Awesome wallpaper at the end!
The announcement of an animation collaboration between Subaru (the car company) and Gainax raised more than a few eyebrows and led to a large amount of speculation on what the series would actually be. Most people agreed that, since Subaru involved itself, cars would probably have some part. This made some sense, since, despite success in the global market, Japanese domestic auto sales have apparently been suffering pretty badly. The combination of an effective public transportation system and a rapidly aging population has reduced the demand for cars domestically, so it was possible that Subaru was using this chance to encourage car ownership. Some predictions guessed that the series would just be one big car advertisement, while one particular prediction that I liked was that the series would focus on various hobbies that may be difficult to pursue relying on public transportation alone, such as stargazing, hiking, etc. It was an intriguing concept.
Everyone was wrong. Ladies and gentlemen, and Ness, Houkago no Pleiades has nothing to do with cars. It’s a (very) short magical girl animation. Let the insanity begin.
The star, Subaru, is a rather dim girl who enjoys stargazing. Her name, aside from being an obvious reference to the auto company, refers to the Japanese name for the Pleiades star cluster. Somehow, it makes sense, doesn’t it?
The right one… is a guy…
One day, while visiting the viewing room at the top of the school building, she accidentally stumbles into some kind of alternate space containing a huge garden. There, she meets her counterpart, Minato. That’s Minato-kun. I know, it took me a while to wrap my mind around that, too. Normally the guys in magical girl shows are a little less… ambiguous.
Later, in the hallway, she steps on some green blob and eventually finds her way to the super secret magical girl clubroom. You can tell that it’s secret because when she touches the girl, a bunch of weird symbols appear, and weird symbols = MAGIC. Subaru sees her obviously athletic friend Aoi and decides that if Aoi can be in the cosplay club, then she can do it, too.
Too much pink…
Cue the fastest transformation I’ve ever seen in a magical girl show, faster than Kore wa Zombie even though he’s a guy, plus a costume that looks almost identical to their school uniform. Seriously, the only way I can tell she’s transformed is because the color of her socks changed. And she gets a stupid looking hat, but don’t worry, hers isn’t the stupidest looking hat.
MY HAIR IS SYMBOLIC
The idea is that the girls are collecting QUOTE engine parts ENDQUOTE (they are spiky balls) for the green (blue?) blob, who is apparently a Pleiadesian or however you would spell it. It comes from outer space! His ship blew up when he came to Earth, and obviously if you collect them all, you can destroy the Earth or something like that. Basically, the blob is making the girls clean up after the mess it left behind. But wait, there’s more: a red haired villain named Minato with hair horns who is also after the engine parts, presumably to destroy the Earth because he’s evil.
The green blob is riding a hat-missile. Completely serious.
RANDOM MAGIC ATTACKS BACK AND FORTH.
They lose the engine part, and Aoi basically tells Subaru to quit because she isn’t cut out to be a magical girl. 150 seconds later, after a montage of introspection and a short crying scene, they make up, and Subaru rejoins.
The final boss fight! Which happens to be the same as the first boss. You know the drill, you get defeated handily at the beginning of the game, then you level up a lot and have a rematch. That’s what happens here, except they didn’t level up.
Instead, Subaru’s almighty POWER OF LOVE defeats Minato by hugging him. Unfortunately, Minato is apparently being possessed by evil earrings and runs away.
Subaru vows to find Minato again, and… roll credits!
Warning: do not ingest engine fragments.
I swear Nanako is part alien or something.
I’ve said before that I’m not really a mahou shoujo fan, and it still applies here. However, Houkago no Pleiades was not as fluffy as I’m used to seeing, which made it a whole lot less annoying than I expected. The worst part was probably Subaru’s voice, which just pissed me off every time she spoke because of how fake and such an obvious (failed) attempt to be cute it was. They should have gone for a more normal sound like the rest of the girls – high pitched constricted voice is not cute. Save that for characters that are supposed to sound annoying, like the green blob. This was pretty much my only complaint about this series, though. I had a pretty positive impression about the rest.
I’m so glad that they didn’t go for an over-the-top transformation sequence. It lasts for like 5 seconds and doesn’t abnormally focus on her naked body like some others do, making it a lot less awkward to watch. Plus, it doesn’t feel illegal. The costumes were agreeable as well, looking pretty much like their school uniforms with a long coat and weird hat added. They weren’t flashy at all, which is a good thing in my opinion. Strange, flashy costumes is basically just to distract you from other things, like poor plot development and cheesy relationships…
Speaking of which, the story moved along incredibly fast due to the short length of the show. I don’t know if they were limited to this length or made the choice to make it this short, but it definitely could have used some more time developing the characters’ backstories a bit more. We’re able to assume what Subaru and Aoi’s relationship is like from their dialogue, which shows good writing, but I’m still really curious about all five of the girls’ histories. For example, Nanako? What is up with her? And Hikaru and Itsuki hardly get any lines. Of course, the series also benefits a little from its brevity in that nothing gets worn out, but ~20 minutes is cutting it a little close. Maybe it would have been better at a movie length or something so we could get sufficiently acquainted with everyone.
Overall, I thought it was a worthwhile watch. It’s not very long, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t check it out, if not just for the art and music. Animation was pretty decent, too. The music was probably my favorite part of the series, probably benefiting from the fact that the series was so short that they didn’t need to fill out an entire soundtrack. Still, good music is good music, and you can’t sell it short just because of the circumstances.
The ending seems like it turn into a longer series, but I don’t see that happening. Unless the response is just so overwhelmingly positive that they have to cash in.
There are sooo many awesome end cards during the credits. Here’s a few samples, and I’ve compiled them all here. They’re all 1280×720, and they make awesome wallpapers! I’m using #14 right now.