Wish Upon the Pleiades
Episode 11

by Rose Bridges,

Subaru comes back from the confrontation with Minato a changed girl. She doesn't feel that different, but something is different nonetheless. Subaru has lost her magical abilities and can no longer transform or see the President. What's more, the President reveals some interesting information about the girls' magic to explain this.

It turns out that the girls' magic is powered by their potential. They have to be people who are nothing but potential, who haven't realized any of it yet. Once they make a decision and forge a path forward in life, they lose their abilities. This is related to common themes in the fantasy genre, where children are often more clued-in to the magical world than adults. Children and innocence are associated with a lack of responsibility and decisions. Having a purpose in life is something you're supposed to figure out as you grow up. The girls in Wish Upon the Pleiades retain their powers by remaining childlike. Now it makes sense that so many of them are lonely and confused about the world. They need to be in order to be magic users.

That's interesting in light of how they unite together in the episode's climax. (Well, the climax for the girls who aren't Subaru—more on her in a bit.) The girls travel far beyond the Milky Way Galaxy amidst lots of chatter about dark energy. They could bypass physical laws, and there's no telling what will happen if they do that. It's a test of their dedication to the cause, basically. The President says they might still be wishing that they would remain in this universe forever, showing how their wishes alter reality—like in Subaru's and Minato's last episode. Aoi tells the President that she wanted to return to Subaru, but says she can promise to do the job in spite of that, and the other girls agree.

However, that raises the question: isn't that a "purpose"? How is them dedicating themselves to magic unlike dedicating themselves to anything else? Why don't they lose their powers right there? And what is Subaru's big new "purpose" in the first place?

Maybe that's just a fancy word for how she's hung up on Minato. She spends most of the episode wandering around the school, thinking about her lost friend. Earlier, during the cultural festival, she was able to find happiness in teaching kids about different constellations. Then, Subaru's dad proudly tells her how she's changed, and this only reminds her of how she's lost her magic. She cries and runs away, and after reminiscing about giving Minato a paper star as a kid, she wanders into a room that becomes his hospital bed. He's holding the star she gave him, showing how much he valued it (and her). When she insists that neither of them are illusions, the star he gave her activates and Subaru's powers are back—but better. The President says that it's magic he's never seen before.

I'm sure there will be more room for the implications of Subaru's new abilities next week. (I thought it was interesting how much black there was on her outfit, including the black star. Does that imply Subaru's defied the rules in some inescapable way like Minato did?) She meets Minato again, now in yet another outfit, as he insists that he never had a chance to make decisions in his life, so he couldn't defy them. He gathers the shards in an attempt to find a purpose, and then plans to disappear. He's only in the episode briefly before Subaru's pals find her and they reunite, but with the implication of more to come next week. Minato is never gone for long.

I was surprised by how well this episode knitted everything together narratively. Wish Upon the Pleiades usually struggles to balance different plots, especially "different things happening to different characters." Subaru and Minato's stuff this week is completely different from the rest of the team's, and yet they're all woven together by the common thread of "what these magical powers mean." Weird implications of those powers aside, it makes good connective tissue for Wish Upon the Pleiades. The team finds a collective purpose as Subaru comes to terms with her individual one.

It's too bad that Wish Upon the Pleiades continues to really stumble with animation. There are less drive shaft CG moments, but it's found new places to mess up, like with off-model faces in scenes where they're too prominent to ignore. This is a show that, in the right hands, could be visually dazzling. It has a lot of potential for that. Yet it keeps tripping and falling, and is a sad reflection on how much Gainax just ain't what they used to be.

Then again, with all this improvement in the writing over the past few weeks, it's hard for me to care much. I still think the show delayed some of these reveals too long, resulting in earlier episodes feeling like muddled messes. However, now that they're here, it feels that much sweeter to finally figure out what's going on. Here's to a finale that ties it all up with a perfect little bow. I want Wish Upon the Pleiades to be memorable.

Rating: B

Wish Upon the Pleiades is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a musicologist who studies film music. She writes about anime and many other topics on Autostraddle.com, her blog and her Twitter.

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