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ef -a tale of melodies-: Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

March 10, 2012 by  



“ef -a tale of melodies-: Complete Collection” is one of those anime series that requires one’s viewing from beginning to end.  It is slow-paced but fortunately it’s only 12-episodes long and by the time you reach the second half of the series, you begin to realize how entertaining and captivating this series truly is.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of ©2008 Minori, EF2 committee. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: ef -a tale of melodies-: Complete Collection

ANIME RELEASE: 2008

DURATION: 12 Episodes (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen, English and Japanese 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV MA S

RELEASED: March 20, 2012

Directed by Shin Oonuma

Series Composition by Katsuhiko Takayama

Music by Eiichiro Yanagi, Tenmon

Original Character Design: 2C=Galore, Naru Nanao

Character Design by Nobuhiro Sugiyama

Art Director: Kohji Azuma, Toshiro Kohama

Chief Animation Director: Nobuhiro Sugiyama

Anime Production: SHAFT

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kenji Hamada/Illich Guardiola as Shūichi Kuze

Kouichi Toochika/David Matranga as Yū Himura

Mai Goto/Hilary Haag as Mizuki Hayama

Shizuka Itou as Nagi Hirono

Tohru Furusawa as Akira Amamiya

Yumiko Nakajima/Carli Mosier as Yūko Amamiya

Motoki Takagi/Clint Bickham as Renji Asō

Natsumi Yanase/Monica Rial as Chihiro Shindō

Sayaka Aoki/Tiffany Grant as Sumire Asō

Shuichi Kuze’s been spending time with Mizuki Hayama, and as they’ve been getting to know each other, they’ve been growing closer. Sadly, Kuze discovers that he’s contracted a fatal illness and decides to break all romantic ties for the little time left to him. Before he can break things off, however, Mizuki tells him that she loves him. Will her declaration change Kuze’s mind?

In another city, in the not-so-distant past, Yuu Himura meets a girl who seems to know him, but he doesn’t know her. Soon enough, he remembers Yuko Amamiya, a girl he met long ago, and begins to rediscover the depth of their feelings for each other. Will Yuko’s love reach across time to find her true love once and for all? Kuze and Mizuki, Yu and Yuko… Intertwining fate, tragic, bittersweet and beautiful.

The “Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two.” series was one of the popular adult visual novels from software company Minori.  Originally released on PC and DVD in 2006 and followed by a sequel “Ef: The Latter Tale” in 2008, the series was was actually born from a manga serialized in “Dengeki Comic Gao” in 2005.

The popularity of the video game and manga series would lead to a light novel serialized in Kadokawa Shoten’s “Comptiq” in 2006 and in 2007, a 12-episode anime series known as “Ef: A Tale of Memories”.  This is inspired a second season in 2008 titled “Ef: A Tale of Melodies”.

In 2012, both series were released by Sentai Filmworks in the United States.

“ef -a tale of melodies-: Complete Collection”, the second season somewhat requires one to watch the first in order to know the background of some of the characters.  It’s a surreal storyline that requires one to focus on the story because of the various timelines.  Because of its storyline, it’s a mix of a prequel, sequel and a standalone series.

The series begins with an explanation by a narrator that there are two towns named Otowa.   The real one was rebuilt from the charred remains of a natural disaster and the second one, a darker one casting its shadow on a tranquil land.  Consumed by a tragic past founded by its misfortune, a real town shrouded by lies.  The narrator then says the real him lives in the false town.

The film begins with a teenager named Yu Himura being asked by a dark haired girl if he remembers her.  He doesn’t and she replies back by telling him that she hates him.

Through the course of the episodes, we learn that Yu Himura is a talented artist, but after the death of his sister, it changed his life forever and he never pursued art again, despite being fantastic at it.  As the art teacher tries to cajole him into joining, especially classmate and artist Nagi Hirono (who is trying to paint herself nude and also cares for Yu) who wants him to get back in showing his passion for art.

Meanwhile, Yu hangs out with his good friend Shuichi Kuze, a teenager with over 20 girlfriends.  A popular vioinist, Kuze and Yu always discuss life in general.

As time goes on, we start to see more about Yu’s past and also his memory of the mysterious long black-haired girl named Yuuko Amamiya.  Yuuko and Yu both grew up in an orphanage and she kept calling him brother, which he hated (because he wanted no one to replace his deceased sister, who died during a major earthquake).   One day, Yuuko was taken in by relatives but the reason why she hates Yuu is because he could have prevented her from being taken from the orphanage.

But there is more to the story.   What happened to Yuuko when she moved away from the orphanage and why is she constantly being bullied at school?

We are then introduced to another storyline which is set in a duplicate town of Otowa in Australia.  In this town, Chihiro Shindo lives with Yu Himura and Renji Aso.  Chihiro’s sister Kei lives in the original Otawa with Hiro and Miyako in Japan and Kei’s friend Mizuki Hayama has come to visit.

We learn that Mizuki is also Renji’s cousin and that she has fallen in love with Kuze because of his music.

And between both Mizuki and Kuze, the more time they spend with each other, they realize they are falling for one another. But Kuze has an incurable heart disease and feels he must break any contact with Mizuki and the best way is to end his music career by destroying his violin.  But Mizuki is committed to Kuze and will do whatever she can to be close to him, despite many people in town telling her to stay away from him and to not trust him.

“ef -a tale of melodies” is a story about love, hate, forgiveness, hope and relationships.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“ef -a tale of melodies-: Complete Collection” is presented in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen and in English and Japanese 2.0.  It’s important to note that this series will be coming out also on Blu-ray, so if you want the best picture and audio quality, definitely go for the HD version on Blu-ray.

First, let’s get into the discussion of this anime series.  I have to commend SHAFT for really going all out in creating an artistic anime series with vibrant to dark imagery.  The series has wonderful visual presentation, lighting shading effects and the artists had done a wonderful job in creating this world and how they take on various situations, no matter how deep and dark, they continued to make thing look artistic and even surreal at times.  This type of presentation is not typically seen in an anime TV series, so I was pretty pleased with the results.

As for audio, audio is presented in stereo.  I did listen to both soundtracks thoroughly and both are well-done, although I do wish they found a child voice actor for Yu’s voice during his flashback adolescent scenes.  Other than that, voice acting for both Japanese and English dub are well-done.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“ef -a tale of melodies-: Complete Collection” comes with no special features.

“ef -a tale of melodies-” is one of those anime series that provides a fine balance between art, creativity, science fiction and drama.

While not a cerebral series, it is a series that does play with flashbacks and present-time situations off and on, to the point that one can easily be confused.  In fact, while watching this anime series, I often thought if writer Katsuhiko Takayama was influenced by the American drama series “LOST”.  Two worlds, flashbacks and present-time situation, ghosts…

Fortunately, by the second half of the series, the storyline is much more defined and we know more or less what is going on with these characters.

“ef -a tale of melodies-” is an anime series that about love and relationships.  How things from the past can affect a person later in the future.

Yu Himura was a young man who was devastated by his young sister’s death during the earthquake disaster but something to him as we see him in the future being a stoic, non-emotional guy.  Something bad must have happened to him?  The storyline of Himura’s focus on his relationship with Yuuko and as a viewer, you think of the typical banality of relationships found in anime series.  Not this case. There is darkness in the life of Yuuko and Yu may be to blame.

As for Kuze, in the past he is a man with many girlfriends, in the future, he’s not the same guy.  Constantly alone, knowing that his heart will probably give out and his life will end, can a man such as him ever find happiness?  Which leads us to Mizuki and Mizuki is a key connection to Yu’s past as well.

“ef -a tale of melodies-” is a surreal anime series that requires one’s ability to focus on the story.  While it does help to watch the first season to understand the characters, later on, you realize that these stories are self-contained and can be enjoyed on its own.  In fact, I do recommend watching “ef -a tale of memories” in order for people to know who Renji, Hiro and others are.  But for those who watched the first season, the second season will explain the connection of  the character Yuko.

SHAFT’s animation is beautiful and artistic. I love the painted backgrounds and its use of CG but also trying to do something different and go outside of the box of the usual TV anime series.  So, I do credit SHAFT for its creativity on this series.

“ef -a tale of melodies-” turned out to be a pretty enjoyable series, albeit a tragic one that one may need to have the tissue box nearby as some may no doubt be crying at the end of the series.  But this is a wonderfully animated, refreshing anime series that doesn’t resemble any other and although it got a little confusing at the beginning, as I continued to watch, I became captivated by this series and enjoyed it overall.

While the DVD doesn’t contain any special features, for fans of “ef” the video game or one wanting a dramatic series based on relationships but has a good balance of humor and sci-fi, will definitely want to check this series out.  And because it looks so good,  if you are considering getting a Blu-ray player, this is a series that I definitely recommend watching on Blu-ray.

Overall, “ef -a tale of melodies-: Complete Collection” is one of those anime series that requires one’s viewing from beginning to end.  It is slow-paced but fortunately it’s only 12-episodes long and by the time you reach the second half of the series, you begin to realize how entertaining and captivating this series truly is.

“ef -a tale of melodies-: Complete Collection” is recommended.






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