Plastic Memories First Impressions
I can’t remember the last time an opening episode of an anime got this kind of an emotional reaction out of me. Perhaps Cross Game or AnoHana were able to evoke this kind of emotion, but it’s hard to be certain in hindsight. So, yeah, Plastic Memories currently looks to be one of the standout shows of this season. It follows the lives of the Terminal Service employees of the SAI Corporation. The SAI Corporation has developed highly realistic androids called Giftia who are nearly identical to humans in terms of emotional range and memory. However, a Giftia only has a lifespan of about 81,920 hours, or about nine years and four months. After that point, the Giftia’s consciousness and memory will begin to degrade. As such it is the duty of the Terminal Service to collect the Giftia from the customer before the deadline, and erase their memories.
Our main character is Tsukasa Mizugaki, a recent transfer to the Terminal Service, who was appointed to the position without being fully informed as to its duties. Due to his lack of familiarity with the job and because every human employee of the Terminal Service is partnered with a Giftia employee, Tsukasa is partnered with an older Giftia who has been working with the Terminal Service for a while, Isla. Much of Tsukasa’s introduction as well as the introduction of his coworkers is done in a manner that ensures a certain degree of levity, with many of the characters being somewhat comedically introduced in broad sweeping strokes. However, that sense of levity is vital since, as Isla puts it, this isn’t a job that will ever feel rewarding. They first accompany another pair, Michiru Kinushima and Zack, as they go to collect a Giftia from an elderly couple. The Giftia is a young man named Edward and has been serving as an adopted son for the couple for the past nine years. While the collection goes smoothly, it is clear that the duty of the Terminal Service is essentially an emotional powder keg, since they are in effect splitting up families that have developed over a number of years.
This becomes all the more apparent with Tsukasa and Isla’s first case in which they must convince an elderly woman, Chizu Shirohana, to allow them to collect her Giftia which takes the form of a young girl named Nina whom she has raised as her granddaughter. Unlike the first family, who had braced themselves and accepted that their son could no longer stay with them, Chizu adamantly refuses to allow for Nina to be collected. This serves as the primary focus of the second half of the episode, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears. Not I Remember You or Clannad levels of crying mind you (It’s closer to getting a bit of Leaves from the Vine stuck in your eye) but even so, it is impressive for this show to get this kind of emotional response in the first episode without feeling manipulative. The conflict with Chizu takes a while, but all sides involved are coming from understandable perspectives. Nina wants Chizu to accept what needs to be done, because, as things stand, if she doesn’t have her memory deleted now the pain of gradually losing those memories over time will result in a more prolonged pain that will taint the time they had together. It’s rare to find a story that could be considered allegorical in regards to the subject of assisted suicide, but Plastic Memories doesn’t seem to try and draw an actual conclusion in regards to the subject. Instead, it simply presents the scenario that the characters currently face, and then allow them to try and work towards the outcome that is most fitting for them.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Plastic Memories is an original work, which is nice to see. There will be a manga coming out in June, which will apparently be a spin-off that focuses on Michiru.
- Sometimes I’ll hear western viewers ask why anime tend to incorporate unfunny jokes or slapstick into otherwise serious storylines. I believe the answer, as Plastic Memories perfectly demonstrates, is to try and ensure that their entire viewership isn’t wiped out in a tidal wave of suicides.
- The art has a slight pastel aspect to it that reminds me very much of Wandering Son, though it isn’t as drastic as that show’s art style was. I think it’s the way the hair is done that is causing me to draw that connection. Still, it adds a faint calming element to the visuals which serves the narrative well.
Plastic Memories offers up an emotionally wrenching tale of grief and acceptance, and those who are called upon to, as Isla puts it, rip apart peoples memories. Furthermore, it succeeds in keeping the viewer from feeling emotionally drained or blindsided, which is worth noting given the weight of its subject matter. If you’re wary of more sentimental titles, this might be the one to try, despite any aversions you may have, as it seems to deliberately avoid putting the viewer “through the wringer” as it were. As far as first episodes go, I keep comparing this to Cross Game, which can be considered nothing but a good thing. Plastic Memories has a full hearted recommendation from me.
Plastic Memories is the standout show of this season. It is not one to be missed.