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AKA: Houkago no Pleiades, 放課後のプレアデス (Japanese)
Genre: Magical girl / fantasy
Length: Web release, 23 minutes
Distributor: Streaming on YouTube
Content Rating: G (appropriate for all audiences)
Related Series: None
Also Recommended: CardCaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon
Notes: Collaboration between Japanese car company Subaru and GAINAX. The series is distributed across 4 mini-episodes; the above running time includes all four episodes. The full series can be viewed exclusively on YouTube. See the link at the end of this review.
Rating:
 

Wish Upon the Pleiades

Synopsis

While looking at the stars one night in her telescope, a high school girl named Subaru sees a foray of colorful shooting stars, struck in awe by them. The next night(?) after school, Subaru activates a magical spot and enters a mysterious room she's never seen before in her school in lieu of the observation room she normally goes to. There she sees a big, beautiful garden, a tall girl coughing in the center of it near a fountain. They have a small chat before Subaru leaves, the girl introducing herself as Minato. Shortly after Subaru trips on a green blob-like creature (later known as The Pleiadian) and runs after him after he takes her compass. She then enters a rather colorful room in her school, where she sees her best friend Aoi and three other girls in strange get-ups..

Review

Crossover promotions are not uncommon in animation. So when it was revealed in late 2010 that GAINAX and Japanese car company Subaru were co-producing an anime together, and that it was going to be directed by the person who directed FLCL, it sure turned some heads. After all, a car company and GAINAX (of all animation companies) getting together to do something was considered out there even for promotional vehicles. (No pun intended.)

Wish Upon the Pleiades came out around the same time that Puella Magi Madoka Magica did. Both feature pink-haired girls as leads who happen to have blue-haired, tomboy best friends. Both series feature five girls with mostly the same hair colors sans one (Madoka Magica's redhead, and Pleiades' purple-haired girl). The similarities end there, though. Whereas Madoka Magica is a relatively dark television series, Wish Upon the Pleiades is a short, fluffy ONA that's as light-hearted as a typical Sailor Moon episode.

Our main heroine is Subaru, a star-gazing high school girl who just happens to stumble one day across magical circles that allow her to visit ordinary places in her school and see them transform into spacious, brightly-colored rooms. Her character design is quite cute, but the character herself is nothing special. She's a clumsy, spacey girl with short, pink hair and a high-pitched voice. Her best friend is Aoi, a blue-haired girl who wears glasses and speaks with a vaguely tomboyish tone. Due to the short running time, we don't get much to see much of their friendship - Subaru finds out that Aoi is a magical girl, she becomes one herself, she screws up on their first mission, and Aoi chastises her. When Subaru tries to enter their headquarters after-school the following day, it's empty, causing her to cry. However, minutes later she happens to bump into Aoi underneath a bus stop in the rain, where they become friends again in less than a minute, much to the happiness of the other three girls who watch them. Mind you, the time between Aoi chastising Subaru and their becoming friends again takes place across a span of 2 minutes and 15 seconds. I counted.

As you can tell from the rushed pace mentioned above, Wish Upon the Pleiades is quite abridged in its storytelling, allowing its very cute character designs by by Mai Otsuka (Shana), as well as its gorgeous background art and good animation, to make up for it. Not only does the series have to make Subaru turn into a magical girl, but also find and defeat the big bad as well, as well as have the obligatory best friend break-up/reunion scenario. Considering the short timeframe, I have to give some props for writers Daisuke Kikuchi (who also designed the girls originally) and co-writer/director Shouji Saeki for at least trying to tell as much as they could in that short a period of time. With a little less than 24 minutes to tell its story, there's precious little room for character/plot development. Two of the five girls barely have any dialogue outside of introducing themselves, and another - who's dressed in an appealing witch-like costume with an odd, face-like hat - serves little purpose except to translate dialogue for the little blob-like "student council president" who sends the girls on their mission to collect fragments of his engine so he could go back to his home planet.

Speaking of engines, the cross-promotion isn't nearly as blatant as one would let on. Aside from the obvious fact that Subaru is named after the car company that funded this ONA, the only other major car tie-ins are that the girls' staffs make car engine sounds, as well as the fact that Pleiades just happens to be not only the name of the species of the alien blob thing, but the star cluster that also happens to be the basis of the Subaru company logo.

Honestly, despite the rushed pace and weird advertising, I really want to see what happens to these characters in future projects, even if it didn't look nearly as lavish as this ONA. Because Wish Upon the Pleiades, if nothing else, is a beautiful time-killer of an anime. You can watch it on YouTube here and see for yourself.

A good example of great art compensating for an incomplete story, with likable characters who deserve to be in a longer series.Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: I couldn't really find anything objectionable here. Fine for all audiences.



Version(s) Viewed: YouTube stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Wish Upon the Pleiades © 2011 FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES Ltd. / GAINAX / SxG