Posted by psgels on 23 December 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews

2008 has been a bad year for Shaft. While I can’t speak for Hidamari Sketch, their only two other series this year were simply sequels for series that didn’t really need one, and both of them featured a drastic decrease in quality. While ef – a tale of melodies didn’t decrease in quality as much as Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei, it still is rather underwhelming and a disappointment if you’re a fan of the great first season.

Like the first season, a tale of melodies is also split up in two parts, and tells the story about two different couples. They’re the side-characters of the first season. The story about Kuze is pretty good. Even though it has a few humps and bumps in the middle and isn’t as impressive as the stories of a tale of memories, it nevertheless comes together in the end with a pretty nice conclusion.

My real problem with this series was the story between Yu and Yuuko. While on paper, it may seem worthwhile to finally learn who the mysterious guy with white hair from a tale of memories is, the creators handled it really in the wrong way. It seemed to me that the creators never really knew what they wanted to do with this story. They keep throwing one plot twist after the other but forget to make the viewer accustomed to the characters. They’re hardly fleshed out, unlike the stories in the first season.

The characters, although they change through the series, feel more like cardboard cut-outs than real people because of this. It was a nice idea full of ambition, really, but the creators simply tried to stuff too much in such a short timeframe. The conclusion to this story becomes downright ludicrous because of this, and we’re not even answered the simple question: why did Chihiro end up with Yu in the end?

My issue is also with the themes of creative expression that were so prevalent in the first season, because they play a much smaller role in the second season. Sure, there’s a character who plays a violin, another one sketches, another one paints, but the creators never actually use it. They’re no longer the central themes of the series, and the new themes of this series (taking distance from someone you love) feel superficial and not fleshed out enough.

Thankfully, there’s one definite bright spot of this series: the graphics. While the animation isn’t of any particularly high quality, the creators throw an even bigger amount of special effects at the viewers than even in a tale of memories. There are lots of cool shots and filters, and there’s lots of eye-candy in this series. The background music is also of the same high quality as the first season, so at least that part didn’t suffer.

It’s a shame that I can’t say the same for the rest of the series, and I can only hope that 2009 will be a better year for Shaft. They’re a great and unique animation studio and all, but at times they seem to get lost in their style, forgetting that they’re also supposed to have substance. ef – a tale of memories was a great example of a series with an excellent combination of both style and substance. ef – a tale of melodies, unfortunately isn’t.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10

7 Responses

  1. Avatar Shippoyasha says:

    Hate to agree, but I do. The music and production were great, though without Shinbou directing it, the flair and the substance was lost (Ironic since Shinbou does the chaotic stuff so well, but he put in a lot of what makes the story click in the first season).

    Overall, it was a fairly straightforward prequel with some genuinely good moments. Too bad those few good moments couldn’t salvage the whole thing or make a genuine mystery out of the plot, which is an ef staple.

  2. Avatar omo says:

    How does knowing why Chihiro was being taken cared of by Yu make that big of a difference?

    Anyways, I thought the second half of the series was better than the first in some aspects, especially in terms of writing. However it was overall less compelling than the first season, being a companion piece rather than something that can stand on its own.

    I don’t know why you think creative expression wasn’t important in the second series, it was a HUGE plot device with Amamiya-sensei. Oh well.

  3. Avatar BlueYoshi says:

    Aww, that’s a shame. I never got the time to start Melodies this season, and I heard that it wasn’t as good as Memories. I guess I’ll still have to drag myself to watch it sometime early next year. At the very least, for the brilliant music.

  4. Avatar relentlessflame says:

    “…though without Shinbou directing it, the flair and the substance was lost (Ironic since Shinbou does the chaotic stuff so well, but he put in a lot of what makes the story click in the first season).”
    – Shippoyasha

    Both seasons of the show had the same staff, though, with Shin Oonuma as Director and Akiyuki Shinbo as a Supervisor. So whatever differences there were between the two seasons wasn’t because of staff changes, at least.

  5. Avatar Shippoyasha says:

    I sorta disagree with that, because the directional change was HUGE. Shinbou was the advisor, sure, but the storytelling techniques to the actual visual flair were just in a different ballpark. The first ef season felt more advanced in all those terms than the second. And Shinbou just has a TITANIC impact on the shows he does. So I’m not surprised a lot of the lost-impact goes down to him being only an advisor.

  6. Avatar Kyon says:

    EF-a tale of melodies = most underrated series ever.

  7. Avatar Gotank says:

    “It seemed to me that the creators never really knew what they wanted to do with this story. They keep throwing one plot twist after the other but forget to make the viewer accustomed to the characters.”

    This was my main qualm with Melodies as well. I couldn’t perceive a direction in the plot with Yuuko side of the series at all after the death of the main antagonist. Eventually, all I could conclude was that the car accident in episode 10 was thrown in purely for the sake of melodrama and having the story line up with everything else; the last episode felt terribly dragged out.

    Mizuki’s story, on the other hand, I actually enjoyed quite a bit. The story itself is rather simple, but the message is very hopeful. Episode 11 did very well in summing up that side of the story, especially with that fantastic confession.

    Overall, I didn’t think that badly of Melodies. Most of us just went in with too high of expectations. At least the music was still epic.

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