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Ef-a Tale of Memories
Hirono Hiro, a high schooler and professional shoujo mangaka, gets his bike stolen by a strange girl on a cold Christmas night. Finding her collapsed on the street, he learns her name is Miyamura Miyako, and had “borrowed” his bike to chase after a man who stole her bag. Meanwhile, another high schooler, Asou Renji, meets a strange girl at the abandoned train station he frequents one day. Based off Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two, a visual novel by minori, this anime adaptation follows the romantic journeys of three teenage couples as they heal and grow through finding each other.
Where the storyline is concerned, it is actually split into two separate threads. Melodrama is the order of the day though – one thread follows the typical love-triangle yarn, while the other is somewhat more akin to the standard Korean romance drama; a dash of tragedy mixed in, but still largely melodrama. There isn’t much of the Key-style true human drama in this minori work, but what there is plenty of – the melodramatic element – is masterfully executed indeed.And this is where the signature style of SHAFT animation comes in; against all perceived odds, the Shinbo-WTFness style of animation duplicated by Oonuma actually serves to spice up the raw emotions exponentially. Many of the quirkily-animated scenes actually contain enough symbolism to hammer on the senses of the observant, and when Oonuma lays off on the experimental visuals, he offers visually stunning backgrounds able to compete with the best of what the genre has to offer. Coupled with exceptional voice acting by the voice cast brought over from the original visual novel, the ef adaptation boasts some of the most intense moments of high melodrama ever seen thus far in anime; episode 7, in particular, is an experience words fail to convey.
Despite several animation bloopers which leaves the visuals ranging from jaw-droppingly stunning at times to jaw-droppingly bad at others, Oonuma’s effort is a melodramatic masterpiece that has left me eager to see what he can come up with next. In fact, he barely fails to make me forget about my initial reservations, where I thought that someone like Shinkai Makoto would have been better helming this adaptation instead. The visual style may be a hit/miss affair, the story execution may not be as good as it gets, but nothing else in my memory presents emotions so raw and yet so real. For that very reason, ef ~a tale of memories~ is a very worthwhile watch, even if the SHAFT visual style is something of an acquired taste.