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

Yuuko said she wished for the world to be beautiful.

This was something beautiful.

There really existed a tune which was this beautiful, a piece that could crumble all walls and barriers.

I didn’t feel the word had abandoned me.

After seeing snippets of Amamiya Yuuko and Himura Yuu all this time, they finally take center stage in these last two chapters. Yuu is a straightforward, thoroughly diligent student who still can’t let go of his past and the great disaster which hit the town all those years back. While he’s in that lifeless daze, he meets Yuuko, a girl who he knew in an orphanage when he was younger. Yuuko is forever playful around Yuu, but her true nature is something unexpected…

When watching the opening for ef, what is the first thing that you notice? It’s a girl standing on top of a roof, throwing a paper airplane up towards the beautifully animated sky. And all throughout the opening, the airplane is seen, continuing on its voyage. Going from the long, dark hair of the girl, one would obviously think that it’s Yuuko. And, they’d be correct. But chances are, one wouldn’t know exactly why she’s throwing a paper airplane. In this harrowing chapter, all is revealed. And it’s not just something that she did for fun, or out of boredom, as we see later. The reason as to why she gave Yuu the airplane is tragic, especially when taking the scene beforehand into consideration. After reading through this chapter, going back and reading the start where she and Yuu meet is particularly strained, with Yuuko’s intentions being all the more evident and pleading. She is, essentially, under that carefully crafted mask, a gloomy and cynical person. Although, she has every reason to be.

Before this chapter, I don’t think that I really liked Yuuko as a character much. She was just… there. Her as a character didn’t interest me as much, but her presence did. I wanted to know why she was where she was, and why she helped people. And, of course, if she were dead or alive. After having my suspicions confirmed that she was in fact dead, I was curious as to what the next two chapters would hold. Going back in time to when Yuu and Yuuko were in school together wasn’t that unexpected. To be honest, I was expecting a lot of general silliness from her, and a lot of gruff replies and blank looks from him, all ending with a confession of sorts and her getting knocked down by a car outside the church or something. Bam, the VN is finished.

Or not.

Things pretty much did happen just the way I had thought… At first. Yuu reunites with Yuuko after seeing a silly paper airplane fly in front of him. After looking up towards the sky, it turned out that Yuuko was the one who flung it, from a spot well known at this stage of the game. That’s right, she was up at Otowa High’s roof, where all our couples (bar Kuze and …that girl’s name I can’t recall) had memorable scenes. After a chat, Yuuko entrusts the airplane to Yuu, telling him to keep it, as it’s important. At a time he brushes it off as something irrelevant, but eventually does keep it. As we find out later, it’s something which finally pushes him over the edge, and into gear for finally focusing all his attention on Yuuko, and deciding never to leave her alone again.

This chapter was from Yuu’s perspective, so I thought we’d have another deadpan snarker on our hands, going from the previous two chapters. While that was somewhat true, he was actually a very pessimistic and withdrawn guy. We first heard about the great disaster which blanketed the town in the first chapter, but it’s only in this chapter where we get to see actual flashbacks of what happened. It turns out that everyone was affected in some way. Yuu lived with a rather poor family, who barely made enough money to keep things going, but they were content. In this family, there was also a sister. It was Christmas eve, and she wanted a cheap plastic, tacky red watch. Yuu bought it for her, and she couldn’t have been happier. Yuu ended up going to the bathroom, and that’s when the disaster struck. His sister was screaming out for him all the while he was stuck in the bathroom. You can imagine what occurred next. Of course, she died. Painfully, in agony. In fact, the next Yuu sees of her is actually a small black charred log.

Of course, Yuu can’t ever forget this, and effects him deeply, obviously causing him damage. For example, even as he turns sixteen, he still carries her ashes around in his pocket. A bit extreme, wouldn’t you say? He also has regular delusions, like the one in the image posted in the previous paragraph. The sister of his dreams also condemns him for spending time with Yuuko, telling him that he’s moving on without her, and mustn’t want a sister anymore. That’s agonizing to Yuu. Typically, he blames Yuuko for those more common daydreams of his sister, as he associates the disaster, and his sister dying with Yuuko, even seeing his sister in her. For the majority of this chapter, that’s what actually puts him off from getting too close to her: fear that he’s only using her as a replacement for his sister. And we find out later, that tragically, that’s exactly how another character treats her.

Yuuko and Yuu aren’t the only characters who show up in this chapter. We’ve the annoyingly cheerful Kuze from the previous chapter, who is as easygoing as ever. Although Yuu is antisocial, Kuze still treats him as one of his only dear friends. Hirono Nagi is Hiro’s sister, and overall a very likable character. She lives to paint, and is a somewhat simplistic person. She has a crush on Yuu, but doesn’t really skirt around the subject. Amusingly enough, Kuze parallels Kyosuke, and Nagi parallels Kei… somewhat. And finally, we have Akira, Yuuko’s adopted brother, and the art teacher at their school. However, Nagi thinks that there’s something odd about him, and Yuu just downright dislikes him (mainly because he’s forever trying to rope him into the art club).  As expected, he has a darker side to him.

If there was one theme for this chapter, it would probably be masks, with several characters concealing their true feelings, and attitudes. A minor example would be Kuze. Although Yuu thinks that he’s constantly messing around with him, he actually really cares and cherishes him as a friend. The more severe and obvious example would be Yuuko, surprisingly enough. Up until the end of this chapter, we’ve seen a kindly, and playful Yuuko who tends to overreact to everything, and has an answer for everything. Everything she does and say is well scripted, and carefully calculated. In a rare, serious moment from Kuze, he states that “There is something in her attitude that feels theatrical. She’s probably the biggest fraud I have ever seen”, which comes as a huge shock to Yuu. Kuze says that there’s a darkness in her, which you can see in her eyes. Yuu goes to assess the situation, and Yuuko tells him without hesitating what the problem with her is. She is being abused on a daily basis by her brother Akira. A shocking revelation, but there was foreshadowing. Yuuko wearing her Winter clothes in Summer wasn’t just her being eccentric- it wa’s to hide all the bruises, scars, burns, and cuts she received from Akira. At that age, she’s obviously worried about her appearance. Having those kind of marks cover her body must be a cruel thing to shoulder. Several things Yuuko herself mentions not getting enough sleep – and then Akira mentions it as well. It all slots into place when Yuuko tells her story.

And Yuuko isn’t all soft about that.., Quite the opposite, actually. She turns out to be quite the dark person. She hates the world, and doesn’t believe in God. Yet, she wishes that a miracle would occur. She also wants to make the world beautiful, and free it of any pain and suffering. Her reason for not believing in any God is because she couldn’t believe that there’s really one there if it allows the world to become such a filthy and hopeless place. She becomes moved after finally hearing Kuze playing the violin. It truly is a beautiful moment, where just for a moment, the world is beautiful. But it still doesn’t change Yuuko’s point of view. In the years since Yuu has seen her last, she has become a bitter person, and doesn’t believe that there’s hope left for her. One instance of this is after the first time Akira rapes her. The next warning, as if in a trance, she walks to the train station. She almost gets on a train, but then realizes that she has nowhere to go, or no one to turn to. It’s obvious that they’d  come to rely on the one person who was ever truly kind to her, Yuu, despite not seeing him in years.

However, she does hold some hatred for him, despite loving him. She wanted nothing more than to call him ‘onii-chan’, but Yuu persistently refused, still overwhelmed with memories of his sister. When we first meet Yuuko on the roof in this chapter, she says that she still hates Yuu. As she says it in a joking matter, it’s not taken seriously. But later on, after her true nature is finally exposed, do we see that it’s the truth. Yuu himself says that it’s like a soliloquy from hell. She hates him because he has everything he could ever want in life, and still looks miserable. And because he wouldn’t let her call him onii-chan. Another revelation is then unfurled. Earlier on in the chapter, Yuuko was subjected to bullying. Or so we though. Yuuko flippantly brushed it aside, which got Yuu fired up. He even went shopping with her for new shoes. It turns out, that Yuuko orchestrated the bullying all by herself. She ripped up her shoes. She wrote malicious messages all over her books. She did it all just so Yuu would open up to her, so she could inflict him with pain. And as a way of playing with his emotions more, she tells him that the only way to save her is to kill Akira, but she know that Yuu won’t do it due to his kind nature. Quite a contemptuous girl, some of you must be thinking.

It may all seem bleak, but there is a happy ending… Or at least, there is for this chapter. The pair confront Akira, and he confesses to what he did quite willingly. He also lost a sister in the disaster, and when Yuuko was adopted, he didn’t see her as a sister at all. In fact, he saw her as a punching bag, to release his stress – sexual and otherwise. He found it unfair how someone like Yuuko could live, while his beloved sister couldn’t. And, he started seeing his sister in Yuuko. The uncomfortable parallels between him and Yuu now become apparent. Yuu said himself that if he made one wrong turn, he could have been in the same place that Akira himself is in. But Yuu decided to see Yuuko as a person, with her own identity, and that made all the difference. Akira eventually kills himself, and Yuuko moves in with Yuu. Alls well that ends well, eh? Except, you know, we know that there is no true happy ending, considering that Yuuko dies and Yuu evidently lives on as a bitter man.

Overall, it was an enjoyable chapter which kept me on my toes. Yuuko’s true nature was a pleasant surprise. With only one chapter to go, my next post about it shall be bidding the series farewell. And it’s about time too, eh?

My overall ranking of the arcs so far are… third (Chihiro and Renji) > five (Yuuko and Yuu) > one (Miya and Hiro) >>>> two (Kei and Kyosuke) >>>> four (Kuze and that other girl).

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