Waiting for an appointment with my physical therapist recently, I flipped through a Readers' Digest article on a guy who works for a firm that creates term papers for people. You need a dissertation to get your Ph.D? Need an essay to pass your theology class? He'll write it for you. It's not just the guy in the dorm sweating out papers for the frat down the road; this is a full-on business. Unethical? Sure, but if you're smart with good writing and research skills and a lousy conscience, I guess it's a workable profession. I had put it to the back of my brain until I watched Memories Off. Because for me, this was as painful as reading an obviously plagiarized term paper...a very badly-written one at that.
The plot of Memories Off, such as it is, revolves around Tomoya. Over the course of three OVAs, he winds up with three different girls. All of his relationships, however, are stunted by the memory of his dead girlfriend Ayaka, who was struck by a car in the rain while coming to him. Now he sees Ayaka everywhere as some sort of spirit angel that haunts him. In the first OVA, the girl of interest was his and Ayaka's best friend growing up. In the second, while he's supposedly dating this girl, he falls for a cold fish who promised never to love anyone to protect herself from being seen as a gaijin. Finally, the third episode gives us a frail, dying girl who still has enough energy to want to make memories with Tomoya. Dates at amusement parks and bodies of water follow.
I originally got ahold of Memories Off because, quite frankly, I needed some short series to supplement the site inbetween major series reviews. There were even follow-up OVAs, so I figured it had to have some audience somewhere; sadly, that audience is Japanese suckers who fell in love with the dating sim on which this travesty is based. It certainly didn't sell on its visuals, which are as plain vanilla as you can get. The J-Pop tunes interspersed through the show aren't any better.
But what really made this show more painful than a trip to the dentist was the agony of realizing that it's simply a Frankenstein of parts assembled from other places. The first episode recalls the much better series Touch. The second is classic tsundere material. The third brings to mind every stupid dying girl movie ever lensed and makes A Walk To Remember look like high art. These isn't a single creative moment in the entire hour and a half. It's like Chinese water torture. You know every last drop that's going to fall on your forehead before you even feel it, and still it drives you nuts.
I rarely flunk shows unless they are incompetent or morally offensive. But when I think about it, the shows that have gotten barely passing grades still had something going for them. Classically awful films like Odin might feel like watching grass grow, but at least there's something there. But Memories Off is like a bad Mad Libs where the script is already written and somebody's filled in all the blanks with the most generic blandness possible. On second thought, that's an insult to Mad Libs, which can really be entertaining. Instead, think of every anime cliche you've ever seen rolled up into one great big ball of suck. My suggestion after thinking of that is to run screaming as far away as possible, trying desperately to forget you ever heard of Memories Off at all.
Memories Off -- mild language, mature themes -- F