The story of Yu Himura and Yuko Amamiya’s relationship is troubled and complex. One day, Yuko showed up at Yu's high school and, despite the two not having seen one another for ten years, confessed that Yu was her first love and still loves him. In the present, Mizuki Hayama moves in with her cousin as she prepares to begin high school. She meets his smooth and handsome neighbor, Shuichi Kuze, and begins spending increasing amounts of time with him; they begin to fall for one another despite their age difference. The tale of these relationships thus begins to unfold.
StoryEf ~ A Tale of Melodies so slavishly follows the formula set by its predecessor that it's almost unwatchable. Even with low expectations coming in, it’s a letdown. Like Ef ~ A Tale of Memories before it, Melodies’ plot covers two different sets of tangentially related characters. Unlike Memories, Melodies utterly fails to engage the audience. Instead, the series plods along with trite, uninteresting character development for five spectacularly uneventful episodes before finally dropping the angst hammer. Even when the OMGDRAMA hits, the series mainly feels like a replica of what the first season did better. For example, the Memories uses a massive amount of text during a key emotional scene to blindside the audience, and the result is extremely powerful. However, when the device is used again (TWICE) in the second season, it's both predictable and tiresome. Most of the emotional punch of the original scene comes from surprise and shock value, and without either of these elements most reactions will either and mild amusement at the wall of text. Furthermore, the conclusions of each arc are almost comically inept. Now, I realize that Memories does not have the most originally plotted premise out there, but it at least has the good sense to limit its clichés to the beginning. After that, the plot ventures into unexpected territory, making the story seem new despite the familiar premise. On the other hand, Melodies' clichés continue to the very end, and savvy watchers will find the story horrifyingly easy to predict. The final episode is the worst: a lukewarm and largely plotless mishmash bloated with anticlimactic cameos of characters from season one. What little new plot that's there is tedious.AnimationMelodies’ art direction is largely unchanged from the previous season, but for once this is actually a good thing. The imagery continues to be challenging and memorable, and as a whole complements the story well. Moreover, even when the story is borderline unwatchable, the animation continues to be engaging and creative. Like Memories, the visuals are about taking bold risks. Sadly, the experiments don’t always work this time, as not all of the imagery fits. For one character, masks are used heavily as a symbol, but since his character’s personality has absolutely nothing to do with multiple personalities, the imagery is ineffective. There’s also a general lack of freshness to the visuals, which is no more clear than in the aforementioned “let’s overuse text” scenes copied from the first season. Fortunately, these are minor quibbles. For the most part, the challenging, avant-garde imagery continues to work. Throughout the anime, the pretty animation is often welcome relief from the creatively braindead plot and aggravatingly cookie-cutter characters, to the point where at times it feels like the sole redeeming factor of the show.SoundThe OP and EDs are nowhere near the level of quality that I was hoping for and sound like bad remixes of songs from the previous season: predictable and flaccid. Moreover, Melodies' background music is so similar to Memories that at first I thought it was identical, track for track. The most memorable songs are reused pieces from the original OST, and the "new" songs are generic and nigh identical to the first season's music. While the original soundtrack was amazing and heartfelt, the new soundtrack's borderline duplication of it reinforces the idea that Melodies is an unnecessary retread of a better show rather than an original work of art. That said, the soundtrack is still fine on its own terms, and is certainly preferable to completely new music of inferior quality. Most likely, if the animation and characters had been up to snuff, the recycled soundtrack would be fine.CharactersWhile some fare better than others, for the most part the characters are aggravatingly shallow and simple-minded. One of the main characters, Mizuki, is the “genki girl” cliché on repeat. Another protagonist, Himura, repeats the same line ad nauseum (“Who knows? I’ve already forgotten”), to the point that he loses all credibility as a real character. On the other hand, some of the other characterization relies on plot devices so artificial and hackneyed that you almost wish the characters had remained one-dimensional. Both Kuze and Yuuko’s development essentially hinges on a single revelation. After their token formulaic “surprise,” each character’s development grinds to a halt, as if the writers thought that merely having a dark secret would suffice. Sadly, this is not the case, and both characters’ unrealized potential remains exactly that. The problem is exacerbated by numerous cameos of characters from the previous season. Not only do these clips break the narrative flow, but they serve to illustrate just how terrible these new characters are in comparison to the old ones.OverallEf ~ A Tale of Melodies is perhaps the biggest disappointment in a year riddled with disappointments. Not only is the series a redundant “companion” piece, but it dampens my high opinion of its predecessor. While the amazing animation still keeps the drama from being an absolute chore, there are too many deficiencies in both the plot and the characters to recommend this to even diehard fans of the first series.
Ef – a Tale of Melodies is the sequel to ‘a Tale of Memories,’ another 12 episode season of drama romance anime with aspects of psychological, based upon a VN game, which also had a light novel that doesn’t appear to be in English. Like its predecessor, it maintains a beautiful and unique artistic atmosphere and retains the ability to make the viewer both think and feel. Instead of merely continuing the story, this sequel starts to explain certain things and focuses on the more mysterious characters. Since I thoroughly enjoyed the original, I’ve been looking forward to this and I’m watching it slowly, an episode a day, much like Clannad: After Story before it (can’t upload my review of that one due to issues with character limit). Thus, I may be biased (and score it high), so readers of this review must account for this. As always, I disclose my sincere dislike for ecchi, harem, love-triangles and pointless fan-service in anime. Animation The animation remains stunning as always, here’s a quote from my review of ‘tale of Memories’: “… The quality of the animation felt like it was years ahead of its time. Watching it in no less than 1080p, I felt the quality of animation was comparable to more modern anime such as Another and … Angel Beats. … for a 12 episode series, the quality was on point.” The immaculate quality was backed up by the style, while it maintains the standard looking character designs, the overall scene animation is very imaginative and unique. It’s much similar to refined animation style in anime like Kare Kano, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Kara no Kyoukai (incidentally the last anime I watched). The intro is a great example of this and there’s much more such as a character’s eyes being depicted alone in a black background, or the purposeful translucence of a character’s hair. The lines from a novel are there, though this time it seems to be one written in German rather than English, I’m still sad there’s no English light novel version of this. A further quote about the mature themes: “I’m happy to announce, zero fan-service or ecchi crap. … It’s as it sounds, sensible camera angles and well within context for justification. …this anime still maintains prudence, … the adult scenes are dealt with very reasonably. If it wasn’t, then I’d be the one ranting about it and complaining about it, just see my Elfen Lied review. There is a fine line when it comes to depicting this stuff and most anime fail miserably, but this is one of the few that manage it perfectly. The beautiful animation style even continues, it’s still very artistic in the way it is depicted.” There technically is nudity, but it’s not explicit, due the use of camera angles and the mannequin effect (not detailing the body, keeping only the outline as if it were a distant or a mannequin). While it doesn’t make sense why it’s there and the characters are realistic with it, I’ve got no complaints due it being portrayed well. However, there are more uncomfortable things that are also depicted sensibly. Sound Right off the bat, this time we start with a beautiful intro sequence. Though in a few episodes, the outro sequence is missing, much like the original was initially missing intros. I believe that the songs are still done by the Japanese voice actors, a good choice made with them then. Music is even more important here, since Shuichi plays the violin and it is beautiful. For the rest, here’s what I said in my review of the previous season: “The music from the anime itself, was used suitably. The usual high standard of background music, comedy tunes for the funny bits, serious music for the serious bits and sad stuff for the sad bits. Mostly beautiful instrumentals, like piano. Which is dynamic in the mood, it changes as the scene changes. And of course, some moments had no music at all, which was done purposefully. I felt like the music on its own could portray the atmosphere and emotion, independent of the animation and dialogue. With music so beautiful, I did get the soundtrack…” And I still have that soundtrack, I’m listening to it as I write this review. It’s that good. As before Anime-Planet doesn’t list English voice actors, but this anime is available in a very good English dub in addition to the original Japanese. Sure they might occasionally mispronounce a Japanese name, but the choice of actors and their performance here is good. It also kinda makes sense since this anime is partially set in Australia where the main spoken language is… you guessed it: English. What struck me about the voice acting most of all was the sheer quality and effort put into the dialogue, the lines are very poetic and deep. The one bit where it didn’t work though, was David Matranga also voicing child Yu Himura, it sounded like he really struggled to pull off a high voice and it was obvious he was trying to do something outside his vocal range, it didn’t sound right. I may be biased because these guys have voiced characters from my favourite anime. All the roles are reprised. Mizuki Hayama is voiced by Hilary Haag, voice of Yui in Angel Beats, Fuuko in Clannad, Mio Aoyama/Shiori Shiyomiya in The World God Only Knows and Merry in Yumekui (Dream Eater) Merry. Yuu Himura could be recognised as David Matranga, also the voice of Takaki Tohno in 5 Centimeters per second, Mr Kubodera in Another and Tomoya Okazaki in Clannad. Yuko Amamiya’s voice was recognised as Carli Mosier, voice of Sanae Mizuno in Another, Akira Yoshii in Baka to Test and Wilhelmina Carmel in Shakugan no Shana. Shuichi Kuze is voiced by Illich Guardiola, the voice of Katsumi Matsunaga in Another, Yusuke Yoshino in Clannad, Masaru Kato in Gantz and Masato Kaibara in Ghost Hound. Nagi Hirono is voiced by Allison Keith-Shipp, she voiced Leone in Akame Ga Kill and Katsuragi in both Evangelion and its remake. New character Akira Amamiya is voiced by Josh Grelle. The previous main characters are still around and are voice acted by the same folks. Miyako Miyamura is voiced by Luci Christian, Kei Shindo is voiced by Brittney Karbowski, Chihirto Shindo is voiced by Monica Rial, Hiro Hirono is voiced by Greg Ayres, Kyousuke Tsutumi is voiced by Chris Patton, Renji Asou is voiced by Clint Bickham and Sumire Asou is voiced by Tiffany Grant. If you want to know what other anime these folk have voiced in (and why I like this cast so much), then click here. Characters The cast has shuffled around a bit, previous main characters are now secondary characters and previous secondary characters are no main characters. For info on the characters I won’t go into much detail on, it would be best to consult my review of the original series. Yu Himura is a single man and the adoptive parent of Chihiro Shindou, who has moved to Otowa, Australia. He lives in a Church, even though he is atheist and has been the legal guardian of Chihiro since her accident. He is troubled by his past, especially concerning Yuko Amamiya, a girl who was in love with him. He wears glasses and is often found drinking at a café. He was orphaned as a child and lost his sister to a house fire (likely his parents too) during an earthquake. He keeps a broken watch to remember her by. He was raised in an orphanage at a church, where he met Yuko. He used to draw sketches and he was very good at them. Once Yuko was adopted by relatives he was on his own again and nobody adopted him after that. He eventually got into the Otobane Academy (high school) which would be attended by Hiro, Miya, Kei and Mizuki in the first season. He was a special circumstance and he worked to be independent. It was his belief that he needed to be strong and independent, he couldn’t let himself rely on anyone else, especially since he never had the chance to. He gave up his drawing in high-school and was reunited with Yuko. He was also friends with Shuichi and Nagi. He’s a cynical guy who believes in leaving things as they are, the world won’t change. Yuko Amamiya is a girl from Yu’s past, younger than him by about a year or so. Of course, they met in the orphanage. Yuko was also trying to play with Yu and called him big brother, which upset him especially due to the loss of his sister. She liked his drawings and even wanted him to draw a picture of herself, which Yu was too embarrassed to do. Of course they reunited in high school where Yu was cold to her. She always remained positive and as before, tried her best to get along with him, despite Yu’s desires to distance himself from her so that he wouldn’t be reminded of his past. A kind and gentle soul, she got along with everyone and even though Yu may have been cold to her, she didn’t give up trying to reignite their old relationship. She’s always positive, even though she is getting bullied, she seems to somehow not let it get to her. It turns out that Yu was her first love and one she never gave up on. The teacher Akira Amamiya shares the same surname and is actually her relative, a brother in the family who adopted her. There’s a lot to discover about this character, some of which may be daunting. Shuichi Kuze is a professional violinist who is Yu’s old friend from high school and the next door neighbour to the Asou family. He smokes and has always been a perverted womaniser, juggling multiple girlfriends at once with horrible ideas. He’s always flirting with Renji’s mother, which Renji absolutely doesn’t appreciate and always sweet-talks women. There’s no way to know whether he is being genuinely nice or if he’s flirting. He also has a collection of women’s outfits, which his various lovers wear to please him. He sounds like a jerk right? Actually he’s more human than that. While he has released many CDs and albums of his songs, he is no longer able to play or perform with his violin. He keeps his apartment sterile and empty, he sold all of his furniture and is currently doing everything he can to discard his links with the world, breaking up with all of his girlfriends and is effectively cleaning his slate. His last violin performance would be a tribute to his friends Yu and Yuko. He seems to have some history with Nagi Hirono, which he doesn’t want to be reminded about. Finally he seems to suffer from an illness, he is often dizzy and collapses and has nightmares which give him trouble sleeping and he often mentions he is running out of time. He’s been spending time with Mizuki as a request by the Asou’s since Renji has exams to study for. But he still keeps his distance from her, since he doesn’t want to cause anyone grief. Mizuki Hayama is Kei Shindou’s best friend who has moved from Otowa, Japan to Otowa, Australia. She happens to be related to the Asou’s, Renji is her cousin. Thus she’s moved into their house in the midst of a holiday so she can prepare to attend Renji’s school. She often teases and annoys Renji, heck she even seems to flirt with him. But unfortunately for her, Renji can’t keep her company due to his end of high-school exams and his girl-friend Chihiro. Thus her aunt has recommended she hang out with their neighbour, Shuichi Kuze. She gets along well with him and seems to like him. Mizuki is an energetic and fun individual, her character is usually the comic relief type who over-reacts to things. She looks after Shuichi and finds his music sexy. But what’s more is that she actually develops feelings of love (the romantic sort) for this man roughly twice her age. Mizuki has a very interesting backstory, all I’ll say is that she was orphaned at a young age. Nagi Hirono is a girl who attends the same high school as Yu, Yuko and Shuichi. When I first heard the surname Hirono, I immediately thought of Hiro. But it made no sense, why would Hiro be attending school with Yu Himura, isn’t he supposed to be so much younger than Yu? My question was answered as the person called Hirono was revealed to be a quirky art student girl called Nagi, often seen drawing a self-portrait in the nude. Yu criticizes her for this, but she doesn’t seem to care. She is as immersed into her art as Hiro would be, but she seems to struggle with herself. She’s good friends with Yu and Shuichi. She doesn’t see, to have any other friends, but she doesn’t get upset easily and likes to tease and mess with Yu. She is less lively and more cynical character compared to Mizuki, but she’s that type of funny character all the same. At one point she pronounces Yuko’s name as ‘Yuck-o,’ arguing that she can’t be bothered with names that have more than 2 syllables (Yuko is 3 kana syllables in Japanese). So how is this person related to Hiro? He never mentioned an older sister, parents or even relatives in the first season. Well… okay, I’ll admit it. Nagi is Hiro’s older sister. I originally thought she was his mother as I incorrectly estimated the timeframe and ages of certain characters. It does kill off my theory that Hiro lives alone due to lack of close family. She initially seems to be harsh, selfish and intrudes on other’s problems, knowing that she has no place. But as the anime progresses, we learn what she is really like. Whereas her younger brother can be rather considerate, Nagi is less so. Most of all, this girl has her own issues, besides getting artist’s block, she constantly feels like a third wheel and has a hard time accepting it. Akira Amamiya is a man in the family that adopted Yuko, he is effectively her step-brother. Like Yu, he also lost his sister to an earthquake and is a painter. He is a teacher running the art club and wants Yu to join, since he feels Yu’s talents are being wasted. He’s is often trying to convince Yu and because of this, Yu doesn’t seem to like him. He smokes and doesn’t appear to know about Yuko being bullied. He may seem like just a minor character, but in reality there is more to him, he is quite important in the plot. The other characters return of course, but since their story has already been shown in A Tale of Memories, they take a back-seat here. The one character that appears the most out of these original characters is Renji Asou, after all he lives in the house Mizuki has moved into. Mizuki jokes that he’s bad for Chihiro, but Chihiro is modest about their relationship and claims that she is the burden on him. I’m glad to see those two are still together. It turns out that the music Hiro is always listening to is Shuichi’s violin albums, he can really appreciate it as a fellow artist. Mizuki also mentions that Kei also has a man in her life, but we all know she lost Hiro. Thus I’m left wondering who this guy is. And then it hit me. Could it be… she got with Kyousuke? Damn… happily ever after for all of the old characters it seems. Story After the rather complete plot from Tale of Memories, how could Tale of Melodies even be a thing? Most of the questions were answered weren’t they? Well we did have the mystery of Yuko Amamiya, Hiro Hirono living on his own without parents, the two locations which are both Otowa yet the characters don’t seem to meet each other and Yu Himura’s moodiness. Well it’s all explained here, as the story moves on from the characters of the first season onto those who were secondary characters back then. Now the likes of Yu Himura and Shiuchi Kuze come into the fore and we find their story. Like before, the story occurs in two different places, but here it occurs at two different times too. However, unlike the first story, this anime goes into topics and themes that you’d never expect it to. It builds upon a layer of uneasiness on top of what was already there with the first season. One front of the narrative occurs after the events in the first season in Otowa, Australia, while the other branch occurs in the past at Otobane Academy in Otowa, Japan. Yes that’s right, the story has always been set in two different place, both called Otowa, which is why Hiro & co never met Renji & co. The past events focus on Yu and Yuko, while the current events focus on Shuichi and Mizuki, despite both Yu and Shuichi being involved in both parts of the story. Of course, there are small things linking the two, both Yu and Shuichi moved to the Otowa in Australia and so did Mizuki in between the events of the first season and this one. At a loater point, this anime alsmost feels like a regular story, with a protagonist’s struggle against an antagonist, I was pleasantly surprised with how this drama anime was capable of such a feat. One would think that this being a drama romance anime, that the plot would be fairly simple. Oh how wrong one would be, this anime has a good pace of progression through the narrative, which itself is actually more deep than one might think. The story twists and turns, there are mysteries and revelations to intrigue the viewer. It might be difficult to grasp at times, but that’s because of how artistic it is. I’ll quickly explain the time. I originally thought that the past events took place 15-20 years before a Tale of Memories. Turns out I was wrong, they likely take place 5-10 years before those events. Romance is once again a key element to this anime. While the romance in the previous season has concluded, resulting in 3 couples, we see the resurgence of one romance which was never originally brought to light and a new one. On the one side we see an interesting clash of personalities between the ever positive Yuko and the moody Yu. On the other hand we have a potentially immoral, but actually sad/emotional romance between Mizuki and Shuichi. Why potentially immoral? Because of the age difference. I initially thought that Shuichi was twice Mizuki’s age making it very uncomfortable, but he actually can’t be much more than about 10 years older than her. And even if it was double the age, this would be a surprising exception where I wouldn’t have a problem with it. They depict this so well, such that I couldn’t get mad. And there’s the cold hard truth that things like age and gender don’t matter when it comes to love. However, I still feel it's wrong for a man of significant age to be with a very young girl. Rewind into the past a bit and it would be paedophilia, which I believe is where the dislike for big age gaps in relationships arises from. Of course, Mizuki’s relationship with Shuichi isn't so simple. You’ll have to watch the anime to find out how complex it truly is. Of course the other relationship between Yu and Yuko is even more complex. Of course, this anime delves into the psychological, something I enjoy. But not the pleasant sort, which surprised me. This anime has some very serious themes of abuse, torture, rape, murder suicide and even juggles with the concept of death. It’s interesting for this anime to delve into the minds of its troubled characters and the experience feels almost psychedelic. Whereas the first Ef was capable of making the viewer feel certain emotions, this one is able to invoke an even bigger range. I never thought this could make me feel fear and discomfort, but it does. Yu’s old words remain: there are no miracles, only the inevitable, the accidental and what we do. This holds true to real life. This sequel shouldn’t be taken lightly, the topics here are more difficult to understand and even to tolerate. Conclusion Of course I did enjoy this sequel, even if it contained upsetting themes and topics. I would recommend this anime to those who enjoyed the first, but beware the increased severity and additional difficult subjects. It's not for everyone though, the appeal can be limited. It’s a good romance, it actually has a plot. But it’s now also capable of being a psychological anime, something which can be enjoyed by those who liked Evangelion, Kara no Kyoukai or even Elfen Lied. Because of this surprising addition to the complexity, it surpasses the original, even if it troubled me at times. That was something the original wasn’t able to do to me. I can’t think of anything to fault this anime on. Family-friendliness Rating: 5/5 Contains disturbing themes and references (lower is better) Overall Rating: 10/10 (higher is better)
Ef - a tale of melodies Story 9/10 Desperate in my pursuit of finding a brand-new drama anime with the dignity of my beloved Clannad, I was tempted by many promising series, most of which could be characterised by irksome mediocrity to worrying disturbance – always regarding their creators and what they may have had in mind while producing them. Nonetheless, my at large quest for pure drama and self-forgetting romance paid off and led (with the help of Anime-planet’s search function) to a dreadfully memorable anime by the name of Ef and its two adequate seasons: A tale of memories and a tale of melodies. Melodies – to which I shall comment in this review, should be considered as a direct sequel to Memories, hence the actual continuation of the story. A tale of melodies (a.k.a. The latter tale of “Ef – A fairy tale of the two”, as it is best known to those indulged in the visual game’s saga) depicts the ground story to which Memories was built. The viewer finds out more about the relations formed between the protagonists of the first story along with their affinities in point of one another. The story of the ghostly Yuko is finally revealed while a 10-year-old past hounding Yu and Kuze unfolds the very essence of their tragic figures. The series’ storyline once again fluctuates between the two cities of the previous chapter, however this time it subtends the narration to both the present and the past of the heroes. Once again, the direction is unique in its own kind. Although I was never fond of such artistic delineations, I was completely fascinated by the handling it gave out. Of the few infirm points of the anime should be considered the lack of some innovation in order to differentiate from the previous season. Also, add some drama-clichés that I personally expect in almost every anime. Yet, the average spectator should not consider this a major drawback since the story was given the utmost attention in order to captivate the eye and the mind. Animation 9.5/10 Why not 10? Who knows… maybe there’s a better 2008 animation I am not aware of. Anyhow, the beauty of the picture is unmatchable and probably one of all-time’s best. Shaft inc. achieved in drawing some magnificent backgrounds and of course a variety of beautiful heroines – a true banquet of colours for the eye. Splendid work has also been done to the area of CG and light effects. Sound 9/10 Despite the dearth of an enchanting intro song worthy of Memories’ "Euphoric Field", Melodies takes a slightly different turn, mostly now involving classic music without vocals. Calm and intense parts take their respective turns so as to endue the images, and thus create a fairy-tale-like story. The actors are quite the same as the first season, so no big surprises there. Smooth, talented voices surround the characters modestly. Characters 8/10 Living aside some repetitive deportment that will always come across our path, the diversification of the major characters is more than enough to make things interesting. My personal best is the protagonistic duo of Yu and Yuko, since their acts – especially the girl’s – don’t always correspond with the ideal profile of a nice guy or gal (she makes him fall in love only to break his heart). Abuse, maltreatment, revenge, insanity along with purity, nostalgia, atonement and redemption compose a variety of characters wishing to live by their memories, through their melodies and on to a future unwritten. Any clichés? Hell yeah. But still, the effort put into creating such shivery tragic figures surely deserves praise if not admiration. Overall 9/10 Ef – A tale of melodies is a story about the will of the heart, the desire to live and to love. A true masterpiece, inferior only to its predecessor and a few other classics, it deserves a rightful place at any drama-lover’s collection.
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