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Wish Upon The Pleiades Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Pleiades Blu-ray Front CoverFull of heart and beautiful animation but lacking in meaning.

What They Say:
When Subaru goes to her local observatory to prepare for an upcoming meteor shower, she ends up seeing far more of the stars than she expected.

Instead of a simulated viewing of astronomical phenomena, she gets recruited to take part in a fantastic adventure with a mysterious young man, a bizarre alien creature, and a group of girls dressed in cute, magical garb. Together with the other girls (who are suddenly and strangely members of Subaru’s school), Subaru becomes part of a clandestine effort to retrieve fragments of an alien spaceship! However, the fragments are being scattered all over the universe.

Time is limited, and the girls face a nemesis who is seeking to gather all the parts for himself! The space race is on, and the sky is no longer the limit as the legendary animation studio GAINAX sets Subaru’s eyes on the stars in WISH UPON THE PLEIADES!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track only and done up in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that has some nice sound effect elements to it with how the girls get around and other aspects of the magic and that’s well conveyed here. It provides a nice balance to the more straightforward dialogue side of the show, which does dominate, as that’s given a somewhat standard forward soundstage design to it with minimal but decent placement and some occasional depth as needed. The action elements give the show a bit more to work with and it represents well with the animation and the encoding brings it all to life in a clean and clear format with no problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1008p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second along with the minimal extras. Animated by Gainax, the show has some really beautiful visuals and designs to it combined with a very appealing color palette that brings it to life. The character animation is smooth and the solidity of the colors is great within them. Similarly, the more vibrant areas with transformations and the magic is really well done with a pop to it that really wows and I love the detail that’s visible in the larger space sequences and some of the other magical elements. The eye-catch sequences in particular stand out as truly beautiful pieces that makes me wish that they had put them in a step-frame gallery to be viewed as well. It’s a very appealing transfer that’s problem free.

The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover uses one of the familiar key visual images of the five girls and series alien together in a circle that lets their expressions stand out as well as the conformity of their outfits. There’s a lot of white here and the contrast with their different hair colors and placed against the darker star-filled background has it feeling almost like a little too much, especially in adding the touch of magic coming from Subaru just behind the series logo along the bottom. It’s not bad but it just feels too busy for my tastes. The back cover keeps to the star filled background and has a nice bit of subdued character artwork for Subaru along the left. She’s got a few shots from the show floating around her that feels unnecessary as just her design would work. The premise is done with a slightly angled design that’s just rubbing me the wrong way but it does cover everything well. The usual pieces are here with a clear look at the disc and episode count, production credits along the bottom, and a clean and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menus for this release work a familiar approach with the half and half split to it. The right side brings out some nice key visual artwork, such as the first disc that plays up the chibi side of things in a really adorable way, while the left side has the navigation itself. This one feels like an old Windows 95 Buttons kind of menu since it’s using the shades of gray and not a lot of crispness to it so that the blue numbers look awkward on the pink buttons while the blue text for the episodes on the gray is bad enough and the pink highlighting just makes it works. While the artwork is good for both discs the menu itself is just kind of ugly.

The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After putting out an ONA series back in 2011 for four episodes, Wish Upon the Pleiades got to step up in 2015 with a twelve episode run from Gainax in full form. I didn’t catch the ONA series, and I’m disappointed it wasn’t included here, and I didn’t see this series in simulcast form other. I’ve long enjoyed what Gainax has put out over the years, not all of it to the same level of course, but I’m generally pretty receptive to their works even when they do familiar things. Wish Upon the Pleaides is certainly a familiar work that doesn’t really stretch itself in the slightest when it comes to story or concept – or character – but it makes for an enjoyable visual experience. And sometimes that’s all you want with a bit of emotional investment to go along with it.

The premise for the series is simple enough as we’re introduced to a group of girls that are probably junior high aged, maybe young looking early high school aged, where the focus is on Subaru. She’s your traditional lead in that she’s cute, nice, and fairly shy all around. She essentially stumbles into a group of magical girls that are surprised she can see them since their costumes and magical abilities are invisible to others while they go through their normal school day and the like. One of them, however, is Aoi, a childhood friend of Subaru’s that allows her to connect with this group. Sadly, the rest of the girls are fairly bland in terms of personality as we don’t truly get character stories here as the focus is on Subaru for the majority of it. Itsuki is your basic nice girl, Hikaru’s blunt and brash, and Nanako is the odd one who wears a witch’s outfit and serves as the mouthpiece for the resident alien, the Pleiadian.

Yes, there’s an alien. The girls are working with the Pleiadian to help it recover the the various fragments of the engine from its spaceship that have been spread around for the past seven years or so. The ship is like the magical elements in that it exists out of view and the pieces are like little magical widgets. I have little issue with that as the old saying of science is like magic to those that don’t understand it and it’s a nice way to view things. The alien at least is different than usual in that we get a cute blob and through it we get to have some fun magical experiences that span the galaxies. While the show works the familiar learning curve for Subaru as she learns she’s a magical girl as well here, such as flight and other tricks, the show really expands as it goes along as they’re hopping between galaxies, nearing the sun, and doing other sorts of things you usually don’t get from very down to earth magical girl shows. It’s a nice little twist on things that keeps to the usual Gainax formula of going bigger than everyone else does with such things.

While we get very little in terms of knowing the other girls and just regular life events with them, we do get to become closer to another character. That comes in the form of Minato, a young man of the same age as the rest who is also seeking the fragments and uses the same kinds of abilities. There’s a very genderfluid aspect to him that’s appealing and it feels like they vacillate a few times about who he really is in that regard. Subaru is drawn to him even as he causes problems at first by acquiring some of the fragments that they need but the two are connected by bigger things from when the ship broke apart here years ago and their own experiences at the time. It’s all given a kind of wispy and ethereal feeling in a way, it’s more about emotions and feelings rather than events and actions, so there’s a lightness to it that keeps the show from feeling like it really has weight and impact to it as Minato operates on the outside and Subaru tries to figure out the greater picture, which isn’t really there.

What really drew me to the series and kept my attention throughout it as the story itself faltered along the way was the animation itself. Gainax has some different approaches they take over the years so you can’t always be sure what you’re going to get. Here, I just absolutely love the character designs and the color palette used as it stands out with its smooth movements for the animation itself. There are some great pieces to it, particularly with the magic, that just gives it a very distinctive and appealing look. Yes, the ideas and the overall look is familiar, even boilerplate to some degree, but the execution is simply spot on and so polished and well done that you can easily overlook it all. The show also puts together some absolutely gorgeous eyecatch pieces, even though some of them may make older viewers feel pretty skeevy, but there’s no denying the sheer detail and quality of them.

In Summary:
Wish Upon the Pleiades isn’t a bad show but it’s one that just doesn’t have enough weight to it to really making it meaningful. I like what it presents and I adore the visual design, which Sentai brings through in a crisp and beautiful way here, but I wanted to be more engaged in the characters and stories. But these are mostly just archetypes working through the framework of a story more than anything else, and that’s unfortunate because it could have been something on a Madoka Magica level if it had the guts and intention to really dig into it and make it into something. It’s definitely worth seeing as quality animation, however, so it’s something to very much keep on your radar.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 11th, 2016
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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