Plastic Memories Episode 1 – The Means of Soul Production

Oh man, this was really good. I’m going to have to stop myself, because otherwise my post on the first episode could easily balloon into a couple thousand words. But in short? This was really good.

Presentation:

Plastic Memories episode 1 anime notes -Welcoming Michiru

Not a lot to say here, so I’ll keep this short. The art is fine, more of a style I associate with slice-of-life comedies. Rather soft. It’s… fine. The palette is very blue-centric, with blues and green-blues, alongside with outright neons everywhere helping to give this a more futuristic look.

Character models are serviceable, sometimes cute. Animation is nice. Some jitteriness here and there, sometimes actually used to heighten the effect, such as when Eddie said goodbye to everyone else, but there’s also a lot of flow in the comic moments. It does feel a tad abrupt at times, but solid.

Oh, yeah, this show makes much use of stark lighting, of light and shadow contrasts, especially on faces. It’s neither good nor bad, but it’s striking.

Directing and Comic Timing:

Plastic Memories episode 1 anime notes -Comic timing

This is an interim section, and one I usually don’t have, but I feel the need to talk about it, and neither “presentation” nor “themes/plot” are exact fits.

The directing in this show is superb. The best moment for me to point this out with is when Tsukasa was surprised by one of his coworkers telling him he’s human, falling back, and being caught and casually lifted back to his feet by Constance. That whole thing was extremely understated, and it was handled with such grace, with such fluidity, that it was great.

We’ve had a lot of funny/extreme faces, but also moments such as Isla and Tsukasa trying to convince Chizuru to let them reclaim Nina, that played more like a skit, but knew to stop before it got stale. Great stuff there, as well. And when necessary, the show knew how to take a step back so the drama could breathe and live through us. Heck, letting us hear Nina’s voice breaking as she said goodbye to “Granny” before showing us the tears worked on me, and my eyes got moist before we swung back to her.

Knowing how to swing between comedy and drama, and knowing that less is often more when it comes to directing, I must commend the show on this angle.

Plot/Themes:

Plastic Memories episode 1 anime notes -Unrewarding work

I could probably say so much here. I’m going to hold off. This is a 24 episode series (Edit: Seems I might have misremembered, or something got changed, don’t count on it.), which both fills me with joy, as they’d have time to explore the countless thematic threads that had already been brought up or mentioned, and also fills me with some dread, with all the threads already mentioned, will merely 24 episodes do? So I’ll focus on some themes a bit more succinctly this time, and wait for future episodes to elaborate on each topic.

The whole notion of “keeping relics” was somewhat visually reinforced by showing us a classic gameboy. I have mine that’s still working, and it’s about 19 years old. The company dealing with terminal retrievals is stored at the back of the main building, and they collect and place the androids into something that thematically resembles, including in its green colour, trash compressors.

And then of course, the whole question, the big question, if you knew you were about to die, how would it change your behaviour? And here’s the thing, we’re all going to die, all of our memories are going to be taken away from us. That’s what it means to be human. This is a show about “memento mori”, about working as an undertaker, as someone who euthanizes others. But you add to this a very important twist – you know exactly when you will die. And you don’t know it a little bit ahead of schedule, but far ahead of time. How do you react? What do you do when you can’t stop thinking of it?

What are robots supposedly there for us to do? They’re there to free us from menial labor so we could focus on what we do better, to free us to think, to feel. While the robots are certainly here to help people feel, the whole division of labor here feels somewhat inverted. The robots do the convincing, they engage with other people, while their human partners are merely there to watch over them, to look for small mistakes, rather than actually perform the more thought-provoking, the more social role. It’s as if the androids are the real people, and the humans are their PDA-helpers.

The concept of “never-rewarding work” is interesting. That should be the role of robots, to perform such thankless tasks so humans wouldn’t have to, but what if humans have to perform these thankless tasks alongside the robots? And if the robots have emotions, if they have souls, why is it alright to give them these thankless tasks? It’s just like giving these tasks to real humans, is it not? That’s a sci-fi question, by the by, asking whether it’s alright, just because they’re artificial, to subject them, even if they have the same feelings.

Plastic Memories episode 1 anime notes -Crying Nina

And it’s easy from there to draw the analogy to our children – did we not create them to do our work for us, to replace us? Children whose lives are timed? And is it even moral to create said robots, knowing they’ll perform thankless tasks, knowing their lives will be so short? And here, again, we can ask whether it’s moral to give birth to children, or children with sicknesses (think of the movie Gattaca), knowing how they must die, and suffer through their lives, as all life contains suffering?

“As long as I’m working, even I have a reason to exist,” so if she doesn’t work, she could be thrown away. She’s not thinking of herself as a person? And what about people, what if people don’t work, what is their reason for existing? Nina, is her work the emotional support she’s giving Granny, or is she doing that by merely existing, and is that sufficient? The relation between work, and what androids are to humans, and the nature of obviating the need for work, and perhaps humans, arises again.

But it’s not true that Isla wants to be a person, as she wants to be a robot. Isla wants to not think, to not feel, to just exist and do her job. A robot without an expiration date. A robot that doesn’t care for its expiration date. A robot, one that doesn’t care about essentially killing its kin, and bringing sorrow to humans.

As a final plot moment, that moment where Tsukasa offered Granny to keep Nina’s body, and “only” replace her personality and memories, that was so awful – he truly doesn’t get it. He basically offered to leave Granny with a reminder of what she has lost, with a different person speaking with the voice and face of the one he missed. And he thought it a kindness.

2 comments on “Plastic Memories Episode 1 – The Means of Soul Production

  1. gedata says:

    I wasn’t a fan of the extraordinary levels of callousness displayed from the characters here, though I assume that change from now on. The fact that it would be considered standard procedure to ask someone if they would want to replace the soul of their android does likely mean that there are plenty of people who still don’t consider them to be more then tools. The idea that the Granny would be considered unusual for her level of attachment to the girl lends to that as well.

    • Guy says:

      I don’t think this is the situation at all. Do note he kept blowing past other options, such as discounts on other models. He’s a newbie. This is probably not standard operating procedure, but him being clueless. It’s presented because it’s callous, and obviously the wrong thing. I don’t think at all it’s presented as “the right thing” or “normal thing” to do.

      Also, many people would put down animals if their treatment gets expensive. Is it callous? Many people don’t have other options, and as Nina said, in the end it’s for the better fate of the android as well, not just the owner.

      The question of treating androids as people as opposed to tools is exactly the theme I discussed at length in my piece, and it’s not at all clear-cut.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s