Panning the Stream: Plastic Memories, The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato, Re-Kan!, Gunslinger Stratos

This… could stand to go a little better.

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I’m to the point where I’m marking anything that didn’t send me running for the hills as a “bubble candidate,” because my watch list is looking pretty darn slim at the moment. I’m not sure if I just came to expect more ambition from my anime after this past winter or if these shows are just that weak or what, but it’s slim pickings, and once again I’m left with only one series that warranted a full meet-n-greet. Hit the jump to say hello to girls who see ghosts, girls who shoot guns, girls who are robots, and girls who should be robots but aren’t anymore, those cheaters.

Plastic Memories

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Studio: Dogakobo
Original Series:
Created by Hayashi Naotaka (Steins;Gate, Robotics;Notes) and directed by Fujiwara Yoshiyuki (Engaged to the Unidentified)
Streaming On:
Crunchyroll (North America, Central America, South America, and Europe excluding the UK, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein)

In a Sentence: Mizugaki Tsukasa joins the SAI Corp’s Terminal Service, where he helps retrieve the bodies and memories of “Giftia,” human-like androids whose programming only allows them to live for nine years.

How was it? An uneven blend of stale and original ideas, but with enough style and pathos to pique my interest.

Overall

The winter season spoiled me on unique, three-dimensional characters, and it’s making it that much harder to return to the usual parade of traits and tropes, which is where Plastic Memoriescould stumble and fall on its face if it doesn’t start doing some serious character work. The pleasantly hapless protagonist, the temperamental female bosses/coworkers, the precocious kid, the love interest who fluctuates between stone-faced and klutzy… I’ve seen these types before, and I find most of them rather overdone, if not out-and-out insufferable.

But—but! For all that, and despite some hit-and-miss humor (although for me it was definitely more hit than miss), Plastic Memories has a fascinating premise upon which to build its story, and I very much want to see more of this world and the “retrieval service” Tsukasa has joined. There’s a wistful sigh just around the corner of every retrieval scene, a transient awareness which can really only be described using the uniquely Japanese concept of mono-no-aware. The emotional beats are a bit clumsy, but they generally work for me because the series finds a balance between tragedy and joy, celebrating the bonds we make while also acknowleding the sadness of our inevitable partings (so, like I said: mono-no-aware).

Because of that more than anything, I’ve giving Plastic Memories three episodes to hook me. If it can maintain its tonal balance, develop its characters, and craft a strong central story around which these individual retrieval missions can rotate, it has the potential to be a fascinating and emotional meditation on impermanence, personal connections, and the value of memory. We’ll see where it goes from here.

Bubble-Bound

The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato (Nakago Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu)

Thanks to some light humor and a smidge of cleverness, if this were a regular slice-of-school-life romantic comedy, I’d probably come in here to tell you that it had a certain cuteness and charm, even though nothing much happened, and that it probably isn’t my cup of tea but I’d give it another week to see how it developed its characters. But because there is a far more interesting version of this world (which I love, despite its faults), I mostly just spent this episode annoyed that I was watching it instead of Haruhi Season Three.

And yet, believe it or not, I may still come back to it in the hope it will find a way to inject more of the dry wit or frenetic weirdness that made me fall for the original. Maybe I’ll even get to see Koizumi’s ingratiating smile next week! (Oh hai thar, I’m the one fan who thinks Koizumi is the most interesting character, nice to meet you.) But if it continues to be pleasant fluff, then I’ll take my leave and hope that, if nothing else, this does well enough that KyoAni realizes the series is still relevant, and puts together a proper sequel season sometime soon.

Re-Kan!

A “cute girls being cute” slice-of-life with a hearty serving of ghosts (two of the protagonists have the sixth sense to some extent), a dash of comedy, a sprinkling of sweetness, and a slight bite of acid in the form of a dirty old…cat? Well okay, then. The premiere was pretty much the way I feel about most “cute girl” stories: occasionally funny, a little bland, and giving off a faint whiff of calculated marketing. I’m also reaching the point where I have very little tolerance for queerbaiting, and this one sure feels like it’s heading that direction, so… yeah. I may give it one more, but I suspect this won’t be a series for me.

Gunslinger Stratos

I tend to set my expectations low for anime based on games of any kind, but sometimes surprises happen (see: Bahamut, Rage of), and if nothing else I figured A-1 would make this futuristic shoot-em-up look shiny and dynamic. What we got instead was a low-quality sci-fi that threw just about everything at the wall (from aristocratic dystopia to school rom-com to time travel) in hopes that it would not only stick, but form a picture instead of a splattery mess. If GS were just a little bit crazier or the production values higher it could fall into the “so bad it’s good” category, but it ain’t there yet. I’ll keep my ears open and come back to it if I hear that this big ball of story elements solidifies into anything coherent, but until then I don’t see it making the watch list any time soon.

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