For as long as the concept of Artificial Intelligence has existed, people have both questioned and marvelled at it. Will it be of detriment to humanity? Will it help us? Who knows? However, I do know that both interpretations make for some mighty fine fiction. Thus we delve into yet another in this vein of hypothesis, into a world where AI is of the beneficial kind and its existence has changed the lives of many.
Imagine, if you would, a society where android technology has advanced to the point where they are indistinguishable from humans. Now imagine that said androids are known as Giftia and are available for purchase and personal use. Such is the world of Plastic Memories. For those who choose, these androids can serve any number of roles (such as that of child) as a substitute for humans. Unfortunately for all those involved, the Giftia have a lifespans of 81,920 hours, which roughly translated to 9 years and 4 months. After this deadline, the Giftia’s memory begins to degrade and they become a shell of their former self. So even without watching a single second of the series, you can tell how emotional these relationships between Giftia and human become as the end draws near.
This concept is of course amplified and centralised by the series, as we follow Tsukasa and his co-workers at the SAI Corps Terminal Service, the group responsible for retrieving the androids that have reached the end of their lifespan and erasing their memories. Thus, in the first episode alone, we witness two tearful goodbyes from families who have accepted Giftia into their lives. Given both the appearance and behaviour of these androids, these sequences are essentially people being forced to give up the ones they love, after having spent a mere 9 years with them. It’s…sad. No matter how the characters act, that’s what it boils down to.
On top of this intrinsically heartwrenching job, the employees of the Terminal Service must also personally cope with the reality of these differing lifespans, as each human and Giftia form pairs within the division. A fact I’m sure will serve to deliver even more emotion in future episodes. Even better yet, it is looking like Tsukasa is already completely smitten with his Giftia partner Isla. Even better yet again, Isla is the introspective type who spends time questioning what it means to live. We also don’t even know how old Isla is, her time might almost be up (as is my assumption). Luckily, to distract us somewhat from the innate sadness of this, Isla is also the main source of humour in the Terminal Service, with her overall innocence and ineptitude drawing more than its fair share of attention.
Though Tsukasa is ridiculously in the dark about the job he accepted, there’s a relatable obliviousness that makes the exposition segment of this first episode blend in well with the story. This lack of information also allows for a believable development of character to occur rather quickly, with him being forced to realise the impact and necessity his new job has. The reactions of those forced to part from their Giftia also convey a realistic obstacle for the Terminal Service that is far more powerful than contract law or warranties.
Despite the anime itself looking good and capturing the whole “futuristic sci-fi city” vibe, the thing that truly caught my attention was the animation during the recovery scenes. There was an almost uncanny fluidity to the movement of the family who hugged their Giftia for the final time. Though, just so you don’t finish this article bearing to much sadness, the animation also did an excellent job of capturing the various facial expressions of the characters. Now, while this may seem like an obvious aspect of animation, it really sold the character’s personalities in the brief 20-something minutes we’ve seen of them thus far.
Though I only watched this series because I briefly heard mention of it months ago, I’m glad I did. Plastic Memories is looking to be the emotional piece of this anime season, with an interesting premise to back it up. So I’m sticking around for the promise of solid character development and introspection regarding what defines humanity.