Houkago no Pleiades (or Wish Upon the Pleiades) may have been just the thing I was looking for to get me out of that writing funk.
You know I’m a bit of a magical girl fan, right? Basically, I went on a bit of a magical girl binge over the weekend after both the AniList Watching Challenge crew and Chibi Tamago staff dropped two challenges at the same time over the Black Friday week…and while the other series I watched as part of it, Mahou Shoujo? Naria Girls, was a bit of a stinker, you can tell my thoughts are at least a bit more positive about this one.
Sidebar: To be honest with you, I do believe I was warned about Mahou Shoujo? Naria Girls sucking when I added it to my PTW, but it’s been years since I added it…I guess the saying “time heals all wounds” doesn’t count for anime warnings, then.
Houkago no Pleiades‘s instant charm comes from the cinematography – it’s got gorgeous backgrounds and the composition/use of blank space is pretty divine in terms of conveying distance or lack thereof. Itsuki’s backstory, in particular, has her isolation represented by an empty room and similarly Minato is characterised by how lonely he is, but Hikaru’s backstory involves the star-filled emptiness – through which music passes – connecting her to her parents, because she wrote that she was going to the moon and, according to everyone that knows her, Hikaru never lies…In short, it’s a nice bit of character building through the familial trust she and her parents (her father is a pianist and her mother is an astronomer) have with each other. Rather annoyingly, all this goodness is punctuated by an occasional bit of CGI used only on the protagonists and, in one notable instance, large clouds in a scene clearly meant to create spectacle, although usage on the protagonists only ever occurs when there’s no overt focus on them.
That’s not the only sticking point, really – it’s pretty obvious this is advertising for the car company Subaru. Heck, although their magical girl team has Aoi (the blue one) and Hikaru (because of starlight – note she is the yellow one), the worst offense is that they managed to get away with calling their protag “Subaru”! How obvious can you get?! You can try to ignore that if you get lost in the plot, but when your magical girls ride staves called “drive shafts” with car parts and lights on the front…the reality of that never really goes away.
Sidebar 2: There’s what appears to be a subtle Shaft headtilt in the first episode, so I almost thought this was a Shaft production. It’s actually by Gainax (!!!), but it precedes the studio’s splintering into Khara and Gaina.
Then again, Houkago no Pleiades is vaguely educational – it namedrops “redshift” and other astronomical concepts and teaches you that Saturn’s rings wouldn’t get messed up for long if you ever got the chance to mess them up. It even inserts a little physics with all the messing with the time-space continuum and wondering if certain events/characters are part of a dream or not. For instance, one character – the aforementioned Hikaru – sees the protagonist Subaru as ditzy and so a perceived Subaru (from Hikaru’s perspective) eats parts of the moon – which has become edible, since it turns out Hikaru fell asleep while at the moon – when they go to the real thing.
Magical girl stories, like some types of stories (notably ones which involve a huge adventure of some variety), require the coming-of-age of the protag, if not an entire community or world. All that messing with the storyline, time- and plot-wise, culminates in a realisation for Subaru that she should be more decisive and thus “graduate” from being a magical girl – that is, become an adult (in a sense). She even “graduates” from strawberry milk, her favourite, despite it being such a childish drink (because Aoi remembered Subaru liked the drink in her childhood) and loses her powers…but this doesn’t last for very long, because someone‘s gotta move that plot along.
The biggest example of warping the plot to make the alternate realities work, though, is undoubtedly Minato, who may or may not exist and kick butt alongside the girls depending on the timeline. Me being the shallow being that I am, I almost claimed him for the husbando list until I remembered he was in middle school…not to mention there are some late-game developments which I’ll discuss in their spoilery detail below.
However, interestingly enough (but again, depending on your reality), he does (arguably? I’d say “almost”) fit the definition of one of the reverse versions of those stories Voyager was talking about. I mean, since it’s become clear I’m writing this post specifically for people who’ve seen the show anyway (normally I’m not so clear on whether I am or not), I might as well discuss this:
- Minato is, in the overarching narrative but not all realities, dying. This is how he meets the Pleiadian and becomes the way he is, although exactly what those crystallised potentials do to the boy to make him evil in the first place isn’t really clear.
- By meeting Subaru, she becomes less awkward around people and eventually meets up with her old pal Aoi, setting up a chain of events which brings the Cosplay Research Club (and Minato, and even the Prez if you wanted to argue that) closer togther.
- Certainly, it could be argued Subaru is a bit of a ditz and so she’s both the inspiring one and the one being inspired in turn, plus Subaru isn’t afraid of dying or living in the slightest – she’s just isolated from her magical girl brethren. However, as I said earlier, ditz!Subaru (or rather, an exaggeration thereof) is brought up as a possible interpretation of her from Hikaru. Also, the one who’s afraid of living – because he knows he’s dying anyway, once all the fragments are collected – is Minato.
*wipes sweat off brow* Whew…I kept mentioning that my heart wasn’t in my content for the past month or so. I think I’m over that now…although, since I’m typing this on the Sunday before this post goes live, now I’ve got two weeks of simulcasts left to catch up on.
So what are your thoughts on Houkago no Pleiades? Is it everything you wished for in a series (like I thought it was when I typed that tweet – I’m still trying to get over the fact Gainax has a magical girl show in the first place, car advertising or no advertising) or did it crash and burn for you?