ef – the first tale – PC Review

Genre: Adventure
Developer: minori
Publisher: MangaGamer
Release Date: July 27, 2012
Edited by KnightAvenger

When it comes to the studio known as minori, their work is special because they are able to create intense emotions and strongly weaved together stories with a focus on character development. However, not all of minori’s stories always hit the mark; this story, in particular, is just missing it: Ef – The First Tale. Ef – The First Tale is an adventure, slice-of-life visual novel developed by minori, later released by MangaGamer where the story, character development, and emotional impact felt right but just missed the full mark.

Like a snowless Christmas Eve, the story of Ef – The First Tale starts us off in a confusing but understandable manner as the story goes on, missing some of the impact along the way. We, the reader, take the story in from the eyes of Hiro Hirono, a first year student at Otawa Collegiate feeder school. However, we get some backstory from Yuu Himura, a mysterious man who enters a church to find a young woman there by the name of Yuuko Amamiya, giving us some prequel story of events that happen during or after, as it goes into two flashback style scenes before taking us to a year before, where we meet Hiro on a cold Christmas Eve. Hiro has entered the same church, coming to look at it decorated during Christmas, as the same young woman from before now speaks to him. After some banter between the two, Hiro leaves the church, only for a young woman on a motorcycle to speed past a nearby woman and knock her into the ground, stealing her purse. This then leads that woman to run into Hiro and steal his bike in order to try and catch the motorcycle. I will end the synopsis here, as to go any further would start entering spoiler territory. I can say that the story, while slow to build up to the good events, was a fun read and kept me guessing as to what was going to occur next.

As interesting and well written as the story of Ef – The First Tale was, it had a few glaring issues I want to address that made the story have less of an impact in the end. The first glaring issue I found was the start of the story because it had no focus. Most stories that use a future set scene (as a start) try to set up a backstory for the main character, but, here, Ef – The First Tale doesn’t. We start with a completely different male character who, while he has some interesting mannerisms, is then thrust into Hiro, who has had no development and acts like he is better than the idea of Christmas and having someone to tie him down is a waste. The second glaring issue was actually Hiro himself. As a reader, I could get behind Yuu because he had this subtle but short development that worked in his favor, whereas Hiro got very little at the start and ultimately felt like a throw away character as a main character. Hiro got better development and, as a character, was more solid as the story went on, but, for that first hour or more of the story, I could barely stand him.

Run that movie reel as the presentation of Ef – The First Tale felt like a movie, both in its visual stylings and in how the music played to advance the scene. Visually, I feel Ef – The First Tale is like watching an anime in real time, as the novel utilizes something called avant-garde cinematic techniques to make the scenes flow smoothly without the need for special scene transitions (for the most part). The backgrounds here are one big animated set piece, but I have no complaints, as the characters take on a 2.5-D style appearance where the heavily detailed backgrounds merge with the simple but detailed characters and a diverse number of locales to visit. Character wise, I felt it was one of the weaker places but mostly in design, as the facial animations created using the avant-garde techniques were very well executed, following from scene to scene and vise versa with the emotions to match the character’s mood at the time.

Keeping the heavy classical feel, Ef – The First Tale follows through with the tradition of classical music and tones that support the scenes, not overshadowing it. Musically, I liked that Ef – The First Tale uses the music as a standout piece instead of a background piece but can still feel like a background piece to advance the scene. Ef – The First Tale did fix my complaint from Supipara where the music lacked variety, as there were more pieces to hear as the story went along and they never truly overstayed their welcome. Sound effects were present here, just not as noticeable, as many of the effects were subtle in nature and were added more to the scene than anything else.

Overall, I found Ef – The First Tale, while it did have some story specific issues and a few voice syncing problems, to be a great story starter with its writing, characters, and overall emotional impact. The well written story and presentation, all right character development, interesting characters, use of the avant-garde cinematic techniques, beautiful and movie-like presentation, and use of the classical music soundtrack made for a visual novel that sets itself apart in the adventure genre.

Pros:

  • A well written story and presentation
  • Interesting characters
  • Use of the avant-garde cinematic techniques
  • The beautiful movie-like presentation
  • Use of the classical soundtrack
  • Solid six plus hours read time

Cons:

  • Reverse development at story start for characters
  • A few scenes where voice sync was off

DarkLunarDude gives Ef – The First Tale a Drastik Measure 8.0 out of 10.0 (80)

For the price of $29.95 (USD) on MangaGamer, I can recommend Ef – The First Tale to adventure novel readers who enjoy a good slice-of-life style read, as the novel follows that well with its story and music to build up the scenes. For those who enjoy Supipara, I do want to let you know that the second part of Supipara has been funded and will be coming out later, so watch around, as I know I can’t wait for it to come.