Hello and welcome to Part IV of the Makoto Shinkai series. In Part III, we took a look at the first part of an anime adaptation of the Light Novel ef: A Tale of the Two called ef – A Tale of Memories. This time we will take a look at the back half of that adaptation, ef – A Tale of Melodies, in which Makoto Shinkai also had a hand in creating as he was on the storyboard team during its production!
The Story (Stories)
Just like with Memories, there are two major stories being told here.
The first pertains to the characters of Yuuko and Yuu. These two were supporting characters in Memories, but now they take the center stage as the main characters here in Melodies. Yuuko and Yuu are childhood friends ever since they met each other at an orphanage. One day, Yuu tragically loses his younger sister in an earthquake. Because of this, Yuu pushes Yuuko away, but regrets every bit of it when he discovers how brutal her life had become after leaving the orphanage.
The second story has to deal with Kuze and Mizuki. Mizuki was introduced to Kuze by Renji’s mom when she visited Renji one summer in Australia. Mizuki heard a beautiful song played by the violin one day, and Renji’s mom insisted that Mizuki and Kuze spend time together. Mizuki and Kuze spend a few days together inside Kuze’s barren home and it leads to Mizuki falling in love With Kuze. Eventually, Mizuki confesses to Kuze, but shortly after, Kuze began pushing Mizuki away to avoid hurting her due to something going on in his life. This doesn’t deter Mizuki, however, as she is determined to stay by his side no matter what it takes. She goes to some pretty big lengths for Kuze to try and make him happy and it makes for a pretty interesting story. More on Kuze in the characters section because they do pull a bit of deception over your eyes with him.
These stories, while good, were said to have a lesser impact than that of the original stories from Memories. There has been an outcry from fans because of this as many feel that the first part of the series was clearly superior to the second part from a storytelling point of view, but on the opposite side of the coin, there are fans who say that Melodies blew Memories out of the water. It certainly can be debated one way or the other, but I do fall on the side where I’d have to agree (to a little degree) that the stories didn’t have as much impact, but it doesn’t mean that they are bad in any way shape or form. They are still VERY well-written stories that will tug at your heart strings and I can pretty much almost guarantee that you will enjoy them. Whether or not you enjoy them more than Memories’ stories is all within the eye of beholder, but either way, I don’t believe anyone would be disappointed with what has been written here. I mean, come on! It’s Makoto Shinkai, people!
Yuuko Amamiya & Yuu Himura
I’m lumping these two together because to explain one, you pretty much have to explain the other. I’ll start with explaining Yuuko. She plays the role of the lead female protagonist in this series, while Yuu is the main male protagonist. Orphaned, Yuuko meets Yuu Himura, who was revealed as Chihiro’s guardian in Memories. The two become friends, but Yuuko becomes distanced from Yuu when Yuu tells her she can’t replace his sister whom he lost in an earthquake. This rejection breaks her heart and causes her to self harm herself. Later, Yuuko gets adopted by Akira and is subjected to a life of rape, child molestation, and abuse all because Yuuko reminds Akira of the little sister he also lost in the earthquake. Two people losing a sister in the same earthquake? You’d swear that Yuuko and Akira were brothers! Oh wait… they are! But even though Yuuko and Akira are brothers, they are not related by blood. She keeps this quiet until she attends school and is reunited with Himura. Himura wants to make it up to Yuuko and apologize for what happened in the past, thus begins their budding love for one another.
Yuuko is a character that you become attached to. A lot of things get explained here and the questions you had in the first part of series get answered. After everything she’s been through, it’s amazing how humble she remains. It’s a testament to her will and her character. Once you realize everything, you really feel sad for Yuuko because of everything she’s had to endure and has been through. The conclusion of their story I will refrain from spoiling, but it will bring a tear to your eye one way or another, but I will say you will find out why Yuu was hanging around the church and who exactly he was waiting for. This story does do some time leaping, however, so keep that in mind when watching this as you will be brought back and forth from the past to the present, but it will all make sense in the end…. trust me.
Kuze Shuiichi & Mizuki Hayama
Since it worked well for the first pair, might as well lump the second pair together, too. Mizuke and Kuze met each other when they were children and Mizuke fell in love with Kuze… especially over Kuze’s musical talents. When they grow older, Kuze is misconceived as a drug addict. You see him popping pills left and right while living in a barren and empty house. His home could easily pass as a drug addict’s and that’s how they wanted Kuze to be perceived at first. However, we learn that six months before Mizuki went to go visit Kuze, he was diagnosed with a fatal disease, hence the reason for all of the pill popping. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone so he decides to end all of his relationships, including the one with his fiancée at the time. That’s when he starts burning all of his letters and memories. He even goes as far to empty his house of his furniture and possessions. Enter Mizuki. She doesn’t give up on Kuze and Kuze realizes he has something to live for.
It’s really touching, and sometimes comical, to see the lengths that Mizuki will go to make Kuze happy, but it’s also sad and depressing to see how far Kuze had fallen just because he simply gave up. When you are a terminal patient and you know that you can only wait for your time to come, it’s painful and that’s what you get when with the Kuze character. To me, this pairing represents the light and darkness of life. No matter how dark things seem, there’s always that light that shines. It sends a message that even when things are grim and hopeless that there’s always at least one thing in this world worth living for.
Also..be on the lookout for the violin scene with Mizuki and Kuze. It’s more than just a music piece, but the lyrics themselves kind of sum up the overall tone of the series. It’s beautiful and symbolic at the same time and probably one of the best scenes in the entire ef series!
He his Yuuko Amamiya’s non-blood related brother. He treats Yuuko as though she were a princess until he realizes that he was just trying to replace his lost sister with Yuuko. When he comes to this reality, he starts to despise Yuuko and begins to physically assault and abuse her. Akira is also the art teacher of the high school Himura attended. Despite being a teacher in the school, he breaks the rules and smokes within the facility. As an art teacher, he repeatedly provokes Himura to join the art club. The perfect role model for any man out there, am I right?
Art & Animation
As I said with Memories, the art is gorgeous. This isn’t your typical anime artwork as there was a lot of attention paid to the details of the characters, down to the props and the backgrounds. A lot of people say that the entire ef series is like a painting that has been brought to life and I couldn’t agree more!
I know this section isn’t really full of detail, but there really isn’t anything I can say that hasn’t already been said in my review of ef- A Tale of Memories. They were both produced by the same studio (Shaft) with the same artists so it is just a continuation of beauty that carried over from the first series. The quality they upheld doesn’t change and that’s a good thing, ladies and gentlemen!
It’s another amazing series that I would highly recommend to anyone who is in the mood for tragic stories of romance. Again, whether or not it’s as good a Memories is debatable… there are definitely fans that sit on either side of the fence in that regard. For me, it felt a bit less, but not by much. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that many call this a sequel and we are conditioned to compare both series to see if they measure up once we hear that dastardly word, but I wouldn’t really call Melodies a sequel per se… I would think of it more as a continuation of the first part and both Memories and Melodies as one series rather than two separate ones.
There is an overall story to be told here, afterall and it is very satisfying from beginning to end. This should be on anyone’s anime list if you’re into this kind of genre!
Also, if you can, go out of your way to check out the opening theme, “Ebullient Future”, performed by ELISA. It’s in the same vein as her opening theme from Memories, “Euphoric Field.” Both songs are incredible and really set the tone. They are also both sung in English, but if you prefer Japanese, ELISA recorded them in her native language as well. In fact, there are hybrid versions of the songs available, too, that contain both English and Japanese lyrics. She even performed them at Animelo Summer Live 2008, which is something else I highly suggest you check out because the live version is better than the studio recording!
This wraps up the anime and shorts portion of the Makoto Shinkai series… in Part V, I will start looking at Shinkai’s movie productions starting with 5 Centimeters per Second.. the film that got his name recognized in the anime industry.
If you enjoyed this review, consider following me on Twitter @TheAnimePulse
ef - A Tale of Melodies
It's a continuation of the ef series that spins two more tales of tragic love that is sure to tug at your heart strings!