Plastic Memories ep5: who defines life? And does that definition matter?
Man, oh man. Plastic Memories is showing a dark side. This isn’t about making you accept death do to old age or disease anymore. This is the real reaping side. It’s about the sad reality that you may have to put someone important to someone else down like a dog in the street. And while I have some issues with the execution for the sake of drama in this episode, this was as emotional as any of the episodes that came before.
I have a very clear cut view of androids and their place in the world. And it comes with some irony because I do love the idea of them being our “equals”. I love the idea of seeing a robot/android/automaton walking and living among us, contributing to society and forging memories. Just today I watched the second Avengers movie, and the sight of Vision filled me with excitement and wonder. How could you not marvel (no pun intended) at the spectacle of man achieving such a feat?
On the other end, I wrestle with my agnostic nature. If I were to believe in souls, then I’d believe that robots/androids/auomatons do not have such things. But if I don’t believe in them, then what basis do I have to discriminate? In a way, someone in a wonderful future full of these “living” machines might consider me a bigot and neanderthal. But for now, I believe I’m in the minority. I just have trouble justifying that view with logic. If you strip away gods and our attachment to souls and an afterlife, then life is a thing that’s tenuous and slippery to describe. I don’t think we can really define life. It’s as difficult as defining what a planet is. It’s an arbitrary descriptor that we apply to classify things. But in this episode, that arbitrary descriptor makes for a stark contrast in how one living thing is treated from another. Sadly, the only thing I can clearly define for myself is my stance on automatons in this extreme circumstance; the moment a creature loses itself and becomes a harm to others, it must die.
Die? Even that seemingly simple word sounds odd in this context.
I’ve been looking forward to this episode since the moment episode four ended. You just knew that with all the emotion pressed into the last one, this week’s entry would aim for significant pay off. As seen at the end of the previous episode, the Giftia’s owner, Souta had been approached by an obvious (to the viewers) black market retrieval agent. And with this being so close to the end of her lifespan, the situation quickly turns dire. Tsukasa quickly catches on to the situation once Souta tells them that his Giftia, Marcia hasn’t returned from her shopping trip in a long time. The information about some random person falsifying a Retrieval agent identity is enough to mobilize the whole group, and once their manager, Mr. Yamanobe reports this crisis to his boss another group is mobilized. The deadline for her retrieval is clear, they have until 1 PM the next day to retrieve her, and the search starts well into the afternoon.
It seems real progress is made far too late though, as by the time they narrow down her possible location, it’s already 1PM the next day and they still have another obstacle to over come. The group their boss called on is called R. Security (no idea what the “R” stands for), and they appear to be more of a paramilitary group than a security firm. Not only that, but their mere presence rubs a few of the Retrieval team the wrong way, especially Kazuki and Michiru. Their soon a good old style argument over who has jurisdiction and who needs to talk to whose boss to get things straight. In the end, it’s Kazuki who turns the tide on R. Security’s lead agent in the area. She apparently has something on him, and the information allows the group to form a plan and steal some time to retrieve her while R. Security focuses on the black marketers .
We’re treated to some interesting and powerful information. First of all, Tsukasa is prepped for the worst case scenario, Wanderers. Should Marcia really lose herself completely, they have two options for taking her into custody. They can have the limiters on their spotters removed. This is the first move, and is done because when Giftia lose themselves, even their protocols fail, and that includes the limiters on their strength. It’s not a matter of strength, but super strength at this point. And for a human to attempt to take it down physically is not an option. Instead, their Giftia partners are expected to take them down with equal strength, training and weapons. Should the horrible possibly of this situation be the defeat or destruction of their Giftia, then it is the marksman’s turn to fulfill their role and earn their name. They’re equipped with a sort of gun that fires corrosive programming (think of a computer virus) that forcibly shuts down all their functions. This basically fries the Giftia from the inside, though it is of no danger to anyone organic at all. In this last case, the Giftia is a total loss and nothing about their programming can be recovered. It’s a very serious thing for this line of work, and shows that they are really are reapers in essence and practice. It also shows that this job is more than repo work, it’s truly dangerous and puts human life at risk.
Secondly, we learn Kazukia and Michiru have some horrible history with R. Security and the lead agent working the area at the moment. Three years ago, Michiru was with her father during his decent into rampancy and while he was on the run from the retrieval service. The terrible mistake was met with equally terrible consequences. The incident ended with them cornered in a church with R. Security bearing down on them. Kazuki attempted to step in back then and safely shut down the Giftia without gunfire. However, she was moments too late, Michiru’s Giftia went rampant, turned Wandered and did massive damage, including hurting some agents and crushing Kazuki’s leg, leaving her with the prosthetic leg she now owns. Michiru had to watch as R. Security (lead by the very agent Kazuki’s dealing with now) took down her “father” in a hail of gunfire.
We learn all this, and it’s not in vain as they discover the offending black marketer beaten to a pulp when they take down the now vacant office. Marcia’s no where to be seen. And with the beating her former kidnapper took, it’s safe to assume she’s already gone rampant. This ups the stakes considerably, as now R. Security has to focus on destroying her now. Kazuki is only able to finagle a half hour for them to exclusively look for the Giftia.
Not much time is needed though, as Tsukasa and Isla are the unlucky/lucky pair to bump into her while searching. The first attempt to stop her fails miserably, as Marcia smashes Isla’s leg and then we see Shouta show up (HOW?!) and of course the dumb kid gets kidnapped.
Earlier in the episode, Tsukasa made a promise to save Marcia and safely bring her back to Shouta. Now he’s gotta face the real possiblity of a Giftia murdering a kid!
They pursue together, despite Kazuki telling them not to do so. And find the two of them on top of a nearby building. At this point, we see Tsukasa attempt to bring back Marcia to “sanity” by talking and appealing to her. And at this point I’m screaming at my TV for him to not end up like Anakin Skywalker. Isla is far too hurt to save him, and even if she wasn’t, I doubt she’d be a match for Marcia somehow. Though instead, we see Shouta come back to consciousness and attempt to talk to Marcia again, and she goes nuts! She grabs him by the throat with both hands and attempts to either crush his wind pipe or maybe collapse his whole neck with a death grip.
We’re left with the scene of Tsukasa finally firing his gun while Isla attempts to beat him to Michiru, presumably to save her.
You f*cks! What a horrible way to end an episode. You’re really gonna leave us wondering if Isla was the one who actually got shot by the virus completely wipes their circuitry?! Aaarrrgh!
In all likelihood, Isla is recovering in the next episode from the beating Michiru gave her. But that’s still such a cruel spot to end the episode.
Where do I begin in my criticisms and critiques of this episode? The whole thing just felt so emotionally dense. Yet I felt some key characters acted incredibly dense themselves.
For one, I absolutely loved the emotion and tension in this episode. The writing was on the wall for how this episode would go down. You almost never read or watch media where they talk about the worst case scenario and it doesn’t come to fruition. This entire episode, so many characters were trying to reassure others that a Wanderer was the worst case scenario, and a rare event. They said thinking negatively wouldn’t help the situation. That may be true, but it doesn’t erase the fact that they were wrong and this whole thing still turned into a disaster.
Also, the sight of a Wanderer is actually terrifying! Both the flashback with Michiru’s “father” and then Marcia’s transformation are terrifying things! An out of control android is not the same as an out of control person or animal. There’s no reading minds or patterns of these things. With people or other animals, you can scare, wound or kill the threat. You can predict how they’ll act in most cases, and if not caught completely off guard you can win or at least make it to safety. With a Wanderer, you’re dealing with something incredibly fast and super strong – and worst of all completely unpredictable. It’s not something any human can hope to win. To be snatched up by one of these things is as if a person were snatching up a baby. It would be a cruel and helpless death. Without any doubt, the Wanderers as a threat, a possibility or in action are the best parts of this episode. It’s interesting dark side to this show. It’s not about making the viewers cry by slowly shredding apart some intimate bond. At this point, you’re grabbing the bond and severing with a hatchet.
The massive threat of these Giftia in this state brings up a host of questions, some the show actually partially answered this episode! But for the moment, I’m gonna focus on what bugged me.
Tsukasa, you are a naive idiot and you should be fired! I know he believes Giftia are people, but Marcia had already beaten a man to a pulp. The Marcia you met would never have done that. Marcia had smashes Isla’s leg and kidnapped her owner, leaping like a g0damn X-Man up the sides of buildings! And you had already just heard a story where a Wanderer smashed one of your comrade’s legs and badly injured several men. And I’ve yet to even mention how they’re super strong and could snap human bones as easily as a toothpick! Yet I watched this idiot not only pass up a clear and safe shot the most dangerous thing around for miles, but attempt to hold her hand! If he writes his report with that information, he should be fired the moment he turns it in! And we’re not even getting into the overall repercussions of this incident for the group and the company.
A Giftia murdering a child is horrible for the company in every possible way. In this day and age, if an iPad or iPhone overheats or shocks a few people it’s an incident. If your android neighbor can jump through your wall snatch your baby and punch it until it’s goo because its “lost itself”, then that companies stocks don’t just plunge, the company literally sinks into the earth and slips into the prerequisite level of hell its due! That’s why for much of this show, it has boggled my mind why Giftia are handled the way they are.
One of my major questions is why police don’t handle this stuff, especially when it gets to the point of a kidnapped Giftia that could go rampant. Not only is it a case of stolen property, but a Wanderer could be a threat to thousands of people in a densely populated area. So I will say I’m impressed at how the show took proper moments to address some of those questions, letting us know through dialogue that Giftia do have some rights. This explains somewhat why Giftia aren’t equipped with even the most basic of tracking devices. In a way, it appears that they’re treated like humans, with rights and expectations of privacy. Even before I could think of a addressing the counterargument to that, my mind is just blown at the possibilities of the initial news! Can Giftia vote? Can they marry? When some of them are disposed of, can they receive graves? Does religion play a part in this? How does organized religion deal and take a stance on the presence of androids with rights? I’m drowning in my own thoughts on the possibilities! And this happens to me each and every time the world of Plastic Memories opens up! It’s a wonderful, yet vexing feeling. I want to know so much more!
This episode was just such a joy to watch. In a weird way, I got pleasure from seeing the world open up a bit more, and from peaking into the psyches of these characters with their traumas. For what seemed at first like cutesy drama focused on making people cry; Plastic Memories takes the concepts of life, artificial intelligence and bonds seriously. It’s one of the reasons why it’s one of my most anticipated things to watch on a weekly basis. I’m not just talking about anime, I’m talking about media in general.
Notes: I find it a little childish that Michiru blames R. Security for the ultimate fate for her “father”, even though it’s her fault for not handing over the android in the first place. I suppose this will just be part of her personal character arc. I’m assuming she’ll learn to handle the truth in time. She’s still quite young and the memory is intensely personal for her.