Spring has offered several what I was call pleasant surprises so far (though this early, those could all still blow up) and the shows that were supposed to be really good have held up their end of the bargain. But if there’s one I would term a disappointment, it would be Plastic Memories. That’s not because it’s terrible (it’s not), but because my expectations were pretty high, and the flaws I see here are significant enough that I doubt the show will be able to overcome them.
It may sound strange, but the series Plastic Memories most reminds me of is actually Kokoro Connect. It’s not the plot or the visuals, but the fact that each was a very good – maybe even great – premise that was torpedoed by really mediocre execution. Kokoro Connect manifested more in ups-and-downs than what we’ve seen from Plastic Memories so far, but they share a compulsion to aim for the lowest common denominator far too often as well as a propensity for narrative clumsiness, and emotionally both can be as subtle as a kick in the nuts.
Focusing on the matter at hand, there’s a lot wrong with this series. Perhaps most likely to be fatal, though, is that there are very few problems as insurmountable as a series that consistently tries to be funny and isn’t. That’s a big, big issue – and this show tries to be funny way too much for one that simply doesn’t seem to be able to pull it off. The disconnect in tone between the humor and the emotional hysterics might be tolerable – it might even be effective – if the humor worked. But it doesn’t. It’s generic, garden-variety anime sitcom formula and not especially good formula at that. This week we basically had 18 minutes of that and a big emotional finish, which is a bad idea – though at least the finish wasn’t as maudlin as in the premiere.
As I did with Kokoro Connect, I really want to like Plastic Memories. I love the idea behind it, derivative as it is. I love the notion of a run-down, “Dunder-Mifflin” style office of salarymen and women as the lonely voices trying to do their jobs with compassion in a corporation that could care less about the pain decommissioning their “product” causes the customer – and the product. It’s a rich vein of material to be mined, with seemingly endless possibilities for stories to tell – but is this staff the right team to tell them? I had high hopes going in, but after two episodes I’m not so sure.
The big reveal of the second episode (apart from the introduction of the sleazebag with the heart of gold Hanada Yasutaka, played by Tsuda Kenjirou) was that Isla has only 2000 hours (83.33 days) of life left. That was highly predictable, and it’s a staple of this sort of premise (I was surprised we didn’t get a “Mahoro countdown” clock at the end of the episode), but it offers nice possibilities for bonding with Tsukasa (and heartache). But possibility is only half the story with Plastic Memories, and only half the job. And so far, all of the characters – including Tsukasa and Isla – are strictly templates we’ve seen countless times before. As I said last week I’m so high on the potential here that I’m going to give this series a lot of rope, but this is a busy season with a lot of shows, especially on the weekend – and it’s going to need to show me something more than it already has pretty soon. As crazy busy as Sundays are for me, I sure hope it does.