Epithet Erased: Prison of Plastic is a continuation of the Epithet Erased animated web series, created by Brendan Blaber. Serving as the first book installment in the series and the third story arc chronologically, Prison of Plastic released on December 9, 2022 as an Audio Play on Soundbooth Theater, with the voice cast of the series reprising their roles.note An eBook version released on December 16th, with a physical book version scheduled to release sometime in 2023.
Picking up from where the show's first season left off, Molly and her friends, Trixie and Phoenica, are enjoying a day at the beach until they stumble upon the freshly-beached body of Rick Shades, a bizarre "wizard" from the depths of the ocean. The trio of girls try to bring Rick back to Molly's toy store to help him recover, but things quickly take a turn for the worse when Molly's older sister, Lorelai, gets involved. Using her epithet, ☆Augment☆, she throws everyone in the store into a dream world of her creation, suddenly turning one of Molly's rare days off into an epic quest to escape Lorelai's world of make believe and rescue her friends.
The book was first announced on November 26, 2021, along with a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the audiobook and illustrations. The crowdfunded campaign concluded with $358,559USD, over ten times its $33,000USD goal. An audio preview of the first chapter can be viewed on Blaber's YouTube channel here, and the novel's theme song can be listened to here.
- Adults Are Useless: Zigzagged. Like any sane adult, Naven calls child services after seeing Molly’s home life. However, the worker doesn’t see anything wrong with her home life because she works at a toy shop, still goes to school and gets an education, and is fed with the help of Lorelai’s Epithet. It helps that Molly doesn’t display any signs of physical abuse, so there’s nothing they can do to help. What Martin and Lorelai fail to mention, however, is that you can eat the food, but it wouldn’t provide any nutrients, because it ceases to exist when Lorelai stops focusing on it. Molly tries to mention this, but no one takes her seriously.
- Arc Villain: Lorelai, Molly's bratty older sister, serves as the book's Big Bad, kidnapping Molly's speech teacher Naven in an attempt to prove that she can be a good minion to impress Giovanni, prompting Molly and friends to rescue him.
- Armor-Piercing Response: Naven delivers one to Lorelai, when he asks her why she doesn’t wear the bunny hoodie matching Molly's bear hoodie, both made by Calliope, and she claims she "isn't good enough to wear it.""...because you think you killed her, don't you? You think that you killed your mother."
- Artifact Title: The Arsène Amulet plays no role in this story, so no epithets are erased in this book.
- Bittersweet Ending: Downplayed. The story's ending is happy for the main protagonists. Molly learns to rely on her friends more and to stop blaming herself for other people's actions, and the story ends with her crying Tears of Joy after being "kidnapped" by Giovanni and taken to Crusher's home where she can finally be taken proper care of. Rick is also offered a place to stay and even a job by Naven, putting a nice bow on his storyline as well. The only sour note of the ending comes from Lorelai, as she ends the book scared and alone, unable to reconcile with Molly and still struggling with the possibility that she caused her mother's death. However, even she gets the suggestion of a possible happy ending, thanks to Giovanni leaving her a message stating that he believes she can become a better person and that she can call him when she's ready to Do Wrong, Right.
- Brick Joke: At the end of the story, Lorelai finds a baseball from Giovanni, on which he's written a message inviting her to call him if she wants to take more evil minion lessons. Although the baseball is signed, she can't tell who it's from because for the whole story, Giovanni referred to himself as "Vincent Murder" around her.
- Call-Back: When Naven inquires about "Vincent Murder's" Epithet, Giovanni lies and says Lava while Molly says Acid, and then they say "Lavacid" together, similarly to what happened when Giovanni first appeared in the Museum.
- Calling Your Attacks: In Chapter 12, during the final battle, Giovanni tells Molly to name her attacks, and yell their names out loud when performing them. She decides to give it a try. At first, she names her move "Evil Hi-five", which she performs with little enthusiasm to minimal effect, but after more prodding from Giovanni, she changes it to "Bear Paw", which she yells with much more emotion, and this somehow manages to turn it into a much more powerful attack.Molly looked down at her hands. She had never really bothered naming any of her abilities. Not formally, anyways. It seemed like such a waste of time. She had always looked at her powers from a purely pragmatic angle. Tools in a toolbox. But... maybe there was something pragmatic about giving them a little more flavor. If you named your tool, you formed an attachment to it, didn’t you? And wouldn't that improve your mood, and thus your output? Yeah. That made sense.
- Chores Without Powers: As part of a test for becoming one of Giovanni's minions, Lorelai is made to make cookies without using her Epithet. However, Lorelai repeatedly cheats out of paranoia, becoming so stressed she wastes most of her time and does very little work without magic. The cookies end up being absolutely terrible and everyone is well aware she didn't bake them normally, resulting in her failing the Secret Test of Character, as she cared too much about winning.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Subverted, but referenced. Naven, the CEO of a rich and prolific company, is almost ridiculously empathetic, but he mentions that corporate executives can be pretty evil.
- Cutting the Knot: Discussed. Though Lorelai goes out of her way to create challenges and obstacles whenever forming her dream worlds, Molly's epithet means that she can just brute force her way through without ever interacting with anything. The only thing that stops her from doing so in this story is her friends being present, as her abilities aren't strong enough to do both that and keep her friends adequately protected.
- Edible Theme Naming: Their titular prologue chapter reveals that the "Neo Trio" were nicknamed as such by classmates due to their hair colors (Blonde, Brown, and Pink) resembling Neapolitan ice cream when standing next to one another.
- Evil Is Cool: Discussed In-Universe by Giovanni: after keeping it hidden from her for most of the book, he tells Lorelai that the most important quality an evil minion can have is a willingness to lose. Though they have to fail to make the hero shine, they do so in style, and in the process end up being what everyone remembers because they're the coolest characters in the story.Giovanni: As a minion, it’s your job to try your best and to fail... most of the time! The bad guy doesn't get to win. The bad guy's job is to take the fall and look cool while doing it. And even though you lose, people like you the best! Because you’ve got the coolest costume! You get the coolest song! You have the best scenes! But in the end, everyone else gets to win. That's... kind of the whole point. If you're a good bad guy, then everyone has fun!
- Forced Transformation: Molly, Feenie, Trixie and Rick are transformed by Lorelai into smaller creatures, a bug, fairies, and a chameleon respectively, though Molly uses her epithet to dumb down the spell and stay in human form as much as she can where she can safely transport the others. Lorelai eventually undoes the spells on Rick in a panic after nearly killing him and Trixie and Phoenica are permanently reverted to normal when her bubble is destroyed.
- Has Two Mommies: Giovanni Potage mentions his moms, plural, multiple times. He was previously confirmed to have two moms through Word of God, but Prison of Plastic is the first time they’re mentioned in canon.
- Heroic RRoD: At the end of the story, Molly collapses, as the exhaustion from spending hours exploring the Dream Bubble and making heavy use of her epithet, combined with her malnutrition and lack of sleep, hit her all at once. Giovanni has to pick her up and carry her in his arms to bring her to Crusher's place.
- The Kindnapper: Giovanni kidnaps Molly at the end, fulfilling his threat to Martin to steal his toy store's most precious asset, though it's implied throughout that this was Giovanni's goal from the start. Naturally, Giovanni does it because he knows that Molly is not happy there, and meeting Martin himself (in addition to seeing Lorelai's true colors) just re-confirmed that.
- Loophole Abuse: In order to get past the Spelling Bee, the heroes have to solve its spelling challenge. After Phoenica easily passes the first two rounds, the rules are reversed for the final round: they have to give the Spelling Bee a word that it can't spell, which is no easy task considering how the Bee has access to the Hexicon, which contains "every word known to bee". The Bee then specifies that to make things fair, Phoenica has to know how the word spelled, it must be reasonable to assume that Lorelai has heard it before, and it can't be a word Phoenica made up. So Phoenica picks... "Feenie", her Affectionate Nickname. It meets all of the criteria: she personally knows how it's spelled, Molly has used it where Lorelai can hear it, and her parents are the ones who made it up, not Phoenica or her friends. But it's not in the Hexicon, and the Spelling Bee (possessed by Lorelai) gets it wrong..
- Magic Mirror: How Lorelai tracks Molly, Feenie, Trixie and Rick. Any reflective surface from mirrors, to water, to the Spelling Bee's monocle serve as surveillance and portals to that location.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Lorelai is absolutely horrified when Rick intercepts a deadly spell she intended to cast on Molly (who would have been immune to it). She quickly drops her Hare-idan persona and hurriedly tries to fix what she just did while repeating that she was "only playing". The experience leaves her seriously rattled and wracked with guilt, and is the start of her jerkass attitude crumbling.
- One Degree of Separation: Giovanni is cousins with one of Molly's best friends, yet neither one of them knew that the other had met Molly before the former burst into the speech class. Trixie is especially thrown off by the realization that the "Boss" her best friend has been talking about with glowing praise is the same dork that thought eating burning coal at family gathering was a good idea.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Lorelai first drops her It's All About Me and Jerkass attitude in Chapter 7, when Rick jumps in front of a deadly spell she wanted to cast on Molly (knowing that Molly is immune to her magic anyway). For the first time in the story, she immediately obeys the orders Molly barks out, casts a spell without Rhymes on a Dime, and even apologizes to her. It makes sense that her attitude would radically change in an instant after very nearly killing someone, especially since it doubles as a painful reminder that she might have done it do her mother in the past and could easily do it again, which is one of her greatest fears.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: The first two prologue chapters are exactly what one would expect from Epithet Erased; an Urban Fantasy setting with wacky comedy alongside some drama and action elements. The third prologue chapter, The Rabbit Knight, is completely different, taking place in a more traditionally fantasy setting with a more dramatic and serious tone and little comedy. The latter half of the chapter reveals this is due it taking place in one of Lorelai's dream worlds where she's playing out a serious narrative with herself as the gallant hero.
- Pinky Swear:
“We won’t fight.” [Molly] held out a pinky. “Promise.”“Hm?”“It’s a pinky promise. Once you shake it, you can never break it.” [Rick] stared at her outstretched hand, uncertain, tables turned.“Is it magic?” he asked.“Yeah. Kinda.”
- Phoenica insists on making one with the Spelling Bee (and by proxy, Lorelai), making the latter promise to not change up the rules of the Hexicon game again. Because of the nature of Lorelai's dream worlds, this promise becomes genuinely magically compelling.
- Molly and Rick make one after the latter reveals his past as a gladiator and they bond over a shared tendency towards self-sacrifice. During this conversation Rick lets slip that "Rick Shades" is just a persona he constructed because facing his friends in battle as himself felt wrong. When Molly asks about his real name, he is at first hesitant to tell her, since if they have to fight some day, he wouldn't want the real him to fight her, resulting in this:
- Prolonged Prologue: The book opens with four prologue chapters, each focusing on a different group of characters, that serve to reintroduce major players from the show and introduce newer cast members before the main narrative kicks in. All in all, page 1 of the "real" story ends up being page 55 out of 330.
- Queer Establishing Moment: Partway through the story, an alarm goes off on Phoenica's phone. It's then revealed that Trixie is non-binary and genderfluid, and Feenie uses this alarm as a reminder to switch pronouns for Trixie. For the rest of the story, Trixie is referred to with "they/them" pronouns rather than the "she/her" that was used prior.
- Refuge in Audacity: How does Giovanni get away with kidnapping Molly? By doing it so suddenly that nobody knows how to react.
- Phoenica's fear of anything Halloween-related is noted with her even being afraid of the Show Within a Show Spook Seekers, "a dopey show about a bunch of hapless ghost hunters and their talking dog".
- While Lorelai is wrapped up in the trauma of her mother's death, she recalls an event where she went to a play that involved a teenage girl who had recently lost her mother, and seeks the help of ghosts to stop her father from getting remarried.
- Simple Solution Won't Work: When faced with Lorelai's guardians, such as the Spelling Bee and Scaregrow, Molly first tries to simply use Hushabye to make them disappear. However, they happen to have swarms of minions that would immediately attack Molly's friends the instant she tries to do that, forcing her to play along.
- Starter Villain: The Wolf, a back alley mugger that targets Phoenica, serves as the antagonist for the Neo Trio prologue chapter, her appearance mainly allowing the Neo Trio's personalities and abilities to be established before her defeat.
- Super Speed: In Chapter 9, Rick copies Trixie's potion-making abilities (which she doesn't actually have, but Rick's powers work off what he BELIEVES his soulmates can do) and brews a potion of speed, allowing him and Molly to get back to Lorelai in no time.
- Tears of Joy: The story ends with Molly tearing up after Giovanni and Crusher give her the first real good breakfast she's had in years, including the cinnamon apple raisin waffles her mom used to make.
- Title Drop: On separate occasions, Molly and Lorelai mentally refer to the toy store they live in as a "prison of plastic", both having regret and anger over the state of their lives ever since moving there.
- Undying Loyalty: Giovanni quits the Banzai Blasters to make his own villain group and invites his former minions to join. They proceed to innocently ask about his organization and Giovanni is unable to even come up with a name, having not actually put much thought into it. Nonetheless, his Boys are more than happy to follow him. Though they all have plans on the day of what he hoped to be their first big operation.
- Victory Through Intimidation: How Trixie beats The Wolf in the Neo Trio Prologue, by using her family’s name and intimidation tactics to scare her out of the alley instead of fighting her head on. She tries this again with the Scaregrow, but it doesn't work, and instead she outwits it by using candy corn as a bribe for the crows.