Wish Upon the Pleiades
by Rose Bridges,
Team-based magical girl shows live and die based on how much you care about the whole team. That doesn't mean every girl has to be complex, but they should be relatable, at least to the extent where the audience can pick a favorite or find one who's most like them. All of the girls in Wish Upon the Pleiades are genre-typical clichés: the artistic one, the girly-girl, the tomboy, the serious one. Those are popular because they're easy types to flesh out while still keeping things simple. The original Sailor Moon did this throughout its run, tying the girls' struggles into the main plot. Madoka Magica took this a step further with how it used wishes, rooting them in the girls' deepest desires and goals. Most shows are a little more like Wish Upon the Pleiades; there's one episode per girl to make you care, and only little details from then on to remind you as they advance the plot.
It's easy to do this poorly, to completely sideline each girl's individual storyline after her episode until we forget who they are in the first place. So far, Wish Upon the Pleiades seems to be doing things right. The girls have just enough personality to fit their stories into one half-hour each and make them work. With Hikaru's episode, we got a strong enough story to stand on its own, even outside the larger plot. Itsuki's episode aspires to that, but it doesn't quite get there. Luckily, it works fine for Wish Upon the Pleiades' shallow standard.
Itsuki's personality can be boiled down to "girly-girl, but with some tomboyish qualities." That can work when it's well thought-out; Sailor Jupiter was built on this basis. Itsuki used to be very daring, but she lost that verve after a traumatic fall from a tree. Her more "princess-like" personality, which gets her that role in a school play, came after she became more afraid and felt guilty for getting her brother in trouble. Her episode is about learning to be daring again, now that she can truly "fly" on her drive shaft. At the end of the episode, she switches parts with Aoi, so Itsuki is the prince now and Aoi the princess. Itsuki wants to save people, and now she knows that she has it in her.
I'm glad Wish Upon the Pleiades finally found a real use for the "drive shaft" scenes. Up until now, they were the most superfluous parts of the show, purely there to look cool but rarely related to the episode plot. They're also the most obviously "sponsored by Subaru" part of the whole affair. The name can't be a coincidence, and with the way they're associated with freedom and fun, it feels like a message about how driving will CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND LIBERATE YOU. Buy a Subaru car and you'll FEEL LIKE YOU CAN FLY! Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I can't imagine any other reason for the constant repetition of this mechanic week after week. It's like if every Harry Potter movie was required to spend at least one half-hour of its runtime on Quidditch practice. It doesn't help that they're also the ugliest-looking sections thanks to the bad CG.
There's a lot to admire about Itsuki's episode and her story. The princess' story that the class acts out isn't as resonant to her story as you'd expect from how often it comes up. However, it's presented nicely, with an inspired felt cutout art style. The rest of the show has a very generic "anime" look, so the switch to something different and new is refreshing. Overall, Itsuki's story just isn't integrated as strongly as Hikaru's was. It comes off more like a series of moments than one long, cohesive tale. It isn't helped by repeating one of the most overused plotlines for female anime characters in "how the tomboy became girly." At least it tries.
"It tries" really sums up why this episode ultimately works. It's an attempt to make this show more than a sparkly car commercial, to raise it above the material of the first three weeks. Wish Upon the Pleiades stumbles, but continues the ascent that "Dream of Sol" began. The series isn't exactly good yet, but it shows a lot of promise.
Wish Upon the Pleiades is currently streaming on
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