Tsukasa joins his fathers company where he is reunited with a breathtaking girl, Isla, he met a long time ago. To prove himself to his father, he is given a job at the lowest performing district as an AI retriever, taking back the robots once they reach the end of their lifespan, even if the job is close to home.
Tsukasa is a man with more going on behind the scenes than on the main stage. His academic mishaps landed him in front of his father, begging for a job as a glorified repossession man. When he was rejected by people on his team for being favored and unqualified, he took it on the chin. But there wasn’t much that he didn’t handle that way. When he was partnered with an equally incompetent AI partner, he did his best to make the partnership work and prove those who doubted him wrong. What became a frustration of mine was his insistence on keeping things to himself. At times, his character felt like a wall that you threw a ball at, expecting it to bounce back, and it just stuck. You can see all the balls that have been thrown, there is no hiding them, but they also won’t come back. So while having that laid out in front of you feels ridiculous as a behavior, the internal struggle and sense of responsibility is commendable.
Isla is a character I could never love. Our introduction to Isla was as an AI that has retreated from life and can hardly do anything with coordination. She grows over the course of the show to get back to her childly determined self, but the child-like elements that get highlighted in her character completely overshadow the times where she is emotionally intelligent or mature. This was an odd phenomena, given anime tends to over mature children. Overall, I found her uninteresting and fickle for no reason that helped her as a character or that helped the story.
Michiru is an odd amalgamation of the overly involved matchmaker and the classic standoffish type who says “I don’t care” so often it feels like they are convincing themselves. I found Michiru’s character pretty sad for that reason. At one point she was fighting to be the love interest of the show, then she threw herself into a really awkward and overly involved cheerleader for the relationship she wanted to be part of. Pain seemed to be Michiru’s theme. Her past experiences with the AI, and the emotional damage that left, are the reason that Tsukasa’s division handles retrievals differently than other divisions in the first place. She seems to think of others before herself at all times. So, while noble, this puts her in a constant state of dissonance with what she wants. She reminds me of a lot of people I’ve known that I needed to encourage to be selfish for the sake of their happiness. The only unfortunate part is no one looked after Michiru like I try to look after those friends of mine.
Admittedly, the show’s trajectory did not turn out how I thought it would. The first couple episodes focused very heavily on the stories of the customers in a Violet Evergarden style of development that I really enjoyed. I teared up at one of the first arcs with the grandmother and the AI grandchild. Putting this story up front was great from an emotional level, but really shifted the expectation of the show and made Tsukasa and Isla’s love sound unnaturally deep and practiced for being so awkward and recent in practice. I never really believed their love, not in a way where I would argue they did not love each other but in a way where it did not match the maturity of their characters and their relationship. It was as if whenever they were talking about themselves, they gained the experience of a couple in a thirty year marriage and I just didn’t buy the maturity. When the show shifted to focus more exclusively on that relationship, I lost more and more interest.
I am a bit over interested in one liners. There is something so poignant, striking, and repeatable about them that makes them worth mulling over and having a couple discussions about with friends that is harder to replicate with analogies that take place over the entire show. The one liner that struck me from Plastic Memories was “Romance is about momentum.” I heard this and thought, surely this just could not be true. Partially because when comparing my pace of day dating my, and my lack of success, I didn’t want it to be the case. It rings true more than at first glance, however. When we hear people talk about relationships, it is often in the context of “how fast” and “how far” someone is. There is often some correlation between the pace or momentum and the quality of the relationship. Those outside the relationship aside, momentum has an impact inside in the relationship as well. A relationship only exists because two people express intention to move together for some amount of time in life. Perhaps the momentum of their progress, especially early in life, is incredibly important to keep them together. If the show had wanted to explore this idea further we might have seen some examples of momentum out of sync, but that largely wasn’t presented.
Isla was convinced that their job was ripping apart memories, and I never saw it that way for a minute. I’m not sure how one could really “rip apart” memories. I can certainly understand how she feels by removing someone who is the source of so many good memories, but I think any mature person understands the difference between stopping memories from being created and ruining ones that were already created. Especially when we consider why the team picks up the AI, this idea felt a little unwarranted and more reactionary than anything.
I’ve asked several of my friends if they would want to know exactly when they will die. It’s not a new question, it’s very commonly pondered in our question-filled youth. What I find interesting is how many people had no interest knowing when they would die. They would cite anxiety, worrying people they cared about, despair, and indifference to life. I was surprised that knowing this information would not cause them to be focused and determined, as I feel it would for me. This dichotomy explained the start of Tsukasa’s and Isla’s relationship. Where she was despondent and withdrawn, he was energized and focused. What makes me interested is that this single piece of information can throw the course of an entire life into despair, or free someone from any inhibition plaguing them.
I wanted more than the honeymoon phase. While I can appreciate some of the warriors put in the way of Tsukasa and Isla, the show was too fast tracked. Three dates is simply not enough to get me invested. I’m sure that people would point to them working together or living together, but I really fail them to see the evolution from being entirely incompatible team, mostly through Isle’s incompetence, to being lovers just because they found their team dynamic. Despite the show talking about romance being about momentum, it felt like their relationship had very little of it and that momentum mostly came from the team. To me, the momentum of the show pointed much to a story about an AI who lost her will to live, just to find it again before she died and all the pain and joy that comes with that. With the romance almost entirely put aside.
Plastic Memories embodies a type of animation that feels very uninspired. The character designs feel generic, the backgrounds are uninteresting, the action is few and far between, and there was little creativity with scene construction or camera angles. I have been growing increasingly dissatisfied with the blandness of shows like this one. I am far more interested in shows that try differently constructed scenes than seeing the same formula repeated. Having scenes in shows that I want to share with others is very important to me and there was just not a single scene I would feel a compulsion to share.
While the world looks identical to what we might expect modern Japan to be like, the mentality of the world feels entirely different. Having a decent part of your population transient in people’s lives must have done something to the cultural mentality. I don’t think we get to see the effects of this in the world outside on an AI who was a child’s guardian, where one of the youngest and most impressionable people are exposed to the turnover of people in their lives. In a way it makes me think of the AI more as pets than as people, with the seven year timeline reminding me of a dog that goes a little too soon. It made me wonder how people have changed, mentality wise, especially when we get very limited exposure to the outside world. This exposure is a miss worth mentioning. We see no part of the AI process or community except for the end of their lives. The show could have benefited from an episode about the joys of adding an AI to the family to parody the sober tone of the retrieval. It goes beyond simply feeling like the depth of the world was neglected, it plays into the possibilities unexplored and the impact on the story they I could have had.
Picture this, it’s a Thursday and I am walking into work after finishing Plastic Memories. I walk in just a little late and make sure to unsuccessfully flirt with the girl from sales, like I do every day. I sit down at my desk, plug in my headphones and put on the Plastic Memories soundtrack. After an hour, I was absolutely sure that the tone was completely off. There were only two overarching tones, incredibly somber or Walmart Wii music. In fact, I thought that the music was so off brand that I had to double check that I didn’t find a wishfully created fan edit, to which I did not. I already went into why I didn’t feel the kind of pain in the relationship that many others have described when they label Plastic Memories as one of the more emotional anime, with the top comment even comparing it to one of my favorites in Your Lie In April, but the music took itself as even more emotional than the writing did. And at the end of the day, the music just didn’t have enough game to close the sale.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||2||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||3||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||4||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||2||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||2||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||2||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||1||3|
Some anime struggle under the weight of their own name, Plastic Memories fell into that category for me. As much as I try to rid myself of expectations, this show was built up to be a great romance that never really met my fancy after showing promise it never followed up on. With lackluster animation and soundscape, I never found a space for myself to appreciate the show as much as other have.