BEATLESS – 02

Arato doesn’t really yet know he has a fugitive in his house, so I’ll forgive him for letting Yuka enroll Lacia in a fashion hIE competition that she then promptly wins. Still, considering all the danger he encountered upon meeting Lacia, you’d think he’d be a bit more careful.

But nope; the fashion thing goes through, Arato tells his friends at school (who agree with me that he’s probably not taking this seriously enough) and even lets Lacia accompany him on the train when he leaves his tablet at school.

Lacia shows him the nice view from the school roof he’s never seen, but the episode suffers from a lack of stakes or impending doom until the very end. Arato doesn’t sense any danger, which makes him less informed than us. If he had any notable qualities, that could be forgiven, but he’s pretty much a big not-steaming pile of meh.

That makes the fact he stumbled backwards into ownership of an elite luxury hIE all the more grating. He hasn’t really done anything but accept ownership; presumably he’ll start to experience the negative consequences of his choice, but this week he doesn’t.

Instead, he merely tags along during a live Lacia fashion shoot and “analog hack” that goes on too long and attracts a dubiously large crowd. It never comes across as anything but a tremendously bad idea.

All the while, I was thinking that at some point, Memeframe will come looking for her in some capacity, although perhaps the destruction caused in their escape hindered their ability to track their property. As for Arato’s nerdy friend Kengo, he’s paid a visit by Kouka, who doesn’t seem particularly interested in having an owner or following commands.

If Memeframe isn’t going to come into the picture soon, maybe Kouka and the other escaped fugitives can bring the storm…because this ep was too heavy on the calm.

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BEATLESS – 01 (First Impressions)

Yeah, we usually started in September…

In a technologically-advanced, highly automated future where androids called hIEs serve mankind and are treated as tools, nondescript protagonist Endou Arato does have one unique quality: he has compassion for these “tools” as if they were real humans with souls.

He helps the hIE assisting an elderly woman cross the street, and takes the disembodied arm of an hIE to the police. He’s a good kid, even if his friends scratch their heads at what they see as unnecessary behavior.

In addition to a somewhat cryptic cold open in which he watches hIEs being made and coming to life (and going wrong for that matter), I felt Arato’s ingrained compassion would end up working in his favor even as five Memeframe Corp. elite hIEs violently escape from their cage in Odaiba and scatter, causing chaos and destruction in their wake.

BEATLESS may not be the most groundbreaking stuff, but it does realize and advance quite a few pieces of tech still in their relative infancy today, such as fully autonomous cars, robotic eldercare assistants, and even clothes with built-in climate control.

The way the military operates here in trying to apprehend the hIEs is also well-grounded in existing tech, with the bots doing the fighting while the humans keep a (mostly) safe distance. We also see the downside to dependence on so much technology (the aforementioned chaos and destruction). Kouka (the red hIE) seems to place as much importance on human life as Arato’s friends place on hIEs.

Speaking of chaos and destruction, Arato is cursed with one hell of a piece of work of a little sister in Yuka, who lounges around waiting for dinner, then eats all the meat before Arato is done cooking the rest, forcing him to go out and buy more a mere hour and a half from midnight.

After shopping at a nightmare supermarket with no human employees, he encounters an hIE acquaintance, “Ms. Marie” whom he laments he doesn’t have at home to help deal with household duties (since Yuka presumably does none).

Just as he does, one of the not-so-nice hIEs, Snowdrop, uses “flower petals” to hack every piece of machinery in the area, and both Ms. Marie and the nearby cars start trying to kill Arato…until he’s saved by a nice hIE.

This powder blue-haired hIE, Lacia, determines Arato would make a good “owner”, and she needs such an owner to take responsibility in order for her to take action. After a lengthy, somewhat momentum-killing but still kinda amusing scene in which he accepts the terms of the license agreement (as one does), Lacia eliminates the threat with something akin to an EMP.

Yuka initially wigs out when Arato brings Lacia home, but quickly falls in love after Lacia quickly prepares a sumptuous midnight repast for the Endous. Later, while serving Arato tea, Lacia reiterates to him that she has no soul, and that her “behavior” is just programming. But Arato doesn’t care, because Lacia moved him nevertheless.

‘Treat others as you’d like to be treated, even if those others are artificial’ seems as good a slogan for Arato as any, especially if the not-so-nice fugative hIEs out there start terrorizing the population. I can’t imagine it will be long before Memeframe or the military find Lacia and Arato and Yuka get dragged into a good bit of drama. I suppose I’ll watch on for now and see.

Plastic Memories – 03

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Oh dear…last week’s revelation that Isla has only 83 days left (and quite a few days fewer than that now) had rekindled our interest in Plastic Memories, but after a total dud like this third episode, I don’t see how I can ever trust it again. I mean, seriously, three eps in and we get a hokey, uninspired moving-in/living with a girl episode?

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Rather than anyone telling Tsukasa what should be obvious to anyone who’s been around her for a few years that yes, indeed, Isla will meet the same fate as all the other giftia they retrieve every day, the guys in the office instead offer him increasingly ridiculous advice that Tsukasa carries out Wile. E. Coyote style, to no avail.

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It’s cliched, repetitive, and boring, killing all urgency and goodwill created last week. Worse, the fact several days go by as Tsukasa struggles to connect with Isla in their dorm where she used to live alone. He never bothers to wonder whether Isla prefers to keep professional distance despite the fact they have to live together, a stipulation for which there is never any good reason given, so all we have is the implication that “well, if they’re not in the dorm there’s be no opportunities for lame comedy.”

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Things take a turn for the dark and pathetic when Tsukasa, now just treating Isla like a normal human girl, which she clearly isn’t, insists on shopping for clothes for her, unaware she has so little experience with street clothes she doesn’t know how to put them on. It’s nice to know Isla wears panties, but I don’t think that was the reason we were welcomed inside her changing room.

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The most irritating part of all of this is that Isla likely knows her time will soon be up too, which is probably why she’s trying to avoid making happy new memories or getting closer to anyone. She really doesn’t seem to want Tsukasa in there for that purpose…though I would hope she’d reconsider whatever feelings she has for him after witnessing his unbelievably stupid hijinx.

By the end, he realizes the only thing she’s really comfortable doing is serving him tea. We apparently had to waste a whole episode for him to learn that.

As unflattering as Tsukasa was this week, we also learned that Yasutaka and Kazuki, the two people we know without a doubt know Isla will be gone in less than 80 days left, are petty cruel people. What do they have to gain by keeping that info from Tsukasa…Productivity?

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Plastic Memories – 02

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This second episode of Plamemo was better than the first, which I can chalk up to getting to know the cast and particularly the protagonist a little better. I can also get on board with the fact that any workplace with such a somber job is probably going to be as laid back and cheerful as possible to avoid going mad with second-hand grief.

That being said, I’m still not fully on board with the whole concept of Giftia retrieval, nor do the additions of two more boilerplate characters like the ulcer-ridden Takao, who is just used for a joke, and the overly-informal veteran Kaji Ryouji Yasutaka, who feels like he needs to touch everyone during his intro. I think Michiru hides because she doesn’t want him to touch her.

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As derivative a character in look and feel as he is, Yasutaka does consistently bring one thing to the table: brutal honesty. For all of Tsukasa’s narration and other characters’ exposition, Plamemo has been unusually skittish about answering or even bringing up the tough questions that might allow us to make a better emotional connection.

The fact that Akari Shinji Tsukasa got this position at all thanks to his father’s connections is a welcome wrinkle in his heretofore plain beige sheet of a character. It means he knows he has to work that much harder to prove he belongs there, which is hard to do when he’s constantly having to babysit Isla, who seems increasingly incapable of doing anything right. Heck, he couldn’t even serve Takao his tea; she let Yasutaka snatch it.

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I also liked the obligatory professional dinner date between Tsukasa and Katsuragi Minato Kuwanomi Kazuki, who comes off as your standard late-20s/early 30s schoolteacher who hasn’t found a man yet and can’t hold her liquor. Then again, considering her job is not teaching kids but sending them out to tear families apart, it’s not unreasonable for her to want to drown it all out with booze. Yasutaka is made less of a prick by the fact he always gets Kazuki home safe from her routine imbibings.

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In a core dynamic similar to the one going on in DanMachi, Tsukasa and Ayanami Rei Isla are both working harder to improve themselves, in order make themselves worthy of working beside the other. There’s no mention of last week’s utterly unearned love-at-first-sight moment (probably for the best) but it’s good to see Isla actually undergoing training and tests, and her bumbling in the field explained by “rust.”

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As for Angela Langley Soryu Kinushima Michiru, well…she’s a bit of a problem, as I’m guessing she’s supposed to be the third side of a love triangle with Tsukasa and Isla. She hides her unsure feelings for him behind an overly rude and aggressive facade, which she at least has the decency to apologize for.

That being said, I like how her affection for him grows a little when he finds out he’s protecting Isla by sharing the blame for their failures. It not only shows he’s not as incompetent as she initially thought, but also a kind and caring dude. Which makes her jealous that Isla’s so close to him. She’s on the outside looking in.

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That looks to be the case for the foreseeable future, as Plamemo brings the hammer down, courtesy of who else, the truthsayer Yasutaka. He doesn’t give too much away to Tsukasa, only mentioning the consistent decline in her physical data (paired with what looks like a rise in errors). He also tells him Isla’s training is pointless; Giftia retain everything they learn and don’t get “rusty.” Even so, he respects Isla’s guts for doing everything she possibly can to stay in the game.

The most important question so far is answered, at least partially, to my satisfaction, in a private moment between Yasutaka and Kazuki: Isla has 2,000 hours of lifespan remaining. That’s only 83.3 days, which, assuming a Giftia’s max lifespan of nine years, would make Isla 8.99 years old. This revelation floored me, and put Isla’s motivations more emotionally accessible. I wish last week ended this way, rather than with a toilet joke.

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P.S. No, I didn’t really accidentally give lots of Plamemo characters Evangelion names…but I wanted to point out the rather bizarre abundance of similarities to Eva characters in the Plamemo cast…though some are admittedly more of a stretch than others.

Plastic Memories – 01 (First Impressions)

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My first impressions of the futuristic sci-fi anime Plastic Memories weren’t all that great. The show just felt a bit off to me from beginning to end, starting with the protagonist Mizugaki Tsukasa stating in his thoughts that he may have fallen in love with the android Isla the moment he laid eyes on her, before he has any idea who or what she is.

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From there, we go on to Newbie’s First Day, with his new co-workers feeling him out while telegraphing their personalities in the most unsubtle way possible. I just felt like I’ve met all these people before, especially Isla and Tsukasa, only with different names and eye colors. Everyone comes off as a bland cypher.

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The uninspired characters aren’t the only problem, though they’re a big one (the impish Zack and tsundere Michiru are particularly grating). While this is the future and we see some futuristic cityscapes, the show doesn’t feel all that futuristic or special; there’s no awe or grandeur.

More importantly, I have a problem with their whole business of selling androids that are treated like family for nine years, then ceremoniously “terminated” by the team Tsukasa joins. Like…what the hell?

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I don’t doubt there’s money in such an enterprise, and maybe this is my early 21st century liddite-ism talking, but it just feels like the company is exploiting the grief or loneliness of their customers. The crassness is amplified by the generally cavalier attitudes and zany antics of the team members, the fact Tsukasa is sent into the field with zero training, and the fact that Isla fails about 90% of the time.

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The tonal dissonance of the show reaches its apex when Isla finally speaks form her own experience as an aging giftia to persuade the “grandmother” of Nina to sign the release form so they can “retrieve” her. I don’t say this often, but as well-performed and well-animated as it was, this tearful scene felt manipulative, after all the slapstick that preceded it. I was more weirded out by the macabre-ness of it all than moved.

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The seriousness of that scene is also undone when, in Tsukasa’s final scene with Isla in the car is a joke about her having to go potty. Har har. What with Tsukasa being just barely there as a character, and his so far arbitrary and unearned feelings for Isla, and the general discomfort I have with the whole 9-year android business, I believe it best to pass on this show. But I’ll watch another week or two to see if any of the issues I mentioned are remedied.

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