ef – a fairy tale of the two (third chapter)

from the me of yesterday to the me of today:

The story focuses on Renji Aso, a loner who meets a girl at a train station wearing an eyepatch over her left eye and sitting alone named Chihiro Shindo.  Despite them being mutually shy, Renji comes back to see her and quickly becomes friends with her. Renji learns that she has a severe case of amnesia where she cannot remember anything past thirteen hours previous, aside from the events before the accident which she can recall perfectly.

The third chapter has easily been the most poignant, and striking one so far. It deals with the concept of memories, and how vital, yet passing they are.

Our protagonist for this chapter, Asou Renji, is the cousin of the lovable little kouhai who’s obsessed with Kei, Mizuki, showing us once again that everyone in this series is connected to each other somehow. He’s living a rather insular life, devoid of friends or excitement. To make matters worse, he doesn’t know how to deal with his childish mother who keeps making inappropriate comments, or know what he wants to do when he gets older. At this difficult time in his life, he meets a girl who is as transient as the snow, Chihiro Shindou.

Their first meeting happens at the train station, where Chihiro is singing some sort of Japanese folk song about a crow. She’s ethereal, and doll-like. Renji is hesitant to approach her, but does so anyway. They awkwardly speak about a few minor things, until Renji leaves, but not before they exchange names. The mysterious girl still on his mind, he returns there the next day, and welcomes him with a curious, ‘you’re… Asou-san, right?’. Renji is clearly wounded, as he feels like he hasn’t left that much of an impression on her. Oh, how wrong he turns out to be. As Renji and Chihiro begin to chat more and more as the days flow by, Renji senses that there’s something clearly wrong about her. She doesn’t attend school, and has an eyepatch covering her left eye. Add in the mystery about her always having to reaffirm who he is, and there’s definitley something mysterious about her. Chihiro eventually tells him that she has a memory deficiency, due to an accident she had four years ago. And this, is where the third chapter properly begins.

Out of all the heroines which have been presented to us so far, I felt like Chihiro had fully captured my attention only about half an hour after her first appearance. Minori could have easily gone down the ‘poor sickly girl’ route, but instead they gave Chihiro a sense of personality, and the slightest bit of cruelty that one wouldn’t expect from a character like this. She absentmindedly smiles when she tells Renji that she won’t remember all the trouble she caused once the next day hits, and tells him with a vague smile on her face about the time she kept a diary revolving around her pet rabbit as it crept towards the death. Not that she’s a cruel person in general, mind you. She’s actually very sweet, and docile at times. Although Renji says later on in the chapter that the more excitable, abrasive Chihiro shown towards the end of the chapter is probably her true personality.

It’s understandable that Chihiro would act more reserved around people. She’s mostly hesitant about causing trouble for them, and initially things that it would be better if she just disappeared. When her and Renji have their date as the climb to the school’s rooftop, Renji said that he had a feeling that she would jump off, leaving their date, and the Chihiro of that day at a standstill. There are only a handful of people in her life- Yuu, the guy who seems to have a connection with the always enigmatic Yuuko (even their names are bizarrely similar), Kei, her twin who was the heroine of the previous chapter who she dearly misses and is often seen composing e-mails to her, and sometimes, Yuu’s friend Kuze, who knows and has spoken to Chihiro several times, but she never seems to remember. In that sense, she’s very like Renji, each not having a lot of people in their life. It makes sense that they would share a connection, being the only two people in their own solitary world. Which interestingly enough has a huge impact on the novel which Chihiro decides to write with Renji. Originally, it was about a girl who found herself on an island, all by herself. There are things for her to eat (although she’s unsure about food so sometimes she falls ill from eating rotten food), books for her to read (which is how she attains knowledge about the world, from knowing absolutely nothing), but there is nobody there to share anything with. In that world, there’s only her.

She eventually decides to take up painting, and begins with traditional realist landscapes. But she eventually becomes curious about people, but doesn’t know how to get them down on the canvas. While she herself is there, other humans aren’t. So, how is she supposed to know what other humans look like? After trudging through more books, she is finally able to draw a boy, with she then puts in all her paintings, along with her. The actual girl then decides to marry the painting. For a change, she isn’t that lonely. Towards the end of the chapter (even though it was always pretty obvious), we find out that the novel the two are writing is an allegory for her life.

The seiyuu for Chihiro had the most emotionally stirring job to date- she was able to make her sound soft and gentle, and then frenzied and panicked, very effectively. Her voice she usually used for Chihiro was childish, which is what you’d expect for a character like Chihiro. One of the more tragic points of Chihiro’s characterization is that she’s essentially, a twelve year old trapped in a sixteen year old’s body. We see things through Chihiro’s eyes several times during the course of the chapter, and how hard she finds it to deal with the body she is. The hands that aren’t hers, the breasts which aren’t hers, the overall body which isn’t her. As Chihiro wakes up every morning, she still expects to be twelve years old, and have Kei sharing the same room as her. It’s what her life has been like for the past four years, and it’s how she’ll always be. As alarming as it for someone to jump four years, can you imagine what she’d feel like when she turns thirty? Forty? She will forever be twelve years old, stuck inside that hot Summer day.

With having her memories erased everyday, she is someone new everyday, too. As she constantly tells Renji, ‘the me you meet tomorrow will be different’. It’s the reason why she does, and doesn’t do several things, “I might have done that, if it were the me of yesterday…”. Some days she’s more sullen, others she’s more upbeat. She truly is someone different everyday, which is quite tragic. Imagine Renji loving a different woman, every single day for the rest of his life? While they all amount to the same woman, same speech pattern, same likeliness… everyday, she’s a little bit different. Utterly heartbreaking, to say the least. But at least Chihiro has her trusty diary, which she uses to record things about the day. But she doesn’t write things like, ‘I had fun today’. She records why she had fun, who she had fun with, where she had fun, and most importantly, what it felt like. She can’t afford to leave out specifics. In fact, she has a number of rules for her diary. She must also record every single thing she eats, to keep track of her nutrition, along with anytime she feels ill- no matter how insignificant.

Unlike the other two couples we’ve seen in the story, Chihiro and Renji don’t have unlimited time to watch their love grow. As Chihiro can only keep her memories for up to thirteen hours, every single second does count. For Chihiro, especially. This is poignantly shown from her perspective when she wakes up early in her own room, idly wondering if Renji is awake. She counts a total of two minutes thinking of something pointless, and then counts another thirty seconds of thinking of pointless things, thus wasting two and a half minutes of oh so precious time. It would really make you think about you use your time. The only other character which has made me think about time wasting is Sharin no Kuni’s Sachi, who had a harsh but fair penalty implemented on her for wasting time. It got to a point where she only had six hours per day to use as she wished- and that time included eating and sleeping.

One thing I like about Renji is, that he acted realistically enough considering Chihiro’s disability. At first he didn’t properly accept it, even regretting that he met her. At one point he thought that it would be a total waste of time, and that he could just stop meeting her and it wouldn’t even matter for her. Selfish? Sure, but definitley a realistic thought considering the situation he was in. After Chihiro bravely asks him out on a date, they share a peaceful day together, almost as if they were a normal couple. They eventually go to the school, and get locked in overnight. While they’re talking, the hours tick by, making them painfully aware of what little time they have left. Chihiro eventually gives Renji the complete record of having the two of them meet, saying that if he ever wants to pursue a relationship with her again, all he has to do is make up his mind, and give her the notebook.

For a while, it looks like he has abandoned Chihiro completely, until he meets her once again at the station. Their encounter goes exactly the same way as their first one, with a shy Chihiro stating that she lost a very important notebook, and had Renji seen it. Although Renji, of course, has the notebook in his pocket, he says he hasn’t. But instead, he shows her a novel, which is obviously the novel the pair wrote, although Renji improved it, and gave it a new ending. Chihiro didn’t like the ending, yet she began to cry. They exchanged names once again, and the chapter ended.

Overall rating for this chapter ; 8.5/10. Easily my favourite so far. I’m sure I only have another fourth to go, but it will be difficult to top this.

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