The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Houkago no Pleiades

Title: Houkago no Pleiades aka Wish Upon the Pleiades
Genre: Drama
Company: Gainax
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 8 Apr 2015 – 24 Jun 2015

Synopsis: Subaru has been having an odd day. Taking a wrong turn at school she finds herself in a mysterious garden inhabited by an enigmatic boy named Minato. Taking a second wrong turn, she walks in on four strange girls, one of whom happens to be her long estranged friend Aoi. Things only become stranger when it is revealed that their purpose is to gather broken-off engine parts for a tiny alien referring to itself as a Pleiadean. Showing potential to be a great asset to the team, Subaru is granted magical powers that allow her to soar through the skies and space in search of the missing fragments.

The Highlights
Underlying themes: Had little potential to begin with and does nothing with them.
Cast: Must be blind and deaf or on drugs.
Drama: The stakes are artificial and the payoff nonexistent.
Flight scenes: Fun in a video game cutscene sense.
Physics: Has an on and off relationship with it.

I could open up this review discussing Gainax‘s Gunbustersized reputation, musing over the concept of potential as this show so loves to do, gushing over my love of all things space, or mocking this anime for being produced by auto manufacturer Subaru. But any added commentary doesn’t do anything to contextualize the fact that Houkago no Pleiades just doesn’t work. And the reason that it doesn’t work is simple; this anime lacks cohesion on a very fundamental level. 

This is not to say that this is an incoherent anime. Taking every scene at face value, it does its job to establish its situation and seek resolution. The fact that five girls share one desk is explained, as is the reason why a life form that can propel said girls to sub-light speeds needs a spaceship in the first place. I just don’t happen to buy it. Simply put, everything in Houkago no Pleiades feels divorced from everything else. Rather than building character driven stories from the central concept of potential, more often the series offers limp and isolated scenarios, like one girl’s preference for bangs over parted hair. Even where the themes and plot find themselves in the same room, the build up and implications seldom extend beyond the episode.

The overall mood isn’t helped by how detached the characters themselves are from the story. Subaru finding herself in the same mysterious room or finding an old friend in her classroom seat are both met with the same reaction as nearly pouring salt into one’s coffee, if that. Her interactions with her friends are equally void of emotion. Only the condescending attitude of the alien club president adds any flavor to the dynamic beyond bland. And of course stale characters signals equally stale drama. The potential story opportunities of one Voices of a Distant Star clone are neutered on sight as neither the cast nor the plot are in the least bit affected by the implications of time dilation. And it’s not as if these implications weren’t addressed.

In terms of general aesthetic, with moé  character designs and a heavily saturated color scheme, Pleiades is not my visual cup of tea. I won’t hold it against the show, nor would I do this for anything in the animation department. If any credit can be given to Pleiades, it is in its reinvention of the broomstick, even if it comes with blatant product placement. Streaming through the air has been imbued with an extreme sport quality. There is a one-upmanship to the flight scenes as well spanning from the familiar Terran sky to the far edges of the universe. Visually the environments are impressive, though with no regularity to how characters interact with them. In some cases the various environs and celestial objects are mere skyboxes. In other instances, the specter of physics is invoked, halfway, twisted to the action’s will and justified with a sprinkling of magic dust. The inconsistency is amusing, more so than it should be, admittedly.

With few upticks in quality and little else of note between flight sequences, the only way I can recommend Houkago no Pleiades is as a background window. At its best, entertainment can be gleaned by peaking over at the screen while reading a book or cooking a meal at the sporadic sight of excitement. To say though that all everything worth it in a series can fit into one highlight reel, however, is hardly any stellar praise. To beat the point of potential into the ground, I’m not sure if this series had any in the first place, but it certainly squandered it by the end.

The Rating: 3

Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx

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