(This post is part of a series of posts covering Christmas-themed anime episodes. For more posts like these, check out the 12 Days of Anime tag.)
ef ~a tale of memories~ is an anime adaptation of an eroge. Like most anime adaptations of eroge, there is no porn to be seen. This one is particularly remarkable because there is nary even a panty shot. In addition, the anime attempts to tell two serious love stories. The first one is True Tears without any roosters, while the second one is 50 First Dates with Rikka Takanashi.
As glib as my description sounds, the show is actually pretty good at what it tries to be (a story about moe girls SUFFERING). The visuals make great use of religious imagery alongside luscious nature shots, which brings out a sort of ethereal atmosphere that perfectly suits the somber tone of the story.
Now, this kind of narrative isn’t my favourite in the world, as I was reminded in the first couple of minutes when MC-kun launches into a self-pitying monologue about how he, an ordinary Japanese high school student, can’t be a knight in shining armour. But just because it’s not my personal preference doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate its craft. ef ~a tale of memories~ seems to be about the frustrations of teenagers who struggle to express their artist selves, so the ponderous musings these characters indulge in is a natural fit.
The first episode can be roughly split into two parts. The first part introduces us to our first male lead, Hiro Hirono, and his meeting with a mysterious girl named Miyako Miyamura. The second part introduces us to our other male lead, Renji Asou, who (surprise! surprise!) also encounters a mysterious girl. This one’s the eyepatch girl, by the way, and her name is Chihiro Shindou.
Of particular note is that all of this action takes place on Christmas Eve. Christmas is more of a romantic holiday in Japan, and here it’s used to symbolise new beginnings. Quite an interesting choice when Christmas is near the very end of the calendar year.
This is a SHAFT anime, by the way, as the above picture not-so-subtly hints at. Also, the director is Shin Oonuma, who later went on to direct for his own animation studio Silver Link. Oonuma is often belittled by critics for being a Shinbo copycat, no doubt because of the close relationship between the two animators (Shinbo supervised for ef ~a tale of memories~, by the way) but I personally quite like Oonuma’s style. It’s softer and more restrained than Shinbo’s. So far, it seems like a better fit for ef ~a tale of memories~, which deliberately eschews the fantastical and the down to earth.
This isn’t to say that I think the visuals are pitch perfect, though. Some of the shots seem really arbitrary, as if they exist just to break immersion. (What SHAFT anime doesn’t have moments like this, I wonder?) While I do like it overall, it is the work of a young, inexperienced director. At the same time, you might say this is Oonuma’s best work, considering that many of his later works are a significant step down in terms of artistic merit. I’m quite sure the story of ef ~a tale of memories~ would have felt rather pedestrian without Oonuma’s touch. Unlike the other stories he has tackled, this one did seem to have enough interesting themes going on to benefit from such an overtly “artsy” direction.
Overall, this was a solid opening episode with some decent emotional highlights. I say give this show a shot if you have a soft spot for stories featuring anime girls with freakishly big eyes crying in the rain.
And lest I forget, this was an episode with a Christmas theme, so here is your obligatory Christmas shot for the post!
Eagerly awaiting your thoughts on Episode 7.
I’m not blogging the rest of the show, but episode 7 was just… holy shit. Wow. One of the best breakdown scenes I’ve ever seen in anime. The artistry there was just amazing.
Aww man. But I’m glad you ended up with a similar reaction. Few things have horrified me in the completely psychical sense in fiction, let alone anime, and this was one of them. That scene really messed with my head, and that character tailored ED that followed was so terrifyingly sublime.
It’s a favourite of mine, I hope you’ll like it as a whole. The second season is pretty good, too, though perhaps not as strong as the first.
It’s been awhile since I watched it, so I wonder if when I’ll rewatch it, I’ll change my mind.
P.S.: how come did you start posting on 13th instead of 14th?
I’d imagine it’s the time difference. It’s already the 14th for countries in the eastern hemisphere.
I watched the whole thing today and I liked it! I thought some of the drama was unintentionally funny in its hyper seriousness, but once I sat back and let myself get carried away by the atmosphere, it was pretty engrossing. I’ll definitely give the second season a shot sometime as well!
And yeah, it’s like jstorming said. I live in THE FUTURE
I remember enjoying greatly all this drama and visual feast. It was my first Shaft show, you see.
hahaha yes, I forgot Australia is 7-8 hours forward from where I live
im glad you started off with this series, looking forward to the next 11 posts.
i personally really enjoyed this series. i hope you share your thoughts on season 2 at some point because i enjoyed it alot more than season 1 even though they were both really good.
Interesting you say the first season wasn’t as good as the second one? I only just finished watching the first season today (I liked it, btw) but from what I’ve been reading, the second season wasn’t quite as popular. I will give it a watch sometime after I’ve finished all these Christmas posts, though!
Thanks for the comment, btw :)
Episode 6 scene in ef ~ a tale of melodies is arguably more intense than its prequel’s Episode 7. That has my respect, at least.
Whoa I gotta see this
The visual novel that got me into visual novels. Perhaps the first time I truly got immersed in a romantic drama. Perhaps not particularly outstanding for a jaded fan, but when I read it years ago I was utterly moved. And there’s dat Tenmon/Makoto Shinkai combo to boot.
Then I came across the anime and was immediately turned off by the SHAFTiness, and it not looking as pretty as the VN. Of course, I have since become a huge SHAFT fan, so this is yet another series on the priority watch list. (watching OreImo now!)
Oooooh, a visual novel player here! I haven’t played the VN (obviously) but the anime did make me interested in checking it out. Guess I’ll give it a shot after Amagami, so I can keep up the Christmas spirit.
And yes! Finally you’re watching OreImo! \o/ Hope you’re enjoying it lolol
Around when I was just starting my anime fandom, I marathoned ef~a tale of memories pretty soon after it ended. I remember reading comments on how people got so turned off by the visuals that it was enough reason to stop watching completely. Maybe it’s because I was conditioned by Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei and FLCL to expect some weird artistic direction here and there, but I really liked what happened with ef and the art direction was (and still is) hardly the most prominent of flaws in the show.
And thinking back on it now… I really didn’t prefer Renji’s side of the story by the end, even though I was sighing and groaning my way through Hiro’s convoluted if not intense love triangle biznitches.
I just finished marathoning the show today and… yeah, I wasn’t too interested in Renji’s side of the story either. Uhhh, Miyako best girl?
I actually ended up liking the show quite a bit overall, even if some of the theatrics made me giggle.