What They Say:
Four disparate groups of friends. Different places. Different times. Different lives. Yet, their destinies are inexplicably interwoven, and what happens to any one group will, in the end, affect them all. One Christmas Eve, Hiro Hirono helps Miyako, the victim of a purse snatching, and discovers that she goes to the same school he does. To the dismay of his childhood friend, Kei, Hiro starts hanging out with Miyako. When Renji Asou meets Chihiro Shindou at an abandoned train station, he doesn’t notice anything unusual at first. But he soon discovers that she suffers from a rare disease. Shuichi Kuze’s been spending time with Mizuki Hayama. As they’ve been getting to know each other, they’ve been growing closer. Yuu Himura meets a girl who seems to know him, but he doesn’t know her. Soon enough, however, he remembers a girl he met long ago and begins to rediscover old half-forgotten feelings. Intertwining fates, tragic, bittersweet and heart-rending combine to form one of anime’s most beautifully crafted and emotionally charged masterpieces: ef ~ a tale of memories & melodies.
Anything that strives to be emotionally strong definitely needs a terrific supporting audio and both seasons of ef easily accomplish that. The audio options are rather limited, with only English and Japanese voiceovers with English subtitles available to choose from. As a dub fan myself, I can honestly admit that the sub is a much better option, but the English dubs are competent enough to get the job done. In fact, I watched the majority of ef in the dub. The soundtrack is great, capturing the moments from tragic to intense consistently. This carries over into the two strangely very similar opening themes, the first of which is an instant favorite of mine.
This Blu-ray collection is the definitive edition of ef in every way possible visually. The animation looks great in HD, especially for a show that came out in 2007-2008. ef uses some of the most interesting art styles that I’ve ever seen, similar in concept to the more recent Madoka Magica. The show mostly has the typical sharp anime style but mixes it up very often with strange but stunning moments in scenes of importance. My only problem visually is the character designs really become poor they farther away they get.
The packaging for ef is very standard and uninventive. You get the case and four discs (two per season) in typical fashion, with even the covers looking a lot like the individual collections for Memories & Melodies. Despite that, the cover is still really pretty look at and encapsulates the series’ signature art style well.
The menu for all four discs of the collection is virtually the same, divided up into the typical sections: episodes, languages, and special features. The menu screen is a still shot; though nice-looking, it could have had a little more pop to it.
The special features are very standard fare and therefore rather disappointing. Your typical textless opening/closing themes are all here, but not much outside of that. Though the fact you get both seasons in one set could be considered an extra in of itself. Something like commentary, making of, or anything else would have made this a fan’s dream, but no such thing is found here.
Content: (warning, as parts of this section may contain slight spoilers)
ef: A Tale of Memories & Melodies are two seasons based on a popular visual novel series. No doubt you’ve already heard of this show before reading this review, as it is widely regarded as a modern anime classic. Despite the official description, I consider this show to follow the stories of five different couples (though one couple is vastly underused) and the many ups and downs they go through.
Let’s begin first with A Tale of Memories. Going into this, I knew to expect a romantic drama but, oh boy, I wasn’t ready for this. Anyone looking for action should immediately turn around. The majority of the show involves characters just talking/screaming/crying/arguing with one another. There are no battles, magical teens, or heroic protagonists here. Just straight melodrama in its purest and richest form. Regardless, there are a ton of feels and extremely memorable moments worth watching this show for. Unfortunately, the first two episodes are very hard to get through and can be a tough hurdle to overcome. The show even lost my attention for the most part until it slammed me in the face with this totally amazing last scene in episode 2. From then on, I was hooked. The story is hard to grasp at first, as you are constantly switching between three sets of protagonists and even comes off as a jumbled mess at times but clears up quickly. From the down-in-the-dumps mangaka to the girl who constantly forgets, the cast is phenomenal and varied. Seeing them make up, break up, and mess up was far more interesting than it should’ve ever been. However, it is mentioned many times that the cast are related or involved with one another, but you almost never seen any of the separate storylines converge outside of flashbacks. That is even harder to believe when two of the girls are supposedly twins, yet you never see them together or interact. I get that overlapping the stories may have caused more problems, but it does take some suspension of disbelief. Overall, this is still one of the greatest love stories I’ve ever seen and an absolute classic.
Too bad I can’t say the same for season 2, A Tale of Melodies. The whole time I was watching Memories, I kept wondering if the supporting characters that occasionally popped up would ever have any significance story-wise and I finally got my wish in Melodies. Though, in hindsight, I wished I could take it back. Melodies takes four supporting characters from the first show and puts them in the spotlight. Unfortunately, none of them are even remotely as interesting as the first group. That’s not to say they’re terrible characters, but it was hard not to draw comparisons the entire time, therefore completely devaluing them and robbing me of any enjoyment I could have had. Following an orphan tortured by the past and a musician with a quickly vanishing future, Melodies follows the same formula set by Memories of experiencing all of their moments, good and bad, in their lives. For the most part, Melodies is just more of the same. I would’ve been okay with the new stories if the show actually acted like it cared about the stories established prior, but instead, the older characters are disappointingly relegated to the background. It was, however, worth getting through the disappointments to the two final episodes that were great and wrapped the series’ up nicely, including one scene in particular that easily rivaled all of the memorable scenes from the first season.
ef: A Tale of Memories & Melodies are widely regarded as anime classics and for good reason. While the second season is rather lacking, a shadow of its former self, Memories remains a flawed but excellent example of what only the anime genre allows for. This barebones Blu-ray collection puts them both together in their best-looking and sounding forms, something fans should definitely not ignore.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B–
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 9th, 2014
Running Time: 600 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen