Review for Plastic Memories Part 2 - Collector's Edition
No rest for the weary... With All the Anime releasing both parts of Plastic Memories in short order, I don’t actually get a break between the reviews. That can be both good and bad. It’s usually bad, when companies leave months between subsequent parts, long enough for me to forget what happened previously. But sometimes a little breather is good to let an opinion settle in the mind, to think again, and maybe reconsider. Actually, I found the first part of Plastic Memories to be so divisive, that this time I might have benefitted from a breather, but after all this time, I can understand why Anime Limited just want to get this thing done and dusted.
It’s the future, and lifelike androids called Giftia created by the SAI Corporation are ubiquitous. They are created with a set lifespan of 81.920 hours, or just after nine years, after which their memories and personalities start to degrade. To deal with this, SAI has the Terminal Service Department, whose job it is to retrieve the Giftia as they reach the end of their lifespans, to make the process of separating families from their androids as smooth as possible. Terminal Service Department 1, at the SAI HQ operates with teams sent out to retrieve the Giftia, with a human ‘Spotter’ working with a Giftia “Marksman”.
Tsukasa Mizugaki is a rookie, who through family contacts got a job at SAI, but was assigned to the Terminal Service Department. He’s naive and lacks experience, so he gets teamed up with a veteran Giftia named Isla. She’s supposed to show him the ropes, but she hasn’t been in the field in 3 years, instead making tea around the office, and it’s clear that she needs just as much help as he does, if not more. It turns out their duties can be emotionally fraught and painful for all involved, but Tsukasa wasn’t expecting to develop feelings for Isla.
The concluding six episodes of Plastic Memories are presented across two Blu-ray discs from All the Anime.
8. The Fireworks I’ve Never Seen
9. After the Festival
10. No Longer Partners
11. Rice Omelette Days
12. Filling Up With Memories
13. I’ll Hope One Day You’ll Be Reunited
The show gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, and it’s a pretty nice one. It’s clear and sharp, with bright, vivid colours and smooth animation. There’s no visible sign of compression or aliasing, and the only place I noticed banding was during scene fades. Plastic Memories is a more subtle view of the future, especially as these androids look perfectly human in every respect. It’s the accoutrements of the world that show signs of futurism, holographic displays, a different design ethos to the vehicles, a generally cleaner environment, but that’s about it. The character designs on the other hand are typical for cute anime.
The sole audio track on this release is the PCM 2.0 Japanese stereo. If you select Play All from the main menu, the subtitles are locked during playback, and unlike Part 1, there’s no sneaky way to unlock them. The audio is fine, the actors are suited to their characters, even if they do conform to the usual anime stereotypes, while the subtitles are timed accurately and free of typos.
The discs present their content with static menus.
You get the web previews for the episodes 9-11 on disc 1, around 30 seconds apiece.
Disc 2 has the web previews for episodes 12 & 13, the textless credits, and trailers for Chaika the Coffin Princess – Avenging Battle, The Kawaii Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour, and Re-Kan!
There is so much wrong with the second half of Plastic Memories that it’s hard to know where to begin. But on the bright side, it’s not unwatchable. It’s not actively bad, and it does manage to end in a somewhat satisfying way. But what I really take away from this show is just how much of a missed opportunity it is. The premise of the show, which was occasionally explored in the first half is pretty much jettisoned here in these final six episodes. It all boils down to the doomed romance between the two central characters, which itself plays out like a schoolyard love story from countless disposable rom-com anime. And that is pretty much it.
The idea of this fixed lifespan for Giftia should be in focus when it comes to Tsukasa’s love for Isla, but what kills the idea is that the Giftia are human. They are human in behaviour, in personality and in abilities. They eat, they go to the bathroom, they laugh, they cry, they make jokes; they really are human in every respect, except for their demise being set in stone. You may as well watch I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, or Your Lie in April, any love story where one of the protagonists has a terminal disease, as Plastic Memories feels like the same thing in this half.
All that interesting stuff, the idea of the degradation of memory, the loss of self, the fall into insanity is forgotten really. The whole tragedy of Michiru’s surrogate father, Isla freezing at a crucial moment, Kazuki’s injury which was played so heavily at the start of the show is forgotten here. The complexity of the relationships between Giftia and humans is not an issue. Tsukasa and Isla fall in love, and it’s the sweetest thing in the world. No one raises an eyebrow, everyone supports them, easy to do when Isla is human in all but name.
I didn’t expect to say this, but Chobits handles this better, and it’s a series fifteen odd years older than this. There, the rightness or wrongness of humans in relationships with Persocoms drives the whole series, and you can see the differences between the two, they are physical, mental and emotional. If Plastic Memories did that, it would have been a much better, more interesting show.
Then there is the romance, which is of the chaste, bumbling, awkward, school-kid first love type that is played for laughs. These are working age adults remember, although Isla’s infantile character design probably precludes anything more. The support they get from their friends and co-workers is similarly played for laughs. There’s nothing here to really invest in, other than some cute moments.
Still, I have to admit that Plastic Memories sticks the landing. Quite frankly, I would have been shocked if it hadn’t. When you front load the story with the imminent demise of one of the characters, and proceed to develop a love story between two of them, no matter how juvenile said romance is, then there will come a point where tears are jerked, heartstrings are tugged, and you get to rail at the inequity of the world, and it would have taken cack-handed incompetence on an epic scale to mess that up. Plastic Memories leaves you on the right note, if you don’t stick around for the post-credits epilogue, which still manages to undo what little good work the ending did.
Plastic Memories... the biggest missed opportunity of a show I have seen in years.