Reviewby Rose Bridges,
Episodes 1-13 Streaming
Tsukasa is an ordinary teenager when he starts his new job at the Terminal Service retrieving "Giftias." Giftias are very human-like robots, designed as companions to people, but they only live for nine years before they must be hauled in and reprogrammed, destroying their memories in the process. That's what Tsukasa and co. do, convince owners to part with their Giftias before they start to degrade and all hell breaks loose. Every human retriever is paired with their own Giftia, and Tsukasa is given Isla, a stoic girl heavily respected by the company, but getting spacier every day. That's because Isla is nearing her own retrieval date, and as she and Tsukasa drift toward each other, our hero must come to terms with love and loss.
Plastic Memories starts out very promising. The first episode boasted of an intriguing sci-fi premise, with robots built purely for companionship, but only lasting for a small amount of time. It's like having a cat or dog, only much smarter and able to fill many more niches in your life. They're there to be substitute children for empty nesters, substitute parents for orphans, and otherwise take on roles that other people haven't in these lonely souls' lives. The set-up sounds a lot like Chobits, but while the non-ecchi parts of Chobits leaned hard on the implications of an android-saturated society, Plastic Memories doesn't end up doing much of that. Instead of the emotions being a way to explore this brave new world, the sci-fi is instead a vehicle for the melodrama.
The focus of this show is instead the relationship between Tsukasa and Isla—them coming to terms with their feelings, and then how that plays out given the reality of Isla's limited days. It's classic dying-girl romance anime with a futuristic twist. It's nothing that hasn't been done before in anime, but it's not a bad effort and what's there will certainly please fans of that genre. The problem is that it doesn't stick to that. The "romance" episodes only fill about half of the show's runtime. Just as it starts out as something completely different, it continues taking detours before reaching its true purpose about halfway through the series. While it's broadcast early on that Tsukasa and Isla like each other, it's not until their first date (in episode 7) that you start to realize this is the point of the show.
To a certain degree, this is understandable: that core plot isn't really enough to fill a full cour of episodes. While the finale of the show is filled with plenty of gentle longing touches and moments, and it's great fodder for mushy feelings among the characters and audience alike, that isn't enough to build a story. Plastic Memories would probably be better as a movie instead of a TV series, but since it isn't, they needed something to run the clock. Still, they could have kept the filler more tonally appropriate and less obviously filler. In-between the retrievals and our lovebirds getting to know each other better, there's lots of meaningless anime comedy. This stuff is cliché and dated as can be, and does nothing but distract from the point of the series. We get it that the office is heavily invested in Tsukasa and Isla's romance. We don't need it repeated ad nauseam through episode after episode of bad slapstick comedy, that feels straight out of a '90s harem series.
The stuff focusing on the team isn't all bad—when it adds some way into the sci-fi or the romance. For example, Eru, the show's most irritating character (as she is constantly sexually-harassing Isla and you're supposed to laugh), gets a great moment in episode 8 when she runs into somebody she used to know. It's a Giftia who Eru knew in her former identity, but now she's been retrieved and has no memory of her. This comes not long after we meet an old woman who very casually signs the retrieval forms for her adoptive daughter, muttering that she's "used to it" when they're surprised by her reaction. One of the major themes of Plastic Memories is grief and how we handle it, and what's the right way to react to losing a loved one. There are some curious implications here for how people might become used to this kind of grief in a world where some rely on this technology over and over. All the other Terminal Service employees' stories (when they get them) have hints of this. If Plastic Memories needed to fill episodes, it could have used that to explore that theme more, instead of launching right back into bad comedy about Eru squeezing her former friend's boobs.
One consistently positive thing with this series is the art style. The really shiny, rubbery feel to all the characters, with their broad outlines and constant white reflection on their hair, might look silly to some. I thought it worked well in setting the atmosphere for their heavily-mechanized world. The show has plastic in the title, and it's fitting how everyone looks plastic. It also helps it hit home how much Giftias have integrated into their society. You literally can't tell the Giftias apart from the humans, because both look so robotic. The Giftias have more unusual hair colors, but that's it, and it's not universal. It's easy to see how these androids could become as irreplaceable as family to so many people.
It would be easier to recommend the strong points of this series if it didn't require so much wading through muck to get there. The sci-fi and romance should work for people who like thinky future scenarios and crying over sad, dying girls, but even that only takes up about half to two-thirds of the runtime. The remainder is bottom-of-the-barrel bad comedy, and that's not worth it for two genres that anime's done better many times over. Heck, even if you really love jokes about boob-grabbing, or girls hitting boys over the head for being clueless about their feelings, those, too, pale compared to other shows that commit to them better. It's a shame, because Plastic Memories does hint at some cool themes about grief and death, and what would happen with a society that took it too casually. But it doesn't do enough with those to justify the rest. So at the end of the day, Plastic Memories is pretty skippable. No matter what you want out of these three-shows-in-one, you're better off looking elsewhere.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : C-
+ Tragic romance elements are perfect for fans of the genre; inspired art style; raises (if doesn't explore) interesting questions about death and grief
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