How would it feel to know that my life is predetermined? That’s a heavy question. That’s a question I would really like to sit down and ponder about all day. It’s just too bad I’m currently very distracted. I’m distracted by the heroine’s moe character design. I’m distracted by the redhead’s by-the-books tsuntsun attitude. I’m distracted by the hero’s awfully generic characterization. Yes, him being nothing but a carbon copy of every other sad sack of mild-mannered nipponjin shit was expected. Even so, this still doesn’t change the fact that the show’s anime trappings very unfortunately detract from an otherwise interesting premise — a premise that might even have potential. And unfortunately, this is why anime in general feels so restricted and confined. The foundation of the story can have as much promise as it wants, but we’re still going to throw some bog standard bullshit on it. It’s like an unspoken agreement that every show out there must drag itself down with the medium’s conventions. Androids considering their mortality? Let’s stick some cardboard cutout anime characters up in this shit! A great struggle for absolute power between mages and assassins? Let’s make it about high school characters! A war between two planets? HIGH. SCHOOL. CHARACTERS.
So the characters here are technically working adults. Not that it means much in execution, though. After all, the main dude is just eighteen. Like right on the edge between childhood an adulthood. Hell, in most cultures, you might be legally considered an adult, but no one actually treats you like one. So while our buddy over here isn’t another high schooler, he might as well be. After all, the other tsuntsun girl is only seventeen. Seventeen. C’mon. Give me a fucking break. What? Are anime fans literally allergic to anyone over the age of twenty or something? I guess I’m supposed to be grateful that Isla isn’t just Chi for the year 2015. If the first episode of the series lays out the foundation for the rest of the story, then I’m already apprehensive. The current approach is too basic. Too cutesy. Too after school special. There are tearjerky moments, of course. You don’t wrest away what is essentially an old woman’s granddaughter without tugging a few heart strings, but a lot of the first episode tries too hard to be comical or humorous. Ho ho ho, Isla’s not quite the veteran that they say she is. And every so often, the camera focuses on her ass. Now, keep in mind, she has a childlike appearance to reflect the fact that these damn robots only ever exist for about ten years before unfortunately breaking down. But that won’t stop us from scoping out her ass, though!
It’s not that I want Blade Runner redux. I don’t. Blade Runner is its own thing, and Plastic Memories can be its own thing. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m going to be fond of whatever the anime chooses to be. And there’s a lot of pain inherent to its premise. Maybe Nina can accept the finality of her short-lived life, but you certainly don’t expect all of her kind to act the same way. And you can perhaps expect resentment to breed in the other robots. But how far can Plastic Memories actually go? Again, we don’t necessarily have to get violent, but the tone is established by the first episode leaves me wary. I can imagine all sorts of scenarios. I can imagine protests as people don’t believe robots should be designed to be so humanlike just to live such short, unfulfilling lives. I can imagine robots running away from home because they want to embrace the sweetness of the time they have left. I can imagine other robots lashing out because the finality of their existence feels so arbitrary (why such a specific number?). Perhaps their lives have been conveniently left short so that customers would have to replace them every so often, thereby providing their creators with a steady supply of profit. And as short as ten years might be, these robots are nevertheless a functioning, contributing members of society. Should they have rights? And if the answer is “Of course!” then how much rights do they get? The same as us?
Hell, aren’t we taking advantage of these “children?” An older-looking robot may very well have been programmed to have the personality of, say, a 25 year old young man. But that’s not quite the same as having the emotional development and maturity of an actual person who has had the luxury to literally experience 25 years of life on this planet. One can wake up one day and feel as though one should be an adult, but if there’s nothing substantive behind one’s motives, actions, thoughts, and feelings… it leaves one in quite a strange spot. It’s as if you’ve been cheated and robbed of your agency. After all, at whatever age you are, you are the culmination of the many years of personal actions and feelings that you’ve built up over the year. We cannot say the same for these robots. They don’t get to start from scratch. They have roles to fulfill right from the get-go, and what sort of life is that? I suppose you could just embrace determinism whole-heartedly, and sweep this whole problem under the rug. Just say that we are all the same way, i.e. shaped and molded by our genetics, upbringing, and environment. Who’s to say we’re any different from these robots? But that’s another potential angle that the premise can explore. The little girl says she wishes she could leave her grandmother with a smile, but is that heartwarming desire even authentic? Was it ever really hers? And as we consider this question, we can’t help but wonder about the authenticity of our own actions as well…
But that’s just me sitting here, thinking about what the story can be. The story isn’t anything yet. The story can take so many interesting directions, and to be fair, it can still become anything, including all the things that I’ve mentioned above. But let’s face it… I’m not going to get my hopes up after years and years with anime. I’m not going to get my hopes up when an eighteen year old kid sees a twelve year old looking robot for the first time, and declares love at first sight. I’m not going to get my hopes up when her ass is then highlighted over and over. I’m not going to get my hopes up when the first episode follows a tearful departure between an elderly woman and her granddaughter with Isla potentially wetting herself because hurr hurr pee jokes.