Plastic Memories – 02

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This show is a tough nut to crack.

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.

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  1. g

    It really left me cold. My reaction for supposed sad moments was lukewarm "Oh…". And all joke's attempts was a little irritating. And I think I didn't have any expectations. I guess I'll be reading your reviews, if you'll continue, that's it, and eventually watch in batch, if I find it good.

  2. D

    I don't think the series is a masterpiece, but I like it. Isla reminds me of the 65-year old employee who was a hotshot in her day, but is now affectionately tolerated around the office and her missteps, occasional dementia (and even weak bladder… not that we needed that) accepted because of what she once was, or people turning a blind eye to it. It's a parable about aging, office culture. Also, with the attempts to bring robotics into Japanese society to care for elderly and make up for the failing birth rate, it also has a little to say about that.

    So far, it's been a lot better than I expected, given the staff involved, and it's one of the shows I look forward to.

  3. w

    Yeah, I'm really surprised by how unfunny I find Plastic Memories. That was the one thing I took for granted it would do well at!

  4. Just out of curiosity, why?

  5. w

    The people involved, mostly. I generally like Dogakobos brand of comedy, even when it's not making me laugh I still find it very likeable and fun. And then the writer Hayashi was involved in friggin Steins;Gate, which was hilarious when it tried to be. Even Robotics;Notes had a good ear for banter I thought.

    So yeah, given the writer and studio I sort of came in expecting some clever funny banter, combined with good use of slapstick and reaction faces. I do think the slapstick here is done a little better than the written comedy, but even then it misses a lot more than it hits.

  6. OK. My understanding, though, is that he was a scenario guy on S;G and R;N – here, he's actually writing scripts. Which may mean he's better at coming up with interesting ideas than actually writing situations and dialogue.

  7. w

    Yeah, I feel like that was my folly; I had assumed that as scenario writer he would have been involved in writing scenes and dialogue too.

  8. E

    Curiously enough, this show reminds me of Working! I didn't like that show as much, at least this show has sci-fi tidbits to keep me entertained when the comedy fails and the asuka looking girl isn't as abusive as inami …

  9. S

    I don't know why but Plastic Memories attempts at humor really alienates me as a viewer. The characters don't help either. I don't think I've ever been this apathetic in an anime yet. I agree that the show has a lot of potential but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. I sincerely hope it gets better though and I'll continue watching just to see if I'll warm up to any character.

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