「祭りの後」 (Matsuri no Ato)
“After the Festival”
This week, in the rom-com with robots that is Plastic Memories, we see the aftermath of the dramatic confession of last episode. It turns out, we’re sticking with the rejection, and the shock of it has caused Tsukasa’s soul to flee his body. Michiru notes the same thing we did last episode; as far as anime confessions go, Tsukasa’s was about as foolproof as they get. The fact that Plastic Memories seems to be self-aware about it makes me think that the cliché was deliberate. It was a cue to the audience that by average anime standards the confession should have been a solid success, so there must be some special circumstances surrounding the rejection.
Two things at work here. Firstly is that Isla didn’t really understand Tsukasa’s confession. It is common in various sci-fi settings for robots/aliens/whatever being unable to comprehend this mysterious human quality ‘love’, but Plastic Memories has so far been very insistent on Giftia being indistinguishable from humans and is not going to let up now. So instead, Isla is just inexperienced (technically she’s less than nine years old; try not to think about it much) and is unsure about the emotions she feels towards Tsukasa and vice versa. That’s a standard rom-com development as well, and again I think that’s the point. The emphasis is on Isla’s issues as a girl first, and only then can it be muddied by the fact she’s a Giftia. Hence why so much time is devoted to characters sitting around and talking about their feelings. Isla or Tsukasa, Giftia or human, it’s simply about first love and young people muddling through it. It also gives an excuse for Isla to be variously used and abused. Hapless suffering is how you bring out the moé.
On the robot side of things, it turns out that Isla is self-conscious about her remaining lifespan, and even if that wasn’t her first reason for rejecting Tsukasa, it certainly is a reason now. Again, it’s not her Giftia-ness which is the issue here; in a less sci-fi world she could easily just have cancer or some other non-specific terminal illness for the same effect. In the same way, none of her friends and colleagues take issue issue with Tsukasa dating a robot; the focus is firmly on Isla’s expiry date. In that regard, Tsukasa does not seem to have full support from his peers. Michiru, of course, has her bad experience with her foster father, and also seems to be out of the loop, so she gets rather emotional about Isla’s forecasted death. Her approval is won over the course of the episode. Kazuki, on the other hand, already knew of Isla’s lifespan, and may have some more stubborn objections to Tsukasa and Isla’s relationship (and starts off by freaking people out by camping in their house in the dark). But she broke off with Isla long ago; is she going to be critical of Tsukasa for trying when she did not? Hers is a story of letting go too early, to contrast Michiru’s where she hung on too long. Kazuki is their boss, though. What kind of heavy hand will she be applying?
One month ~ looking ahead
Compared to other episodes of Plastic Memories, which would have world building or at least some Giftia being retrieved, this one was quite mundane. It dealt with no issues particularly exclusive to a sci-fi setting, instead focusing on very down-to-earth, human reactions to extremely possible circumstances. We are, perhaps, at our most romantic comedy as we’re ever going to be.
I continue to call Plastic Memories a romantic comedy, but just because it likes to crack Loony Toon jokes doesn’t mean it should necessarily be a comedy, at least in the Classical sense. it telegraphs, fairly blatantly, that Tsukasa and Isla’s is a star-crossed romance, and that it’s very unlikely to end happily. ‘Romantic tragedy’ doesn’t seem to be much of a genre, though. Rather, perhaps it’s neater to simply separate Plastic Memories‘ romance with its comedy. Rarely do we see the pure romance these days outside of the occasional shoujo offering, and while Plastic Memories isn’t really one of those either, it does take its romantic aspect—in this case, a doomed love—rather seriously when they get down to it, as they do this episode mainly through Michiru. Next week, we’ll see Kazuki’s no doubt different take on it. Michiru’s ends up being supportive. I don’t get the feeling Kazuki will be.