Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Plastic Memories Anime Review

Plastic Memories Anime Review
Written by: ClayDragon


The first time I heard about Plastic Memories, all I saw was a summary that said that this was a show about a boy and a female android who work at a company that retrieves androids that have gone past their service life. From that brief summary, I figured that this series would be in a similar vein to Death Parade, in that it would ask the tough questions about mortality and suchlike. I certainly didn’t expect the main genre of the series to be a romantic comedy.


I thought this was supposed to be a serious show, dammit!
At some point in the near future, technology has advanced to the stage that androids that look and act like humans (called ‘Giftias’) can be produced, and are available for purchase by the public. Giftias are used for a variety of functions, such as construction work, bodyguards, ‘children’ for people who can’t have kids naturally – the list goes on. However, Giftias have a limited shelf life; after roughly nine years, their personality and memories begin to break down, and they are then retrieved by a collection service.
 
Making cake is an integral part of the retrieval process. Integral.
Tsukasa Mizugaki, the main protagonist, is a new employee at the Terminal Service offices, and he is teamed up with a Giftia partner called Isla in order to help him retrieve other Giftias. As the series progresses, Tsukasa begins to fall for Isla, but this is complicated by the fact that she is already nearing the end of her life, and she only has another two months left before she deteriorates.
 
That is, if her clumsiness doesn't put her out of commission first.
Given that the series deals with ‘death’ (i.e. the retrieval and shutting-down of Giftias) quite a lot, I was expecting there to be a number of heavy emotional moments, but they were surprisingly few and far between. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a few heartwarming moments, as well as one or two sad moments (and these moments do pack a punch), but the vast majority of the series’ emotional impact came from the humour derived from the relationship between Tsukasa and Isla. There are funny moments, sure, and they did make me laugh. But the show changes pace and tone so often that I occasionally got emotional whiplash, as it goes from a funny, cutesy scene to an outright depressing one.
 
Sure, this image looks funny, but the context behind it...not so much.
The characters are another problem, although nowhere near as bad. Despite being the male lead, Tsukasa is actually pretty bland, and his past, personality and motivations aren’t explored in any great depth. On the other hand, Isla is the complete opposite. Her personality is analysed in great depth throughout the show, and the narrative uses her knowledge of her impending retrieval to great effect when it comes to explaining her behaviour. Plus, her awkward and clumsy tendencies easily endear her to the audience, making her the best character in the show by far.
 
Aim for the bushes, Isla!
The rest of the Terminal Service is more disappointing though. Michiru, Tsukasa’s senior, is your stock tsundere character, and whilst she didn’t do too much, I still found myself interested in her backstory, and I do wish we had learnt a bit more about her. Her partner, Zack, is one of the more likable characters in the show, mainly because of how much of a troll he is, and seeing him mess with Tsukasa or Michiru was a lot of fun. Beyond those two though, the rest of the characters are somewhat lacking. The other Terminal Service members can be summed up in one or two words and they don’t get any focus beyond their relationships with either Tsukasa or Isla, which results in them feeling flat and underdeveloped.
 
Zack, this is why you don't have many friends.
Visually, the series is amazing. The animation studio, Dogakobo, put a lot of work into the backgrounds and character designs, and the quality of the animation never dips or falters. For proof of this, just check out the opening and ending, which are not only beautifully animated, but also feature fitting and catchy music. The show’s soundtrack is less noticeable, but it still does its job well, especially in the more emotional scenes.
 
It's so beautiful....aside from the strange light-halos on everyone's hair.
The main problem of Plastic Memories is that it doesn’t live up to its full potential. The prevalence of androids in society raised a number of interesting plot points, such as the reason behind their short lifespans, a black market dealing in Giftias, and a security team that are implied to be taking over from the Terminal Service. Sadly, none of these are ever brought up or answered. Even from the perspective of a Giftia, we never hear how their limited lifespans and the circumstances behind their creation affects them (except for Isla). With four Giftias on the Terminal Service team, you’d think that we’d hear each of their opinions, but no.
 
Well...yes.
To be honest, part of me feels that the show would have worked better were it a little closer to home. For example, there was no real reason for Isla to be an android, as the show would have worked just as well (if not better) had she just been a normal girl suffering from a terminal illness. The introduction of androids to the plot created so many unresolved plot threads that it makes you wonder why the writer went down that route at all.
 
Welcome to cold, hard reality, Isla.
Despite all of this, I would be willing to give Plastic Memories the benefit of the doubt on a lot of things. After all, this is the first original story that Dogakobo have produced, and it’s very unlikely that anyone would produce a masterpiece on their first try. However, there is one factor that I cannot overlook, and this results in me judging the show more harshly than I would otherwise. The writer of Plastic Memories is none other than Naotaka Hayashi. This is the man who created Steins;Gate. Given that this writer is evidently capable of creating great series, it means that I can’t be lenient with Plastic Memories.
 
...I'm not even going to try to explain the context behind this.
I once described Plastic Memories to one of my friends as a cross between Death Parade and Chuunibyou, but after watching the entire series that metaphor doesn’t really work. It’s like combining gold and silver and ending up with bronze. It performs well in both the heavy emotional scenes and the comedic instances, but it fails to mesh the two opposing tones well. The characters are mostly bland and uninteresting (with the exceptions of Isla, Michiru and Zack), and the series suffers from pacing issues and mood whiplash. On the other hand, at least it’s pretty, and when the emotional impact hits, it hits hard.
 
D'awww.

Good Things:         Isla’s depth, characterisation and personality.

                                Genuinely funny moments every so often.
                                                               
                                Visually beautiful.

                                Emotional weight and impact (occasionally).


Bad Things:           The tone and pacing are quite inconsistent.
               
                                Underused secondary characters.

                                A large amount of unresolved plot threads.


Final Verdict:
Good.

Got a suggestion for an anime I should review? Post it in the comments, or submit it to ask.fm/ClayDragon!

Plastic Memories summed up in one picture.

ClayDragon:
ClayDragon is currently studying Physics at university, and is constantly bewildered by it. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at claydragon.on@gmail.com. He has an ask.fm account at ask.fm/ClayDragon. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to understand quantum physics. I have a degree! On a sheet of paper and everything!

4 comments:

  1. Yeah... I kinda figured this was how the series would end up. I saw episode 1, and noted a lot of hesitant opinions that I agreed with about it. The weirdly paced humor was somewhat evident even in episode 1, and... Yeah. I'm glad that I skipped it, though I will say that episode 1 was a near masterpiece.

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    1. The first episode was really good, and it was that that made me think of the Death Parade comparison. If the show had stayed on the level of episode 1, quality-wise, it could have been so much better.

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  2. Pretty much what I thought as well. As a show, it was entertaining but I really felt like there could've been more and that it didn't fulfill the potential it had...


    Also ClayDragon! Your ask link isn't working

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    1. It's a shame, because it could have been really good if it had been a bit more focused.

      Also, neither it is. I've just fixed it, so hopefully it works from now on. Thanks for letting me know!

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