Wish Upon the Pleiades
by Rose Bridges,
Warning: This review includes minor spoilers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Sailor Moon.
The finale of Wish Upon the Pleiades is here, and it's ready to shock you with a bunch of revelations! Starting with: Minato is the sixth "star" in the show's titular star cluster! (You know, the six stars on Subaru's logo.) He's the last ingredient they need to bring out the final fragment from a black hole. Also, Minato and Subaru are in love! They kiss during the episode's emotional climax. The only real surprise here might be that the President is Elnath in wobbly mollusk form, having forgotten his earlier adventures with Minato. I didn't see that coming, but I wasn't exactly shocked by the reveal, either. I knew he was another Pleiadian. Why wouldn't he be the same one? I felt silly for not seeing it earlier.
At least Wish Upon the Pleiades' finale doesn't feel overstuffed. That's a problem with far too many endings to one-cour anime, especially shows as back-loaded as this one. Unfortunately, that's the only compliment I can pay this episode that doesn't apply to the whole ending arc in general. There were cool visuals here, even if the show hasn't really solved its problem with brightness and CGI. Still, compared to the episodes leading up to it, this finale was pretty underwhelming.
Wish Upon the Pleiades doesn't seem to understand a lot of its thematic material. It's a little unfair to keep comparing this show to Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but since it's so thematically indebted to it, it also feels unavoidable. Madoka Magica dealt with many of the same ideas in terms of "potential" as a magical force, and something that some people have more than others in a way that's unfair. However, it narrowed its focus to just a few elements of that idea: influencing who becomes a magical girl and their power, and the possibility of changing other people's potential, for better or for worse. Homura does this through supernatural means, but there's still resonance for viewers in how we can change the course of people's lives. Madoka Magica sticks to that idea, and shows its extreme negative and positive outcomes.
Wish Upon the Pleiades plays around with a lot more ideas about "potential," but it's weaker for that because it never has time to take any of those ideas to fruition. The finale throws a lot at you about "black holes" and "singularity" but I don't think the writers fully understand any of what they're talking about. Elnath's final "gift" of sending the cast back to Earth before any living thing's "potential" is realized seems inspired, but the show doesn't do much new or interesting with it. The girls choose to just be who they were, but with the caveat that they'll be "changed by their contact with each other." It's extremely predictable, as is the result where they wake up before the show takes place, feeling like it was all "just a dream," but with the school day playing out differently thanks to their impact on each other. Aoi gets up the courage to tell Subaru why she enrolled in a different school, and the girls are magically drawn toward each other at Subaru's meteor shower viewing. We've seen this in countless anime before, especially magical-girl anime. I'm especially reminded of the finale to the first season of Sailor Moon, which played out in an extremely similar fashion.
That leaves one hopeful thread for Minato, who otherwise gets a pretty unfair deal here. It's funny that with all the possibilities the girls had to rewrite their fates, they didn't think to use some of their power to make things better for Minato. He's still stuck in the hospital, with just as little "potential" as he had before for a better life. There's the hope that he and Subaru will be drawn together in this new world too, but otherwise nothing has changed. I guess the show's point is it's worth it to go on "living" even if your life isn't that great, but I can't say I fully agree with it there. For me, it puts a dark spin on an otherwise sweet, hopeful ending.
Wish Upon the Pleiades itself is an interesting illustration of its own themes. It had a lot of potential, but it didn't deliver on that as well as it could have. It showed promise in the lead-up to its finale, but it didn't quite get there. Oh well. At least it's pretty harmless, sparkly fun. Still, potential isn't everything. You have to actually do something with that potential for it to mean anything.
Wish Upon the Pleiades is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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