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.
Before anyone else says it -- yes, I'm aware that ef - a tale of memories does border on the absurd more than once, teetering along the edge of being emotionally charged and being hilariously over-the-top, but all I'll say to that is, if you're willing to let yourself be swept away in a less-than-conventional rollercoaster of a love story (or two) then this is the one for you. Yes, it has its flaws. Yes, half the characters seem either worthless or unused. Yes, it would have made much more sense to have some sort of crossover in the plot somewhere. But frankly I don't care, because this came out in a Fall season where every popular title was disappointing and this shone out above all the rest. Vastly superior to Myself;Yourself which aired at the same time, and perhaps, if given the chance, a romance series that will be seen as a milestone of the genre.
ef - a tale of memories was a surprisingly good series that normally is told in 20 plus episodes but manages to tell it in only 12. With a cast of good, memorable characters this series is one of the best Anime dramas to ever have been made.
Two stories go on simultaneously and both are pretty well done. Each character is likeable and you want to root for each one. The love triangle between Hiro, Kei, and Miyako is pretty solid and not too bad but what makes ef – a tale of memories really stand out and really good is the story arc of Renji and Chihiro. This to me is what made the series more than just average but memorable. Chihiro suffers from short term memory loss and writes in her dairy her memories of what happens every day, I couldn’t even imagine how crazy that would be to fall in love with someone who overnight could easily forget all about you. I absolutely loved this story and it ends in a very tearful manner.
Not only is the animation beautiful to look at but it has a very artful style to it that makes it an all-around enjoyable experience, it’s something that has to be seen to be believed. I couldn’t take my eyes of off each scene whether it was the intro, the episodes themselves, or all of the above. Just a very good mix of animation and artful style.
Sound is pretty good too, the music sets the mood for each scene and we as the audience is pulled into that. The voice actors are done nicely as well, do not by any means watch the dub; watch the sub instead, the emotions are done much better than in the dub.
Overall I am not usually a huge fan of Anime dramas but someone referred this to me and I’m glad they did because I enjoyed it very much. It’s a drama with characters who are likeable and engaging, the story is familiar but with a twist, and the animation is something to be seen. Go out and watch this it’ll be worth it.
P.S. there is a sequel called ef - a tale of melodies……yeah stay away from that. It does not even live up to what memories is in any way, shape, or form.
WARNING: The following review may not be appropriate for children, Reader Discretion is advised
Critic's Log - Earthdate: July 16, 2012. Review #12: Ef: A Tale of Memories
The name's Giovanni, I am just an average citizen in the United States. I happen to be a bit different than some people. I happen to like anime because it is something I enjoy, but I don't remember quite clearly on how I was so fascinated from watching anime. One of my ambitions is to write a book, maybe because I like movies, shows, books and video games that have a great story. One of my hobbies includes critiquing anime. What I said is true, and yeah... this is part of the intro that would be most fitting for this review. Here is Ef - A Tale of Memories!
On Christmas Eve, a young male student named Hiro Hirono meets a girl named Miyako Miyamura as she chases a purse snatcher, Hiro later finds out that she attends the same school that he does and they start hanging out together. This makes Hiro's childhood friend Kei feel left out. She then tries to compete with Miyako for Hiro's affection, thus creating a love triangle. Meanwhile, another young man who is named Renji Aso meets a girl named Chihiro Shindo at an abandoned train station, He soon learns that Chihiro suffers from some sort of amnesia where her memory only lasts for 13 hours. Chihiro also dreams of writing a novel , but she has never fulfilled that dream due to her condition. Renji decides to help her fulfill that dream.
To be technical, this is an anime adaptation Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two which had a manga, some video games, and a couple of light novels. I haven't found any details about the manga and light novels but I have found out that the video games are classified as "Eroge", It is what Japan calls games that are erotic. *Insert Klaxon Horn sound effect* Yeah... The games possibly have sex scenes in them. It's pretty much anime video game porn, enough said...
The anime was made by Studio Shaft and I haven't really seen some of their animes but I will admit that they did pretty good on the visual department because the scenery is breathtaking in this anime. The style approach is a bit hit and miss and sometimes annoying. You'll see a short second of something a lot in this show. Here's an example below...
I am a little puzzled as to why some scenes have this visual effect, but I guess the style is unique, I find it somewhat slightly overused, If you can get past these visual one second scenes of the show, you'll be fine. I still think the visuals are quite nice, even the opening looks fantastic.
Unfortunately it seems the animation may be the biggest strength of all the elements of Ef: A Tale of Memories, This anime is definitely going to be a mixed bag for some otakus. There are some people that love this anime because of its beautiful imagery and visuals, some might not like it because of its slow pacing, there are some that have heard of it but never seen it, and there are some people that have not even seen it... AT ALL! I have seen the whole show and I sort of like it to some degree, this probably might not land in my favorites list but I will give Studio Shaft some credit, they did a wonderful effort making the visuals look like moving art. The animation is a bit limited in this show and it is a bit limited, that is the show's big flaw.
The story might be its biggest problem; it has nothing to do with the drama in this show... it's something to do with the romance that ensues in Ef: A Tale of Memories. I'll say this again... THIS ANIME IS KIND OF A MIXED BAG! When it comes to the romance moments, It is a bit boring for me. At least it picks up around the seventh episode.
The music by Eiichiro Yanagi and Tenmon really compliment the show pretty well, and it is really soothing and calming and it really fits the show. Yanagi-san has not composed any animes before or since Ef: A Tale of Melodies (which I'll review eventually), Tenmon on the other hand was the composer for the visually stunning 2007 anime film 5 Centimeters Per Second. (which had a beautiful musical score). The music in Ef is fitting and I guess there were a few songs worth listening to without the show.
The Voice acting is really good on both in Japanese and English but I might strongly recommend the Japanese version because it may make more sense watching this one subtitled, I listened to the dub for about 5 minutes and I thought it didn't sound bad at all. I stuck to the Japanese version because it felt appropriate to the character names, and the setting of the show. Christopher Ayres did great as an ADR director for making a dub that's really not that bad.
The characters themselves are sometimes a bit flat, except for maybe a few. These characters are not too interesting for me and this show uses little action and it is heavy with dialogue. I mean... NO ONE SHUTS THE FUCK UP IN THIS SHOW! That is not a big problem for me, I can handle animes like this, but if the characters are mostly boring and have little personality... it is going to be a big problem. The characters alongside the story arcs are not integrated really well.
I will admit that Shin Oonuma directed this anime in a bit of a unique way, but I will say this one last time, this anime is a mixed bag. Some will like it, some won't...
Ef: A Tale of Memories is available from Sentai Filmworks, the manga called "Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two" which was written by Mikage and Yu Kagami and illustrated by Juri Miyabi has not been released in the US yet, the light novels also have not been released in the US either. The Ef video games also never got released in the US as well and considering what type of game it is, those kinds of games never get released in the US.
With that said, Ef - A Tale of Memories is a unique art house anime with beautiful scenery, affective drama, and with some calming music. The story, characters and some animation quirks may have gave this anime some issues with viewers, it is not a terrible anime... it is just hard to get into...
I give Ef - A Tale of Memories a 7 out of 10, It Is GOOD!
Feel free to comment below, are there any memories you don't want to forget?
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.
Absolutely loved this anime, it had me wanting to know what was going to happen next at the end of each episode. Having multiple relationships were really interesting, but the one that kept me hooked was the relations revolving around Chihiro and Renji, their story was deep and it gets you thinking about the lengths you would go for someone you loved. The other relationship being somewhat similar. Could you give up ther person you love and let them slip away? Another reason why this anime was so great is because it didn't have what I'd like to call A FML (F**k My Life) ending. This animes relationships were also more of something that could happen in the real world and not something like a magic alien girlfriend lands on your doorstep and for whatever reason is already madly in love with you. I ended up watching this anime all the way through to the end without a break. It was that good, so if you like romance animes, then this is a must watch. The opening song was also really catchy and fit well with the anime and the animation that went with it reminded me of the Persona (PS2 game) style. If I had to relate this anime to another one I'd say maybe Clannad or Kanon, particularly because the artstyle is similar and the relations could somewhat be similar; dealing with memories or sacrifice for love. All in all I'd highly recommend this anime to anyone who likes a good romance anime.