「いつかまた巡り会えますように」 (Itsuka Mata Meguriaemasu Yō Ni)
“I Hope One Day, You’ll Be Reunited”
If the fear as described in Plastic Memories is that happiness only makes the parting harder, well… here’s people being happy! I doubt anybody expected a light-hearted final episode for Plastic Memories, exactly, but it’s not like they can spend all 23 minutes being sombre either. Drama doesn’t work as well when stretched thing, being more effective when gradually built up before crashing down. It’s the tsunami effect.
So I wasn’t exactly surprised that Isla and Tsukasa were so very cheerful on the start of this episode, but I was wary of it. Were they not, I thought, too happy? Was Plastic Memories leading me into a trap? Or has someone finally snapped and decided to raise the chocolate rations to maximum? As I watched on, though, I realised that I recognised this happiness. This almost cheesy happiness. And I knew it wouldn’t last. Assuming it’s not just my ears playing tricks on me, I’d like to commend Takumi Yasuaki, the voice of Tsukasa, for managing to sound one degree more highly strung than usual. Though eventually the tortured facial expressions start (that’s definitely one of the better forced smiles I’ve ever seen in anime) and it’s all quite obvious.
And so, predictably, there’s a moment, there’s a kiss, there are tears. Like much of Plastic Memories, none of this is a revolutionary twist. Considering the emphasis on the inevitability of death, this is really the only way Isla and Tsukasa’s relationship could have turned out. But it still managed to affect me somehow. I didn’t bawl, exactly, but I felt that pang in my chest, and I think that if I wasn’t turning my mind so heavily to analysis, to taking notes and screencaps, to the general business of blogging, I might not have been able to control myself. A lot of effort was certainly invested into execution of an otherwise simple scene. In particular, I wanted to draw attention to the music. Sound and music has certainly been one of Plastic Memories strong suits, and here they show they know how to use silence too. The music at the amusement park stood out as very upbeat, which made the silence on the Ferris wheel stand out sharply. Perhaps I’m use to the ambiance of Ferris wheel scenes to be gentle and nostalgic, which made this contrast palpable. Ah, and then the sad theme plays again for their farewell. I know not everybody is going to respond the same way to Plastic Memories, but on my part if all of the anime was to build to that one cathartic moment, well, I’ll consider it worthwhile.
Appropriately, perhaps, there isn’t really much more than that. Isla has some final words, but we were well set up for that. Tsukasa gets a time skip epilogue, but that’s only to show him moving on from his grief. There’s no discussion of Isla’s Giftianess, what they did with the body, the future of Terminal Services in SAI’s corporate structure. It just goes to show, the science fiction was never really the core of Plastic Memories. It was, simply, about a short-lived romance, about living and dying. Fault Plastic Memories for not striving to be more, perhaps, but on seeing it neatly resolved in this episode, I’m not sure there should be more. Some other anime can always explore what Plastic Memories did not. This was Isla’s story, and it is done. There’s not a lot more to ask of out of life.
When I first signed up to blog Plastic Memories, I was expecting it to be hard science fiction, full of implications about robotics and AI, a version of Time of Eve from a more tragic angle. That was unworthy of me. My expectations were simply me imposing my own preconceptions on a show I didn’t know enough about. If I ended up disappointed it would have been my own damn fault.
Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed per se, but I did need to recalibrate my assumptions about the show. It wasn’t what I was looking for, but it dealt with equally worthy themes. I may say often that Plastic Memories is a simple show, but its subject matter is not. The fact that art is still trying to grapple with death, arguably its oldest topic, to this day, and the fact that the euthanasia debate is still up in the air, shows that humanity will never run out of things to say about our mortality. And Plastic Memories certainly had its two cents too. The entire sci-fi world and the Giftia was but a device to create an entire subclass of short-lived people, and a department of normal folk tasked with ushering them to rest. In fact, I would say that Plastic Memories was at its weakest when it tried to be too sci-fi, i.e. during the illegal retrievers arc. The mercenaries, the fight, the Dominator; in hindsight those things don’t seem to really fit in with the tone of Plastic Memories. They did show that Wanderers were very Seriously Bad Business, but otherwise it was an odd distraction from the usual human drama.
Perhaps it’s wrong to categorise Plastic Memories as strictly science fiction. Science fiction is usually about speculation, about exploring hypotheticals, but Plastic Memories wasn’t as interested such esoteric things. Isla x Tsukasa was chiefly about personal impacts, not social impacts, and technology presented not as opening new opportunities but still very limited (i.e. Isla still cannot be saved). Sure, as a series it still provokes sci-fi questions like humans playing god and our responsibility for our flawed creations, but Plastic Memories was never going to answer those questions. They were simply not within its scope.
Judging it only within this limited scope, I think Plastic Memories did well. Even without those humble confines Plastic Memories was capable of displaying subtle strength at times, best represented, in my opinion, by episode 12. Isla’s death, and how she came to terms with it, and the way she strode dignified into it, had the kind of personal touch that an anime with wider scope may not have been able to accomplish. And I think that’s really all that Plastic Memories wanted, that her life impacts her as the Giftia she retrieved impacted her. An emotional legacy, nothing more.
I must admit that I’m fairly biased in favour in Plastic Memories, since it did affect me personally, in its small way. Since we’re been together for a while let me go full blogger and share a private story with you all. When I was but a wee lad, I had to stay at the hospital frequently. One time, I had to share a large room with many other children. One of my neighbours was a girl whom I judged to be a bit older than I was. When I arrived, she was the first to strike conversation with me. When I was there, she was my best friend. When I was discharged, she remained.
She had leukaemia. I never saw her again.
I’m not particularly attached to childhood memories, but that one haunts me to this day. I don’t even remember her name, but perhaps I should. Plastic Memories, small in scope though it was, just another story of a fictional girl who dies, causes me to reflect. I don’t believe stories need to be complicated, and Isla herself leaves nothing behind other than her memory. But one day, I’ll face death again. I’ll have to say goodbye again. I may have to make the difficult decision to turn off the life support. And when the time comes, I think a corner of my heart will remember Plastic Memories.