Wish Upon the Pleiades
by Rose Bridges,
It looks like Wish Upon the Pleiades is finally coming into its own. This episode had a clearly defined conflict that was easy to follow, a first for the series. It focused on one character in a way that set her apart from the rest of the group. These character-by-character episodes are the bread and butter of team-based magical girl shows, going all the way back to Sailor Moon. A few of them done well in a so-so show can even make supporting characters more fun and relatable than the protagonist. That's certainly the case with our girl this week: quiet, pigtailed, blonde Hikaru.
In one half-hour, Hikaru becomes the best-developed character in Wish Upon the Pleiades. She is serious and quiet, to the point that her friends are surprised when she cries. The show even fleshes out her family life. Hikaru's ambitious parents often leave her home alone, communicating with her on a whiteboard. However, they still care about her deeply. They care enough to direct their observatory concert at her personally when she writes "moon" for her afternoon activities instead of "club." They even were able to figure out that Hikaru meant that seriously, because she's never lied to them before in her life, (or at least, they were willing to take that chance.) I loved the episode's end, when her parents bonded over how much they loved their daughter and were "spoiled" by having such a talented, well-behaved child. These kinds of shows often give short shaft to kids' parents, so that was sweet.
It's hard to imagine writing a full paragraph on anyone else in this show. Subaru's main trait is that she's insecure, but other than that she's an everygirl. We know Aoi is Subaru's old friend and a little snobbish, but otherwise her character was all over the map in the second episode. Minato is a sage confidant who's also the bad guy. Everyone else hasn't had enough focus for a description. It looks like from the next episode preview that we're getting more of these, and if so, "Dream of Sol" is the model to follow. From the first scene where the star helps Hikaru write a G (the titular "sol") on her dad's manuscript, it was more inspired and exciting than anything else in the show so far. The uniting concept of a "concert beamed into space" is clever and unusual, but not entirely unlikely. Humans have actually sent musical transmissions into space, such as The Beatles' "Across the Universe" in 2008. I was also reminded of all the classical music included on the Voyager spacecrafts' Golden Record. It's a smart way for Wish Upon the Pleiades to tie Hikaru's musical interests into the girls' space-focused mission and abilities.
There are still plenty of areas where Pleiades stumbles. The drive-shaft training is little more than a gimmick at this point. It's a distraction from the story at the best of times, and it doesn't look cool enough to be worth it. The bad CG still isn't doing it any favors. I enjoyed Subaru's diversions with Minato in the greenhouse, and expect they'll be important to his character later. However, it's lost its emotional power at this point, especially with how obvious Minato's "cryptic" explanations are. It's become too corny with such frequent repetition. The whole sequence is especially glaring this week, when the focus is away from Subaru. If Wish Upon the Pleiades had invented a reason for Hikaru to join her, it might've worked better. As it was, it stuck out like a sore thumb. It especially pales in comparison to her actual tag-team with Hikaru later in the episode, during the moon dream. That was a good kind of diversion: cool-looking, fun and creative. Wish Upon the Pleiades is at its weakest during its weekly routine. It's when it changes things up and reveals the unique character of each installment that it has the potential to shine.
Wish Upon the Pleiades is hardly groundbreaking TV. It doesn't need to be. It can, however, have fun with its premise, and be creative. Swimsuit episodes full of panty shots are not that, and nor are the character design choices, which especially doesn't work for Hikaru, the show's stoic with pigtails and the face of a bouncy ditz. Thankfully, her personality and backstory more than make up for it. Hikaru's focus episode is the series' best so far, and I'm hoping we'll see similar excellence from the other girls' installments.
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