Reviewby Theron Martin,
Love is in the air for Tsukasa and Isla, and everyone at Terminal Service 1 has taken an interest in the two hooking up. An encounter that Eru has with a Giftia she once knew who has been recycled (same body but new artificial soul) prompts Tsukasa to formally confess, but things can't ever be so simple when Isla is involved. As Isla's retrieval date grows near, the two fledgling lovers grow closer together while carrying out one last potentially troublesome case. For Isla, who once so feared losing her memories that she didn't want to make any more with anyone, these are some of her most cherished days.
Spoiler Alert: This review will discuss the end of the series in detail.
Though it started strong, Plastic Memories was prone to bouts of frustratingly uneven content even from the beginning. These tone problems have not entirely passed by the time episode 8 rolls around; some of the most critical distractions, such as the scenes where Tsukasa gets coached on romance by the other members of Terminal Service, are definitely still in play. However, the last six episodes also tighten up the story considerably, employing less complete frivolity in favor of a stronger and more consistently developing emotional core. This results in numerous moments that can tug at the heartstrings, all leading up to a fairly powerful climax.
Though the mechanics behind the Giftia have been left nebulous, the concept nonetheless provides some dynamic possibilities for exploring themes of short-lived artificial beings. The series did this some in the first half as we saw Giftia serving as surrogate parents, the ugly consequences of what happens when Giftia go beyond the limit of their artificial souls (not unlike a major psychotic break), and the emotions many owners experience when their Giftia is retrieved, often akin to losing a blood relative. The second half of the series continues to expand on these ideas in one big way, by addressing the concept of recycling a Giftia. Because only the artificial soul goes bad when Giftia life expectancy is reached, not any physical aspect of the body, the possibility of continuing to own the Giftia with a new soul (and thus a new personality and blank slate of memories) exists. One owner does this nonchalantly, simply declaring that she'll continue to treat her refurbished Giftia just like she had before, while Eru needs time to get over the initial shock of a Giftia she once knew not having the same personality or memories anymore; she eventually decides to just focus on making new memories with the new version. Tsukasa, meanwhile, represents the skeptic who cannot accept this so easily.
This is some pretty deep and involved content; you could probably base a whole series on the recycling concept alone. Plastic Memories has always had a different angle as its main focus though: how an individual whose days are literally numbered faces their fate and how those around her cope with that reality. Various missions in both the first and second halves allow Isla and Tsukasa to explore different kinds of reactions, especially the way Giftia themselves make peace with their ends. The series is at its best when it focuses on how Isla gradually stops isolating herself, learns how to trust that those around her will be able to deal with her impending demise, and also accepts that happiness is possible for her even in her final days. The way her attitude changes from episode 1 to episode 13, with Tsukasa as a reactive support, is convincing and satisfying.
That all leads into the finale, which is where the series shines brightest. The inevitable end of things is played seriously, and yet there is nothing somber about it. Isla gets to go out on her own terms, cleaning house before she leaves for good, leaving messages behind for everyone, and spending her final day at the amusement park she so loved with the person she's fallen in love with. When her time comes, it could only happen in one place: the Ferris wheel that has been so prominently featured up to this point. Her final conversation with Tsukasa – as he struggles to keep his emotions from overwhelming him – is heartbreaking but beautiful, and the way she passes on is a prime example of karmic justice, as we learn that she was the one who set the standard for Terminal Service 1's uniquely compassionate approach to retrievals and now reaps the benefits of what she once sowed. If you're prone to getting emotional over anime drama, then this is one of the strongest examples you'll find in recent years, an effect only amplified by watching multiple episodes together.
As with the first half, the technical merits and artistic quality in this half are nothing spectacular, though quality control remains steady. The producers also saved the best animation effort for last, as Tsukasa's expressiveness in the climactic scenes is powerful, and shot compositions are especially carefully chosen. The musical score is still a stronger effort that excels particularly in the key scenes of the final episode, with a gentle piano and string number set to vocals as the retrieval and its immediate aftermath play out. Kudos also goes to Yasuaki Takumi for some very fine and utterly convincing voice work as Tsukasa in those scenes.
Aniplex of America's release splits the six episodes between two discs. Unlike the release of Part 1, this part has only web episode previews and clean opener and closer for on-disc extras, though it does have Spanish as well as English subtitle options. The case comes in a sturdy slipcover which contains two sets of postcards featuring alternative takes on various scenes from the series, including one depicting the whole Terminal Service One staff posing for a picture together. These are high-quality glossy cards that feature some very nice-looking shots. As always, the set is still overpriced for what you're getting.
Isla also reveals what she whispers to Giftia right before they are retrieved – a wish that they will eventually be united with a loved one. This raises its own interesting questions about what might happen to an artificial soul in an afterlife or reincarnation sense. The somewhat controversial final scene at least leaves open the possibility that Isla might have been recycled, but the identity of the new employee at Terminal Service in the final shot is deliberately left ambiguous. (I'm inclined to believe that it's not her based on Tsukasa not having much reaction.) The answers will always be left to the viewer's imagination, and perhaps that's how it should be. Overall, the second half may still have its flaws, but it doesn't waste the potential that the first half set up. It delivers where it matters, which makes up for a lot.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Strong emotional content, convincing character development, explores some intriguing concepts
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