Plastic Memories Ep. 2-5: One tiny oasis in a barren wasteland

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Shows like these are the most infuriating, ’cause you know they can be good, but… they’re just not. The only time the anime has ever gotten my interest is during this little exchange:

Tsukasa: “Hey, Isla… what did you mean by that?”

Isla: “Having happy and beautiful memories won’t always bring you salvation. The more beautiful a memory is, the more painful it can be come.”

Isla doesn’t need to say, “It can even become terrifying,” and everything that follows. That part’s just superfluous. We get the gist. Breakups are painful, especially when the other person actually mean something to us. Ultimately, this is a show about death, loss, and eventually — hopefully — acceptance.

Joel: Mierzwiak! Please let me keep this memory, just this one.

Bittersweet. We take the word for granted, but it’s an important idea for a story like Plastic Memories. Of course pain sucks; no one wants to feel pain. At the same time, however, not all pain is the same. And with regards to memories and breakups, they’re only painful if the relationship, bond or what have you actually meant something in the first place. But people are so afraid of being hurt that they won’t even allow themselves to live life. So what if she will have to move away soon? Why not just enjoy the relationship while it lasts? So what if our pets will eventually die and leave us? Won’t you still have the treasured memories to look back on? So what if you tried and you failed? At least you tried, right? The experience is worth something, right? Well, this is the mental block that Isla has to fight through. She supposedly only has 2000 hours left, and she’s in danger of wasting them all because she’s afraid of pain. That’s precisely why, however, Kazuki put her back in the field. It sure isn’t because she’s the best they’ve got. Nope, Isla’s capabilities have been declining for quite some time now. But perhaps if she saw how other Giftias come to accept their fates, then maybe Isla will also arrive at her own epiphany.

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It all comes back to life and what makes it unique — what makes it worth treasuring. Life is a process that has a beginning and an end. From an objective standpoint, the premise doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Why must the Giftias eventually go insane? Why can’t this be prevented? Why can’t their personalities and memories be preserved? You mean to tell me you can invent androids, but you can’t back up any of their data? But that’s because these androids have to die. Otherwise, they have not really lived. Otherwise, they are not human. This is why wanderers pretty much lose all their humanity. Immortality is ultimately unnatural. Just think about it. Just imagine an android — or any being for that matter — that can survive forever, and as a result, he or she wanders through life, accumulating an infinite amount of memories and experiences. Why are our loved ones special to us? Because they are the only loved ones we’ve got. But an immortal being can, for as long as the universe exists, acquire loved ones without end. Happy memories also without end. Soon enough, those unique people and those unique moments in his or her life will no longer be quite so unique. They’re just another insignificant slice of time lost within the unfathomable eternity of an immortal one’s life. In other words, death gives life meaning. Life is bittersweet.

But anyway, that’s one moment from the show that is worth thinking about. One moment that has managed to capture my attention and imagination. Sadly, the rest of Plastic Memories is about as interesting as its milquetoast hero.

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There’s too much of this.

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Too much of that.

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And too much of this.

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Definitely too much of this. C’mon, you’re legally an adult, and you can’t even sift flour?! Ahem… Alright, you get the picture. If Plastic Memories had been a series of loosely related vignettes designed to explore the questions and complexities surrounding life, mortality, loss, regret, so on and so forth, I’d be a happy man. But instead, we keep our eyes and ears transfixed on Tsukasa. Welp. There’s too much fluff in the first five episodes. Too much bland, unthreatening nonsense. None of it remotely engages my emotions one bit. Maybe we’re about to hit a turning point. Maybe the cliffhanger at the end of the fifth episode is a sign of more serious things to come. But I’ve been burned so many times. I’ve had to watch the same boring, generic protagonist woo the same mute, diminutive shoujo too many times. It feels rote. It feels robotic and mechanical, which is the last thing Plastic Memories and its subject matter should want to elicit from its audience.

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Seriously, though, how the fuck did nobody notice a little kid following closely behind them? Jesus fucking Chri–

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7 thoughts on “Plastic Memories Ep. 2-5: One tiny oasis in a barren wasteland”

  1. Hahaha! Nicely done.

    “But an immortal being can, for as long as the universe exists, acquire loved ones without end. Happy memories also without end. Soon enough, those unique people and those unique moments in his or her life will no longer be quite so unique. They’re just another insignificant slice of time lost within the unfathomable eternity of an immortal one’s ife. In other words, death gives life meaning. Life is bittersweet.”
    This was beautiful, E Minor. Genuinely touching.

    Which helps to further illustrate your point of how depressingly “anime” this anime is despite its potential.

    Though I will admit, this bit:
    “Plastic Memories had been a series of loosely related vignettes designed to explore the questions and complexities surrounding life, mortality, loss, regret, so on…”
    reminds me of what we all expected Death Gamble to be. Death Billiards? Whatever; it’s what we thought that anime would be like. I actually haven’t gone back to check it out since the expository episode. Think that was the second or third one? I also remember an episode about beauty and bowling.

    Have you taken a glance at Death Billiards since then?

    1. Have you taken a glance at Death Billiards since then?

      Yes. I enjoyed it. But it’s a different season, and I’m on to different things.

  2. “Soon enough, those unique people and those unique moments in his or her life will no longer be quite so unique. They’re just another insignificant slice of time lost within the unfathomable eternity of an immortal one’s life. In other words, death gives life meaning. Life is bittersweet.”

    If you could live long enough to see a mountain’s rise and fall, wouldn’t that give you a deeper appreciation of it than any human could have? It’s possible death is necessary for human experience to have human meaning, but I don’t see why human meaning should be the only meaning worth searching for. Isn’t all religion an attempt to reach beyond human meaning? I guess if a story wants to remain a human story and not become a religious text it has to have conviction that human meaning is more worthwhile than the alternative.

    1. If you were immortal, I doubt any singular act of mountains rising would be very impressive. Anything short of galactic birth or destruction would seem unimportant. And I didn’t imply that human meaning was the only meaning worth attaining. Rather, I argued that the androids must have their lives cut inexplicably short in order for them to have human meaning. If you want to live forever and witness the evolution of the cosmos, fine, but the tradeoff is that your human experiences become meaningless.

  3. Very well said. What I wrote beneath was to support your point, but it kind of does and doesn’t.

    It’s interesting to note how Plastic Memories is straddling a divide of sorts with what it is doing here. On one hand, the anime conforms to a sci-fi tradition of marrying science to religious ideas. In Evangelion this is quite literal. Legend of the Galactic Heroes utilizes a mishmash of time periods – something which would actually seem very natural from the viewpoint of an immortal being. In Psycho-Pass science lords over us absolutely through Sybil and dictates our behaviour. And in Plastic Memories science acts the immortal by creating life.
    On the other hand, it diverges from science’s quest for immortality (which parallels religion): We use science to grasp a bigger picture than what is permitted by our lifespan through methods such as carbon dating and cosmic radiation. Automation frees us from meaningless repetition of tasks – giving us more time to work with. Medicine lengthens people’s lives dramatically. In Plastic Memories by contrast, having lost a sort of proxy battle for immortality through androids, society turns to championing the human experience – in all its finality – instead.
    *Regarding my LotGH point: it relates to how believers maintain that religious texts written long ago are still relevant today.

  4. Like Sidonia this is just too anime to get into which is pretty disappointing. The plot line they’ve chosen to go with is pretty weak too. It would have been fine if they used an episodic format and focused more on the characters and how Giftia have impacted society. This, this is just silly, the psycho pass gun and all. The idea of Isla not wanted to form memories I find to be compelling but when its wrapped in dumb moe it just loses it.

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