The world of anime distribution is changing. But while us English-speaking viewers can enjoy all that Crunchyroll has to offer, the move to online consumption is happening a lot slower for Japanese end-users. Still, Black★Rock Shooter attempted to shake up the industry by distributing free copies of itself with magazines and merchandise (and by releasing an import-friendly Blu-ray Disc edition at a relatively reasonable price). So now we have popular animation studio Gainax trying something a little different by creating an online-only one-off episode commissioned by Subaru.
The result is Wish Upon the Pleiades (放課後のプレアデス, or Hōkago no Pleiades). One would assume, being sponsored by a car manufacturer, that said show would be about driving. Y’know, like Initial D or something. But no, that just wouldn’t cut it! Yes, Magical Girls are back in fashion this season, so what better way to promote your range of automobiles than with a cute, colourful cartoon that has nothing to do with cars?
Perhaps I’m jumping the gun here. It’s more representative of the Subaru brand than the Subaru product line; the word Subaru, as well as being the name of the main character, is the Japanese word for the Pleiades star cluster – hence the name of the show – and the girls do get to ride around on some magic wands that make engine noises… Yeah. It’s probably better if you just watch it first. And, thanks to a wonderful lack of region locking, you can! Right now!
They even provided English subtitles! That was nice of them. Not that you need them to tell what’s going on: A girl stumbles upon a secret room in her school, meets a boy…
In the second part, she stumbles upon another secret room in her school, discovers a secret extra-curricular club that one of her friends is in, joins said club, becomes a Magical Girl…
It covers a surprisingly decent amount of character and story development for just one episode. Some shows’d take months to get this far.
So that’s Pleiades. I enjoyed it! It’s cute, it’s charming, it tells a nice story, it’s brevitic, the soundtrack is nice… The ending kinda reminded me of Black★Rock Shooter in the way that the title character defeated the bad guy with the Power of Friendship, but it’s a nice ending nonetheless. (I also detected some hints of Nanatsuiro Drops and the works of Makoto Shinkai in there, but they’re not that noticeable.) I’m not sure how well it works as an advert for Subaru, but it did give me that primal urge to purchase Pleiades-related merchandise. I guess that we can call it a success!
Your move, Honda. Put that power of dreams to use and sponsor a cartoon of your own! ㋼