So, ef - a tale of melodies comes to a close, and it's Christmas! (Why do I get the feeling you may have already noticed this?) To be precise, it's actually Christmas in the world created by the series, which at least makes for topical Christmas Eve viewing if nothing else.
After leaving us hanging regarding the outcome of Kuze's operation in the last episode, it feels a little odd to have all of this skipped over by the beginning of this episode - Kuze is alive and kicking and as healthy as he could hope to be, meaning that we've skipped the immediate aftermath of his operation and recovery time - A bit of a disappointment in dramatic storytelling terms if I'm honest. On the other side of the coin, all this talk of sightings of Yuuko has let Yuu to return to his actual home town to see for himself, where of course he does indeed get to meet "spirit Yuuko", albeit briefly before she disappears into the ether.
Indeed, it's happy endings all around here, to an extent that's almost overly saccharine given some of those deep, dark, disturbing places we were taken to earlier in this series. Perhaps I'm just a miserable old git who prefers imperfect (or downright depressing) endings, but ef - a tale of melodies finale here felt almost airbrushed of any real drama, with everything working out just perfectly in the end to make for a "and they all lived happily ever after ending". This perhaps isn't helped by the amount of (excuse the French) inane bullshit uttered by characters in this episode - There was so much of it, that they even had to cram in a couple of minutes of statements you'd expect to find in your fortune cookies after the final credits. I don't want to start bleating on about the occasional pretension of this series, and I know it's always been quite floral in its use of language and concepts, but it just felt at odds to me with a series that has covered such depravity and insanity at times.
While many series has have great beginnings and ends but lose their way somewhere in the middle, ef - a tale of melodies almost seems to head in the other direction - It took me a long time to warm to this series through the slow early episodes, then grew to love both its art direction and dark, dark subject matter somewhere in the middle, before my interest trailed off again somewhat in these last couple of episodes. Much like its predecessor, a tale of memories, I also found myself enjoy one of its major relationship arcs while not being so enamoured of the other - In this case, Yuu and Yuuko's story caught my attention, whereas Kuze and Mizuki's actually turned me off somewhat.
There are certainly good reasons to watch ef - a tale of melodies - For all of my claims of pretension, it's art direction is still occasionally breath-taking and makes the series well worth looking at in its own right. It's also managed to offer up some of the most fantastically dark and brilliant realised scenes I've seen in anime this year, which is also worthy of much high praise. Get beyond those plateaus however, and this series has been a bit of a hit and miss affair, with those dizzy heights at least making up for the mediocrity of some of the early and late episodes.