‘ef: A Tale of Memories’ is short, sweet and quite melancholy. In twelve short episodes, it tells two different stories of love and loss. This series is all about the visuals, so let’s just straight get into things with the trailer!
On Christmas Eve, Hiro Hirono befriends a girl named Miyako Miyamura as she chases a purse snatcher. This makes Hiro’s childhood friend, Kei Shindō, feel left out, so she tries to compete with Miyako for Hiro’s affection, creating a love triangle. Meanwhile, Renji Asō meets a girl named Chihiro Shindō at an abandoned train station. He soon learns that Chihiro suffers from a type of amnesia where her memory lasts for only 13 hours. He also discovers Chihiro’s dream of writing a novel, but she has never been able to fulfill that dream due to her condition. Renji then decides to help her fulfill that dream.
The focus of ‘ef: A Tale of Memories’ is the two main love stories; Hirono and his relationship with love rivals Miyako and Kei, and Renji and Chihiro’s efforts to write a novel as she struggles with her amnesia. There is also a third sub-story Kyosuke Tsutsumi, a student film maker obsessed with catching ‘the perfect scene’, which involves a bit of friendly stalking of Kei. There’s quite a lot of names here, so let’s look at the two love stories individually…
I was much more interested in Renji and Chihiro’s story because, although it was in essence a love story, the premise was different and a lot less run-of-the-mill. Due to her amnesia, Chihiro keeps a diary which she reads every morning in order to refresh her memories. When Renji meets and falls in love with her, he ignores the warnings that their relationship can only end in tragedy and helps Chihiro to write her novel. The two characters are likeable and, as you might hope, you do care about what happens to them in the end. Renji’s home life is rather entertaining, with a mother who barely looks older than him and a rather weird but handsome neighbour who has an inexplicable stash of high school girl uniforms. Chihiro is very ‘moe moe’ (cute) with her high pitched voice, which can be explained by the fact she is trapped in her thirteen-year-old mentality, but her mission to write a novel against all the odds is what drew me to her as a character. I’ve been ‘working on’ my fantasy trilogy for over ten years, on and off, and my excuses will never be good as “I have amnesia and I keep forgetting what I’m writing”.
The second main love story, between Hiro, Miyako and Kei, is a tried and tested formula in shoujo anime. Personally, I feel the love triangle has been done to death in fiction in general, so I was not as interested in this part of the story. Miyoko, although seemingly nice at first, turns out to be needy, obsessive, hysterical and a homewrecker. At times, I even found it frustrating. Hiro, an aspiring manga artist who risking his future at school by staying up all night drawing and sleeping in, is at the best of times indecisive and other people’s problems. Kei, Chihiro’s twin sister, Hiro’s childhood friend and sports nut, was the only one out of the three I had any sympathy for, despite her insistence on calling Hiro “oni-san” (another trite quality of shoujo anime, I believe). I was rooting for Kei and wanting to smack Hiro for being clueless and Miyako for being so whiny and annoying.
‘ef: A Tale of Memories’ has some really beautiful animation, which is my favourite thing about the series. The characters themselves are beautifully drawn but the scenery and transitions are very unusual and not something I’ve seen done before in anime. One minute everything might be grey, then sepia, then full colour. Characters may be drawn as shadows, or incomplete, which forces you to concentrate on the script or something entirely different. It’s always hard to explain animation when it’s all about the visuals, so check out the short video below of one of my favourite part of the series, when Miyako calls Hiro after he stands her up on a date. You can probably see why I don’t like her after watching this, but the whole scene is really well done.
The soundtrack is another selling point for this series. The opening song, ‘Euphoric Field’ is absolutely beautiful and I really can’t stop listening to it. It also has two or three different ending songs, depending on which characters are the focus of the episode, which I found quite interesting.
My only real complaint about ‘ef: A Tale of Memories’ was how disjointed the two love stories were. The only thing linking them was Chihiro and Kei, who mainly communicate by text during the series. The love stories are certainly different from each other, and the series alternates between the two as they progress, so no one is really off screen long enough to be completely forgotten. It would have been nice to have seen Hiro and Renji have some dialogue, as they never actually meet, but the reason for this might have been to distinguish the stories from each other. It would also probably shatter the illusion somewhat if everyone knew everyone.
Overall, I give ‘ef: A Tale of Memories’ a solid 7 out of 10. It was interesting to see two separate love stories play out together and it probably was inevitable that I would like one more than the other, as most people would. I recommend buying the DVD for the beautiful and at times borderline-existential animation alone. Shoujo fans will love this series and, good news, there’s a sequel called ‘ef: A Tale of Melodies’, which is also coming out from MVM this month!