ef – the amnesiac’s guide to novel writing.
So after a load of action-packed and humor-filled anime goodness, I felt the urge to subject myself to some heart crushing drama and I had heard many good things about ef – a tale of memories. Ef? What exactly is ef? Well, for one, it’s a series that progresses in a surprisingly fluid manner despite the fact that it’s only 12 episodes and covers not one, but two love stories occurring in tandem. Plus, it’s a Shaft production, so there’s lots to expect out of this series.
Tale of memories follows the stories of twin sisters Shindou Chihiro and Shindou Kei who prior to the series lived and played together as children, often with a boy named Hirono Hiro, who Kei affectionately refers to as “Onii-chan.” After a terrible car accident robs Chihiro of her left eye and leaves her with a short term memory that peaks at 13 hours, the two sisters separate, with Chihiro going to live with a different guardian, Himura Yuu. Though unable to remember things for longer than 13 hours, Chihiro manages to live her life by keeping a detailed diary. One day, she meets a boy named Asou Renji, and the two soon become close friends intent on fulfilling Chihiro’s lifelong dream: to write a novel, despite her case of anterograde amnesia.
On the flipside, Kei finds herself taking care of Hiro-niichan, who is struggling to divide his life between school and his secret job as a mangaka. When Hiro suddenly meets the beautiful and outgoing slacker Miyamura Miyako, he finds himself in the middle of a love triangle that will not only decide which girl is right for him, but what lifestyle he will embrace as he enters adulthood.
As another visual novel adaptation, tale of memories is extremely main character-centric. You rarely see characters other than the main characters interacting with each other, a great way to suck you into the drama. The fact that the series is only 12 episodes long and follows two storylines means that this is a very justified approach to the storytelling, though setting’s ambience is somewhat lost as a result. Not that I was particularly interested in the setting, anyway. Typically, each episode is split into two halves, with one focusing on Chihiro and the other on Kei, though as the arcs reach their respective climaxes near the end of the series, there will be entire episodes dedicated to one group over the other.
What’s great about tale of memories is that even though it is so pressed for time, it is able to use it well enough to have many ‘creative liberty’ moments, such as spending an entire five minutes of an episode on answering machine messages from one person to another, and really portraying the sense of urgency that the characters are feeling. I am usually not a fan of having things drag out unnecessarily (again, I have to reference Family Guy and its oft drawn-out humor) but the feeling that this technique generated, coupled with the wonderful voice acting left me in a perpetual state of anxiety. I liked it a lot.
While Kei’s story has the more traditional love triangle angle, the dialogue is very strong, especially near the end as the girls and Hiro are coming to terms with their true feelings. Chihiro’s story, however, is one of a never-ending longing for acceptance and familiarity, which becomes paramount to the relationship between her and Renji. In both arcs, memories and nostalgia are at the forefront of what tugs at the heartstrings, and so I would say that the series is aptly titled.
Though the two sisters are connected by both the memories they share and the messages they send each other, there is a separation between the two that feels a bit awkward. I was unsure just how far away they actually lived from one another, and I questioned if the separation was really necessary. Considering how Kei was able to care for Hiro in a way that required her to wake him every morning, I was very confused about why the two sisters could not live in the same household, especially considering how well the two seem to get along by their texts.
I was also very impressed by the music, especially the OP’s theme. The OP itself is also extremely stylish, riddled with english text excerpts from the novel being written by Chihiro. The song is in ‘engrish’ for many of the episodes, but the last episode is in Japanese, and it sounds sublime.
There’s a second series to ef called a tale of melodies. It came out a year after tale of memories, but is a prequel (though from what I understand there are cameos from several of the mains in tale of memories). I’ll definitely be watching it sometime in the near future, but I have this inkling that it won’t top the greatness that is ef – a tale of memories.
Character Ranking – ef: a tale of memories
- Shindou Chihiro
- Hirono Hiro
- Shindou Kei
- Miyamura Miyako
- Asou Sumire
- Asou Renji
- Amamiya Yuuko
- Hayama Mizuki