015: ef: A Tale of Memories
Aired: Fall 2007, Fall 2008
Genres: Mystery, Drama, Romance
Date watched: Dec 12 2018 – Dec 15 2018
Series watched: ef: A Tale of Memories (12 ep x 24 min), ef: A Tale of Melodies (12 ep x 24 min)
Why I started watching: Saelraen suggested this show. Her tastes tend to run toward the more esoteric side, and I know she likes both dark shows as well as shows that made you think. She’s also an extremely hard critic, so I was fairly confident that the show would be good, and I went into this show blind (except knowing that it was some sort of romance-tragedy), as it was her top recommendation.
While the character art of the show hadn’t aged very well to me, it wasn’t terrible, and the show itself was excellent. There were so many conceptual and symbolic scenes in the show that it sometimes felt that we spent more time in the imagination of various characters than the actual “real world” that they lived in. The show’s greatest strength was all its dazzling symbolism and imagery, from things like keys that get passed from person to person, flying sheets of papers, chains that bind, silence and instrumental music, eyes and memories, and more. There were also several unique and extremely abstract scenes scattered through the anime that you’ll probably find in no other show, of the kind usually associated with someone’s sanity slipping ever closer to the edge of oblivion when they are under great stress. I really like that sort of storyline and imagery from other media, e.g. Tales of Berseria, and was happy to see it here too.
Plot-wise, there are something like four or five potential highlighted couples in the show, and the show jumps back and forth between them as it lays out pieces of a broken puzzle, then tries to put the puzzle back together anyway. But the viewer knows that the pieces don’t add up, and while some of the potential romances do resolve by the end of the first season, and the keys get passed on to others who need them, there are obvious elephants in the room that the first season slyly alludes to, but never otherwise addresses, like the relationship between the twins, or the presence of the rooftop characters. Finally, in season 2, we are given a wider and wider view of the world, until all the clues finally flutter down into their rightful places. This show sure would have been a forgettable tragedy if they never were able to make the second season!
But it did wrap most of the loose ends up well, and I was left feeling satisfied at the end. It touches on a lot of dark themes – including physical and sexual abuse, amnesia, bullying, divorce, witnessing death, impending doom, and having everything you love taken away from oneself or a loved one – and how desperation, fear and loneliness borne of dark experiences in impossibly unfair cages can change one’s view on life and relationships, and what that does to the people around them. It’s a really touching show about five stories entwined by fate and I cannot gush enough about it if you enjoy romance with heavy psychological drama where the characters, while a little bit flat, manage to avoid the usual dere archetypes – they all have plenty enough problems to deal with. Most of them have some creative art as an outlet to try to escape their problems – music, literature, drawing, painting and film are all practised by various characters in the anime and are central to some of the stories.
The soundtrack in ef features a lot of moody, contemplative, and brooding instrumental music inserted into the various episodes, especially during the abstract imagery scenes. They mostly center around the piano and violin but do span the entire orchestral range overall, especially when they get to the OP and ED songs. There are a lot of ef references in the music of the show – for example, both seasons have two OST albums, the first pair named espessivo and fortissimo, and the second pair named elegia and felice. The OP for the first season is euphoric field, and the OP for the second season is ebullient future, both by ELISA. I liked and added both those songs. And the final closing song in the show, sung by all the seiyuu for the female characters, is called ever forever.
Final Score: 10/10