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ef – A Tale of Memories Review

August 21, 2009

chihiro(Source)

Where love triangles and ill-fated trysts coalesce into a touching fairy tale.

Summary: Hiro Hirono is a high school student and part-time mangaka. He often loses track of his priorities, forgoing food, nights of sleep, and even school days to perfect his skill as an artist. While on his way to a Christmas party, he has his bike stolen by a fellow classmate, Miyako Miyamura, who accidentally destroys it while running after a thief. The two of them form an uncommon friendship, much to the annoyance of Hiro’s good friend Kei Shindou, who has been vying for Hiro’s affections since childhood.
Chihiro Shindou is Kei’s twin sister who lives apart from her for unknown reasons. Due to an automobile accident, she cannot remember anything thirteen hours prior. She keeps a diary in which she logs her daily activities so that the her of tomorrow will be able to relate to the her of yesterday. Her dream is to write a novel, something she consciously understands will never happen because of her condition. One day while enjoying a quiet break at a defunct train station, she meets Renji Aso. Renj is instantly smitten with her and vows to help her complete her novel.

Review:

Shaft has firmly situated itself as one of the more noteworthy animation studios of late with their radical artistic direction and flair. So when news got out that they would be handling the EF series, there was instantaneous clamor for how it would play out in accordance with the eroge visual novel. With Anime visionaries like Makoto Shinkai and Tenmon responsible for most of the original artwork and soundtrack, it would seem that they really had their work cut out for them.

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Ef – A Tale of Memories is the first in a two-part romantic drama, involving a set of distinct plots for the three heroines, each one with their tried-and-true themes of a love that can never be fulfilled. On one side we have the obligatory love triangle with a childhood friend and a fresh new love interest, both equally steely in their determination to court the boy they love. On the other we have a boy who falls for the watered-down disabled moé girl. We’ve seen this formula done many times before with much more pizazz…

…is what I would say if that were the case. It would be a real shame to simplistically conceptualize EF in such myopic terms. In short, it transcends most romance Anime with its heartwarming story because it’s so unnervingly unique.

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Many are quick to decry Shaft’s visual techniques, calling them excessive and pretentious, and that they’re mostly nonsensical gimmicks passed off as a kind of half-baked surrealism. Memories certainly has that distinct Shaft feel to it, with its disjointed scenes and uncomfortable panning and zooming that’s enough to give the viewer vertigo. Perhaps because it is the kind of Anime that requires a stylistic touch into the fantastical, but the off-hand visuals enhance the overall experience in Memories, lending to it an aura that is never spoken but implicitly understood.

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When watching it for the first time, you’ll come to appreciate the fact that no other animation studio could have achieved what EF has strived for. The show is able to capture those mercurial shifts in mood – whether readily visible on the surface or not – like a blink when we lie, or our blurred vision when we are overcome with sadness. It’s not a guarantee that it’ll work with everyone, but those who are able to connect are sure to be awed.

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Another thing that’s so fetching about the EF series is that you never know what’s in store for you next, and not just in its artistic direction. The turbulence that comes with directing two intermingling stories at once is amplified by the erratic yet tacitly charming pacing that switches between Kei and Chihiro fluidly. The series is also famous for pushing the envelope, extending some scenes beyond where there would normally be a cutoff point to evoke the same dread that plagues its characters.

The OP song, Euphoric Field, is first introduced as the ED song in episode two, with some episodes forgoing it completely. While admittedly well-directed and animated, it goes without saying that there really should have been a fluent English speaker on board with the project to rework the background panels and lyrics. The ED song for each episode seems to correspond with its focal heroine, each with its own varying intonation.

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Ef – A Tale of Memories is somewhat of an acquired taste when it comes to romance, but mostly because it has that unmistakable Shaft touch. It’s not for viewers who are looking for something idyllic and sappy, as it can be quite brutal at times and slow-paced at others. But fans of the show know that this series is worth a watch, and it’s one that will stick with you for years to come.

Art/Animation: A
Story: A-
Music/Soundtrack: B+

Overall: A-

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One Comment leave one →
  1. animekritik permalink
    September 18, 2009 8:10 am

    Pushing things beyond the cutoff point, that is definitely what Ef memories did. I wonder what you think about melodies. While they pushed things even further, I’m not sure that it worked as well.

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