Ef: A Tale Of Memories
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 293 minutes approx.
How important are memories? Are they something we simply live with because they are there or are they to be cherished? Can we live with them or live without them? Five teens are about to find out the true power of memories holds, both good and bad in maters of the heart.
Renji Aso is looking for somewhat quite to be alone and read his book. He finds an old abandoned railway station but sees someone else had the same idea. A quiet girl with a patch covering her left eye sits alone intently reading a dairy. She is Chihiro Shindo and Renji is smitten by her. He returns to the same spot day after day to meet Chihiro again, who acts vague around him, which he takes as a sign of her shyness. Renji is about to confess how much he enjoys Chihiro’s company when she drops a bombshell – following a car accident in which she lost her left eye, Chihiro suffers from a rare condition in which she loses her memories after thirteen hours.
Elsewhere it’s Christmas Eve and Hiro Hirono, a student and part time shoujo manga writer, is on his way to a party hosted by his childhood friend Kei Shindo (Chihiro’s twin sister), who has long since held a crush on Hiro. He suddenly collides with Miyako Miyamura, who takes Hiro’s bike as she continues her pursuit of someone who stole her bag. Hiro also gives chase, finding Miyako further up the road, having fallen and crashed the bike. Hiro takes Miyako home with him to tend to her and they spend the night together. Discovering that Miyako is an infrequent attendee at the same school as Hiro and Kei, Hiro finds immersed in a love triangle as the two very different but passionate young ladies vie for his sole affection.
The tragic romance drama (a tram-rom-dram?) is another anime series derived from the world of visual novels, in this case Ef: A Fairy Tale Of The Two, dipping heavily into the first game and part of the second. Produced by the renowned animation group Shaft, this is the first of two series and hopes to engender the same lachrymose response as such weepies as Clannad, although the experimental and idiosyncratic artwork will more likely invite comparison to the mind scrambler that was Bakemonogatari than anything else. Also likely to jar with viewers is the continual skipping between the two story arcs with gleeful abandon and often with little warning.
Chihiro and Renji’s story is by far the more engrossing and entertaining of the two as well as the one that lends itself more to the surreal production treatment, which may or may not be its undoing, depending on how open one is to such esoteric interpretation. While Chihiro’s short term memory loss is a severe handicap, it is not insurmountable if she reads her dairy at certain intervals within the thirteen hour time frame, allowing salient bits of information to remain fresh at the forefront of her mind. We learn later on the consequences of exceeding this limited window when Chihiro forgets everything from the four years after her accident and is forced to relearn her most recent history – including Renji’s presence – post haste in order to resume her current life. In this midst of this, Chihiro expresses her desire to become an author which is difficult with her unique problem, so Renji gladly offers his services to help.
The love triangle between Hiro, Kei and Miyako is less inspired and plays out as you might expect. Kei seems to think that her lifelong bond with Hiro and by virtue of her waking him up for school everyday as well as providing him with breakfast and lunch means they are destined to be husband and wife one day, even if Hiro shows no signs of reciprocating this fantasy. Miyako meanwhile offers something more exciting for our pseudonymous manga writer, not least on the physical action front, letting Kei down on numerous occasions. Miyako is not without her issues too, consumed by a fear of being forgotten and demanding Hiro devotes all his thoughts and energies towards her. Which way will he go?
In all honesty, both stories have potential to warrant a twelve episode run of their own, more so Chihiro’s saga, whose wealth of unexplored territory makes it almost a shame it has to share screen time with such a pedestrian partner. That said, both arcs are concluded in a fairly satisfactory manner in their allotted time and the characters are neatly developed along the way. The supporting cast are mostly underwhelming, their sole purpose to provide time saving exposition, coming and going with indiscriminate frequency. Both tales aim for the heartstrings and delivering emotional denouements as expected so if you enjoy a good weep then have your tissues handy when watching.
As expressed earlier, the abstract approach to the production is more akin to a whimsical leftfield project than a romantic drama, which is likely to serve as a distraction and an annoyance than being conducive to the enjoyment factor. Images liberally jump from colour to black and white to pencil outlines to kaleidoscopic set pieces to blank screens to bludgeoning walls of text. Trying to stand out from the pack is one thing but it feels like an indulgence too far, and although the artwork and execution is unquestionably impressive, just not for this genre.
Ef: A Tale Of Memories is a unique romantic drama that doesn’t make things easy for the viewer, leaving it up to look hard for the rewards. Presumably the sequel, A Tale Of Melodies, will follow the same formula which may or may not be a good thing. One thing is for sure, it isn’t easily forgotten!
Disc 2 only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black