Ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 1

Hey everybody! Today I’ll be running through some notes for a new series: Ef – A Tale of Memories. I’ve heard this franchise was one of Shin Oonuma’s greatest contributions to studio SHAFT, before he went off to reign over Silver Link for all eternity. I’ve also heard that it’s both extremely visually compelling and exactly my kind of thing, full of sharp character writing and romance and visual storytelling that actually elevates those things. Either way, the die has been cast for the first couple episodes, so we’ll see what Ef has to offer. Onward!

Episode 1

And we’re already opening with grayscale and some interesting visual compositions. Rectangles in rectangles, which echoes the ostentatious work I’ve seen of his at Silver Link. Though it feels more natural here – as opposed to adding arbitrary visual forms to the fore and background, he’s able to use this briefcase to set up something like a curtain, which is then pulled back to reveal the protagonist

“I always thought something would happen one day that would make people realize I’m special.” Welp, this guy sure is MC-kun so far. Though I suppose the most natural first line is “nothing interesting happens in my life,” not “why can’t people realize I’m special”

“That I’d find something that would make me shine.” Okay, there’s a pretty standard thought

And now we’re still in grayscale, but there’s no background at all, and the character art is a black outline. This all emphasizes his dull thoughts on both himself and the world around him well enough

From that to vivid technicolor sunset, without any kind of transition. There’s a sense of unreality to this background – objects are placed in too large, too empty, and too geometrically perfect of an environment, as they often are in SHAFT shows. For some shows you could argue this emphasizes the focus of the characters themselves, but it’s too consistent to be an entirely purposeful trick, as opposed to just a general style preference

A new arrival, heralded by black and white wings. A girl, of course

Some nice shots creating a robust foreground

A girl sitting at an abandoned train stop, implying someone waiting for something that will never come, or someone who has been trapped in time

This OP is lovely. Nice understated art and music

This definitely feels like a visual novel adaptation, but in a kind of soothing, pleasant way. I prefer this tone to the “barrage you with terrible humor, then turn on the sads” nonsense so many of them adopt

“01. eve” Emphasizing chapters and narrative structure. Like with the environmental stuff, some of this reminds me of later Monogatari specifically

An ostentatious shot placing MC’s phone across half the screen. More deliberate flouting of naturalism

It’s Christmas, as we learn through more ostentatious video camera-eye shots. Gotta keep things visually interesting!

These all actually do seem like good choices for adopting a visual novel. You basically have to translate reams of internal monologue into something visually interesting, or you end up with shows that are as underwritten and self-important as Unlimited Blade Works. Visual novels generally present you with piles of written texture, and anime can’t translate that very gracefully

There’s basically no sense of depth in this shot across the street. The street goes straight up across the screen

Black and white sequence of a ball bouncing. It seems these black and white shots may introduce each of the key girls, and represent them in some way

Two girls, Kei and Mizuki. Kei is the first boy’s brother

A shot of Kei half in profile, with a red eye. That’s a very Oonuma shot

I guess he’s a manga artist?

Haha, this silly bike wheel transition

Grayscale introducing a girl again, this time the hair of some kind of priestess. I wonder if each of the shots in the OP corresponds to one of these girls

[Merry Xmas] across the screen. These shows sure are self-indulgent. I suppose that’s inherently a stylistic value judgment, though – confident SHAFT shows definitely believe in their own tone

We also get some of the occasional full screentone shots, though much less prevalent than in Monogatari

Kei asks if he got a “rush job”

Mizuki’s playing Lucky Star touhou, lol

Bike thief girl is the first one not to get a grayscale intro… but MC jumps briefly into grayscale when she awakes

She bounces back from losing her stuff pretty quick

Okay, now she’s getting all kinds of ostentatious shots – all of her reactions framed as her profile letting through the night sky. It’s frankly an exercise in frustration trying to assign meaning to everything in an Oonuma production – he just likes pretty, ostentatious compositions, and I don’t have enough information about any of these characters to theorize on their visual calling cards’ significance

Now we’re back to outlines with grey interiors, which I suppose could signify how she’s entered his lonely world, drawing a contrast with the initial use of that trick

“You’re so nice.” Visual novel girls sure have low standards

The most SHAFT snow starts to fall

This is one of those moments in VN adaptations where you’re supposed to be taken in by the beauty and wonder of the moment, but don’t yet know enough about the characters involved to actually care unless you’re already read the VN

“No one wants to be alone tonight.” I appreciate that this girl is willing to come on strong

“I hate being alone” with a sequence of grayscale figures dissolving into nothing. Alright, that seems pretty conclusive then – the black and white shots echo feelings of loneliness or life standing still, which is intolerable to this girl, but is something the MC is used to

The girl is Miyako Miyamura

The boy is Hiro Hirono, because Wataru Watari apparently wrote this

Yeah, whenever he pulls back into his usual pose, he gets the grayscale

“There’s no one home at my house tonight.” DAMN. I assume we’ll get a comedy cut to them playing scrabble, but still

Ah, she needs a place to crash, lol. Miyako’s solid so far – a definite personality, self-confident, and not plagued by the infantile attitudes towards romance that beset so many anime girls

“The girl is only one in the world. That made her the god of this world.” Huh. Dunno about “god of this world” yet, but loneliness certainly fits with what we’ve seen

An echo of the first shot, but in color

Ah, the dreaded career survey

I suddenly realize the guy in the opening isn’t the manga guy. Whoops

Opening guy goes and meets Himura in the church for advice

“I’m waiting for someone.” That also seems like an important concept, given the abandoned train stop

“Doing what you love for a living seems a little too ideal.” Ain’t that the truth

“Did I meet you here before?” Train girl seems kinda supernatural

Train girl is Chihiro Shindou

Renji Aso is this dude

“Is it okay if I come here again?” Well, I dunno if I’d call this romance, but it’s, uh, something

Looks like Chihiro got all the Visual Novel Heroineness that Miyako avoided

“Are you Aso-san?” Yeah, she’s unstuck in time or something. Or it’s something to do with her memories and that eyepatch, given the show’s title

She just keeps apologizing and being cryptic. Things the audience doesn’t know aren’t inherently interesting! Particularly when they’re attached to someone who isn’t yet a character

“Please forget about it.” “Does that mean she’s happy to see me?” Look, you’re the one who fell for demure doomed anime heroine, you figure out how to translate her crap into dialogue

“Will you be my friend?”

And, uh, there’s Konata from Lucky Star again

And Done

Welp, there it is. So far, Ef has offered plenty of interesting visual tricks, and not really all that much else – Hiro and Miyako’s narrative seems fun enough, but Renji and Chihiro’s material is pretty typical in a conventionally bad visual novel way, so we’ll have to see where that goes. The show certainly offers enough to enjoy though, and adaptations like this always take a while to get off the ground. I’m also happy the show is confident enough in its own narrative to get right into it, though I suppose Chihiro’s narrative is currently demonstrating why common route shenanigans are so popular – they give you a reason to care about people like Chihiro before they become tragic dramatic objects. That said, it’s very refreshing to have two different male protagonists here (or three, including camera guy), so we can’t fall into the typical full woman-saving dynamic. And if Cihiro’s story comes together reasonably, we’ll have a very solid platform!

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5 thoughts on “Ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 1

  1. Really excited to see you tackle this. I actually started rewatching it now, too, haha.

    I remember really liking Memories back when I was a teen, but over time it fell out of favor. Melodies also left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I do remember both series having standout scenes, though. There’s some particularly compelling stuff with Miyako and Hiro.

  2. Both this and Ef: A Tale of Melodies leave me asking ‘What the Ef is the general consensus thinking?’.

    They’re just so aggressively busy and shallow and stupid; like if Michael Bay decided to give Romance Anime a shot, but not before convincing himself he was an avant-garde genius.

    I really, really dislike them >.>

  3. man, I’m so hyped you’re finally reviewing this, there’s some REALLY cool episodes in the series

  4. Kei is the first boy’s brother

    Uh, sorry, no on two points. First, Kei is a girl, so she’s no one’s brother. Secondly, she calls him “onii-chan” out of closeness and familiarity, but they are not at all blood relatives. This will become important very soon.

    Kei does have a biological sibling, who is in this episode, but I guess that hasn’t been mentioned yet.

    BTW, I was just playing the VN of this last night. I really like how adaptive the “ef” anime is — it makes very strong decisions about moving things around in time, abandoning characters and plot-lines, etc. It’s really nothing like those Key shows (Air, Kanon, Clannad, Little Busters), whose greatest fault is that they’re structured as a souvenir for the VN players rather than a compelling story for the new viewer.

  5. Also, were you aware that Makoko Shinkai directed the OP movie for the original VN? You can see it on YouTube, and in some fairly obvious ways, it serves as part of the inspiration for the series’ look. But only partially, because at other times ef will go for that SHAFT high-contrast, flat color look that marks the series as the clear midpoint between Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei and Mekakucity Actors.

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