ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:00 - 18th April 2015, by NEO Staff

Ef – A Tale of Memories and Melodies Collection

In a double whammy of high school heartbreaks and youthful romance, this collection contains both seasons of Ef, a pair of interconnected stories entitled A Tale of Memories and A Tale of Melodies. The first season mainly revolves around high school every-boy Renji, and his budding romance with Chihiro, a girl whose rare amnesiac condition means that she can only retain information for 13 hours. Together, they help Chihiro achieve her hitherto unattainable dream of writing a novel. Interspersed throughout the series is another set of romantic polygons involving a number of friends and relations of the central players.

The second season jumps backwards and forwards in time, focusing on another quartet of secondary characters from the first season – flashbacks reveal the tragic past of Yu and Yuko (who spent most of their time dispensing sage advice and being almost deliberately mysterious in A Tale of Memories), and the tragic present of Kuze and Mizuki, two acquaintances of Renji’s whose amorous entanglements are marred by another set of medical conditions affecting Kuze.

Neither tale skimps when it comes to dramatic dialogue – which isn’t surprising considering the anime’s source material as a visual novel – but if you like your shows to have a lot of attention-grabbing set-pieces and a fast pace, you may well find your focus wavering often. Both series valiantly make the attempt to address this and catch the eye with experimental and cinematic imagery, but while the art direction is occasionally impressive in its ambitiousness, it actually detracts from the viewing experience. Random colours will sometimes flash up between shots, characters will suddenly appear in monochrome or with odd radioactive glows surrounding them, or the camera will focus in on a close-up of a single eye or a mouth, surrounded by void-like whiteness. It’s clear that these artistic choices were meant to evoke something in the viewer, but the constant bombardment of haphazard effects feels more distracting than expressive. Dynamic and dramatic visual techniques are one of anime’s greatest strengths as a medium, but in this case they feel jarring and generally unnecessary,
though for all their flair, they don’t manage to draw notice away from the distinct lack of animation present in some scenes.

Certain elements of both series have a lot of potential, but sadly these don’t seem to have been thought out enough by the writers to fill even the 12 episodes of each season. The series is at its best when delving into its more original and unusual premises, as some of the love-triangle plotlines are all-too-generic, and fans of the romance genre, or indeed any genre, will have seen them done better many times before. The voice cast, in both the Japanese and the English dub, definitely try and give it their all, but they aren’t given much to work with – the dialogue is often stilted and halting, with an over-reliance on explaining and re-explaining the core premises of each story, and eventually, it just becomes difficult not to feel sorry for the actors as they attempt to inject emotion into a script that just won’t give them a break.

In all fairness, Ef is bound to tug on your heartstrings, if only because it’s full to bursting with bittersweet piano themes, long, lingering shots of the rolling ocean, and a parade of sad-eyed young people.

If you’ve a penchant for ultra-arthouse stylings and wistful melancholy – or if you’re a diehard fan of studio Shaft’s other productions – then there might be something enjoyable for you in both series of Ef. Unfortunately, despite its potential, it’s difficult to watch without feeling like it spends more effort trying to look artfully symbolic than investing time and development in its characters and possibly interesting premises.

Ef – A Tale of Memories and Melodies has a great deal of passion that is regrettably drowned out by its overwrought art and lack of depth.
SCORE: 2/5
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