Visual novel covers: Ef: The First Tale (left)...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ef: a tale of memories is a stylish [1], occasionally surreal, series that I neither expected nor wanted to enjoy. My preconceptions were shaped by several myths about Japanese Visual Novels that Soaringwings has neatly debunked here.

That said, the Visual Novel origins are clearly acknowledged in terms how the relationships are resolved. That said there is nothing explicit, and this aspect doesn’t overly intrude on the three core stories.

The biggest problem with ef: a tale of memories is that there are three stories running in parallel. The balance between these isn’t always as well managed as it should be, and two of the stories sometimes detract from what I considered to be the main story.

Several of the characters are dysfunctional in one or more ways [2], and this leads to triggering behaviour [3] in at least one story.

However where ef: a tale of memories truly shines is in using the characters problems to tell some interesting stories, with real changes for the characters. I’m usually a sucker for good handling of reasonably sympathetic characters, and with one glaring exception [4] ef: a tale of memories is usually good for this.

This is supported by some truly fabulous artwork throughout the series, and some extremely clever design choices. You don’t often see scenes fading to stark black and white, or clever use of greyscale sketch work, and these are just some of the innovative visual devices scattered throughout ef: a tale of memories. Toss in some simply glorious scenery, particularly of the skies above the characters, and ef: a tale of memories is one of the most visually distinctive anime I’ve seen for a while.

The series has several opening and closing songs, but this is the one that is used the most and does give a sense of the unique visual feel of the show:

Overall I enjoyed, and was impressed by, ef: a tale of memories much more than I expected to be. It exceeded expectations to the point that I’m considering buying a copy to keep [5].

[1] Presumably this is the justification for the lower case title.

[2] ef: a tale of memories isn’t quite a Dysfunction Junction but it is definitely getting there.

[3] ROT-13 as this is a major spoiler: Puvuveb rssrpgviryl gevrf gb pbzzvg zragny/crefbanyvgl fhvpvqr ol guebjvat njnl gur qvnel gung pbagnvaf gur zrzbel bs ure eryngvbafuvc. Gur fhvpvqr zrgncube vf znqr irel pyrne ol gur pbagrkg bs gur fprar.

[4] That would be a spoiler that I’m not going to give, but it came close to totally destroying my sympathy for one of the characters.

[5] See site disclaimer for the treatment of review copies. Besides it looks like Hanabee are releasing a Blu-Ray (the review copy was a DVD). 🙂