Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Anime Review: Wish Upon the Pleiades

As the spring anime season starts winding down it's time for me to finally start talking about it's current shows and I suppose the best way to completely sum it up is "not as bad as expected". There were plenty of shows I enjoyed enough to keep watching week to week but I'll talk more about the season as a whole in my Round-UP next Sunday. In the meantime, out of my roster of shows Wish Upon the Pleiades (literally After School Pleiades in Japanese which actually works a bit better with the show) was the first to wrap and it's a show I enjoyed so I'm glad to talk about it early on, also glad to see some non-franchise magical girl shows every few seasons!

Wish Upon the Pleiades (Houkago no Pleiades)

Subaru is a shy girl who loves the stars but she's had a confusing day when the door to her astronomy clubroom leads her to a mysterious garden at first and then to another classroom with four unfamiliar girls in cosplay-like outfits. One of the girls looks familiar but Subaru knows that her old friend Aoi goes to another school now and this girl has no memory of it. It's quickly explained to her that the four of them have been gathered by an alien to help them collect falling pieces of their spaceship and if Subaru could find them then she too has the "potential" to help them out as well.

I wasn't expecting anything great or grand from this show, I hoped it would be competent enough and cute enough that I could overlook it's failings but it actually pulled itself together much better than I expected and I can recommend it with good conscience to other magical girl fans. I've seen a few people compare the show to Madoka Magica which I do understand (since it deals with multiple timelines/worlds from the start) but by the end of the show it actually reminded me more of another magical girl series, Shugo Chara! SC! was a series where the characters "magical powers" came from characters combining with their would-be selves and are often trying to save other character's potential (their heart's eggs) from a villainous organization that seeks to use them. The idea is that your would-be self can manifest when you're still a child but once you get older you either start moving towards that dream or away from it so you either grow into the idea or it fades away which matches up quite well with what Pleiades has to say about character's potentials. Plus, both series have magical boys (dark magical boys even) which is why the thought came to mind, a lot of magical girl series have to do with the choices you make as a child (since in many, many cases being a magical girl is a partial-metaphor for being in that changing part of life and it's a "phase", not a talent or ability they'll continue to nurture) but given that and some of the designs I did wonder what other series Gainax has seen.

It doesn't have a lot of flaws but there are still of course some things I wish had been done a little better. One is that I just wish the tone had been a little different, the show does such bonkers things with science and magic (FTL travel! Exoplanets! Black holes!) and yet you don't realize it until long after the episode that yeah, that was kinda insane. I didn't mind the tenuous grasp on science at all, I think some of it was even correct, but I do wish the series had been even crazier at points or set the mood so that the viewer could laugh more at what was going on, I think that humor could have been added in without ruining the more serious moments of the show. I do also wish that the side characters had been given a bit more screen time, Subaru gets quite a bit of screen time due to being The Main Character and Minato gets a fair amount by the end of the show but the other four girls never get quite enough. Aoi's character episode came surprisingly late in the series and while you could say "oh this was only one cour, it had to be quick" they did manage to have a bathing suit episode, I feel like the time could have been found, especially in the earlier episodes since the last three felt a little over-stuffed.

Overall I did like the show, since it did end up being better than expected (ie, the story actually held together) then of course I'd like more on the side characters but that's not a deal breaker. I did like that one of the initial concepts was that the girls were from alternate worlds and that they would eventually have to split up again, it was a really sad thought but it added an extra dimension to seeing them grow closer together and a sadness when you realize they've had to meet new versions of everyone, even their parents, multiple times (although the show didn't play up that element very much, again something they should've worked in given how important this timeline-changing is to some of the other characters). The story did try to get too complicated with that idea however, it's a bit hard to piece together the timeline and figure out what events happened when and in relation to each other. For example, the president came to Nanako first but then we see they were present in Subaru's world before that, how does that work? Especially if all of the girls are the same age but it seems like Itsuki and Hikaru witnessed the ship breaking up years earlier (it's possible they saw it and were recruited later but those scenes were framed that both girls had an important moment, saw the meteors and then were chosen by the President to be magical girls), it's also not quite clear how or when they jump worlds since Subaru met them first before they appeared in her class.

All in all it's a cute show with only a few questionable CGI scenes (did it really help the schedule to farm out such short bits, especially if the last episode had a small delay on Crunchyroll?) and I might pick it up when Sentai puts out their physical release. In the meantime the show can be watched on both Crunchyroll and Hulu.