On the surface, ef - a tale of memories seems to be your average romance anime series, featuring a range of characters forming relationships as they spiral awkwardly towards adulthood. Certainly, this series almost disappeared under the radar, and I only watched it on the recommendation of a fellow fansubber who was enjoying it himself. And I have to say, I'm glad I did.
While ef - a tale of memories does follow the accepted path of romance series, it's the way it proceeds, dancing away from clichés as it goes, that really makes the series. The plot itself isn't anything particularly sparkling and the idea of duplicity (two separate stories involving a different set of characters playing out alongside each other) certainly isn't new (see: Baccano and, to a lesser extent, Shinigami no Ballad) even if it handles both of these rather well. However, the strong emotional clincher at the beginning of the series, where we learn of Chihiro's shocking condition, grabs the viewer by the heart and refuses to let go. Where this series really hits it mark is in its cast of characters. The characters are ones you can either relate to, or demand sympathy. Ef is as much a series about unrequited and unwelcome love as it is about becoming romantically aware.
The series has a great way of whisking you along with it, whatever the action is. I was gripped from start to finish, awaiting each new episode to be released, which is a rare event these days. Ef's greatest tool is its fantastic storyline and direction, where not a single second is wasted onscreen without invoking some emotion in the audience. What the director has done well in this series that have failed in other similar titles, is maintaining the fine balance between the optimum amounts of action and introversion.
Having said this, however, there are flaws inherent in the ef model of storytelling. The problem I've always found with duplicity is that they only work if the stories are equally as enthralling -- Baccano works despite its massive cast because every character has an interesting story to tell. Ef, however, has a much stronger storyline in the childlike romance of Renji and Chihiro, than the bordering-on-cliché love triangle of Kei-Hiro-Miyako. Unfortunately, when this happens, the viewer is dragged in by the stronger storyline and sees the weaker one as deadweight -- to the point where it feels like that whole half could have been dropped to make the series stronger. This is what I felt for most of the love triangle story, despite liking most of the characters involved and the individual pieces of magic it brought to my computer screen.
This score is a hard one for me. At times, there are some real breakthroughs in anime artwork, in particular the two amazingly emotional scenes where Miyako and Hiro are communicating by phone (or not, in the case of one of them); and at other times, the viewer is left to deal with long distance shots with only small variations in movement.
It's a hard one to judge, but ef definitely receives higher marks for its wonderful scenery. Nearly every backdrop becomes memorable for its richness of colour, and each setting is perfectly realised -- from the beach where Renji talks frankly about his feelings with Chihiro, to the rooftop of the school, the centre of a climactic scene that I've no doubt I'll always have imprinted on the back of my eyelids.
I almost feel harsh for knocking this down a few pegs, but I get the feeling that if the art directors had just pushed the boat out a little bit more on those near-static scenes, this would be a masterpiece that everyone would remember. As it is, it has some fantastic glimpses of what it could have been.
The best soundtrack I've heard in an anime series. The last time I heard two songs so distinctly unusual to an anime series was in Gunslinger Girl, another series with an amazing opening and ending. I think, like Gunslinger Girl, ef can only achieve the emotional heights it does with perfectly placed music. The ending is an astonishingly good song, played on the accordian in what I can only assume is an imitation the sounds of Paris. There's so much going on in these songs that it's a delight on the ears listening to them.
My only comment on the music is that it would have been nice if the opening theme was in Japanese, instead of dodgy English, but even then, the song itself is a wealth of strings and orchestral wizardry -- and with a scrolling animation as beautiful as "Puzzle" was in Welcome to the NHK! to accompany it... well, I can forgive this one minor downside.
As I mentioned earlier, the duplicity of the plot unfortunately doesn't lend itself to the characters it portrays. On the one hand, Renji and Chihiro are two of the strongest lead characters of any romance series I've seen, with enough flaws to fill a psychiatrist's journal (some of the faces Renji pulls are more reminiscent of Higurashi than Love Hina). On the other, we have Hiro who is too wishy washy to really be the centre of a love triangle, and Kei who seemed to fall into too many of the regular romance traps to be taken seriously.
But then, she is the clichéd member of the cast. While other characters have compelling motivations (Hiro's attempt to juggle drawing professional manga and schoolwork, Miyako's desire to find a place where there is no such thing as silence), her only reason for existing is to be the childhood friend who secretly loves the protagonist but remains unnoticed despite her best attempts. Luckily she's strong enough not to fade into obscurity, but her character is weakened from the outset.
I think it's unfortunate that the character that piqued my interest the most received the least screentime. I wanted to see more of Kyosuke and the way he viewed life through his camera lens, forever searching for the "right" angle. I found his perspective more interesting than Hiro, but it seems as though his involvement in the story is only to give Kei another option in her lovelife. Which is disappointing, to say the least.
It's the relationship that sparks up between Renji and Chihiro that carries this mark though. In fact, on the basis of their endearing love story alone, I considered marking this a 9, maybe even a 10, but I couldn't justify it, especially when you consider that the two "teacher" figures in the church are never really introduced, talked about, or even explained.
Rather than being one story, each episode of ef- a tale of memories is spit into two halves, with 2 different stories. There is never any, cross over between the two storys, nor do they overlap. In other words, it would be fairly easy to seperate each episode into halves and reseqquence them to have 2 seperate very linear stories. However the way the creators did it works very well, mainly because the two different stories have a slightly different feel to them, whilst being similar enough to keep the viewer in the right mindset. One of the stories, has a feel much more like a high school romance.If i had to liken this story to any anime iv'e seen, think rumbling hearts, but if the story had carried on having a high school setting rather than progressing into the future. It deals with the insecurities, and desires and psycholigical aspects of relationships that each and every person, can directly relate to. The second story, is far more like a fairytale, far more immaginative, and almost semi supernatural, and has a fairly similar feel to Kanon or Air.The difference between these Animes, is that ef a tale of memories feels constantly melancholic, where Air and Kanon had humour, and lots of lighthearted moments. The two stories in ef, combine together to create something very gripping, and potentially tearjerking. Also the often intense and psychoanalytic dialogue, will chuck half of viewers in a sea of emotional confusion, whilst keeping the other half thinking and philosophising. Either way, it is evocotive, atmouspheric, and mentally stimulating.
It only takes seeing a few stills to know that this anime is visually impressive, and mostly flawless. Therfore i will compare it to CLANNAD, another very popular romance themed anime praised for its visuals (as if you didnt know this).
The animation, varies between being very good, and amazing. For a anime of this genre, it tyes with CLANNAD as the best in my opinion. Despite Ef a tale of memories, having more awe insspiring visuals, there is a certain charm to CLANNAD which ef a tale of meories slightly lacked, particularly the character design. There also wasnt as much variety. Some may say that this is because Ef is a quater of the length(naturally one would include clannad afterstory into the comparison), and has less variety, which is why i would give ef an equal or pehaps higher rating for visuals.
Catchy opening theme, perfecly fitting soundtrack, and good voice acting. Hard to fault.
A fantastic, heart-warming anime that I couldn't stop watching. I literally just finished it five minutes ago, and it's 4AM. It managed to rip my heart inot a million tiny and broken pieces, and repair perfectly very quickly.
I loved it. It wasn't your normal teen drama, which is what I expected. I related so well to Chihiro (not the whole memory thing, obviously, but some of the things she said just hit home).
It's just so nice to watch an anime that actually makes you think about things for a while. Makes you step back, take a breath, look at what's going on, and keep breathing.
The animation was fantastic. I loved the scenes, I love the detail put in the sky and the background. The music fit the atmosphere of the plot.
All in all, a fantastic anime that I highly suggest watching!
I truly love this anime! It is a really good anime, both when it comes to animation, characters and story!
As you just noticed I just praised the story, and you may ask yourselves: "Then why the hell did he put such a lame score on the story!?". To answer that question you must see the anime itself! There were some episodes that just ruined it! This particiular episode really destroyed the mood and made me enjoy the last episode less then I might should have done!
Another thing to add is, that there are alot of different faces and names to remember, and it took me quite a few episodes just to remember who is who.. You could say it was a real mess,,
Besides that, the story both before and after the parts that are mentioned are awesome and it was a real pleasure to my eyes! It is well made and really made you think!
If it was not for these small mistakes I would´ve been giving the story a 9 instead of the 7,5. What a shame..
The characters and the animation was above my expectations! You could cry, laugh, and feel pity alot of times!
The sound on the other hand was a thing that I never paid any attention! The music was too "neutral" for me to decide wheter it was good or bad! It wasn´t a part of the anime that "stood out", if you know what I mean?..
However, overall, this is an anime that I think all the pepole who have watched animes such as Air, Clannad and Kanon would enjoy! I know I did! :D
I have mixed feelings about this anime. On one hand, nearly everything about it is done superb, but somehow I just couldn’t get myself to care for the characters as much as they were aiming for.
Story & Characters
The story is split between two lines, each following a troubled love story involving one from a pair of twins. The two storylines play parallel to each other. Neither of the stories meets the other (except for the occasional text message between the twin sisters Chihiro and Kei), but they play side by side, often having half an episode about one tale and half an episode about the other.
Chihiro’s and Renji’s tale is one about attempting to overcome a seemingly impossible problem. It is specifically about the two of them, and there’s much focus on the individual hardships and worries that come with them.
The other tale has more of a love-triangle story and thus automatically has a larger cast. Hiro is a shoujo manga artist with childhood friend Kei (the other twin) who always pushes him to keep attending school. One day, Hiro meets Miyako, a relentlessly cheerful and carefree girl who keeps clinging to him. This story also involves another one of Hiro’s friends, Kyosuke, a cameraman with an artistic vision for his works. In his attempts to capture real emotions and put off by the commercial vision his fellow club members have, he becomes involved with Kei and soon begins to follow her around.
While these two stories are told beautifully, I had one major problem with them. No matter how interesting something is, a romance anime loses a lot of its charm if it fails to make me care for its characters. I enjoyed it for what it was, an interesting, touching story, but would've liked it so much more if the characters made me care for their problems.
A large part of this anime is just decent, solid quality without anything that puts it apart from other works of the year 2007. However, when ef wants to be, the animation is absolutely stunning. With gorgeous skies, interesting transition shots and visualizations of thoughts, SHAFT managed to turn a seemingly regular looking show into a stunning piece of art.
The music in ef – a tale of memories is great. The background music is mostly calming and emotional music with much use of strings and piano, setting a mood that goes hand in hand with the themes of the show.
The opening songs didn’t really appeal to me as much as it did to most of the anime community. I liked it, but since the timing of the English words felt off, I couldn’t listen to it more than once. Luckily, I didn’t have many problems with the Japanese version (which appears in the later episodes) as I have much less understanding for the language.
The first ending theme on the other hand was quite good and fit right in with the other music used throughout the rest of the show. It starts with an accordion setting the mood with stretchy, slightly melancholic tones and then continues with vocals and the rest of the band playing a song that strangely reminded me of a sailor’s song, being slightly nostalgic, yet anything but depressing; I wonder how I made that link… Hear for yourself.
Although ef managed to impress on some level, it didn’t deliver what I expect from fantastic romantic dramas: care and emotional punches that hit. It is definitely something I’d recommend to people for its themes, style and way of storytelling, but not for deep, realistic characters to feel empathy for.