ANIME & MANGA - Review
09:00 - 19th October 2013, by David West

EF: A Tale Of Memories - Complete Collection

Love. It's a mess. Bossy basketball player Kei Shindo has a crush on her childhood friend Hiro Hirono, who struggles to balance his schoolwork with his fledgling career as a shoujo manga artist. When Hiro meets the impulsive Miyako Miyamura, a tearaway who thinks nothing of skipping class, Kei is consumed with jealousy and vows to win Hiro's heart. Meanwhile Renji Aso meets Kei's twin sister Chihiro, who has a form of amnesia that means she can't hold onto any new memories for more than 13 hours. Despite her condition, Chihiro dreams of writing a novel, and Renji decides to help her make that wish come true.

Adapted from a visual novel, EF: A Tale Of Memories is mushier than a melting marshmallow. The script juggles two storylines that run concurrently - the Kei / Hiro / Miyako love triangle, and the Chihiro / Renji weepie. There are other subplots in the mix, including aspiring videographer Kyosuke's mission to make a movie he feels is truly great, but the main focus is on the heartache and happiness of the teenagers in love.

Director Shin Oonuma, who made the deeply silly (in a good way) Baka And Test, has a very dialogue-heavy script to work with, so he throws in some unusual visual devices to brighten up the proceedings and avoid an endless succession of talking heads. Characters are often seen framed against clouds racing by overhead, or in silhouette, and sometimes in black and white. It helps keep the show from being too static, and the frequent shots of the lovestruck youngsters standing under panoramic skies only serves to heighten the melodramatic tone of the series. The music lays on the melancholy with a shovel, filled with sad piano tinkling and forlorn violins. Emotions are writ large in the screenplay, and every bump in the road to romance precipitates a major emotional crisis for someone. The second half becomes fairly shrill as the drama reaches boiling point and the girls are terribly needy and insecure. Miyako is the worst culprit on that score, to the point where she seems frighteningly possessive.

Chihiro's medical condition is awfully particular - her short term memory lasts exactly 13 hours, not a minute more or less, which is reminiscent of the fictional form of the anterograde amnesia suffered by Drew Barrymore's character in 50 First Dates. Hapless Chihiro is pure, innocent, and in need of someone to look after her. That someone is Renji, proud owner of a thoroughly awful hairstyle. He looks like he is wearing the hide of a small dog on his head. The script sidesteps the problem of how someone who can't form new memories can fall in love by having Chihiro keep a diary every day detailing everyone she meets and everything she does. By reading the diary each morning, she knows who Renji is. That doesn't actually explain how she can develop feelings for him, but then this is a romance anime, so that has to be taken with a pinch of bath salts.

The best romance series make the viewer empathise with the plight of the characters. EF: A Tale Of Memories stumbles on that front by making the girls so co-dependent. Stand up for yourselves, ladies! The script makes mountains out of molehills, but then this is about teenagers in love so a hefty dose of angst is a genre requirement.
SCORE: 2.5/5
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