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Plastic Memories Part 1 & 2 Collector’s Edition UK Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read
Plastic Memories suffers from basically not knowing where to go in its direction.

When a show isn’t sure if it wanted to be a comedy romance or a romantic tragedy….

What They Say:
Tsukasa Mizugaki is a recent hire of the SAI Corporation, renowned for its production and management of androids capable of feeling human emotions Giftia . Assigned to the terminal service department, Tsukasa is tasked with recovering Giftias who are nearing their expiration from their owners before they corrupt. But in this dead-end department, Tsukasa is about to meet Isla, a female Giftia. Beneath her quiet exterior, she was once known as the best in Giftia retrievals and Tsukasa is determined to find out why she stopped.

(NOTE: They have been released in two parts but I got the review discs for both at the same time so am reviewing the entire series)

The Review:
Audio:
The audio has only one track which is in Japanese 2.0 so no English dub. Granted, it doesn’t affect the quality in regards of audio listening as it is very clear in the Japanese language and no complications of the audio throughout the release when synching it to the subtitles – the show itself is very manic with its audio as it changes moods and genres very quickly from hi-impact action to comic timing so it is a bit all over the place there but it never detracts from the sound quality.

Video:
Originally airing in spring in 2015, it is a very colourful anime with hints of CGI/computer style animation throughout but overall comes through as a rather gorgeous artwork – backgrounds with camera work make this show feel very alive, ironic considering the premise. Combine this with some excellent effects (episode 5 in particular) makes this one of the better looking shows in today’s market. No clashing with the style being grainy when paused, it is definitely one to recommend in that regard.

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release however the special editions will have collector’s packing.

Menu:
On each of the discs, the menu is very similar, both have the image of Isla and Tsukasa in the fore and background respectively on a futuristic like setting with the choices below the Plastic Memories log of Play All, Episode Selection, and on both releases Extras (though the first half has the more prominent ones). There is no set up menu as only one track (Japanese so subtitles automatically play) and like most Blu-Rays you get a pop-up menu when activating your options whilst watching (albeit it is usually only if you want to return to the main menu) – nice to look at but very basic.

Extras:
On Part 1 we get the major extras – we start on disc 1, which has a Staff & Cast Talk Show, which is a cast tea party pretty much, featuring Yasuaki Takumi (Tsukasa), Sora Amemiya (Isla), Chinatsu Akasaki (Michiru) and Sayuri Yahagi (Zack) – they go through a lot of the trademark questions, e.g. what’s their favourite scenes, most memorable moments and dialogue, how they created their character in the booth, etc….and then it goes in a very different direction as they get an expert in making of all things, latte art into the booth, and each of them tries to do some latte art inspired by the show (we even get an attempt at 3D art) – it definitely goes a bit off the walls at that point but it is definitely fun to watch.

The second interview (disc 2, Part 1) has producer Yosuke Toba, the original creator and screenwriter Naotaku Hayashi, and animation director Yoshiyuki Fuji have a talk around a table, which focuses more as you can guess on the behind the scenes and making of the show rather than the characters. Their thoughts on completing episode 1 were interesting as at the time was an original anime (a spin off manga has since been done), how the directors worked together, how they could play around with the characters, guidelines and leeway with each character and the overall themes they would deal with. With the other episodes and how they followed on, they also bring in the opening singer (Eri Sasaki) which is her first anime opening, they give the thoughts on the song and writing the lyrics, how it symbolizes how the end of the story is going to be.

There are web previews on all the discs (basically the end of the episode segments introducing the next episode), trailers for Sakura Trick, Rail Wars (which as far as I know haven’t been licenced in the UK yet), the clean opening and ending, and more trailers for Chiaka The Coffin Princess, The Kawaii Complex Guide to Manors & Hostel Behaviour (might be the best anime title I have come across) among others albeit no big extras in the 2nd half.

Content:
Plastic Memories was an original anime that aired in the spring on 2015, which later got a manga story and even a Playstation Vita game – the concept was interesting – futuristic technology idea with robotics basically acting like humans isn’t unusually different, but the idea of them having a specific shelf life and if it exceeded that life they can get very dangerous was a bit different – the idea of these perfect androids having a life span meaning that people can get attached to them, and the feelings of having to eventual part with them, it almost feels like they are part of the family.

This show however whilst does go for this route, also goes from within it too…and then does things that can confuse you in terms of what show it wants to be. Confused? Let’s explain…

We have a rookie worker named Tsukasa who is working for the SAI Corp who are retrieval officers of these androids known as Giftia. They have a specific lifespan and mustn’t exceed it – he is partnered with a cute female Giftia named Isla, who is an excellent tea maker but has a lot of on the job experience. So along with his co-workers, the very on and off young woman Michiru and her snarky partner Zack, they go on their first retrieval job – a child like Giftia owned by an old woman. This is where the show can go the heart shaking route and it does feel like it – indeed, the old woman Chizu isn’t happy to take the android back as she is practically her grand-daughter, but after a bit of talking between Isla, Nina and Chizu, the decision is made. Tsukasa is clearly out of his well but is a good listener and learner so hopefully Isla’s experience will help him through this…

…only most of what Isla does are very comical solutions which…seem a tad out of place considering the idea of the story (even more so after the 2nd episode) – on one hand, the use of comic relief is a fun way to break up the story considering how emotional it can get. On the other hand, it could have also been used to develop many of the characters a bit more…and this is a constant thing throughout the series.

As Tsukasa learns more on the job and other members of the organisation (Eru being my personal favourite as the high energy silly but skilled girl), we see Isla trying to better herself as she keeps making mistakes despite the fact as a Giftia her skills are already at what she can do. It turns out….that she has less than 3 months to live.

…suddenly makes all her comic slip ups a bit less funny now…

So this then goes into romance territory as Isla as part of the rules for the duos is living with Tsukasa. Isla at first is almost emotionless to Tsukasa and he tries to make her more open to him, taking her out to shops and an amusement park, and whilst Isla seems hit or miss, she is beginning to open up. This leads to their next job with a Giftia named Marcia, who is playing the role of an older sister to her owner, a young boy named Souta, who clearly is distraught about her upcoming retrieval but like a kid, is blaming her for it and trying to ‘hate’ her. It is here where the genre changes a bit as we learn about people pretending to be servicers and are indeed trying to sell Giftia on the black market, and at the end of the episode some people saying they know Tsukasa and Isla are here to retrieve Marcia…

…so the group is looking for Marcia, and we are introduced to a group named R. Security – who has history both with the group’s founder Kazuki, and Michiru, who DESPISES them due to how her father was killed a few years prior. Michiru is an interesting character as she is the typical tsundere character who clearly has feelings for Tsukasa, but also is unnecessarily volatile to him at times. That said, she does have decent character development due to the budding relationship between Isla and Tsukasa, which leads us to seeing what happens WHEN a Giftia goes out of control, we see Isla used to be the Giftia partner of Kazuki and see the history of them plus what happened to Michiru’s father, and why Kazuki retired as Isla’s partner. With Isla’s life span slowly going down as well, the story now goes onto the ‘make her happy with the time she has’ route as Tsukasa and Isla start to become more noticeable of each other….which is both a good and bad thing, as the two are quite sweet together but at the same time, you wonder if the story would have been better with a focus on other things (more with the security firm, the black market, the history of Giftia and why they go berserk, etc).

So the show switches focus now on the time left between Isla and Tsukasa with some drama in between. The comedy hits a bit more which again, is amusing but also considering why it’s amusing hits a bit of a strange note with me – we get a nice episode with Eru, who thinks she meets an old friend but reveals it was an old Giftia named Olivia, but her memory has been replaced with a new one (people can keep their Giftia’s if they wish as long as they replace their memory, which of course means their personality will be different without remembering their previous memories) but the two still end up having a good time, though it seems it looks like Tsukasa gets rejected by Isla…leads to some hijinks when Michiru and Zack swap roomies as they ‘separate’ for the time being, but it seems like they are getting back together…when Kazuki then announced their partnership is over.

Kazuki is a bit of a mystery character throughout as you can love her or hate her for her badass ways, but her mood swings and changes in attitude come out of nowhere, with this one being the biggest example. It does end up better as it does lead to Kazuki actually making sure they were pure for each other, and the two do get into a relationship, with the office trying to help out by getting them to go out together, using the time they have left (leading to a somber moment when Tsukasa has to sign Isla’s retrieval form) and thus, we eventually get to the last day.

The last day is an odd episode because you can tell it is meant to be heart-tugging. Now I went through many heart-wrenching anime back in the day, heck, as I’m writing this I was at a small convention in Southampton, England where I did a panel focusing on Kyoto Animation anime. Now with Clannad, Air, Kanon, etc in mind, this one…doesn’t seem to work as well. The moments are strong, don’t get me wrong, Kazuki meeting Tsukasa carrying a deactivated Isla after sharing their one and only kiss…but it doesn’t seem to hit as hard. Maybe due to not as strong development – 13 episodes only sure but Air had the same length and that definitely hit hard in that time. Maybe it was the comedy moments to try and offset it that managed to not work – and this isn’t because Isla or Tsukasa were weak characters, far from it – Tsukasa himself endeared me more as at first he seems to just be in a position because he has friends in high places, but his selflessness and determination are actually quite welcome to watch compared to most generic male leads, and Isla’s life in the past and seeing what will happen actually makes you feel for her.

The problem is the show doesn’t really know which direction it goes in. The change of mood from dark to comic and vice versa gives it the problem that the show isn’t sure of what it wants to be, and the focus on the romance side compared to more the background side means a lot of potential ideas are ignored, making it a bit of a weak show story wise. There are some fun characters no doubt (Eru and Zack being my favourite of the side ones) and the story does reach a conclusion which does tug at the heart in some respect, but a short series with so many loose threads and not sure where it wants to go…it’s sadly a bit of a mess. A fun one, but a mess none the less. I can’t say it’s a bad series at all, just one that you are not sure what to make of it in the end.

In Summary:
Plastic Memories suffers from basically not knowing where to go in its direction. They have a good storyline – android girl is going to die in such and such time, new handler falls in love with her, how can they handle this? It had the potential to be an emotional rollercoaster and for some moments it does do that. However, it also tries to be more light hearted which has the double problem of whilst making the show more fun also losing said direction. There are a lot of things this show was so close in doing well and could have explored more, but in the end, just becomes an enjoyable show with a few moments that stand out, when it could have been something really top notch.

Features:

• Part 1;

Episodes 1-7 on Blu-Ray
• Collector s Slipcase
• Staff and Cast talk sessions
• Web previews
Part 2;

• Poster
• 6 Artcards
• Clean opening and Closing
• Web previews

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Anime Ltd
Release Date: 24/02/2020 (Part 1) 02/03/2020 (Part 2)
MSRP: £29.99 (Both)
Running Time: 175 minutes (Part 1) 150 minutes (Part 2)
Video Encoding: NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.



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