animation, Anime, anime harvest, anime review, Anime to watch, Dogo Kobo, first reaction, Giftia, Isla, Japanese animation, Japanese anime, Kazuki Kurwanomi, moe, new anime, Plastic Memories, SAI, science fiction, Tsukasa Mizugaki
How has Android Girls with Predetermined Short Lifespans become a genre? I blame Mahoromatic. Anyway, Plastic Memories.
Plastic Memories takes place in a future where human-like androids, called Giftia, have become a household utility. Some peoples use them for labour or assistance, but they go a lot deeper than simple machines. They at least seem to have personalities and emotions, and as such, many people purchase them as children, as a form of emotional support. But Giftia only live for about nine years, after that they can malfunction, so it is the job of SAI employees to contact the owners and shut their Giftia down before they malfunction.
As you might expect, this is a tough job. People aren’t always happy to give up their son or grandchild (or I’m pretty sure one was a girlfriend). The retrieval and shut-down is done in teams of two, a “spotter”, a human who watches over things and makes sure the process goes smoothly, and a “marksman”, a Giftia who carries out the job.
I still don’t see any reasonable explanation for why the Giftia can’t be made to last more than nine years, but other than that the premise is pretty engaging. It’s something humanity might actually face some day, as we continue toward the dream of fully realized humanoid robots. People could very well form emotional bonds with the things, but they could predictably malfunction. If that were the case, someone would have to take care of it. The anime does a good job emphasising the realistic possibility of it too. For instance, it is a rule that owners be present during the shut-down process to ensure that the Giftia’s memories are erased. It’s a real privacy concern.
Enter Tsukasa Mizugaki, a man too young to drink, but apparently old enough to be a spotter. He enters the retrieving business after failing college entrance exams, and is partnered with the Giftia Isla, who… we’ll get to Isla later.
For now, animation. The show is done by a studio called Doga Kobo. After checking them out, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything they worked on before. They’ve been in business since the early seventies, made their first OVA in eighty-eight, and didn’t show up again until two thousand five. Since then they’ve been growing consistently, and I think Plastic Memories is a milestone for them because it looks pretty good.
It is still a modern anime well within the box, meaning one-dimensional colours and oddly reflective hair. But the characters and background look nice, and move a good amount of fluidity. Usually I’d say it’s about average technical quality, but given what I’ve seen this season, I’ve got to put well above what else is running.
The characters throughout the office all have a good amount of personality, and it’s expressed well. I’m not familiar enough with them to go over them in detail, but let’s just look at one spotter, Kazuki Kuwanomi. There’s a scene where she and Tsukasa are at a bar talking about Isla, and she briefly expresses sympathy for Tsukasa before turning around and crushing his hand as punishment. The framing of the shot gives us just enough information about her about-face to make the scene consistent with her aggrieve nature, but limits us to her actual motivation and thoughts. This is followed up with a photo of her and other character being on the bar wall, telling us a bit more about her.
It’s hard to follow exactly what’s being said in the said in the scene, but it does give you sense for the characters. It expands the boundaries we can expect them to grow within. This, and the way they’re drawn even in the background, gives the office a sense of dynamics, like a real office. Everyone’s doing a job.
Alright, Isla. She could make or break this show for me. On the one hand, she shows elements of a complex and thoughtful character. She is a Giftia, and she thinks of her job as basically killing other Giftia. She doesn’t see it as immoral or horrible, she understands that if they don’t do then the Giftia will malfunction anyway, but she still sees it as a somber. It’s actually surprising that she’s the only one who treats it like this. The Giftia they retrieve go willingly and one admits to having no fear of death. The other Giftia in the office don’t seem concerned about this. And the human employees of SAI don’t seem to care. Even the owners can usually melancholically accept the loss of something they’ve treated as a son for nearly a decade.
This is coupled with her apparent consciousness of her own morality and inabilities…
set her up to be a great character. She has a unique perspective that others just don’t seem to get. But then there’s the moe. Isla’s got near-Chaika levels of it.
Moe, in itself, is not bad. I don’t have a taste for it, but a girl character like Isla should still be a good character with or without moe appeal. But it’s just overwhelming. It’s hard to take her seriously when I keep expecting her to do this.
It’s like a cover that dampens all the character underneath, and things that are legitimately part of her character just come off as cheap moe tropes! And to some degree, I can blame the studio here, not just the oversaturated culture. There are many ways to present a character like this, who has a deteriorating skill set. Tripping over herself, smashing her face into things, getting caught in a rope, and other moeisms are not the only or even best way to do this. If she was presented just a little bit differently, I don’t think I’d have any complaints about Plastic Memories at all right now. It’s been a good two episodes, and I expect the next ten will also be good.
Plastic Memories is looking good. I’ll be watching more, and I expect I’ll be able to say it’s still good a few episodes from now. I’m going to try to look past the moe, and hopefully everything beneath it will be worth it.
Don’t Lose Your Way