I guess one word really summarizes this series for an avid drama/romance watcher and that word is SATISFYING!!!!!! I’ve never watched a romance series where everything ended the exact way that I wanted it to, while exploring tragedy and deep existential problems and still coming out with an ending that leaves you feeling like it all ended up for the best. This anime embodies my philosophy that any story should have a happy ending even if its not the happy ending you wanted or expected. Something should be gained or learned from. Tale of Memories pulls it all off perfectly. The drama is superb and played out with characters that have real human flaws. Flaws that make you want to strangle them as much as sympathize with them. Not one character is forgotten and is given an appropriate amount of story time. Nothing in it even felt like the characters were changed just because the author willed it to be that way. You felt like you were witnessing a true living character react to difficult situations and not even the side characters felt like side characters.
The romance was great and nothing felt like it was left up in the air, like almost every other series I’ve ever watched does. Every romance anime needs to have these two characters:
Especially the girl on the bottom who seemed like she was just a phantom that seemed to arrive whenever any of the characters was feeling at their lowest. She pushed them to face their problems instead of running away.
In one of the best scenes in anime romance history, the blond guy beats the shit out of his friend who is the center of the live triangle. He implored him to make a damn decision and not hurt both girls to be indecisive. Imagine that. A series where they don’t drag out a love triangle over the course of 5 seasons by asking the main character to do what almost all of them should. Ask the main character to make a decision. Why is something so human and obvious not in all romance?
There were so many things going on with this series that its dizzying to even think about it. The art and directing was amazing. The character designs were a little blocky and weird, but I just take that as a flaw of the time period that it came from. That weird in between stage where anime was finally starting to look really good but still had some of the awkward features from its predecessors. Beyond that, there were so many amazing artistic decisions that really pushed the feeling of the series beyond just the words and voice acting, but the imagery and colors also conveyed the emotion perfectly.
Granted the imagery could get a little corny and melodramatic at some points:
As the characters would always have their dramatic moments in such angsty and over beautiful places such as: A beach at sunset, A rooftop with a huge scrolling blue sky, An abandoned train station, on top of a church roof top. As artful as it was, it could be a little over the top. Even the drama seemed out of place sometimes as it would go from 0 to 100 in one second flat.
Still I’m willing to forgive some over the top dramatization, as long as I’m getting such well done subtle story telling as well. The directing was so well done that it had impressed me before I could even get half finished rolling my eyes at some things. For instance, there was a scene where they kept flashing a clock counting down on the screen that was counting down from the number 90. It was how much time was left until the girls phone card ran out to keep the call going. Just as I found myself getting a little annoyed at how tedious it was to have such a long and obnoxious countdown clock being flashed at me, suddenly the conversation picked up very dramatically with full emotional music blaring over the sound of the counting down clock. The sudden investment in the conversation made you go from being unable to wait for this annoying clock to stop popping up on the screen to saying, “OMG OMG OMG finish the conversation, YOUR RUNNING OUT OF TIME!!!”. It built such a climax to an exciting moment and they utilized it perfectly.
I was also impressed to have an anime where characters so casually hooked up. It was all done tastefully and never felt like it had slipped into being a hentai or ecchi. It only added to the romantic situations. Yet another refreshing thing in this anime. Sex is an actual part of their life and isn’t used just as a joke point or shameless horny fan service. It existed in a passionate way to show that the characters had brought their intimacy to a new level.
Ef- A Tale of Memories was an experience that is refreshing in almost every single way. I would not have believed someone before watching, that this could be considered the best Romance anime around. Now that I’ve watched it, I’m not sure I can think of a single romance anime that was so well done all around. There have been romance anime that have been better comically, there have been some that have had more interesting premises and chemistry, many with more interesting and beautifully designed characters. Yet I feel that this one could stand above all of them because of how well the story was told, the way that the drama unfolded, and the artistic decisions that made it all feel so vivid and easy to relate to.
This one gets full marks from me, it may not be perfect, but it was definitely something special.