Kuze is shown to have taken some pills.
They spend some more time leisurely talking, and Mizuki asks if he would stop speaking in such a formal manner. Kuze laughs saying it has become a habit of his, seeing the types of people he has to deal with being a world class artist, and comments that all people have masks they wear on almost all occasions, and the more relationships they form, the more masks they develop. He is left impressed at Mizuki’s request not to wear any masks while he is with her, as she is quite fond of the real Kuze.
As she parts with “see you tomorrow”, Kuze goes back in his apartment, when he is suddenly struck by severe pain in his chest. Apparently the medicine he took takes effect after a few moments, and he throws himself in the sofa, cynically wondering how long he will be keeping up this Fermata.
(A fermata (or hold or pause) is an element of musical notation indicating that the note should be sustained for longer than its note value would indicate. Exactly how much longer it is held is up to the discretion of the performer or conductor, but twice as long is not unusual.)
Overall i can say i was quite satisfied with the episode. The characters are interesting and the dialog quite quirky and meaningful. The music is fitting without being intrusive and the visuals (especially the walking animation) have received a slight boost since season 1. I found Shaft’s notorious use of “art” shots much less intrusive and distracting than it was at the start of previous season as well, which i can appreciate, seeing i found it a rather big turnoff the last time around. (I am kinda used to it by now though). And Mizuki was simply delightful. I didn’t think she would make for such an interesting main character, but i feel i will be gladly watching her.
All in all, it looks we are on solid tracks for a good dose of romance and drama, done in same style that earned a lot of praise for its predecessor. For fans of the first series, this is definitely not one to miss.