Plot: The first and main half of the story follows a boy named Renji who happens upon a girl named Chihiro at an abandoned train station. Chihiro was in a terrible accident when she was a young child, which left her with only one eye and a severely damaged memory.
Every day when she wakes up, she believes herself to be a young child and can only retain her memories throughout the day for 13 hours before they’re erased again. In order to combat this, Chihiro started a series of diaries chronicling every detail of her day. She reads the diaries to help keep her memories permanent, if only in the confines of those pages. But will these diaries allow her to retain her relationship to Renji?
The second half is about a love…square between Chihiro’s older sister, Kei, a filmmaker, Kyousuke, a lonely girl, Miyako, and a closet manga author/artist, Hiro.
Breakdown: This is one of the best anime I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. Almost everything about it is wonderful and beautiful, and Renji and Chihiro would definitely make it on my top ten list of anime couples.
Their relationship is so pure and tragically beautiful – it’s just wonderful to watch. I won’t spoil their story, because I love it so much, but trust me, it’s amazing. Almost made me cry several times.
……Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to that other part of this series, The love square. It’s mostly a love triangle, but Kyousuke’s in there too. (Warning—I will be spoiling a lot of the love square plotline through this review. Reader discretion is advised.)
Kyousuke likes Kei because she’s pretty (seriously, no other reason) Miyako likes Hiro because of an ‘adventure’ they had on Christmas night. Kei likes Hirono because they were childhood friends. And Hiro’s dense as Diamondhead’s…….head.
To be completely honest, watching the love square is a huge chore compared to watching Renji and Chihiro’s relationship. Every time Renji and Chihiro are on screen, they captivate my attention. I smile, I feel like crying, I watch with intensity. Every time they switch back to the others I feel bored or angry.
Kei is overly possessive and majorly jealous. She even goes so far as to tell Miyako that she’s going to ‘erase her from Hiro’s heart and mind’ to ‘make room for’ Kei. It’s not like Miyako had done anything with him or to Kei either. He just hangs out with her and sometimes she goes to his house. Doesn’t help that Kei’s English dubbed voice sounds horribly bitchy.
That’s not the only terrible aspect about her. She’s also the cause of Chihiro’s accident.
When they were kids, Hiro, Kei and Chihiro used to always play together. However, Hiro seemed to always pay a little more attention to Chihiro than Kei. One day, Kei got pretty jealous that Hiro had a play date with Chihiro, so she told him Chihiro couldn’t make it, and then she suggested they to go to the beach together. Chihiro arrived and was disappointed to not find Hirono at the house, but found a note saying that they went to the beach. Chihiro went off to meet Kei and Hiro, much to Kei’s dismay, and as she was standing in a nearby road Chihiro got hit by a car.
So, obviously, the right thing for Kei to do in this situation would be to practically completely forget about her sister, letting Chihiro live her life in limbo just sitting at a train stop day after day, as she learns no lessons of the dangers of jealousy to viciously and jealously pursue Hiro on a day to day basis. We’re supposed to be cheering for this character? (Note: I now know that this is properly addressed and explained in Melodies. However, this is the view left on this matter having just seen this series alone. Taken at face value, this opinion still stands.)
Miyako’s not much better. She’s spunky and quirky, but also seems very moody. It doesn’t help that she seems to take nothing seriously and, in serious discussion, she acts condescending.
Later, we’re shown that she has a ‘sad backstory’. Basically, her parents went through a bad divorce and were ‘gone from each others’ hearts.’ This led to them forgetting about her too (?) and being erased from their hearts. Then they abandoned her (?) Thus she freaks out when Kei threatens that she’ll erase her from Hiro’s heart.
However, despite this being the reasoning behind her newfound affection for Hiro as a new friend/boyfriend, she gets incredibly creepy in the same episode we find out about her backstory. Almost seven minutes are dedicated entirely to her leaving voicemails on Hiro’s phone nagging him about where he is because he won’t pick up. It gets insanely creepy after a while. I understand that she’s upset that she may actually be losing Hirono, but jeez. I’ve seen horror movies less creepy.
Kei erases all of the messages Miyako leaves on Hiro’s phone. Granted she leaves 99 (!!!!) messages, but that’s still not her phone nor her right to do that.
Kyousuke’s pretty boring. He doesn’t have much of a role here. The only thing he cares about is filming things. His initial focus on Kei also seemed kinda stalker-y. Again, he only liked her because he saw her when he was filming one day and thought she looked pretty. If anything, his role in the love square seems purely to give Kei someone to pair with when things don’t work out with Hiro.
Then we have Hirono, more commonly known as Hiro – the one everyone’s fighting over. Like a lot of characters that have multiple women fighting over them, I have no idea what his appeal is. He’s a closet published manga artist who has two girls vying for his heart and can’t see it. He’s also terribly boring. He’s like eating dried oatmeal made of paper mache and distilled water. I’d understand more people being attracted to drywall.
The end of the love shape has Miyako and Hiro sleeping together after admitting their feelings for each other. Kei arrives to wake Hiro up for school and spots the two of them naked in bed. She destroys the room with her crutch (she injured her knee in basketball a few episodes earlier) and runs away. Hiro tries to go after her, but Miyako stops him saying he has to choose because he promised he’d love only her and see only her for the rest of his life. Basically she gives him an ultimatum that she’ll leave if he goes to comfort Kei. He leaves anyway stating he’ll be back soon.
This is where I pretty much say “Ya know what? Maybe they’re both completely wrong for him.” Kei’s wrong for him because, well, Hiro’s never shown any romantic feelings towards her and she’s an obsessive bitch who will go so far as to erase messages from his friend and emotionally assassinate another girl simply because she’s close friends with him.
Miyako’s wrong for him because she slept with him to ensure he’d stay with her forever and wouldn’t accept that he can have other relationships (non-romantic) besides loving her. This is not true love. This is bitterness, obsession, dependency, manipulation, and being enamored by a guy simply because he paid attention to you.
In the end, Kei admits that her dream with him was just a dream and that they should both move on from it, but remain friends. He also states he’s going to quit high school to focus more on his manga career. After that, he calls Miyako who states she is planning on moving away from the town because she doesn’t want to be reminded of the pain. Hiro begs and pleads for her not to go, stating he’ll do everything for her and take care of her and tries to confess that he loves her. Miyako agrees to trust him before the phone cuts out since her phone card ran out of minutes. Hiro shows up saying he loves her and they kiss, ending their story.
So, remember kids, quit school and shack up with your needy obsessive girlfriend. What could possibly go wrong? Granted, I prefer him going with Miyako over Kei, but I still think neither of them should’ve gone with him. Kyousuke ends up with nothing, by the way, even if they do kinda hint that Kei and Kyousuke kinda like each other after that. Supposedly, they’re canon later, but it’s only a tiny blip and I don’t care anyway.
END OF SPOILERS
Even though the love square pissed me off quite a bit, the ending to their situation could’ve been much worse, so I won’t take off much points for that. However, I really don’t think that storyline was necessary, and I can’t ignore the fact that watching it is a big chore, especially in contrast to the Renji and Chihiro storyline.
Art and Animation: Amazing and very creative. I’d recommend a watch simply to see the great visuals. The lighting, the colors, the details are all beautiful.
Voice Acting: English – The dub is really great. A lot of the voices fit very well, and many of the actors were superb in their roles. That being said, I should mention that it is a serious pet peeve of mine to hear Japan suffixes like -chan, -kun, Oneesan etc. in English dub anime. I know I should technically be praising the dubbers for this since they’re trying to make a truly faithful dubbed version, but it really annoys me and it just sounds awkward in English.
Music: The music is amazing. I adore the opening, and a lot of the BG music is great. It’s definitely a soundtrack I’d pick up.
Bottom Line: The love square takes quite a bit of tolerance. It was trying my last nerve as the characters are hardly likable in that story. However, the main story and couple is so enjoyable that it really makes up for it. If need be, skip the square and just watch the parts with Renji and Chihiro. You won’t be disappointed.
Addition Information and Notes: Ef: A Tale of Memories was based on adult visual novel games called Ef: The First Tale and Ef: The Latter Tale. The games are combined with several different stories taken from various characters’ perspectives that are separated into chapters.
This series takes chapter one from The First Tale and chapter three from The Latter Tale. One could also argue that chapter two from The First Tale is included but eh. Melodies is comprised of the prologues of both games and chapter four from The Latter Tale.
Memories is produced by Shaft, producers of other notably stylized series such as the Monogatari franchise, Dance in the Vampire Bund, the Zetsubou Sensei franchise and Madoka Magica, so you can be certain there’s plenty of eye candy.
The series was directed by Shin Onuma who is also the directing force behind C3, Bakemonogatari, Princess Tutu, Pani Poni Dash! and Silent Mobius.
Recommended Audience: There’s no real questionable material until we get to the later parts of the anime where sex is implied and some of the girls are nude from the waist up. Also, some of the plot elements can be pretty heavy for younger audiences. I’d give it a 14+
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