Wish Upon the Pleiades
by Rose Bridges,
Warning: This review contains spoilers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Wish Upon the Pleiades is finally coming together. It's been hinting at bigger ideas, and now it's finally started explaining them in a way that made sense. We're still not 100% sure on what collecting the stars does, why they're doing it, or why Minato is opposing them. However, the show does finally expand upon why these girls were chosen for the job. The squishy alien can see all their different potential selves, and they have the strongest sum-total of potential, or something like that. This also explains the weird memory stuff, where Subaru and Aoi aren't sure if the versions of each other they remember are the real ones. They might be confusing them with other versions of themselves. It's still complicated, but I can see what Pleiades is getting at here.
Last week, I talked a lot about how happy I was that this wasn't another grimdark Madoka Magica rip-off. However, this "potential" stuff does feel at least heavily inspired by another aspect of that show. Kyubey measured the power of magical girls through their "potential" to do great things and influence the world, with queens and other historical figures having more power than others. Madoka herself was the most powerful magical girl in existence because of how Homura had manipulated time around her. One episode even showed her bound by the red strings of fate, an idea that's also referenced in Wish Upon the Pleiades. The "potential" in Pleiades is made up of different versions of the girls created through different choices, like Homura's multiple timelines in Madoka Magica. At least, that's how the girls talk about it. Subaru worries that she's the "nobody" out of all her potential selves.
Unfortunately, Wish Upon the Pleiades is a little too typical of its genre in some other ways, too. "Five Cinderellas" puts the girls in swimsuit outfits for an underwater mission, and uses this as an excuse to constantly zoom in on their boobs and butts. I get that this is an extended car advertisement and since it's a late-night show, otaku are the audience. The likes of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya have given them certain expectations for this kind of show. Still, the rest of Wish Upon the Pleiades is so incredibly innocent that the sudden sexualization feels that much more crass. It also might actually limit the audience for this show, so I don't know if it's good for Subaru's strategy—whatever that is. You don't want to drive away (so to speak) everyone but otaku these days.
In terms of other negative stuff, there was more eye-gouging CG this week. It was actually worse in this episode, lingering more on the girls' blocky CG faces. Wish Upon the Pleiades must find a better way of integrating this during the drive shaft scenes. These are supposed to be the most fun, energetic moments in any given episode. Instead, all I can focus on is how bad the effects look.
Luckily, there's also a lot of good stuff to highlight, especially in how Pleiades is starting to develop its main characters. Subaru, of course, is still the most developed, but this episode enhances her character further. Her reaction to the "limitless potential" speech reveals a lot about her insecurities. The idea of "potential" is encouraging when you're a kid, but becomes less so the older you get. At one point, it represents all the cool things you could be one day, but then it turns into all the chances you've lost. Subaru's a young teen and she's already feeling the latter, lamenting how she must be the least of her potential selves. She lingers on her small character flaws like indecisiveness. Minato helps her realize that it's her fear holding her back more than anything, suggesting interesting things about him and their future relationship too. He's able to read Subaru better than anyone else. I also liked how this week got Aoi back on track, when the cutesy ending to last week suggested otherwise. We see again how serious and focused she is, and how much she resents being taken for anything less.
The moment with Subaru's dad and the engine was another good one, albeit a hilarious reminder that This Show Is Sponsored By A Car Company. He's making a functioning engine out of defective parts, similar to how group activities bring out the girls' best potential. They're stronger when they work together as a team, as this episode demonstrated best so far. Each girl plays her part in the eventual outcome. Of course, they'll be better when they have the full six stars of the Subaru logo. Is it just me, or does it seem like Minato is obviously destined for that spot? Whenever he gets over whatever's making him evil, of course.
Wish Upon the Pleiades took several steps forward this week. However, it also took some huge steps back, and so it averages out to about where it was. "Five Cinderellas" gives a better indicator of what we can expect from this show going forward. I'm just not sure if I entirely like the results.
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