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

Only humans can mark the day they die on a calender.

Shuichi Kuze is the main protagonist of the fourth chapter in the story. He is an older man who is a professional violinist. He is also a neighbor of Renji’s and is good friends with him despite the age difference. He meets the main heroine from the fourth chapter of the story named Mizuki Hayama after being introduced by Renji’s mother. She initially comes to Otowa to visit her older cousin Renji, and this is when she meets Kuze. Kuze keeps to himself that he is dying of a special case of neurosis, of which Mizuki is aware of, but even though she tries to get closer to him, he forcibly pushes her away and rejects her affections.

After the spectacular emotional ride which was the third chapter, the fourth chapter ultimately failed to live up to it, and was probably the weakest chapter so far. Probably even worse than the second chapter, which dealt with the frustratingly simple Kei and rather unlikable protagonist. The fourth chapter, in typical ef fashion, occurs about half a year after the events in the third chapter. Where we left off, Chihiro had ultimately decided to abandon any hopes of a normal relationship with Renji, due to her retrograde amnesia. She entrusted him with a diary covering their relationship, with a message saying that if he ever wanted to establish a relationship with her (and overcome the obstacle that was her memory defect), all he would have to do was give her the diary. They then parted. After that rather sombre tale, the overly cheerful kouhai who revered Kei Mizuki Hayama moved to her cousin Renji’s hometown, in hopes of going to the same school as him. She takes up refuge at his household, living with both him and his mother Sumire. And then, she gets introduced to their easygoing neighbour, Shuuichi Kuze. Sumire entrusts Kuze with being Mizuki’s tour guide, and that sets the plot rolling.

Not the most interesting way to set up a pair of characters. City girl visits her cousin’s home, falls in love with neighbour? Already, I didn’t like what going on. And from what we’ve seen of Mizuki in the past three chapters, I didn’t like her at all. She was this silly, stereotypically genki! genki! genki! girl, who adored her sempai a bit too much. Normally you’d associate those kind of character tropes with shoujo-ai anime taking place at a girls only school, where the adoring kouhai is primarily used for comic effect. Therefore, when I heard that this very same character was going to be the star of the fourth chapter, eyebrows were raised. Wait, what? Of course, the reasons for why she fell in love with Kuze were obvious enough. She thought he was good looking, cool, and admired his ‘strength’. Yeah, yeah, fascinating. It so happened that she saw death in him, and could have been subconsciously attracted to him (according to Yuu), due to a repressed memory.

The only really well done part happened at the direct end of the chapter, after Mizuki had recovered her memories due to a conversation with Yuu, which provided the trigger she needed. All throughout the chapter, she was having ominous dreams. And it wasn’t only just because she moved, she seemed to be having them regularly, ever since she was younger. It involved her being pulled down into the ocean, and as a result made her terribly frightened of the sea. Sumire even warned Kuze not to take her to the ocean, in fear for the damage it might cause her. We learn halfway through the chapter that Mizuki was also adopted, which explained Renji’s dreams about a girl called Mizuki who didn’t look anything at all like our Mizuki. Curiously enough, she also died at the beach. The grief stricken parents sought out a new child, and even named her Mizuki. Almost like they wanted a perfect copy. It turns out that Yuu mentioning Yuuko had a direct effect on Mizuki, causing her to realize why she was having those dreams.

She had never told anyone her story – not her ‘parents’, friends, or even sempais, but she did actually remember her real family. It turned out they had a very happy day at an amusement park, and then tried to kill themselves by driving their car into the ocean. Mizuki came to the conclusion that it must have been a lover’s suicide. She also remembered her mother attempting to strangle her. As Mizuki was blankly telling Yuu her story, I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Was that story really needed? Did Mizuki really have to be adopted? I wonder what going through the writer’s mind when they thought that. For it to be at the direct end of the chapter seems terribly tacked on, even though there was foreshadowing. And now, for where Yuuko comes in. It turns out that Mizuki stayed at the church when she was younger, as it was a sort of orphanage back then. Mizuki also took care of her. All the while she’s telling this, she has a bouquet of lilies in her hand. She takes them outside the church, on the path, and says that they’re for Yuuko. The usually composed and flippant Yuu then looks startled, and asks who she is. Cue end of chapter four.

Although I’m sure the whole, ‘OMG YUUKO WAS DEAD ALL ALONG!!!111’ thing was supposed to be the big reveal, with Yuu’s reaction and the swift chapter end, I wasn’t at all surprised. In fact, I theorized earlier that she most likely was dead, hence why others couldn’t see her… Others like Mizuki at the direct end of the second chapter. But that makes me wonder, how could Hiro  and everyone else see her? Is her presence still binding her to the church, because she must wait for Yuu? Most likely, yes. If that were the case, then I guess I can understand why Mizuki didn’t see her. Mizuki saw her die in front of her eyes, so to Mizuki, that existence which was Yuuko didn’t exist to her anymore. This is a fact in her world, her conscience. But to others who aren’t aware that Yuuko ‘died’, all they have to do is see her and acknowledge her existence. The fifth (and presumably, sixth) chapter tells her story, so I’m looking forward to reading them.

Mizuki and Kuze’s relationship, in my opinion, was incredibly dull and almost a pain to read through. It became even worse once I found out that Kuze had some illness which was killing him. Yeah, yeah. The relationship is doomed from the get go, I get it. Mizuki, as expected, is a complete martyr about it saying, ‘it’s fine, I don’t care’, despite the fact that he left his previous girlfriend because of the illness and everything. To push her off of him forever, he violently assaults her in his living room despite her crying and trying to push him away all throughout. She leaves the room still in tears, as Kuze coldly asks why isn’t she gone yet. And, they don’t meet again. It’s understandable why he did what he did, especially as we got to see his thoughts while doing it. He kept thinking things like, ‘I mustn’t be soft, I’ve to stop her loving me!’.

Overall, this chapter wasn’t at all enjoyable. It’s almost like the writers were being lazy with this chapter, as we already knew who everyone was, and the setting was already established. Having said that, the second chapter was similar in that regard but it wasn’t as mind numbingly silly as this. I’ll give it, overall, 3.5/10. Downright unlikable characters, and silly situations abound. The only parts I truly liked at the end of it all were the little snippets of Chihiro and Renji’s relationship (both of whom had reunited, and were as much in love as ever), and the direct end, about Yuuko. Hopefully the next two chapters bring this vn up to a higher grade. Overall, I guess people who were into rubbish like Clannad’s faux sob story which the embodiment of Nagisa would probably be into this route. But, it’s definitley not for me.

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