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Plastic Memories – 04

「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.

Full-length images: 09, 18.

April 26, 2015 at 10:17 am
29 comments »
  • April 26, 2015 at 10:23 amSilentCid

    That smile…

  • April 26, 2015 at 10:48 amNB

    I like that this anime is telling the story of how the lifespan of Giftias affects both the humans, through the retrieval process, and the Giftias themselves, mostly through Isla.

  • April 26, 2015 at 10:58 amMike

    This is why corporations do not hire spastic 17 year olds to do anything. Sigh. Japan, why did our main character have to be 17? And never, ever write a spastic twit main character again.

  • April 26, 2015 at 11:12 amjoestar

    They sure are going out of their way to make SAI Corp look evil. The idea that Giftia expire after 10 years is kind of ridiculous (and inhumane), so I have a feeling that it’s just planned obsolescence. And if that’s the case, a little bit of MC-class stubborn idealism may just save the day.

    Even if they go so far as to “put Isla down,” I have a feeling they’ll have her come back. While they claim the memories are deleted (I think?) for privacy reasons, SAI Corp is too evil to let that happen. Think of the value of that data!

    • April 26, 2015 at 11:20 amNB

      I don’t think it’s shown us enough about SAI Corp to prove that they are “too evil”. The only thing even remotely evil we know they’ve done so far is strive to cut costs, just like any other business would.

      • April 27, 2015 at 1:03 pmMistic

        “Planned obsolescence” is also something that other businesses do. Annoying when dealing with a telephone, for example; completely monstrous when dealing with beings that are just like people (if they can reason like a human being, behave like a human being and even feel like a human being, they are human beings, artificial or not).

        Of course, there’s still the card “it’s a problem of technology, not a corporate decision”. However, that sinister scene with the CEO makes me think that it could be a future plot point.

        Blade Runner again.

  • April 26, 2015 at 11:22 amWorldwideDepp

    Just Imagine, if these “Giftias would run forever.

    1.st they would survive their “Customers”, or do they grown like a Human? Someday Giftias will be the next SkyNet and T800 :)
    2.nd If they have a Time Limit, they are forced to buy a new Giftias
    3.rd Do they need maintain from time to time, or are they not needed? See part 1.st

    If they had a long lifetime, then what happen with their memories? Do they forgot unimportant ones like Humans to not receive an “Out of Memory!” Brain fault? (see 1.st or 3.rd)

    And that are only the mechanical sides of these Giftias. in a Case they are Highlanders, stay always young

    • April 26, 2015 at 7:23 pmPasserby

      It’s a pretty pessimistic view to say that any sufficiently aged AI will eventually want to destroy humanity. I know we’re not a particularly likeable bunch, but still.

      There’s actually been, I think, a fair bit of literature on the idea of ageless, immortal robots that never forget, but I can’t think of a good recommendation off the top of my head (the irony). There are real life stories, though, about people who have perfect memories, and I think it’s rare that they actually much enjoy their gift in the long run.

  • April 26, 2015 at 12:08 pmlaaa

    PASSERBY do you know if anyone is gona cover K movie?
    Such a beatiful movie would be shame if no one review it

    • April 26, 2015 at 7:25 pmPasserby

      Movies generally take a lot more work than a weekly episode, so we generally don’t get to cover all of them. I’ve not seen the K movie (thanks for the easy search terms, guys) and am not planning to cover it, but perhaps one of the other writers are interested. I won’t hold my breath for it, though.

  • April 26, 2015 at 1:30 pminfo600

    Oh hey, more character development in the middle of our weekly segments!

    It’s rather odd that Michiru’s been getting a lot of focus than the other co-workers from the beginning. Is it because she’s Tsukasa’s Sempai or she has a Tsundere-style crush on him? Or am I seeing a bit too much into this?

    OTOH:
    http://randomc.net/image/Plastic%20Memories/Plastic%20Memories%20-%2004%20-%20Large%2004.jpg

    That ring on her necktie, was that supposed to be for her “dad” ‘s retrival?
    *Sees heavy foreshadowing*

    In the meantime, Isla’s continuing decline in her nimbleness continues:
    http://randomc.net/image/Plastic%20Memories/Plastic%20Memories%20-%2004%20-%20Large%2031.jpg

  • April 26, 2015 at 3:29 pmlegwkio

    I don’t like the whole Black Market angle. Not a deal breaker but I think it’s unnecessary in a show that has a setting this good. Just focus on the relationships between Giftia and people and do it more like Eve no Jikan/Barakamon.

  • April 26, 2015 at 4:24 pmJack

    May I ask where in the episode it says the amount of hours Isla has left? Is it in the OP or ED which I skip most of the time?

    • April 26, 2015 at 7:27 pmPasserby

      We were told 2000 at the end of episode 02. I’ve just been deducting every week.

  • April 26, 2015 at 5:26 pmmac65

    I’m having trouble recoinciling the strange things that we are told about Giftias.
    I mean, it doesn’t make sense: run wild, become a why they can’t simply be repaired. The engineering
    genius behind their design, the cost, and only 9-10 years? My washing machine is
    older (bet you thought I was going to say toaster :)).

    Also, if a Giftis is really self-aware, why would they simply accept their fate so easily?
    The other possibility is that Giftias don’t deteroiate; but then what?

    I really have a bad feeling that a series that could have been very powerful is simply
    using its premise as a foundation for a mostly-comedy-light-drama-nonsense series.

    • April 26, 2015 at 7:29 pmPasserby

      Physically the Giftia seem to be fine, but we’re told there something about their mental capacity that is deteriorating and it affects all aspects of their function (much like dementia). Indeed, it’s implied that the Giftia bodies are taken back by SAI and eventually re-used.

  • April 26, 2015 at 6:03 pmprojectnoa

    Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with reality, and for young kids it’s even harder to accept the facts of life. People who are in these crossroads tend to hide in negation and turn against everything they once trusted. I did appreciated the approach that the characters used to deal with the issue. Recurring to force or trying to reason might not be the best solutions in this case. Reminding little Souta that he was loved and that he will always be its a more human approach.

    This special case was very delicate, and it made me realise that all the staff in the Terminal Service should be specially trained psychologist and social behaviour professionals. Each of them should be specialised in different areas of the human field and should be assigned accordingly. Dealing with an orphan child is not a trivial work to leave a seemingly untrained employee to deal with.

    In other news, it is sad to see how in a supposed future where sentient androids with emotions are already a consumer product of the masses, bureaucracy and shady management practices are still the norm. When is the human being gonna learn that short term profits harm your company future? Maybe greed it’s a human flaw that can’t be dealt with just education.

    • April 26, 2015 at 7:42 pmPasserby

      It seems to me that the care Terminal Services One provides is already far more than the rest of SAI is willing to do, let alone hire a squad of trained professionals. At least the Giftia are supposed to be highly qualified, which is why they’re supposed to be the marksmen. I suspect other Terminal Services would be much more inclined to play the bully (which makes me wonder about property rights regarding androids in this world, but I don’t think they’re going to address that).

      About short-sighted companies, unfortunately corporations are by definition and charter short-term thinkers. Strictly speaking, current investors cannot be harmed for the sake of future investors. It’s quite easy for management to lose sight of the bigger picture (remember Kodak?).

  • April 27, 2015 at 8:47 amGouka Ryuu

    How the hell can that girl keep entering there apartment without being let in? I mean, what this tells me is that an axe murderer if they got into the dorms could have access to the whole place because there is no such thing as locks.

    • April 27, 2015 at 3:29 pmRiktol

      The possibilities are supervisor override or it was designed by the same person who designed the kickable doors in Sidonia.

    • April 27, 2015 at 10:55 pmPasserby

      It’s not a universal custom to lock one’s door when one is in. Even less likely, perhaps, in the context of a communal form.

  • April 30, 2015 at 8:00 amAkatsubaki

    Hey has anyone else noticed that the end of Every OP has been different,
    where Isla moves her head differently

    - in the OP of episode 2, she looks at Tsukasa then looks away
    - in the OP of episode 3, she doesn’t look at him at all
    - in this episode, she was looking away then finally looks at Tsukasa

    • April 30, 2015 at 8:37 amAki-Chan

      I remembered feeling something was different about episode 4′s OP…I didn’t actually clock what it was though. That’s a clever little detail they added.

  • April 30, 2015 at 8:43 amAki-Chan

    I do wonder about the appropriateness of giving a eight-year-old child the responsibility to sign off on a Giftia like that. Well, that and having a Giftia as the child’s ONLY care-taker in the first place, given their short lifespans.That doesn’t sit well with me at all.

  • May 3, 2015 at 1:19 amshen

    Is Marcia voiced by Saori Hayami? It sounds a lot like her