ef~ A Tale of Memories and ef~ A Tale of Melodies (pronounced as eff, like, f) are a couple of romance centered series’ based on a Visual Novel series by the same name. The two series’ are related to each other directly, with Melodies tieing in almost directly after the end of Memories. Each series has its own particular themes and visual cues while telling two very different stories with romance at the center of the plot. The series was animated by Shaft and released by Hanabee here in Australia. The English localisation is done by Sentai Filmworks.
As you can probably guess, Ef was released in two seasons, A Tale of Memories, and the second being, A Tale of Melodies. Each of the two stories feature a similar cast of characters, but each season switches focus between them. For instance, in Memories, it focuses on the lives of a few highschool students and their building relationships with each other. Melodies, on the other hand, focuses on the relationships of a much smaller group of people that initially appear as side characters in Memories. Each series also has its own sets of themes and hurdles for its cast to overcome, giving each its own feel, unique from each other.
Where the series for Memories gets its title from, we believe, is that it focuses strongly on one relationship pair where one of the characters suffers from severe memory loss and loses all of her memories after 13 hours after awakening. It could also come from the fact that the show sometimes delves into the memories and past of some characters that appear. This particular pair though, Renji and Chihiro, make up the primary focus of this series, with other characters frequently taking up entire episodes to fulfill their relationships. While there are numerous relationships in the series, Renji and Chihiro’s definitely take up the most time, and that particular relationship is also the most interesting.
The reason that Renjo and Chihiro’s relationship is most interesting is that there are a lot of subtleties and allegories that the home viewer can relate to. For instance, it’s easier to sympathise with the two characters due to the hurdle that having a memory leak creates. You kind of start rooting for these two characters because of the effort that they both put into getting their relationship to work. Chihiro begins to record her days with Renji much more egregiously, keeping particular notes that only she would find useful to help things along. At one point, it’s revealed that she stops making detailed notes and starts making summaries, just so that she can get the most out of her situation. There is also a huge allegory that the story makes when the two of them start to write a novel about a girl that lives in a castle and is able to move through paintings and falls in love with a prince within a painting. This novel soon becomes a symbol of their relationship itself, as does Chihiro’s actual diary. As the story closes, so does their relationship.
What I found interesting was that I could relate to a few of the male characters in the show, but each of the female characters seemed a bit odd, almost as though they all had some kind of mental issues. Obviously, Chihiro actually does, but for some reason, the character that draws manga for a living, Hiro, has two girls chasing him that both seem to have problems. One of the girls seems to have huge abandonment issues while the other seems to have issues with letting go of things. This particular relationship is compounded when an aspiring film-maker seems to become obsessed with one of the girls. It all works out in the end.
Something that some viewers might find uncomfortable is that there is a bit of implied sex between characters that are still in highschool. At one point, we’re pretty sure this is used to create drama between a few characters when one girl walks in on the manga artist character post-coitus with his actual girlfriend. This sort of ties in with the film-maker character and her getting together.
While Memories was quite enjoyable, we have to say that we enjoyed Melodies even more. This is because it focuses less on a whole cast of characters and instead focuses on the relationship struggles of a small few. As we previously stated, Melodies follows the story of a few support characters from the first season, making them the main cast for this season. I wouldn’t say that this is a direct sequel, but it is one that takes place a short while after the end of Memories. The story primarily focuses on Kaze, Yu and their romantic partners, highschool girl that I forget the name of and Yuko, the ghost-like entity from the first season.
Because Melodies is a lot more focused on a smaller amount of characters, we get to explore more about those particular characters and what makes their ordeals interesting. Unlike in the last season, there is also a greater emphasis put on time, where the series will frequently switch between past, present and future timelines in order to tell the whole story with these characters and their romance. However, it does seem like it spends a bit more time in the past than the present, although the actual present and future is debatable. If you’re following along from the previous season, the present feels like it’s when Kuze and Yu are adults, however, if you come in for just this season, it can feel like the past is the present and the further past is the actual past. From our perspective, we see the present as the future as it feels like the best context for this season due to how much time is spent in the past, which we see as the present.
What’s interesting is how a lot of the time is spent in Yu’s story, where it tells of the relationship between himself and Yuko, and how incredibly challenging and strange the whole relationship is. The two of them began their relationship as orphans living in the same orphanage until distant relatives of Yuko’s decides to adopt her. From here, the two of them don’t see much of each other until they begin going to the same highschool. It in highschool that the two of them start to bond, but something about the relationship always feels off. It isn’t until a massive reveal by Yuko that proves why this is.
One of the things that will make this season unique from the previous is how much more dark a lot of each characters lives are. Even more, there is a lot more psychedelic sequencing to emphasise certain images about what each character is going through. Yuko’s huge reveal is made incredibly traumatic during a sequence that involves a lot of ominous musical cues and rather intense imagery. Even if you’re barely paying attention, this scene will make you start paying attention. Of course, Yuko and Yu aren’t the only ones with these kinds of scenes, with Kuze having some of his own.
Oddly, Kuze’s relationship is mostly told from a future perspective where he faces his own ordeals which greatly include his health problems. Early into the season, he becomes acquainted with a highschool girl, Mizuki. However, Mizuki soon develops some rather strong feelings for Kuze, feelings that Kuze seems to either reciprocate, or unintentionally foster in Mizuki. When the series deals with the present, Kuze is seen to be a voice of mischievous reason to Yu and his problems with Yuko. Even more, in the future, he seems to still be a little irresponsible, but has also adopted many masks for different social situations.
I really liked this analogy of masks as it sounds pretty mature and realistic for many people. Different people behave differently towards different people in different situations, almost as though they’re wearing masks. It’s quite an interesting image and it rings true, or at least in our opinion. Of course, when things take a turn for the worst with Kuze, we get to see things when his mask isn’t sitting on right, which causes some trauma with Mizuki. This is interesting later when it is revealed that Kuze is actually seeing someone else.
The opening theme songs for both of these series’ were really enjoyable. It was really interesting to see how the opening theme changed from English into Japanese for the final episode in Memories and how at one point in Melodies, the opening theme switched to an instrumental version. What was also remarkable was how the ending song and animations frequently changed based on what had happened at the end of some episodes. This seemed reflective of a character and their particular feelings at the time.
One of the biggest issues with ef~ A tale of Memories and Melodies is that the English cast are incredibly bad choices for the show. After watching the first season in Japanese, switching to English for the second was quite unbearable. The only male voice actors that really worked were Yu and Kuze, while the rest of the cast, both male and female, seemed to not represent or feel like their characters at all. The biggest issue when it comes to the voice overs come from Chihiro’s English voice over, who seemed to make the character more annoying than sympathetic. Another character sounds like a chain smoker, which is bad for any kind of highschool student that doesn’t actually chain smoke. We’d definitely advise to watch this in Japanese. While the dialogue is mostly accurate to the Japanese, the voice over cast have a talent for ruining the casts personalities.
Overall we really enjoyed ef~ A tale of Memories and Melodies. While it is a largely romantic series, it is a romantic series that has a way of drawing you in for things outside of the romance. It has this overall feeling of a mystery through the characters which helps you sympathise with them. If you’re a fan of personal drama, you’d definitely want to check out ef.
Rating: Implied Underage Sex /10.
ef – A Tale of Memories and Melodies Complete Collection comes from Hanabee Entertainment here in Australia. This series comes in a collectors box containing both seasons. Review copy of set was provided by Hanabee. It can be purchased on both BD and DVD from their website for ~$80. There are 24 episodes in total with both series having 12 episodes each.