Wish upon the Pleiades

Wish upon the Pleiades

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One day, a young girl named Subaru comes across a group of magical girls at school, among which is her childhood friend Aoi, who she thought had transferred to a different school. She also discovers that she is a magical girl herself and has no choice but to join this mysterious group. Their duty is to search the galaxy for fragments of a spaceship belonging to an alien known as a Pleiadian. However, a mysterious boy is also seeking the fragments for his own use.

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Wish upon the Pleiades
is an animation series produced by Gainax in collaboration with the Japanese automaker Subaru – hence the odd name of the pink-haired protagonist. The magical girls in this anime also ride on wand-like devices (or are these supposed to be broomsticks?) which sound like they are powered by engines. Car engines, to be precise.

This one is a bit of a slow-starter, taking a lot of time to build character interactions and explain a bit of character backstory and how this magical girl group (apparently summoned by an alien) has been called together.

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Subaru, as a main character, is rather slow-minded and clueless (why Subaru the manufacturer wanted themselves associated with her ditsy-yet-well-meaning character is a mystery to me). Whilst looking for the astronomy club, she unintentionally meets Minato – a boy with a calm and ambiguous character. After leaving him, she unintentionally stumbles upon a meeting between four magical girls and a small jellyfish-like alien. I couldn’t help but draw similarities between this anime and the popular Puella Magi Madoka Magica as we see a group of magical girls demonstrating some of the more obvious anime archetypes: shy and polite Itsuki, cheerful and energetic Hikaru, cool-headed Nanako and the tsundere childhood friend Aoi.

We watch Subaru as she becomes accustomed to her life as a magical girl – believing in her own power, working together with others and mastering how to ride her engine-powered wand/broomstick contraption. She must help the Pleiadian recollect all of the lost fragments of his ship, but a mysterious red-headed antagonist (who looks suspiciously like Minato) is trying to collect them himself. Since this isn’t exactly the most complex or original anime this season, I expect that his identity will be revealed soon and it’s up to Subaru and chums to reflect on what they’re doing and why. You know, the usual.

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The story line here seems to be a very simple and basic one. However, it does possess a compelling setting and shows some great space and sky backdrops. I’ve seen plenty of magical girl animes, but I’ve never seen one (apart from Sailormoon) that has such a focus on magical girls flying and fighting so much above the surface of the Earth. It also makes me wonder what’s next for Subaru’s 2.0 litre boxer engine. If they’re using this anime as a pilot concept for their engine-powered flying broomstick then I would definitely like to know more.

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The anime shows Subaru going through the normal magical girl trials and tribulations, such as balancing her normal life as a middle school student with her new responsibilities as a superhero. She struggles to decide what is right and what is wrong and hesitates occasionally in her duties. It looks like she’s being swept along by the enthusiasm of the other girls, so hopefully this anime will produce some new revelations that will develop her character and stop her from being so wishy-washy.

Production values in this anime are not quite turbocharged (which is disappointing, considering the collaboration). The character designs are a little underwhelming and the magical girl outfits, I have to say, are really poor. I’ve seen plenty of magical girl uniforms. They are elaborate, colourful and full of unique details. Subaru and chums’ getup is so bad it’s almost embarrassing. The backgrounds of space, sky and underneath the oceans are much more beautiful than the characters, and this is the area in which this anime impresses me the most. We see lots of dazzling stars above the atmosphere and the dark depths of water underneath the surface. In each episode the battle arena varies, but the background have always been out of this world (if you’ll excuse the pun).

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Overall, Wish upon the Pleiades is very character-focused, but it does have a few things going for it plot-wise. It has a clear-cut central struggle that brings the characters together and is slowly beginning to draw out Subaru’s character now that the other characters’ personalities have been suitable established. Subaru is trying to overcome her clumsiness as she talks to the others whilst slowly becoming a better person. Hopefully there are some more serious elements to this story that will emerge later in later episodes.