「うまく笑えなくて」 (Umaku Waraenakute)
“I Just Don’t Know How to Smile”
One last hurrah hurrah for our embarrassing rom-com, and then it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming. This is a good thing. While I still have faith that Plastic Memories ultimately knows what its doing, and have have gotten used to cringing at anime, I still would like the show to have consistent direction. And it probably can’t afford to spend too much time with frivolities, as it becomes readily apparent with this episode that there is a lot that the producers want to do. They’re continuing to develop old elements like Isla’s past as a marksman (professionally terminated for Reasons) and what happens when Giftia ‘expire’ (they become android zombies, with a reminder that Isla is losing emotive capacity, like Darker than BLACK in reverse), even as they introduce new ones. I’m not sure what the long-term purpose of these black market retrievers are (they’re likely just out to steal androids), but SAI finally revealing itself as amoral corporation goons is something I’ve been expecting and can understand. Guys, there are ways to make your company not look evil, and styling your boardroom after a supervillain lair is not it. I suspect that the chief of Terminal Services One has been faking incompetence in order to allow his staff to be compassionate with their clients for a while longer, because compassion is inefficient. I also suspect that the corporate stance will be a factor Isla’s ultimate fate.
(My currently most hated piece of corporate-speak: ‘efficiency dividends’.)
In the short term, this episode’s Giftia of the week, Marcia and her charge Souta are an interesting case because not only do they raise mundane questions about orphans, child custody and allowing minors to sign anything, but throwing robots into the mix also actually makes things more interesting. Time of Eve had already dealt with robots used in parenting to some degree, but Plastic Memories takes it in a somewhat different direction. Although Souta may seem like a precocious child going through a rebellious phase, I could see where he was coming from. Losing one’s parents tragically, then being told that the only family one has left was a robot all along and will also soon die must be worse than being told one is adopted. In a way, Souta is not just emotional and confused when he thinks all his memories are lies. Are not the Giftia, as a whole, a deception? They are designed, expressly, to masquerade as humans as closely as possible, and presumably their indistinguishable likeness is their advertised feature. Remember, the Turing Test, that original benchmark for artificial intelligence, is about a machine being able to fool a human evaluator into implying humanity. I’m surprised that the society of Plastic Memories is as comfortable with the idea of Giftia as they are. I would have thought that the idea of creating beings that were almost entirely human except not really would have triggered some sort of Uncanny Valley reaction. Or perhaps it’s something that we will eventually get used to, and being raised by robots will become no different from being birthed from a test tube. Raised by wolves, raised by robots—whatever sounds cool.
1664 hours ~ looking ahead
Perhaps I’m reading too much into things, but at least there’s something for me to read into. Even if the discussion about robotics is not intended, I think ‘memories’ is still an obvious main theme. That, at least, is one they’re pushing hard. Perhaps slightly too hard, but I think it was treated fairly thoughtfully here. I understand that memories are malleable things, that children don’t really have a lot of it to work with, and object permanence is always undermined by Plato’s cave. On my part, I remember very little about my own childhood days (because my own memory is as a punctured sieve) and perhaps should wonder more about whether everything I know is a lie as well.
So this episode was high on substance, at least compared to the previous (I didn’t even address Michiru’s character’s development, her past, or her superfluous romantic tension), and I hope this trend continues. It’s entirely possible, though, that Plastic Memories alternates its episodes between fluff and substance, but that, I think, will lead to too much of ‘filler’ (though my philosophy with character-centric stories is that there’s no such thing as real filler). Regardless of what it does, my only requirement is that it continues to move forward; after all, Isla is on a clock, and we need to feel that. And so, as usual, there’s naught to do but to see what happens next week, when the clock ticks down again.