As of this moment I’ve probably watched about half the shows currently out, and at the risk of sounding a little miserable there’s not a great amount I’m particularly sold on. That’s more of an apology if some of these posts sound a little on the negative side. I swear I’m not trying be ‘that’ guy, who’s all cynical about everything. There’ll be happier posts later (I think), but for now sit down, relax and settle yourself in for the pain. Plastic Memories There’s this wonderful scene in Time of Eve, where an older model robot, damaged and on the verge of breaking down, stumbles into the café the film is centred on, pathetically trying to convince the two main characters that it’s actually human. A fair few laughs are had out of its incompetent attempts to act natural; until the reveal that the robot’s worse for wear state isn’t due to an accident or degradation over time, but a deliberate act of sabotage by its original owners, who, no longer requiring the machine’s services, illegally dumped it so as not to pay a retrieval fee to the manufacturers. However, the abandonment is not merely physical, as any trace of self-identification is also purged, from filling off the serial numbers, to its own memories being nearly entirely wiped. The robot’s last moments are that of desperately trying to remember its own name, and the young child that looked up to it as a parent. That the death of something barely even recognisable as human hit so hard illustrated how well the film understood how to make the unknowable both relatable and carry emotional weight.
I’m bringing this up because Plastic Memories tackles similar subject matter, but fails completely to reproduce the same results. Yep, here comes another potentially interesting idea grinded into the Light/Visual Novel cookie-cutter (ok, technically this is an original production; not that you’d guess), emerging with most of the nuance and depth stripped clean out. It’s not terrible; hell, the deadpan delivery of some of the humour was pretty great when it’s not being awkwardly forced between dramatic beats that aren’t given the time to wind down. The tonal shifts in this episode are probably the worst I’ve seen since Akame ga Kill. The big issue with portraying a world where robots have to be completely rebooted every nine years is that there is simply no difference between them and the humans, all of which are little more than anime/manga stereotypes. The main human character is the bland self-insert, the lead female robot the quiet, deadpan, but cute and spacy archetype, the on-site partner is the textbook tsundere, etc. If there’s no way to distinguish between the two species in the way they look, act and feel, then there’s simply no point in having a difference other than creating literal props to wring out some ham-fisted emotion. Plastic Memories has effectively created an entire race of sad, doomed Key characters, using an (quite literally) artificial method in order to do so without feeling overly morose. Perhaps the similarities and/or differences will be addressed in the future, but there was zero evidence to be found here, and quite honestly I’ve seen enough melodramatic moe shows to know what to expect. Having the writer of Steins Gate’s involvement is not enough of a hook for me.
Seraph of the End While most anime is clearly targeted towards the teenage audience it’s pretty easy to find a universal appeal if the aesthetic works for you. That said, once in a while a show airs that just makes me feel far too old for the medium, which I admit sounds daft coming from someone who still enjoys things aimed at six year old. Seraph is this season’s example. I feel like I’m watching a completely different anime to some people out there. I mean sure, the Attack on Titan-esque premise of a young child developing a burning hatred towards an infinitely stronger foe is sound enough in practice, but I just can’t help but think Titan executed it way more effectively. In that show you had an entire mythology built around a race of terrifying, unfeeling giants that understood nothing but brutal desire. They inspired fear on a primal level, like the demons at the end of the Berserk anime. Here, on the other hand, we just get a bunch of moustache twirling vampires, looking like the race of space elves from Crest of the Stars, spouting hackneyed lines to remind you how evil they are. Not to mention the ‘shocking twist’ near the end didn’t feel particularly impactful considering we’d barely gotten to spend any time with those characters (well, that & the fact the blonde kid still shows up in all the promo art). You have to provide enough time for the audience to care before you pull a move like that and make it feel earned. It was lazy in Muv Luv Alternative Eclipse, it was lazy in Ga-Rei Zero and it’s lazy here.
It doesn’t help that Seraph looks to be made on the cheap, especially for an action heavy show. The scenes themselves are shot well and some of the animation is fluid, but the characters often lack detail, while there’s quite a bit of dodgy cgi and obvious visual cost-cutting (the prologue is especially bad for this), although I do happen to like how the backgrounds look like they’re drawn with pastels. I’m not sure if that was to save money, but it does enforce an otherworldly charm to the setting. Enough people seem to like the show that I’ll give it another episode to see whether I can be won over. There are a few nice touches, eg. the blood drinking/pseudo-prostitution sub-plot was handled well, conveying the horror through the characters reactions rather than revelling in the act itself. I’ll be happy if I’m proven wrong on this, but as yet I find the show amateurish and even unintentionally humorous considering how deathly serious it takes itself. At the very least, the me of 15 years old would have loved it.