The fact that people ever thought this had potential scares me. I mean when you can’t even draw your promo material right, that doesn’t exactly speak confidently for the rest of the show.
Have you ever seen an anime with a premise so uninspired and lacking in imagination that you know it’s doomed for failure before it even gets a chance to show off? However, because you’re an anime fan who finds it pointless to just watch stuff you like, you continue on out of sheer curiosity regarding how badly it’ll be handled, only to realize you underestimated the depths a man can take to stretch said weak premise out in order to fit a full-series length? That’s pretty much how I watch practically 90% of the anime I keep up with on a regular basis, and Plastic Memories happens to be one of said percentage.
Yes, trying to demand ambition from Dogakobo is like begging a grizzly bear to save you from hitmen despite the fact that he’s a fucking corpse because you thought poisoning his berry patch would have been a good funny to make on Facebook (you monster), so I wasn’t too surprised that the show turned out as inane as it did. But whilst I’ve yet to meet a colleague who disagreed with me, the semi-good reaction this show has been getting from the overall community is more baffling than an Australian politician’s general incompetence at being human. I know a lot of anime fans love “feels” and all, which makes these sort of shows both easy and difficult to criticize. Because whilst it’s easy to say what doesn’t work about ‘em, said method of storytelling is ultimately a style, the same way all music and humor is a style at the end of the day. It either works for you or it doesn’t, making any criticism you dish out being rendered ultimately pointless by the fact that your brain and childhood just isn’t hardwired to get it.
The thing is though, even by those incredibly irrational standards, Plastic Memories is pretty damn awful right down to the very concept. In some distant future exists humanoid androids called “Gifita” who only have a fixed lifespan of ten years, because any longer than that and they become more rabid than a pack of raccoons after being sprayed by a skunk. Just before said lifespan expires, they are retrieved by a group of “Retrievers” in order to be put to sleep, basically making them futuristic dogs except with the ability to talk and act out your pedophilic tendencies towards if you so choose. Except the show isn’t really even about how dog retrieval life is like. It’s about the actual partings and what they mean to people, with most of said story being told through an office worker and his “actually dog” partner. Reminds me of that awful era when Dogakobo was releasing visual novel adaptations that had decent premises on paper and proceeded to ignore ‘em completely in favor of either two things: shallow melodramatic shit and shallow melodramatic shit with poorly animated fight scenes.
Incidentally, the office workers in this anime look pretty damn young, don’t they? I’m not expecting a huge growth spurt or anything after you leave high school, but the younger characters all look and act like the kouhai of the middle schoolers in Evangelion whilst the older ones are pretty much the grown-up Evangelion characters with some of the blandest designs you’ll ever see. It would have been an improvement to just have them all wear black face.
The anime is written by Naotaka Hayashi, whose previous works were about taking high-concept sci-fi and proceeding to just throw it in the background whilst focusing on characterization that’s basically just putting a bunch of nerd tropes together and giving them one gimmick that’s not even all that important to the story half the time. But if those semicolon adaptations are the equivalent of a romance film starring Ryan O’Neal, Plastic Memories is the direct-to-video sequel that was never made because it was too stupid for the world to see. And it’s not just because I find the show overly manipulative. In fact, I think detractors in general overuse that criticism, never taking into consideration why and how something can even be considered overly manipulative in the first place. You can’t just say “I hate manipulation” because as I myself keep saying, ALL drama is manipulative. Even Mufasa’s death in The Lion King is manipulative, and it’s still considered by many to be one of the best achievements in western animation to this day.
But whilst it wasn’t the only reason why said scene was powerful for most people, at the end of the day, you can’t deny that The Lion King in general is a big film with grand ambitions beyond an annoying Jonathan Taylor-Thomas character crying over his dead daddy. Plastic Memories, on the other hand, is literally all about some bland guy we don’t even learn anything about getting sad about the fact that his dog is dying. Except in order to increase the manipulation, said dog is actually a small moe girl. I don’t claim to be an expert of the genre, but practically every single story about a dog from Old Yeller to that Silverfang anime from the 80s has always been sad, because they always involve parting with ‘em and…well…is there any way to spin a happy tale out of that? What matters is how you use said tragedy, from representing personal growth to…erm…representing personal growth, and Plastic Memories doesn’t even do that.
By the end of this “incredibly padded even by visual novel anime standards” story – because someone thought that repeating the same toothless joke up to three times an episode at minimum and a random incident involving some black market dealers that’s never brought up again counts as a legitimate way to achieve a one-cour length from this – you know nothing new about anything. Only the main couple is important in the grand scheme of things, and they never grow up from where they started – something they were in dire need of doing because they have less maturity than a middle school kid who believes that Santa Claus is real and looks like Elmo from Sesame Street. There’s an ambiguous closing scene involving a Giftia whose face isn’t shown after a short time-skip following the final climax; and no matter how you spin it, said scene doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
If the Giftia’s body is whose I think it is, that would ruin whatever character journey you can wring out of the main. And if it’s not, then what exactly is the dude going to apply in regards to this new being? The show refuses to accomplish more than the very basics of what you can achieve with visual novel-style writing and tragedy stories in general to the point that I’m practically convinced at this point that Naotaka Hayashi is less of a real person and more of an auto-generating machine when someone wants to release a VN-style anime. Bland nice guy schmuck? Check. Little moe love interest who can’t take care of herself? Check. Tsundere who not-so-secretly helps the couple whilst desiring “bland nice guy” cock? Check. Potentially interesting world buried under banal personal problems? Check. Reminding us that Evangelion exists? Every anime does that these days, but check anyways.
As a result, no one – from the creators to the actual characters this show is supposed to be centered on – seem to be into anything, and that’s pretty much why Plastic Memories fails. Even if you ignore the cardboard stereotypes, the cloying melodrama, the flat visuals, and the forgettable music, this show just doesn’t accomplish anything it sets out to do at all. The decision to set the anime in a futuristic world adds nothing to the story, the working environment adds nothing to the characters, and whatever moral I’m supposed to get out of the story is buried under a lot of crappy cliches. Even Dreamworks’ movies have made their agendas clear underneath their terrible pop-culture referencing and animation hiccups.
And when you have less going for you than Bee Movie and Shrek 3…well then I’ve got no more words to waste on you. You sad, pity party-seeking loser.