12 Days of Anime (2015) – Day 5 – Closure in Plastic Memories

plastic_memories-13-isla-giftia-robot-laughing-bath-towel-water-happy-joy-love**Warning: spoilers below**

Plastic Memories is nowhere near my favorite anime of 2015, but it deserves recognition and praise for having one of the best anime endings of 2015… or rather, having an ending at all. Though, I never found myself genuinely invested in the characters, the story, or the setting (though I will make fun of the berserk zombie-bots at ultra-specific times whenever I have the chance), I want to highlight Plastic Memories in my 12 Days of Anime series because it had something I wish every anime had: a conclusion. Plastic Memories actually had an end to its story and its series… and not one of those bullshit anime endings where everything resets at the end. No, Plastic Memories had the courage to have a genuine finish, a final episode that left me feeling fulfilled and absolute, and above all, satisfied.

plastic_memories-03-isla-giftia-robot-android-sad-depressed-looking_downI know, I understand that not all anime are equal, and not all anime are expected to have endings. Probably 90% of anime these days are adaptations of manga, light novels, or video games, and many of these media don’t fit with the pattern of storytelling necessary for 12-13 TV episodes of 24 minutes each. I get that most anime are 300-minute long commercials for comic books, and leave with open-ended finales as a means for people to buy the manga, but I digress. Plastic Memories had a vision and direction for its story, and knew to have a beginning, middle, and an end. And while I wish Plastic Memories was just the beginning and the end, it know when to start and when to stop. More importantly, it’s an anime that did start and actually did stop.

plastic_memories-09-isla-cosplay-scared-shaking-circle_eyes-chibi-cuteThat’s the other thing about Plastic Memories… it didn’t pull any bullshit at the end. There was no bullshit miracle that saved Isla at the end. There was no spirit or script that lived on. There was potential for Isla to come back after having her data and memory copied into a databank. No, Plastic Memories actually did what it set out to do with Isla as a character. And because of that, it blew me away. I know something as simple and mundane as Plastic Memories shouldn’t impress me like this, but that’s what I expect from anime now: some anime-original ending where everything is reset back to the beginning, where everything is nice and happy, and the groundwork is laid out for a sequel in a year or so. In fact, I’ve been conditioned so much to not expect a conclusion in anime that I make a mediocre anime from 2015 as one of my highlights of the year because it actually delivered a genuinely good finale.

plastic_memories-08-isla-blush-embarrassed-romance-love-red_face-cuteThat’s the state of the anime industry now. This post is equally as much praise for Plastic Memories is it is distain and disappointed with everything else I’m watching. I want these stories to have concrete and definite ends. I don’t want all these anime I watch and love to end up with open-ended finales that leave you empty, waiting, lingering, hoping for another season but only to fade away in my memories after several seasons with no response. It sucks, but that’s reality. Well, reality for virtually everything but Plastic Memories. So, for Day 5 of my 12 Days of Anime, I want to thank Plastic Memories for doing something that every anime should do: have an actual ending. And taking that lesson to heart, it’s about time this post had an ending, too.

plastic_memories-13-isla-giftia-robot-smile-thankful-grateful-warm-love-romance

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  1. #1 by JekoJeko on December 22, 2015 - 6:16 AM

    I remember feeling the complete opposite about PlaMemo. With our MC’s last appearance on-screen joyful, meeting his new co-worker months after getting over the loss of Isla, it felt like there was a ‘reset’, a cyclical narrative, and the disconnect that had with many of the show’s themes (which were fraught in the first place) made the tears I shed at the end uncomfortable.

    I put my whole impression of the finale here: https://unnecessaryexclamationmark.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/why-i-wont-remember-plastic-memories/?preview=true&iframe=true

    As for the wider subject matter, the ‘open ending’, when done well, is superior to a closed ending, as the enjoyable openness extends the story beyond the typographic ‘The End’ or the rolling credits, promotes more audience interactivity, and ultimately makes a story more of what made it good on the page or on the screen. Closed endings have just as much potential to be unsatisfying, but their counterparts aren’t always about ‘another season’ – it’s more the classic case of show and tell, with the conclusion (or a number of possible conclusions) to the narrative ‘shown’ to the viewer rather than ‘told’. The best example of this that comes to mind is Hyouka, where the MC, in his mind, forms a ‘closed’ ending, but in reality his ending is ‘open’, albeit with the beautiful resolution that, having had the thought of a ‘closed’ ending in his mind, he has incredibly developed as a character.

    A good open ending will only leave you ’empty’ if you’re not filling it with concentration on the story you’ve seen, where you think it will go, what you think it all means, etc. I love endings that force you to do that – Angel Beats!’s being the most complex but rewarding example. With that I mind, I hated PlaMemo’s ending. Not only did it confuse the show’s themes even further than the series already had before; it also gave me nothing to do anything with at all. I think ‘mindless’ is the closest adjective I can find.

    • #2 by Kaellian on January 4, 2016 - 12:12 AM

      The last scene begin with Tsukasa forcing a smile as he enters the meeting room, while holding Isla’s memento in his hand. His wound aren’t healed yet, he was simply able to find the strength to continue living the life Isla would have wanted him to have.

      When the whole anime is about mourning, I’m perfectly fine with an ending that show the healing process. It’s not like it was disrespectful toward the dead, it was the natural step any healthy human would have to go throught.

      As for the “open ending”, I agree they can be amazing, but I think Avvesione simply meant “incomplete ending”. Not every plot line can be left open, and many series just get premature ending, rather than a meaningful open ended ending that fit with the theme and symbolism used in the series.

      • #3 by avvesione on January 12, 2016 - 10:49 PM

        Thanks for the reply and comment Kaellian. I’m happy to hear you share your thoughts and input on the issue. I think we would agree on a lot about Plastic Memories, and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the ending, too.

        I wish I read your reply first since I like your term “incomplete ending” more than “open” given the vagueness of the latter term.

    • #4 by avvesione on January 12, 2016 - 10:46 PM

      Thank you for the very detailed comment, JekoJeko. Sorry I haven’t gotten around to it sooner since you obviously put a lot of time into it.

      I found your opinions to be rather interesting because we are very different people and watch anime in very, very different ways… almost opposites even. Whereas you mention tears at the end and frustration in Tsukasa after, I felt no emotional connection toward the series, but was happy with how Tsukasa moved on after his brief romance with Isla. And as you go onto talk about the good “open endings”, I couldn’t disagree more. I yearn for every story to have a beginning, middle, and end, and often feel unsatisfied with adaptations of other media as anime given the constraints in storytelling and flow. One of the reasons why I so thoroughly enjoyed the ending of Plastic Memories is that I’ve come to expect non-endings to anime.

      And as for Hyouka, I would almost certainly label that as a “closed ending” given that it resolved the story of his love with Chitanda. Yes, it’s “open” in the sense that there’s more to it than that, but that’s true for every story that doesn’t end with everyone dying or the universe exploding. Rather, the closed end that I’m looking for in a story is one where the theme and purpose of the story comes to an end. But that’s why we’re very different people. As for the “empty” comment, you can certainly do that with “closed” stories, too. However, I’d be careful with going further using general labels like “open” and “closed” since I’m not sure we’d be able to come to a consensus on open and closed as general terms. Rather, I think it’s almost essential to use examples, like Hyouka or Angel Beats!, given the magnitude of differences between anime.

      I think the main difference between our “watching styles” is we perceived the story and the characters of Plastic Memories differently. Our attachment and investment are reversed. And while you’re frustrated with nothing to do after Plastic Memories, I am content. I don’t think the ending could have gone any better given what the first episode showed us.

      Again, thank you for your comment. I’m very happy to hear about your experience with the anime and how different it was than mine. And given how different your perspective and perception is than mine, I’m curious to hear how your experiences are with the different anime that we watch.

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