I am suspicious of Plastic Memories.
There; that’s probably a good place to start. I am deeply, deeply suspicious of Plastic Memories. Sure, my eyes were pretty glued to the screen during the episode, but as the adorable lolibot was loaded into the car, I felt this nagging sense of having been swindled as a fool. Of course, ending on a “joke” about a girl wetting herself didn’t really help matters.
I think Plastic Memories wants to be a thoughtful, profound (although perhaps only mildly) show. Unfortunately, it is addicted to a weak and unfunny sense of humor, and the character designer was told “make it light novel-y” when s/he asked for more guidance on what sort of designs were wanted. And, even before that, after the original creator explained their idea to a room full of execs, everyone nodded very sagely and said, “Yes, and it will star a milquetoast, he will be paired with a blandly cute robot girl with a troubled past, and you must somehow work in Asuka Langley Sohryu, except with a different name since, y’know, copyright.” Thus was Plastic Memories birthed.
But, sure, I say this, yet I did like the first episode – I just am not trusting of my initial sentiments, especially given that even as I enjoyed it, there were several items that were cause for concern in me, to include the aforementioned character designs and the lack of imagination as regards the cast. And you know what? The fact that the lead is a fresh-from-high-school earnest boy, still wet behind the ears, didn’t trouble me overmuch, although I tend to doubt that they’ll use his status as a naïve young man new to the adult world in a way that feels… useful? Necessary?
I’ll put it this way – how many eighteen year olds spend much time dwelling upon mortality, their own or that of others? Sure, sure, some do (I did – but I was also suicidal(, but one of the big things teenagers have to get over in order to truly become adults is their underlying assumption that they are immortal. So a kid straight from the high school realm suddenly having to confront death up close multiple times per week? And part of this confrontation involves him having to, essentially, persuade the loved ones of the “dying” to accept it and let them go? That’s some pretty rich terrain. But, eh, I’m not convinced that this aspect’ll ever be developed much – after greenhorn gets over the superficial shock he displays in episode one, that’ll probably it since it’ll be time to navel-gaze solely about Isla’s fated demise and how that makes him (and her) feel… which, well, it’s not like it’s terrible to have Isla’s feelings about her fate be a focus in the show, but, well, it’s all framed as this guy falling for this underage-looking robot girl, right? Think of what else could’ve been.
There were some interesting things, or at least suggestions of things, in this episode. The involvement of the Giftia in their own demises brings to mind the debate about “death with dignity”, the question about whether people have a right to choose how and when they die (a debate which takes place largely in the context of people with terminal illnesses). There’s a hint about the isolation of the elderly, as the Giftia owners we encounter are all elderly people, and also in this some tension about the nature of family and family life in modern Japan, and how that is shifting.
…but then we have a robot girl trying to not pee herself and I get that “ugh, sigh” reaction that anime fans are all so terribly familiar with. You want to give me a story about a little robot girl dying and her “grandmother”/owner having trouble accepting that said little robot girl has a limited lifespan, and then you want to cap it with a girl almost pissing in her own car because she drank too much tea. What levity, Plastic Memories, what levity.