Wish Upon the Pleiades is a unique Slice of Life Magical Girl show. There is no real violence and virtually no fighting or combat of any sort… it focuses on girls collecting parts of an alien’s spaceship’s broken engine. These parts have manifested themselves as shooting stars, and the girls must use their magical powers to reclaim them, with only a strange red haired dude to stand in their way. Of course, he doesn’t actually fight them so much as confuse them and steal their stuff.
But don’t be fooled by that, the show doesn’t focus on that… it in stead focuses on this strange concept of ‘potential’. The premise is that when you are young, you haven’t yet become anything specific… so you still have the potential to be anything. The alien mentioned above is able to tap into that potential and allow these girls to act outside of the laws of the universe – aka. perform magic and become Magical Girls.
The premise of ‘potential’ is explored in more ways than on in this show though… you see, in addition to people having potential, the world is also a spinning bundle of potential. This is demonstrated right at the start as the world rewrites itself to ensure these girls all attend the same class in the same school once they become magical girls. And it isn’t like they transfer, they just happen to be in the same class. Except the world hasn’t caught up yet, so they comment that there is always one desk too few in the class each time it happens.
That moment seems like just a comical little satire, but it is actually meant as the first sign of a recurring theme. Because these girls are no longer operating within the laws of the universe, things change around them. They’ve been brought together despite not necessarily being from the same alternate reality, and the world changes around them. They handle this really cleverly, and it creates some fantastic scenes; in some cases you may not even realize what has happened at first.
These moments hinge on the strength of the cast though. These girls – Subaru, Itsuki, Aoi, Hikaru, and Nanako – are all great characters, with distinct personalities and realistic flaws. My personal favourite among the cast was Nanako. Nanako seems somewhat reserved and almost monotone, which is accentuated by the emoting she does while translating for the alien who chose them all. You see, the alien appears as a little sort of jellyfish thing that can’t speak English, so whenever it is speaking you hear both the alien squeaking and Nanako speaking simultaneously. By having that, it helps to create a bit of contrast for her character, and watching her character grow over the show is fantastic. There are a few side characters who are, for lack of a better word, stupid and some of the show’s subplots are a bit absurd… but those are minor elements in the show and can be easily ignored.
One of the real strengths of Pleiades’ way of handling things is that they’re able to focus purely on the characters. The Magical Girl aspects of the show primarily exist to provide methods for the characters to push themselves to grow… and to provide us with some incredible scenery to showcase. You see, over time these girls get the ability to travel further and further out into the universe in search of these fragments – one of the show’s most entertaining moments takes place at Saturn, for example. And, even if there isn’t much combat, watching the girls pursue the fragments through the vastness of space is a wonder to behold. Even the show’s seeming antagonist gets a lot of attention and character development, and even his own complete transformation sequence. And it’s even more impressive because they’re not trying to distract you from the scenery with fanservice.
If you had told me back in March that I’d be writing a positive review for a slice of life show featuring virtually no fighting or combat… I’d probably have thought you were crazy. But here was are today, demonstrating the potential anime has to continue surprising us with new twists on the genres we know and love. Wish Upon the Pleiades takes an absolutely fascinating premise and explores it in a way I wouldn’t have expected to work. The one cautionary note I’d like to give is that the ending is a bit anticlimactic and… weird, even for this show. But it doesn’t sour the good the show accomplished, so don’t let that deter you. The show is beautiful, has great characters, and has some really cool plotlines. And it features one of the most unique and well done opening sequences around – I particularly enjoyed the way they mirrored the characters during it to show you the normal and Magical Girl versions.