This is the fourth year I have participated in Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project. The first two years I really hit the jackpot in recommendations – Noein, Figure 17, Simoun, Time of Eve, and Ghost Hound. Last year definitely was not a failure but I was less satisfied with my choices. In the end I watched and reviewed the first Break Blade movie. (When one watches all seven Break Blade movies, as I did over the winter season, it turns out to be a very solid series and I was glad to have watched it.) One of the reasons I was less than satisfied with my picks was because there was a recent anime among the three recommendations that I had passed over when it aired and I knew I would not enjoy it now. This cut my options by 1/3 so for this year I requested that no anime from the last 3 years be picked to recommend to me.
I felt bad demanding this but I decided my secret Santa would also want his/her recommendations to have the best chance of success. And I am pleased with the results. The three series I received are Ef – A Tale of Memories, Kare Kano, and Tytania. I am obviously reviewing Ef – A Tale of Memories now and I really wanted to get to a second series, Tytania, but have run out of time. I hope to get to Tytania soon and the weak winter season might just ensure that happening.
Two sisters feature at the heart of two parallel but separate stories of love. One sister suffered a horrible accident when she was 12 and her mind can no longer lay down new memories. Her short term memory works and can recall the last twelve hours so she keeps a list of things she wants to remember and looks at it often enough that those things stay in her short term memory. This is a poor substitute for the ability to make new memories and she feels that she is forced to live a lonely life as a result. The other sister carries around a sense of guilt over her sister’s accident and will not allow herself to express her love towards a boy she loves as a result. A new person steps into each half of the story, upsetting the equilibrium of things, and pushes these characters into new and hopefully better places.
Thoughts and impressions
Thank you Secret Santa!
Outside of sequels it’s now been a while (Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko from Spring 2011) since I’ve really been happy with a Shaft series and I’ve been yearning for some classic Shaft. The obvious solution would be to watch the one Shaft series from that period I hadn’t watched – Ef – A Tale of Memories – but I hadn’t wanted to since it was directed by Shin Oonuma and his later series at Silver Link hadn’t really impressed me. Which is a perfect reason to throw to the curb and embrace the purpose of the Secret Santa project – to try something you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Ef – A Tale of Memories turned out to be a very strong series and was definitely stronger then anything he did at Silver Link.
The weakest aspect to this series is the two main stories remain separate for the entire run of the series. Normally, when two unconnected stories are presented in a show they eventually come together in some way and I spent the final 2/3rds of Ef – A Tale of Memories expecting that to occur. I’m not saying watching an anime series where two distinct 6 episode anime series are sliced up and combined to make a 12 episode anime is necessarily a bad thing; some overlap, beyond infrequent text messaging between the two sisters, might have made the anime as a whole stronger. Actually, I got the feeling that the two sisters didn’t spend much time together (I think the one’s guilt probably is why) and I would have also enjoyed seeing an improvement in the relationship between them.
The basic outline of the series is teenagers fall in love, overcome obstacles, and live happily ever after and that’s hardily an original type of series to find in anime. What sets this one apart is it’s style and animation; actual high quality animation is mixed with about the perfect level of Shaftness here. Another reason is how honest they allow the teenage characters to be. What we don’t have here is characters that have had their emotional palette neutered – people get angry, jealous, spiteful, and mean. That is something that is a rare commodity in anime and is the reason why, for no other reason, Ef – A Tale of Memories should be watched.
A corollary to this realistic behavior by our teenage characters is that some very questionable decisions get made. If you don’t want to be spoiled about the end you should skip down to the Final Score. … Okay, I can even applaud this series tastefully showing that both couples in this series go all the way because anything beyond kissing is basically unheard of in anime; however, I seriously question the wisdom/morality of doing so. The one girl is 15 but only has the memories of a 12 year old plus whatever she can store in her short term memory. The other girl is emotionally unbalanced and might need serious treatment before she’s actually ready for a relationship and pushing it now might lead to seriously bad consequences later.
So, in conclusion, Ef – A Tale of Memories is a strong series from the golden period of Shaft series. I recommend this title to those looking for a series where teenagers act like teenagers, warts and all, as they fall in love. There is a second series of this franchise (I think it might be prequel) and I definitely plan on watching it as well.
Final Score: 10.5/12 Strong A
Rewatchablity: 3/5 – Average to Medium
Ending: 3/5 – Good
Animation: 4/5 – Excellent
This review was part of Reverse Thieves’ 2014 Secret Santa Project.