So, I wanted Plastic Memories to be good. Because robots. I really did. But my hopes weren’t high after the first couple of trailers I saw – it looked like it was going to be slow paced and stuffed full of dating-sim-style cliches.
As it turns out, I was mostly right. Plastic Memories presents a really weird tonal mix that just doesn’t mesh.
The series takes assorted Appealing To A Specific Fetish Cliche chars – The Quiet One With Glasses, The Little Kid, The Ayanami, The Newb Everyman, The Inexplicably Pissy Kouhai – and forces them to jiggle around through awkward and lame ‘office humor’ scenes. Meanwhile the obviously ‘underage’ Ayanami bootleg, Isla, is fetishized and objectified with multiple wiggling ass shots. And just when you think, okay, I’ve had enough of this, it’s just going to be mindless wank material – suddenly the show stabs you in the chest during the scenes where they actually go to collect the robots from their humans. Those scenes are emotional, infuriating and yet underdeveloped.
So our lackluster cast is given the ass-end job of going to retrieve robots (“Giftias”, in this universe) about to cross their arbitrary nine-year lifespan. This involves ‘negotiating’ with their owners and the Giftias themselves. Our Everyman’s job is basically to stand there and let his Giftia partner do all the work. Where the show actually has some kind of impact is during these collection scenes. They play out as savage and almost cruel – these are clearly families getting torn apart for no other reason than corporate malfeasance and poor design. An elderly couple gives up their ‘son’, who is promptly erased on the spot while they stand there and bravely smile through the tears so nice and compliant. Significantly, the show pulls away in the second retrieval, glossing over a potentially interesting situation where a young man tries to escape out the backdoor with his robot girlfriend. Isla wiggles her ass at the camera some more, goes off after them, and suddenly! We’re back at the office, where the couple has been literally vanished with a single throwaway line of dialogue about them being arrested in order to cram in more tedious ‘office humor’ bullying. The last retrieval is the very small child Giftia belonging to a sour old woman who has no intention of returning the robot, as she is emotionally attached.
The awkward tonal inbalance of the show shows the ‘experienced’ Giftia retrieval character, Isla (the Ayanami Rei clone) bringing more and more elaborate tea services to the door as ‘humor’, then lingers on another wiggling ass shot as she jumps the fence and gets into the backyard. And the recalcitrant grandma kind of just rolls over at that point, letting the characters into the house because… her granddaughter Giftia wanted her to be nice? This is followed by a random scene of Isla taking a shower inside the old lady’s house while our Everyman bumbles through offering the grandmother some upgrade options on the model she has – guess you don’t want the 30% recycling credit – oh, but if she wants to keep the body, the OS will (for some reason) completely destroy the memories and personality of the existing little girl. You just want to ask: what idiot designed these things?
This is one of those universes where everyone has to be kind of inhuman for it to work correctly – and the show just seems to want to make you Very Sad and Angry without actually providing genuine catharsis. Its sentimentality seems to come from a cynical place, as we are subjected to one scene after another of the robots going to their erasure and being locked away, personalities completely erased, with tears but compliance. You think to yourself, this is really a universe that needs Mavericks. Or a Dr. Wily. This ‘recovery team’ doesn’t show up armed (lol Japan no guns there) – what would happen if a Giftia actually tried to fight back? Would we just get another cutaway to some limp dialogue after the situation was magically resolved off screen? Does anyone want to watch 12 episodes of this string-yanking? How much variety can there be in a setup that requires you to ‘go knock on a door and hope nobody throws things at your head’?
And then! After this intensely sad scene where the childish Giftia is bawling her eyes out trying to remember everything she wants to say to her owner before she gets shut down, after we watch her being erased, after our lead character is clearly gloomy about having done nothing of use having spent the day watching several familes having been stripped apart… Isla is depicted under the episode’s end credits as needing to pee while driving and can’t hold it. Embarrassing, stupid and degrading material that strips the show of any attempt at authority for its characters, clearly playing to another fetish beat.
Emotional whiplash, to say the least.
I can’t recommend this and I don’t plan to watch any more, because the tonal shifts are just too weird and I really don’t like the overt fetishization at work. It’s obvious the show is capable of being more, wants to be more, but it’s as if it really doesn’t want to face the issues it raises even as it raises them – it wants to have its cake and eat it too. It runs away from its own dark side, substituting flat-falling “jokes” and overt fanservice to try and balance the tone. The show implies that Isla has some kind of secret power or dramatic past or is older than 9 years old and wasn’t erased, or whatever, but it’s impossible to care about that given the design and presentation of the character and the show’s desire to undermine her in every scene.
This series is better off forgotten.