ef - a tale of melodies

Title:ef - a tale of melodies
Keywords: , , , , , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Shaft
Sequel to ef - a tale of memories. This season features a pair of stories focused on violinist Shuichi Kuze and Chihiro's guardian from the last season, Yu Himura. Kuze finds himself slowly being torn apart as he is suffering from a terminal illness and becomes attracted to Renji's cousin, Mizuki Hayama. For Yu, he reflects back on his days in high school when he reunites with childhood friend Yuko Amamiya.

0:51 min promo - YouTube Video
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Buy 10 10 8 10 9 8 Dreamer [series:1912#2279]
This is a very artistic anime, not only in it's artwork and animation, but music compositions and breathtaking backdrops.

Art, Animation and Character Design
The artwork and presentation of the grahics is short of amazing. Very rich colors and highly detailed. A lot of the artwork had a "velvety" or "satin" richness to it in terms of color and smoothness. Take for example in episode 1, where a scene opens up to a lit lantern. The colors from the light effects were very rich and vibrant as the backdrop was a beautiful mix of dark shades of black, deep blue and grey.... the night sky. Just looking at the scene almost made me want to pull out my newly purchased (half year old at the time of this writing), Nikon D90 and go shooting somewhere in some far away land. Beautiful is the only word I can use to describe it. As for character designs, not as good as the art and animation. The characters were just average.... almost seemed they didn't quite fit the vibrant foregrounds and backgrounds. But then again, it could have been done so purely for artistic merit. They weren't "that" bad though.

Special Note about the OP sequence:
The OP animated sequenced impressed me so much that it's worth mentioning here as a seperate paragraph.... of which I've never done for any reviews to date. Not only was the OP song really inspiring with its powerful lyrics, but the animation that went along with it was an amazing piece of work both artistically speaking and in breathtaking visual queues. What I meant by that was every bit of the animated sequence fit so perfectly with the instrumental and lyrical pieces of the song, and the transitions from one sequence to another was.... wow! One piece that really stood out was on the lyric "I wandered for my discoverer", where a sillhouette of a girl is dancing and hopping with arms outspread. As certain keynotes are struck, the sillhouette zoomed out and lightly exploded into feathers... which then transitioned into another sillhouette... then on. I consider myself an artistic person and never have I've seen such an amazing sequence as an opener, not in any movie nore live action as I've seen in this anime. Watching it 13+ times over as I had, I still catch myself saying "wow"! This is as close to perfection as you get.

It opened up with a nice piece with chimes or chime-like instruments, not bad. Then it started, the enchanting music, the haunting wind instruments and soft chimes placed with perfect cords. Beautiful is the word to describe it. Finally, the OP started..., about half-way through the length of the whole first episode, and wow, it was good! In fact, good enough for me to want to pick up the OST... which is super rare for me. The musical compositions are amazing! As you listen to them, it conjures of moments in memories long past.... dreamy, sorrowful, joyful or even bittersweet.

Series and Episode Story
The first episode was very different in that.... the OP didn't start until exactly half-way through as mentioned above. As near perfect as the Art, Animation, and Music was, you'd think the story would be equally as good. However, not quite. It started off slow and easy going, but gradually picked up. What you have is two plots. One stronger than the other. With that said, both plots are predictable and has been done before. However, what sets this story apart from other anime is it's presentation and a really good conclusion. First the presentation; it's presented artistically and in some sense, cryptically; not that it was difficult to understand, but rather, it told things through emotions, through memories, through sorrow, tearful musical notes, and the "low points" in life. Second; the way two stories interwove. You'll realize in the end, the two stories are in reality one, but were told in an "unusual" way... and to use the word again, "artistic". The end brought a satisfying conclusion that wrapped things up cleanly. One would think this might be a tragedy, but not quite. There was some tragic moments, but in the end, you're left with a smile and maybe even a new outlook on life and everything it has to offer.

Overall, this is a great anime! Well worth the buy! It not only shines in the music area, but the art is amazing and the story.... good enough to keep you entranced.

Last updated Sunday, March 15 2009. Created Sunday, March 15 2009.
Watch 9 9 9 7 7 6 Ggultra2764 [series:1912#1552]
Here's another Fall 2008 sequel I was greatly disappointed with. In this case, tale of melodies being a sequel to ef - a tale of memories. The first season's avant-garde artwork approach and psychological focus on characters, while flawed in some areas, delighted me quite a bit as it was a fresh approach to the predictable dramas I've seen of dating sim anime adaptations. Unfortunately, tale of melodies had to fall into the sea of angst and melodrama that I've seen many dating sim titles dip into.

This season, like the last one, divides its focus between two different storylines: one focused on Yu and Yuko and another on Kuze and his growing bond with Mizuki. The Yu-Yuko storyline was one I anticipated since the bond between the two had little focus in the last season. Both are tragic characters in themselves as they became orphans who were together at the same orphanage. As both meet in this storyline, their relationship is quite strained from the long time they've been apart. Yuko tries hooking in Yu while the guy is trying to keep his distance from her due to his past. As things develop in their relationship though, some rather shocking facts about Yuko's upbringing since they have been apart come to light. This was where I began finding melodrama. If Yuko had these problems and Yu knew of them, why not get some help from others to deal with the one giving her these problems? And let's not forget what happens for their story resolution. With the surroundings that the scene took place in, I was dumbfounded that no one was around.

The Kuze-Mizuki storyline was the weakest of the two stories. The premise of the story felt quite similar to Chihiro and Renji's story. In this case, the premise being getting love if the one you seek it from has some sort of health problem. In Kuze's case, it's a terminal illness. Much like the Chihiro-Renji story, Yuu is around to warn Mizuki to be prepared to accept the suffering and Kuze tries driving away Mizuki like Chihiro does to Renji. But unlike Chihiro-Renji, this story was on angst overload thanks to Kuze. His angstings over Mizuki's love and his deteriorating health during the middle of the series felt quite overboard and got on my nerves quite a bit. Add to the fact Mizuki had nothing that drew me to her character and I just could care less where her relationship with Kuze went.

In terms of artwork, ef's avant-garde animation style is back and used to great effect. The visuals make use of different visual storytelling techniques to depict the thoughts and problems of the characters. Some of my favorites include the use of tarot cards to depict the problems Yuko faced and some impressive animation with fire during a later scene in Yuko and Yu's story. Character designs and scenery have bright colors and decent detail on par of what I seen from tale of memories.

The avant-garde animation was what hooked me to the ef series. While still around in tale of melodies, the story elements are quite inferior in quality compared to tale of memories.

Last updated Thursday, December 25 2008. Created Thursday, December 25 2008.
Rent Stretch [series:1912#628]
(Rent- or Watch+)

(All episodes watched):

I was delighted to see a second season of ef, a thinking person's anime, coming about. Again there is stylized, distinctive artwork and two more-or-less seperate plots. I was afraid at first that this was going to be so cryptic that I might not be able to make much sense of it right from the start (this "Otowa" business, for one thing), but after the prologue it became much easier to understand. Memory loss still seems to be a theme, at least in one of the two plots. The only character I recognized from the original series was Renji, who it seems will play a minor part here. Ten minutes into the show I had given up hope of a cool OP sequence appearing, then suddenly it burst out of nowhere. I didn't like it as much as the first one, but still couldn't help grinning and saying to myself "this kicks ass"! Afterwards, the technique of sound effects, etcetera, used to introduce some jokes seemed discordant with the mood of the original show. That one didn't completely lack humor, but it was more witty and restrained. So, I'm not sure if this new approach is good news or bad. Anyway, a guy meets a childhood friend after being seperated (by memory loss?) for ten years; and Renji's cousin meets Kuze, a professional violinist--who has a problem. So far, so good--both my hopes and expectations are high for this one.

Again, I'm feeling a definite preference for one plot over the other, in this case the Kuze one. I had thought that he was 30-something years old, given his fame and the tone of his voice, but apparently he's a high schooler like everyone else. ef is definitely dialogue driven, to the extent that some people cannot understand why there's "nothing going on" and abandon it. I must admit I have a hard time keeping track of the complex storylines from one episode to the next--again, just like during ef Memories. Still, it's a more interesting show than most, with complex and odd plots plus avant garde artwork. Another odd thing is that the show seems to take place in Europe although most of the characters are visitors from Japan.

Correction, "Otowa City" seems to be in Australia, and what's more there's a city by the same name in Japan as well. In episode five a couple characters actually travel from the Japanese city to the Australian one, which made it occur to me that maybe my assumption that everything was taking place in the same non-Japanese city was mistaken. This seems to be one of those shows whch flirts with dreams/magic, which may or may not be influencing the plots in a subtle way. Yuuki is definitely hiding something. It's curious how an all-dialogue show manages to remain so sophisticated and interesting.

Whoa, Yuuki's secret was rather... disturbing. This is definitely not a kid's show! The scene where she told Yuu everything was so powerful that it felt like the final episode of a series. Because of the Japanese habit of addressing close friends as "brother" or "sister", even if they're not related to you, I was confused for awhile. Again, the artsy depictions of colors and shapes were notable; they sometimes acted as sort of visual metaphors for the story Yuuki was telling--the depicton of her on a stained glass window was especially good. All too often I'm continually looking at the clock as I watch a show, but here the credits arrived suddenly and unexpectedly--that's how engrossed I was. OMG!--does this mean it was the teacher who--I'm gonna barf.

As clever as the dialogue of ef is, I must admit it is nice to have the characters take action sometimes. Episodes seven and eight are intriguing as something fresh has happened; that is, the characters are doing something desperate rather than talking out their problems. As a result, the show is holding my interest firmly at this pont. As another indicator of the style of ef, the OP sequence was played upside down in episode eight. If I'd seen that happen in any other show, I'd assume that somebody had screwed up, but ef playfully experiments with odd techniques, not worrying about whether it's conforming to the norm, so I'm confident that this change was intended here.

Episode ten seems to mark the end of the Yuu and Yuki storyline. Since it was being shown in black and white, and some things about their relationship had changed greatly since the last episode, I thought at first that it was probably a dream. It wasn't until the episode was almost over that it dawned on me that these events were reality. The episode has a startling end--but what did it have to do with the remainder of their story? It's hard to be moved when you don't know whether you should be taking what you're watching seriously. Episode 11 switches to the Kuze storyline. I became certain that this was the final episode of the series as a whole--with an unpredictable show like ef that seemed quite possible (this episode had two OP and two ED sequences). There seemed to be a bittersweet, semi-tragic ending; better than a cheap everyone-lived-happily-ever-after conclusion, but still a bit of a downer. And then came a preview for episode twelve. Really nothing more than an announcement that yes, there would be an episode twelve, without any details. I wonder, where will the story go from here? When it comes to the characters of ef Melody, as Monty Python would put it, they're not quite dead!

I was certain that the final episode would deal with Kuze's risky operation, but he in fact plays a small part in it and the emphasis shifts back to the Yuki/Yuu relationship--which ought to be nonsense, if you know what happened two episodes ago. But this is ef after all. Apparently ten years have passed and this is a postscript to the series; the characters declare their firmly held beliefs in an inspiring/confusing manner. I wish the conclusion of the series as a whole had made more sense; I'm left with sort of a feeling of the two plots petering out rather than ending in a moving and firmly focused manner. I don't really know what to make of this final episode, but I would have been satisfied if the series had ended without it, so I won't complain too much.

As a whole, the clever and artsy techniques were interesting but as for the plot as a whole I could take-it-or-leave-it. I don't recall any particular moment of being truly awed or thrilled throughout the entire series. A month or so after watching the final episode, I remember little. Still, it was fairly fun while it lasted.

My favorite line: "When I saw your faces after waking up, I felt that hell would be better" --Kuze

Last updated Saturday, February 07 2009. Created Wednesday, October 08 2008.

Other Sites
Official series site (Japanese) http://www.ef-melo.com/

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