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PSA for Pluto, the anime series on Netflix

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I wouldn’t call myself an anime fanboy, but I enjoy the genre. Anime often does a good job of exploring complicated social and psychological issues. I didn’t hesitate when my wife suggested we watch Pluto, eight episodes streaming on Netflix. It has an 8.2 on IMDb, a remarkably high rating for any show, regardless of genre.

We watched the first episode, and… Let’s just say it was underwhelming. My wife was ready to quit right then, but I supported watching more because the rating was so high. That was a mistake. The first ep. has a 9.1, the second highest-rated show. It was pretty much downhill from there. We kept watching, waiting for it to get better. By the time we got to the second half of the series, we were motivated to keep going simply due to the feeling of sunken cost already spent watching it. The only payoff I got from finishing the series was a feeling that I was now qualified to say that it was the worst series I can recall ever watching. It is not just the worst anime series but the worst of any series, live-action, animated, anime, or whatever.

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As I mentioned, the IMDb rating (8.1) is more than respectable. There are many who love it. Polygon magazine said You need to watch Pluto on Netflix, a small miracle of a show. So maybe don’t take my word for it. But I’m going to tell you what I disliked about it anyway.

Plot

I swear I watched every episode, but I’m not entirely sure I really understand why the story ended the way it did. I just went and read a thorough explanation of the plot on collider.com and I’m still perplexed. (Netflix’s ‘Pluto’ Ending Explained: Who Really Started the War?) I must admit, since I wasn’t enthralled by the story from the beginning I didn’t exactly hang on every word.

Kudos to those who are able to follow it. Maybe it helps if you’ve read the manga that the story is based on. I think the plot is way over complicated. It takes far too long to get to the point. As an example, the first 30ish minutes of the first episode are a detective story. Clear enough. Then, abruptly, the story switches to a new character that seems to be completely unrelated to the story so far. It’s the story about the robot North Number 2. The story about NN2 was my favorite 30 minutes of any of the episodes, but in the end, it was completely unnecessary to the overall story. The movie opens with another robot that has already been murdered. We find out a little about that robot through flashbacks. But with NN2 we get a complete little short story before the robot is killed. Everything we learn about NN2 in the short story is superfluous.

Central to the plot is the idea that suffering and hatred are instrumental in making the most advanced AI. If you ask me, that is a pretty flimsy idea to hang the plot from. The consequences from this idea don’t flow logically. At the very least the case for the logic isn’t fully explored. It’s just an idea that you have to believe.

Continuity

I wouldn’t argue with anyone for supporting the case that the plot of Pluto was, in fact, deeply integrated into the story, and I just didn’t get it. But something that isn’t nearly as subjective is continuity or the complete lack of it.

There are scenes that lead you to believe that robots cannot share the contents of their minds without transferring something like a modern USB chip. That makes sense because if robots can basically just Bluetooth their thoughts/knowledge from one robot to another anytime they want then it makes it problematic to include that in the story and it essentially turns all of the robots into one hive mind. So they created this USB drive to fix that. Except, sometimes robots do communicate in a Bluetoothy way. So, which is it? The writers basically give robots abilities in one scene to drive the story ahead and then take away those abilities a moment later when it isn’t convenient to have them.

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Another example is a chase scene between a super-sporty car and an armored personnel carrier. Realistically, the armored car is never going to be able to keep up with a sport car on a curvy road. But it does. This chase scene goes on and on. But you know what? The sports car can fly. We saw that in a scene just a few minutes before the chase scene. While were watching the scene I said to my wife, “It’s a shame that the sports car can’t just fly away. Oh wait, it can!” And the scene where they showed the car flying wasn’t necessary. It could have just as easily driven away.

Can Robots Forget?

A big point is made in one scene that robots cannot forget. Then later we discover that the main character, Gesicht, and his wife, have had their memories tampered with. Gesicht is the world’s best detective robot. So you’re telling me that Gesicht has gone around for years now and never noticed that a specific span of his and his wife’s memories are missing?

Gesicht: Hey wife, have you noticed that all of your memories from time-index blah-blah-blah are missing?
Gesicht’s Wife: Well yes, not that you mention it those memories are missing.
Gesicht: That’s strange. If I were the world’s greatest robot detective I bet I’d be able to make something of that. Wait, I am the world’s greatest robot detective.

Style

One thing I enjoy about anime is the various animation styles. I watched Blue Eyed Samauri and loved the story and animation style. But the animation style for Pluto wasn’t good. In fact, it was pretty archaic. My guess is that it was purposefully done so that it would be more like an animated version of the original manga. In my opinion that was a poor choice. It looked like they were just being lazy with the animation. We have crazy good technology now to assist in making anime easier to create and more stylistic. Use those tools to illustrate your story without being beholden to the original format.

Takeaways

  • Don’t trust IMDb ratings every time.
  • If the first two episodes are crap, consider cutting bait sooner than later.
  • Some people love the things I hate and versa vice. 🙂

 

 

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