What’s it about? A mysterious mist descended over Japan, causing the otaku shops of Akihabara to go out of business en masse and the public to begin losing their memories of media they loved. The girls of the Rabbit Shed Shop are humanity’s last defense, traveling between dimensions to wipe out a mysterious “virus.”
No source material is impossible to make into a good anime, but mobile games come with a distinctive set of challenges: they often lack contained, complete narratives due to the desire for continual engagement; gacha mechanics mean that while only a base set of characters can be integral to the plot, there will still be fan-favorites considered mandatory to include; and you may or may not have to write around a player-insert character who technically has the actual agency.
Pastel Memories seems to suffer from a good chunk of these issues. The base game is a “raising” game, where the player works to improve the stats of various characters (Umamusume also followed this structure, hence the obtrusive trainer), and you can feel the gap where the player-insert would go. Default protagonist Izumi gets lost at one point and is spurred on to the plot-relevant location by the ghostly image of a nameless, faceless dude.
This first episode also introduces a whopping twelve characters, each of whom has been allocated exactly one personality trait in keeping with their archetype. None of them are particularly offensive, but they’re terribly difficult to care about, and the designs have an off-putting plastic sheen.
In fact, the whole episode is a bit plastic. The premise is attempting to evoke that warm communal feeling of how important otaku culture can be for those who love it (“my, nerds love things that play to their persecution complex” I thought in the meanest corner of my nerd brain, before reminding myself that there is a way nastier version of that trend this very season). Unfortunately, it’s just not very good at it.
Anime that serve as big lovefests for anime fandom can and have worked, but Pastel Memories has no sense of heart behind it. The speeches the characters spout about how Very Important otaku media is ring false because it’s all talk. We don’t actually see characters bonding or changing their lives for the better because of these works of art. Rather, it’s content to float on the surface of “nerd” as a signifier, vaguely informing us that the NERD STUFF you like is in DANGER of being subsumed by the normies, and this is all very dire and must be stopped. Yawn.
Beyond that, the decision to reveal at the very end of the episode that our twelve main characters are actually well-established magical girls already feels like a middle finger after being forced to spend almost twenty minutes on a very dull “hunting around town for out-of-print manga” plot (which aaaaaalmost captures that sense of desperation and triumph but keeps tripping on its own leaden script).
This is a basically harmless watch, aside of one of the girls having a jello-earthquake in her chest region every time she so much as breathes and a weird close-up boob shot of a plastic figure. But honestly, I can’t recommend spending precious time and attention on it when there are better otaku culture shows and better cute-girl shows out there.