Director: Shin Ōnuma
Developer of Original Visual Novel: Minori
Animation Studios: Shaft
Version Watched: Subbed
Here we are once again with an anime adaptation of a visual novel I’ve read and reviewed previously. You may recall that I didn’t particularly like Ef’s visual novel and may be wondering why I bothered to watch the anime. Well, a friend of mine who had only seen the anime assured me that it sounded a whole lot better than the visual novel I was describing. And you know what? He was right. Ef’s first season was a great deal more enjoyable than its source material, fixing a number of the problems I had with the original. Unfortunately, however, due to some truly obnoxious animation techniques and a second season that drops the figurative ball, I still can’t recommend Ef.
Since I’ve already covered the characters and story in another review, here I’ll be focusing primarily on what makes the anime different. There are a lot of comparisons that you won’t care about if you’re only interested in the anime, so if that description fits you then go ahead and skip to the last two paragraphs. As I’ve already mentioned I much preferred Ef’s first season, A Tale of Memories, to its visual novel counterpart. Many opportunities to spice up the story that were missed in the first telling were picked up in the second and the whole production benefitted from it. There was enough new material to keep things interesting for me while still staying true to the original story and its outcomes. Whereas many anime adaptations feel rushed due to the necessity of condensing an original, much longer story, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t get that feeling from Ef. Admittedly an entire route was skimmed over but it was the least important of the lot and I would go so far as to say that nothing was lost in its loss.
A Tale of Melodies, however, takes everything its counterpart builds up and drags it all back down again. Where the first season added new improvements to the story, the second failed to emphasize a number of important plot points that needed to be brought to the viewer’s attention. Where the first season stayed true to its source material in all the right ways, the second featured two episodes of completely new and unnecessary material that served only to bulk up its episode count. Where the first season dropped weaker sections to shore up its better ones, the second rushed through its strongest points despite having other, less important moments fully explored. All in all, it was a very disappointing continuation of the series.
But now we get to the crux of the matter which concerns both halves of the show. Ef is what I would call a very artistic series, which in itself is not a problem. While watching you’ll see a large number of varying animation techniques, of which some are very tasteful and add positively to the experience. Unfortunately the frequency with which these techniques are employed borders on the ridiculous, to the point where the animators seem to be desperately seeking to draw your attention away from the story at hand. Ef’s visual novel was visually striking because of its gorgeous art, whereas its anime struck me as trying very hard to be artistic for the sake of being artistic. If everything had been toned down a little and not been right up in my face the entire time, I would have enjoyed the experience a lot more.
Summary – Despite my complaints Ef is not a bad anime. Fans of the visual novel will most likely be able to see past its flaws and enjoy the spectacle of their favorite characters coming to life. For others, however, I would advise you to stay away from this average adaptation of an already average story. The combination of a lacklustre story and garish animation techniques mean that there are a lot of other series much more worth your time.
Score: 6/10 – Average