What They Say:
In a world where there were slight scientific advancements… Tsukasa Mizugaki is offered a position at the renowned SAI Corporation thanks to his father’s connections. SAI Corporation is known for its production and management of androids capable of feeling human emotions called “Giftia.” Tsukasa’s position is in the terminal service department where their main job is to recover Giftias who are near their expiration – it is a dead end department in every sense. To make matters worse, Tsukasa is assigned to work with a female Giftia named Isla, who was never given any responsibility other than serving tea to her co-workers.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only and it’s done up in the uncompressed PCM format in stereo. The show is a dialogue piece for the most part so it’s not one that has a lot of stretching to do, though there are a couple of brief areas of “action” if you want to call it that where it gets to shine a bit more. The music is where it gets to stand out the most when you get down to it as there’s a warm and richness that clicks very well in making it feel right. The incidental music weaves in and out almost unnoticed at times in really good ways. Dialogue itself is definitely well handled with good placement and depth as needed and a clear sense of movement as well. It’s a well put together mix that’s encoded without problems, but it’s not a mix that’s going to grab your attention.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The seven episodes for this set are spread across two discs with three on the first and four on the second. Animated by Doga Kobo, the show has a very appealing looking with some nice little quirks to the character designs with the white edges of the hair to give it an interesting look. The character artwork is solid with some very good detail to many of them while the backgrounds bring the show to life in a lived-in kind of way while still feeling slightly into the future. The fluidity of the animation is spot on where it needs to go big while the more laid back scenes have their own richness. It may not be a show that stands out in some ways with its animation quality but what we get here is very good with some very beautiful moments to it mixed in with the great character moments.
The packaging design for this release brings us a soft slipcase that holds the standard sized clear Blu-ray case inside. The slipcase is pretty nice as we get a serious and somewhat emotional front piece with Isla that has some neat blurry aspects to the background that allows the clarity of her design to be all the stronger. The color design is great and using a wraparound that you can see through adds to it. I’m just not a fan of the font design for the logo or the split of Memories across two lines even if it brings in some additional text. The back cover gives us a bit more of a fun version of Isla as she’s swimming, though even that has her a little subdued in a way since she’s not exactly an emotional character. Within the box we get the clear case that has some really nice artwork of some of main SAI staff with bright outdoor colors while the back cover works a more serious and tense moment for Tsukasa and Isla together in their uniforms. They’re good covers all around and I like that they use as many as they do here across the various panels. The reverse side doesn’t have any character artwork but it does break down each disc by episode number and extras. Also included in the first pressing of the set is a small packet of postcards that uses the cover artwork and is perfect for framing.
The menu design is one that fits in with how Aniplex does a number of their menus, which tend to underwhelm me, as we get a lot of blank space and a lot of text over it. The three-lined logo is along the left and it has a small window of clips playing underneath it from the show. The right breaks out a few blocks in which we get the navigation itself, which has submenus for the chapters and access to subtitle options and extras. It’s just very simple and kind of bland since it’s done with white and gray, leaving the only color the window with the clip animation, which itself is about 25% of the menu’s real estate. Everything works quickly and smoothly without any problems, so the functionality is spot on, but it just doesn’t sell the show well or set the mood much.
This release comes with some good extras that will definitely make fans happy who want to know more of what went into the show. We get some of the usual material here with the web previews, of which there are obviously several, but we also get the staff and cast talk session material. The first one is a good and lengthy piece that works with the main voice cast to talk about their characters and the show while being outgoing and having a lot of fun with it as you’d expect, even if it is mostly light and superficial. The second piece is a bit more interesting as it brings out some of the staff to talk about how the series came together and what went into it. They both run a good bit of time, not a two minute quickie thing, but I didn’t dig deep into them since there’s always the potential for spoilers as we’re going through just the first half of the show here.
An original series that aired in the spring of 2015, Plastic Memories comes from Doga Kobo with the concept and screenplay by Naotaka Hayashi, who did some of the heavy lifting in the story in Steins;Gate. This set brings us the first half of the show, seven episodes worth, and works with the foundation and setup for what it’s going to be about. Near future alternate world stories have their appeal for me because more of than not, if done right, they’re actual windows into some of what we’re going to deal with as a society on some level. The social elements tend to not be delved into all that much when it comes to anime as it’s more about the emotional context and connection than anything else, but just seeing what some of these potentials can be like can be pretty instructive in and of itself.
The premise for the series is interesting enough as there are a range of androids that have been introduced into society known as Giftia’s. These are essentially indistinguishable from your real person in just about all ways and they serve as companions and friends for people in need. Because of their design, they’re only good for about just over nine years before they’re irreplaceable battery begins to wind down which in turn puts them into a kind of corrupt process where their memories go, they’re not who they were, and they begin to wander about and get tagged as Wanderers. Those that end up in this phase tend to not last long as they end up becoming violent and attack people, producing some very dangerous situations. Because of that, they’re collected a bit of time before the end from their own and are then decommissioned and dealt with about as you’d expect.
This is done by the SAI Corp, the biggest of the companies with branches worldwide in numerous countries. It’s here that we’re introduced to Tsukasa, a new to the workforce young man doing this because he didn’t make it into college due to some social problems in how he interacts with others and copes with stress and pressure. With some family connections getting him into this, he quickly finds himself put on a team with a Giftia named Isla where their job is to go to the residences of Giftia’s that are about to end their lifespan and work with the responsible owner in going through the process. It’s actually an interesting area of closure for the owner because they have to be involved through the ring that they possess and sign off on it all. The Giftia’s in general are pretty good about going through the process as that’s how they’re programmed, but you can imagine there are plenty of people that become very attached to their Giftia’s, regardless of whether they’re child-like designs or adult designs. That makes some of these collections very problematic with the way people will react, but you have to deal with it in a polite and constructive way as you’re representing the company. Of course, you also have to deal with it before the Giftia begins to wander and causes a lot of senseless violence.
While we get a decent range of fellow employees at this headquarters area branch to deal with, including Michiru who ends up slowing coming to like Tsukasa even though she’s harsh toward him at first, the real focus is just on Tsukasa and Isla. Tsukasa is a fairly standard easy to plug in viewer-character where we see this new setting through his eyes as he learns the ins and outs and the process of it all. Isla is also fairly standard as Giftia who has served for a long time but ended up being kept to office work recently after some problems with Tsukasa’s boss, Kazuki. That Tsukasa gets assigned with Isla is a sign that there’s more to this, though you can figure out very quickly here that Isla is closing in on her decommission date as well, though that’s kept hidden from Tsukasa for a bit. That her lifespan is essentially the span of a season? Almost amusingly cruel in its own way.
While we get a good supporting cast and they provide additional insights, it really is all Tsukasa and Isla, especially as one of the things that happens is that they room together in the corporate dorm so that they can bond better. Admittedly, it feels weird to assign her to him as his first and knowing that she’s on her way out, but it shows us a lot about Tsukasa as he is that classic good guy in a sense. He doesn’t know about what’s happening but he works hard to understand her and to try and connect with her as a partner since even by Giftia standards she comes across as a little off. But what we get is an honest attempt by him to do normal things, such as shopping and going out on a date of sorts, all while mixing it in with the usual work day stuff. That brings us a lot of good character stories in brief as we see how people exist with Giftia’s, which in turn shows more of why it feels normal and natural for Tsukasa to do what he does here.
As I said, the bulk of this half of the season is all setup. We’re getting the basics of how it works, how it functions in society (in a very light and hands-off kind of way, especially globally), and a look at who these characters actually are. It may have a decent sized cast but its focus is squarely on the two leads and their relationship as it connects and begins to grow in its own very awkward way. Doga Kobo brings this to life well with how it looks through the detail but also the kind of slightly different than normal coloring for areas such as the hair, which softens the feeling in a rather neat kind of way. There are some really beautiful sequences to be had here, some wonderfully emotional and evocative moments with the guest characters and their stories, but also a good bit of structural familiarity. I suspect that the second half will drive the emotional side home in a bigger way which makes me wish we got the season in full instead of in halves, but there’s a lot to like here and a lot to build on.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Staff and Cast Talk Session 1, Staff and Cast Talk Session 2, Web Previews
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: July 19th, 2016
Running Time: 170 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.