Visual Novel: ef - a fairy tale of the two. aka: Ef A Tale Of Melodies
"Is there a memory you never want to forget?"
A Visual Novel duology created by minori, formerly the software subdivision of Comix Wave. Sounds familiar? Don't be surprised by the amount of Scenery Porn, Surprisingly Good English and Melodrama you'd find in these tie-in games.The story, as in the first chapters: While going to a Christmas party, Hiro Hirono meets Miyako Miyamura, who steals his bike to chase a purse thief. They decide to hang out together and soon grow fond of each other. Renji Aso meets Chihiro Shindo at the abandoned train station where he likes to hang out after school. He is intrigued by the girl with the eye patch but finds out that she harbors a sad secret. Meanwhile Kyosuke Tsutsumi, an aspiring young film maker, is taken by the appearance of Hiro's Patient Childhood Love Interest, Kei—Chihiro's twin sister who herself is in love with Hiro.The stories are lightly interwoven, with Kei and Chihiro functioning as a linking pin between the various groups in the cast (Hiro, Miyako, Kyosuke and Kei on one side; Chihiro, Renji and their acquaintances on the other). It is similar to series such as Kanon, AIR and Da Capo, but is much more surreal in its execution, often resorting to very abstract imagery coupled with copious amounts of scenery porn.ef: A Tale Of Memories anime was released in 2007 and is an adaptation of the the first game and one third of the second game. ef: A Tale of Melodies was released in 2008 and is an adaptation of the rest of the second game. The anime was produced by Studio Shaft and directed by Shin Ounuma, who volunteered for the job. Of special note are the illustrations at the end of each episode, which are made by various anime and manga artists. Sentai Filmworks is distributing it in North America; it is available on the Anime Network's Online Player.A combined standalone English release of both games is now available from No Name Losers, who are also known for their localization of an earlier game from minori (Wind ~a breath of heart~). A commercial re-release via a collaboration of NNL and the European company Mangagamer is in the works, with the first tale already released.
Tropes for the first season include:
An Aesop: "There's no such thing as friendship between men and women," is what Kuze tells Chihiro. Indeed, all the Just Friends relationships in the series either get a Relationship Upgrade or result in heartbreak.
Things go wrong in life and there's nothing you can do about them, but it's not the end of the world and you can still move on from there. This is probably the overarching theme of the story as a whole: Hiro's tendonitis, Miyako's abandonment issues, Chihiro's memory problems and more.
Anime of the Game: The original game, ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two, devotes an entire chapter to each of the five love stories, and the game's setup is considerably different, with the first half devoted to Miyako and Kei. Chihiro wasn't a main heroine until the second half. The adaptation also has...
Aren't You Going To Ravish Me?: Miyako automatically assumes that the then-stranger Hiro felt her up while she was laying unconscious after an accident, as if it would be the most natural thing. She's disappointed that he didn't and asks if he thinks she's ugly or something.
The Bet: Kyosuke runs one on the subject of Hiro's love triangle, even including a Gay Option.
Bittersweet Ending: Every ending. Hiro's tendonitis will just get worse, Kei still isn't over Hiro, Chihiro's memory problems aren't going to magically vanish because of The Power of Love and Kuze is still dying. Every ending is slightly more bitter than the last up until the final ending to the story, which ends with Yuuko dead and Yuu alone... but they do get to meet again and the immortality of the soul is confirmed. And so things work out regardless.
Bleached Underpants: The anime & manga version. No sex shown, although ef was originally an eroge. Although it is implied to have happened.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: "I wish I could see your insides..." Not technically ungrammatical; just sounds unfortunately gruesome due to different languages/cultures having different idioms and word connotations.
Book Ends: The show starts and ends with Renji describing his first encounter with Chihiro.
Broken Aesop: The aesop of needing to cope with your problems instead of hoping they just go away is broken in the anime with Chihiro and Shuuichi. The Visual Novel does not introduce the idea of some surgery that may save Shuuichi nor does Chihiro get over her memory issues.
Canon Immigrant: Emi Izumi, the president of Otowa Academy's film club and Kyousuke's ex-girlfriend, was added for both the anime and manga adaptations. She then immigrated to the original visual novel, in the form of a brief appearance in the ending movie of ef: the latter tale (the second half).
Can't Get Away With Nuthin': The pregnancy version is averted-subverted in the game, the first three ero scenes specifically point it out that the couples were foolish enough not to use any protection on their very first time, but nothing happens.
No Periods, Period: Averted with the girl in Chihiro's novel. Averted visually with Chihiro in the VN.
Nosebleed: Of course it doesn't happen in this genre, but the manga fan Mizuki seems to believe that it does after Kyosuke's face hits the pavement.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Kyosuke and Mizuki seem to be a lot sillier in the early part of the story than in their own routes, though Kyosuke's actual intelligence is never in question.
Parental Abandonment: Miyako's parents left her to her own devices after they split up. Kei and Chihiro's grandfather is the landlord of the apartment that Hiro and previously, Yuu lives in. Hiro and his sister Nagi's father is an artist and is frequently mentioned by the two, but never appears. Renji's mom is the only one who ever shows up on screen.
One of the character designers for the original Da Capo game, Naru Nanao, did the character designs for the female characters in this series. Mikage, a screenwriter, works with both CIRCUS and minori.
Look closely in episode 1 and you'll find 2 references to Lucky Star.
One is the Touhou-likebullet hell game Mizuki is playing (with Akira as the player character against Fujiwara no Mokou on Imperishable Night's extra stage, no less!) and the second one is at the end of the episode, when we see Hiro and Miyako window-shopping; you'll see Konata in a window making the Haruhi pose with a serious face.
Surprisingly Good English: The excerpts from Chihiro's book are all grammatically correct English. Odd, considering the book itself was written in Japanese. Also, the opening theme is grammatical, with just a few slightly mispronounced words.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kyosuke gives one to Hiro while simultaneously beating him up after Kei runs away from his apartment crying when she discovers him sleeping in bed with Miyako. He's angry at his friend due to Hiro apparently playing both women's feelings for him.
Well Done Daughter Parents: Miyako becomes a great cook and the top student in both academics and athletics in a failed attempt to earn her parents' praise.
What the Hell, Hero?: Kyosuke is not happy to find out that Hiro is leading Kei on, and beats him up later for not being more clear with his feelings about her.
Winged Humanoid: Chihiro sports some wings at the climax of her story, but it's likely just symbolic.
Write What You Know: The main characters' hobbies and occupations are suspiciously similar to that of a visual novel developer team's main crew.
"Can you hear the melody of truth?"
The sequel, ef: A Tale of Melodies, shifts focus to the love problems of Yu's past and Kuze's present as occurred in the rest of the second game.Ten years ago, Yuu, Kuze, and their friend Nagi Hirono (yes, Hiro's sister) are all in high school. Yuu meets a girl who he remembers from his orphanage, Yuuko Amamiya, who turns out to be the adopted younger sister of the art club president, who is trying to get Yuu to join.In the present, a year or so after the first season, Mizuki meets Kuze and they fall in love, but unfortunately Kuze is dying from a rare heart condition. We see the characters from the first season and their continuing relationships as they offer the pair their help.Mizuki's cheerfulness aside, this part of the story is significantly darker than the straight-up romance of the first season. It deals with different psychological issues, such as loss, death, facing one's own mortality, familial relationships among non-family members, and several others.
Tropes: The second season contains many tropes from the first; only those that differ should be listed.
Angst? What Angst?: In-Universe: Mizuki's mother tried to strangle her, then drove the family car off a cliff into the ocean with everyone in it. As Mizuki sums it up:
Mizuki:Doesn't this kind of thing happen all the time? You couldn't call this kind of thing a scar!
Babies Ever After: Subverted. Yuuko gets pregnant and after some drama decides to give birth to the baby and everything is starting to look up... but then she gets hit by a car while only a few months pregnant and bleeds to death inside the church.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Despite being noted as probably being the most beautiful of the heroines, Yuuko is covered in bruises, burns and scars. She's also the most psychologically scarred
Berserk Button: Yuu gets pretty angry when he finds out Yuuko is being bullied at school, and later with her home life. Kuze also gets hit by him when he mocks Yuu that he won't see Yuuko again.
Best Served Cold: Yuuko, upon encountering Yuu after ten years, follows him around and allows him to discover that she's being picked on and abused at school and at home, all as an attempt to get him to care about her and pursue her. Once she has him emotionally invested, she shows him all of her scars, describes several of them, and lists the ways she's been hurt, and then reveals that, had he not pushed her away unnecessarily ten years before, none of it would have happened, essentially making it all his fault. She describes this as her revenge on him for abandoning her, but it was also a cry to get him to help her.
Big "NO!": The Stinger of episode 6 has Yuu shouting this as Yuuko ends her detailed revelation of her long history of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Amamiya.
Bokukko: Nagi. Apparently 'Watashi' just takes too long to say.
Break the Cutie: Yuuko. Oh god Yuuko. Seriously Yuu, just give her a hug already.
Bright Slap: Mizuki surprise-kicks Kuze to the ground after he answers her letter of challenge. "With that, you've already died once!" Perhaps not the best way to handle someone in his condition... (Complete with THIS! IS! SPARTA! eyecatch.◊)
Broken Bird: Yuuko, although it's not evident right away. Yuu gets pretty horrified when he finds about what happened to her since she left the orphanage, and that he's largely responsible for it as well.
Cannot Spit It Out: Nagi herself notes she was never able to outright confess until she knew she had already lost. Though she did give some pretty blatant hints.
Cerebus Syndrome: Not that it ever gets pitch black, exactly, but in the English release, where both games come together, each route is darker or more ambiguous than the last until the fourth chapter ends with Kuze driving Mizuki away so she won't be heartbroken when he dies, followed by Yuuko's more uplifting but dark fifth chapter, and the sixth has her getting run over after everything else had finally gotten resolved. And that was a lot of resolved issues. During Yuuko's chapter, you might be startled to look back and realize that yes, Miyako and Kei's chapters are part of the same setting and game.
Christmas Miracle: Subverted big time. Kuze is back from Germany for Christmas Day, so Yuu is getting off work early and Yuuko is waiting outside the church rather than inside like usual. A young Mizuki meets Kuze for the first time and all seems well. Then Yuuko gets hit by a car. God Dammit.
Played straighter at the end, where Yuu and Yuuko finally meet in the church, despite Yuuko's death. This makes it a Christmas Miracleten years long to the day.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Nagi in the flashback episodes, although not as severe as Kei was in the first season.
Yuuko (to Yuu):Would you mind not speaking out portions of your internal monologue?
Domestic Abuse: Amamiya regularly beats Yuuko. By the time this is revealed, she's become used to it to the point where she can list all the scars and bruises she's received as well as all the ways he's abused her. It's a long, long list.
Drama Bomb: This is a case where an already-dramatic series is made even more dramatic by Yuuko's revelation of her scarred body and the aforementioned long, long list.
Dramatic Shattering: At one point Kuze is suddenly stricken by his disease, causing him to drop his jar of medicine on the ground. He collapses on the floor and licks up two pills with his tongue, picking broken glass off his face afterwards. In another case, Yuuko is bullied off-screen and some window glass breaks, but don't find out what actually broke it.
Dreaming of a White Christmas: Played with. Some of the characters are in Australia at Christmastime with little reason given. Also, Yuuko muses about what it must be like to have Christmas in the summertime.
Dying Alone: Kuze, in an attempt to make peace, breaks off all his worldly connections while he waits to die. Except it takes a lot longer than he expected, and he starts going a little crazy while thinking about this trope.
Everybody Lives: Averted somewhat. Yuuko dies, and was in fact always dead, but somehow stuck around in the church until Yuu could say goodbye. Everyone else lives.
Evolving Credits: There are a lot of varied color schemes used in the opening for various episodes, one is completely instrumental and lacks the characters in the scenes. Just as it was in memories, the final version of the opening has several scenes that change, and is the final ending to the series.
Foreshadowing: Remember Hiro mentioning Nagi's weird friend that gave her the key to the roof? Yeah.
Generation Xerox: More like half generation, and they are not related, but Hiro and Yuu share many similarities during their high school life. Yuu is essentially a smarter Hiro who drastically devoted himself to studies rather than art because of the earthquake. They also share their relationship dynamics with Shuuichi/Kyosuke, Nagi/Kei, and Yuuko/Miyako, who also fill the same basic character archetypes as their counterparts.
Gone Mad From The Revelation: Seems to happen to Amamiya after he sees a sketch Yuu did of his younger sister Akane, who strongly resembles Amamiya's own little sister who also died in the same earthquake. He ends up killing himself via a fire after he's done painting.
Hollywood Atheist: Yuu and Yuuko are a mild version. "If there ever was such a person as God, he died a long time ago. Otherwise the world wouldn't be so full of such pain and loneliness." The end upgrades Yuu from outright atheist to agnostic. Just one miracle won't turn his beliefs around!
Technically, neither of them are really atheists. Atheists don't believe God(s) exist at all, so they would not say something like "God is dead" — they seem more like people who believe in God(s) but are disillusioned about it.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Yep, again. The first letters of the first six episode titles spell out "future" in reverse. Episodes 7 through 12 use the same titles as 6 through 1, respectively, but with a prefix attached to them: "for-" in the last episode; "re-" in the other five.
Memento MacGuffin: Yuu keeps the wristwatch his sister wore until the earthquake. Later he buries it and gets over his guilt after saving Yuuko.
Not So Different: Amamiya has the same backstory as Yuu, and Yuu believes that he was close to becoming someone like him.
One Degree of Separation: Best emphasized by episode 10, where nearly the entire cast is revealed to have a very tight connection to each other.
Promotion to Parent: Yuu and Yuuko are almost like this to a young Mizuki, at least until Yuuko gets hit by a car. On Christmas.
Rape as Drama: Surprisingly minor plot point; it's no less horrible, but in this case it's just another horrible thing: Amamiya has done to Yuuko. On Christmas, no less.
Replacement Goldfish: Amamiya adopted Yuuko as a sister because his own sister died in the earthquake. Predictably enough, he eventually harbors deep feelings of hatred both towards Yuuko for not being the same person as his sister and toward himself for being unable to save her. Beatings and rape ensue.
Mizuki was this initially despite denials to the contrary from her family.
Shout-Out: There is one to Hell Girl in episode 11, and Yuu does Despair's "I'm in despair" pose in the end card for episode 1. That series was also animated by SHAFT. (The author of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Koji Kumeta, also illustrated the endcard for episode 6.)
Also, this excellent one to Star Wars in episode 4:
Mizuki: Will you — will you do that thing for me? "May God bless you," and then you say...
Yuu: I'm not a pastor or a priest.
Mizuki: But you look good doing it.
Yuu:(Doing the Sign of the Cross) May The Force be with you always.
Mizuki: Is that some kind of a good thing?
Yuu: It's... better than God.
In retrospect, there is a great one in the game's title itself: "A Fairy Tale Of The Two" turns out to mean "a tale oftwo cities".
Single-Minded Twins: When Kei and Chihiro finally meet, they start talking in unison to Mizuki.
Soap Opera Disease: Kuze has an ill-defined heart condition that is causing him to die, but has few symptoms other than heart attacks, isolationism, and existential angst.
The Other Wiki says it's canonically a form of neurosis. Of course, neurosis isn't fatal.
In the game, it was an unidentified muscle disease. It was changed to neurosis in the anime.
Stepford Smiler Yuuko and Mizuki Less negative than most portrayals, this story seems to suggest that this behavior is actually a good way to keep your sanity after horrific trauma.
Mizuki is actually a subversion and coping just fine, and Yuu just thought she was one. Probably because being one wouldn't be very strange since Yuuko taught her it was a good way to deal with things. She also picked up some mannerisms from Yuuko, causing people who knew Yuuko to compare them.
Sympathy for the Devil: Amamiya's death is presented fairly neutrally, or even as being somewhat sad despite, well, you know. It's strongly implied he committed suicide and suggested that he never truly hated Yuuko but simply could not cope. The reader is unlikely to agree, of course.
Tomato Surprise: There are two towns, one in Japan and the other in Australia.
Trauma Conga Line: Happens to several characters this season, such as Kuze, Yuu, and especially Yuuko.