3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 19 – Tabasco In The Orange Juice

From Iroha slapping her brother with a wet towel when he accuses her geeky boyfriend of dragging her down to his level, to Hikari showing that he’s grown into a far better boyfriend than Iroha’s boyfriend could imagine, I loved every minute of this episode.

It was full of instances of friends leaning on one another in times of need, quickly sorting out misunderstandings, and, of course, Ishino gettin’ some legit attention from a guy other than Takanashi! The only major mark against this episode is that there’s no Ayado, but that allows the episode to maximize its time with everyone else.

First, a brief rift between Itou and Hikari emerges when Itou asks Takanashi for advice on how to proceed with Ayado. Hikari knows he’s not the one to go to for advice of that nature, but is still embarrassed enough to avoid Itou, until Itou himself calls him out and they sort it out together.

Itou assures him every couple goes at its own pace, and that if Hikari doesn’t even intend to go all the way with Iroha (as Itou suspects he will with Ayado, very soon), Itou respects and will support him. It’s some very mature conversation between best mates, clarifying that this isn’t a race!

Speaking of early bloomers, Kaoru comes to Takanashi’s house to apologize for keeping Anzu out late, but manages to pierce Takanashi’s innate distrust and loathing for All Things Tsutsui with a heartfelt monologue about why he loves Anzu and wants to help her big brother keep her safe. Still, Takanashi is frustrated enough with Kaoru’s shrewdness that he decides to take it out on Hikari, who after all only wants some of the same advice as Itou.

While heading back downstairs from the roof, Takanashi very clearly tries to get the attention of Ishino, and ask her if she’s free for…something. But his friend, who met Ishino at the maid cafe, asks her out first, having already gotten a half-hearted okay from Takanashi to pursue her. It’s clear despite his aloof attitude, Takanashi doesn’t like his friend spending all this time with Ishino. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve had until you’ve lost it!

Hikari and Ishino have been just humming along, but with another three-day weekend coming up Iroha wants to go on a trip…an overnight trip—to eat and see the sights in another town. But Hikari is overwhelmed by the possibility that they may end up doing it, and gets so stuck in his head he appears outwardly opposed to and stressed out about going on the trip, and Iroha drops the issue and heads home.

For her part, Ishino told Hikari before he met with Iroha to just get fucking laid already…though at the same time no one reinforces Hikari’s own insecurities and sense of non-worth than Ishino, even though she’s just messing around.

But Ishino now finds herself in a bit of a love triangle. I doubt this new guy (I didn’t even hear his name) is anything other than a means to show Takanashi that he actually does requite Ishino’s feelings, at least to some degree, whether it’s true love or he’s simply pleasantly accustomed to having her around.

Ishino assumes the worst; that he’s some kind of playboy just trying to get in her pants. I’m not 100% convinced that’s not the case either. Good luck, Ishino! As for Takanashi, he should take after his friends and reconcile his feelings.

Hikari, good man that he is, doesn’t spend days worrying about what a shit he is, and corrects himself almost immediately, actually taking the time to look at the travel books Iroha marked, then running after her, embracing her from behind, and agreeing that it will be a fun time. He just had to get out of his own head, and put himself in her shoes: she must have been excited to tell him about the trip, and was looking forward to it since the last three-day weekend.

Unfortunately, due to Iroha’s poor test scores, she has to take remedial classes over the weekend, but Hikari assures her they’ll go the next time. Here’s hoping there is one—it would be a great step forward for their relationship.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 11

rez111

Re:Zero continues to dominate our Spring schedule, blasting ahead of the field and lapping it numerous times with its awesom-nitude. Last week set things up for another potential heartbreaking reset, but instead there was no death nor Return by Death; only victory and sweet sweet closure.

It begins, surprisingly enough, with the origin story of Ram and Rem. We’e only known the relatively inept-at-everything Ram, but she was once a demon prodigy, despite only having one horn. Indeed, a display of her power kept her and Rem from being killed in the cradle. All Rem could do was try to be content in standing behind her sister as she dazzled everyone with her talents.

rez112

But one day, when their house was attacked and their parents killed, she lost her horn while protecting Rem. This Rem-centric flashback makes a point of showing the tiniest of smiles of relief on Rem’s face when that damn horn, which had caused her so much grief and self-hatred to that point in her life, finally broke.

And yet, back in the present, Rem has never forgiven herself for smiling, or for envying her sister, or for putting her in the position of having to protect her at the cost of her horn. The “inept, less-than” Ram is a product of Rem’s weakness and worthlessness, and she’s been trying to make up for that ever since, including going after the Mabeasts alone.

Upon coming to, her first reaction is distress that Ram and Subie are there, rejecting her whole notion of sacrificing herself for them. But they can’t change the fact they’re there, here and now, and aren’t going to abandon her.

rez113

Instead, Subie promises he has a plan for the mabeast boss, and sends Rem away on Ram’s back to safety. Rem, however, can’t help but call back to Subaru, which just so happens to imbue him with the courage and confidence to pull off his trump card: a Shamac spell that gives him the opening he needs to stick his broken sword in the mabeast’s throat.

rez114

Unfortunately, that’s not enough to kill it, but just before he passes out from using all his mana, Roswaal arrives to mop up, grateful his subordinates were able to hold their own as long as they did, and all too happy to help.

Rem pounces on Subaru, happy beyond words he’s still alive, and though he passes out and wakes up in his bedchamber, the curse is lifted, so he didn’t die and the same timeline continues on, much to my delight.

rez115

He wakes with Rem’s hand in his, and he then must endure an extended monologue filled with self-loathing and inadequacies stemming all the way back to when Rem and Ram were newborns about to be killed. Even then Ram saved them while she just lay there.

Obviously, Rem is being far too harsh on herself, undermining the wonderful, powerful individual she became by her own efforts, and far too quick to dwell on the past. Subaru tells her she should focus more on the future, value herself more as others like him do, and smile and laugh that life turned out as well as it did. And Rem eventually lets herself laugh, tears in her eyes. BAWWWW.

rez116

With all the talk of leaning on one another, this sure looks like the start of a Subie x Rem romantic arc, but the next time we see Subie, he’s asking Emilia on a date like he did before, and again she accepts, even with her fuzzy concept of what a date is. So I guess Subie’s primary love interest remains his EMF.

As for Ram, now far less than she once was, but at peace with it, we see that her sessions sitting in Roswaal’s lap are so he can restore her mana. Since Roswaal brought her and her sister into his home, Ram has always been utterly devoted to him, and he makes it clear that he may be away for a while, so she must continue to take care of her little sister and Subaru in his stead.

I don’t know what tragedy might befall our friends next (and I’m sure they’re in for more trouble), I’m glad for an ending without a taste of what’s to come, that I may simply revel in the progress that Subaru has made. He and Rem have come so far, but the evolution of their friendship couldn’t have happened more naturally, as if it was always meant to be this nice. Also, hopefully Subaru will get to actually go on a date with Emilia!

16rating_10

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 10

rez101

Another unfamiliar ceiling…and another unfamiliar but very welcome occurance: that we may be able to bask in Subaru’s latest victories. He’s alive, the kids are safe and their curses are removed, and neither of the twins are dead, hate him, or want to kill him. This calls for a celebratory steamed sweet potato and some Puck-applause!

rez102

For course, every silver lining has its cloud, which is this case is Beako’s latest unfortunate news for Subie: he still carries the curse of the mabeasts who nommed him, and that curse will allow them to essentially “eat” him remotely by taking all his mana.

He has only half a day. No surprise, then, that Rem has already gone out alone to hunt down the mabeasts who are on the other end of the curse, thus “canceling the meal” and saving Subie, whom she’s become rather fond of, clearly.

rez103

Going into that forest is not for the faint-hearted, but Subie isn’t letting his Return By Death skill undermine his commitment: he’s going in like he has only one life to live, because he really does only have one life he wants to live, and it’s one where everyone, including Rem, is alive.

Joining Subie is Ram, who warns him she’s not the fighter her younger sister is, though she has a pretty nifty Clairvoyance skill, as well as some intimidating wind-elemental magic. Emilia is too drained from healing Subie, so she’s out, as is Puck, while Subie arms himself with the “sharpest sword in the village”, presented as a gift for his heroism.

rez104

Notably absent from the party? Beatrice, despite her likely being more than capable of contributing offense. So while imperfect, the Subie/Ram duo gets off to a good start, with Ram showing off the damage her wind magic can do.

Then Subie gets a bright idea, using the very curse keeping him from talking to others about Return By Death to lure all mabeasts to his and Ram’s location, luring Rem in turn.

For the record, Rem is looking particularly badass and dangerous this week, as her Demon Mode makes her a formidable but also reckless and unstable killing machine.

rez105

Despite Rem’s initial good intentions (saving Subie), because she’s gotten little carried away by the power of her horn (which Ram lacks), so it also comes as no surprise that after surviving a potentially fatal fall off a cliff, Subie and Ram have to deal with a Rem who isn’t too picky about her targets.

rez106

I thought for sure this is how the episode would end: Subie unexpectedly catching a mace to the head and waking back up in the village inn with a sleeping Emilia by his side. It is a new “save point”, after all, and I assumed his Return By Death was only delayed last week so it could occur this week.

Mind you, I wasn’t happy about that prospect, which is why I was happy that Re:Zero decided not to kill Subie this week, either. Perhaps it’s aware of the potential for “Reset Button Fatigue”, especially after we only got a grand total of five minutes of victory to bask in.

That suspension of Subie’s death wasn’t certain at all, though. I like how the episode kept me guessing till the end, with a thoroughly berserk and unpredictable Rem flailing that mace around (sorry weapons experts) and Subie seemingly having few options.

Of course, I was also amused by the tactic he employs in his effort to cut Rem’s horn and restore her to normal: by tossing Ram straight at her, as a smokescreen for his strike. It almost works on the first try, too…but as Subie said earlier, the “difficulty level” is demonically high, to the point where nothing will work on the first try.

rez107

That being said, “Fate-sama” quickly gives Subie a second chance to take out Rem’s horn, and he re-resolves himself not to wuss out at the last second, out of fear of killing either twin. That horn has simply gotta go. I hope he can get it, just like I hope all the mabeasts killed this week mean he’s no longer going to be remotely eaten.

Re:Zero’s action isn’t regularly head-and-shoulders above Kabaneri (despite being better in every other category) but it really distinguished itself this week with some astonishingly cool and exciting animation, made all the more compelling by how much we care about the combatants. Rem truly came off as a force of nature ready to explode. But here’s hoping she doesn’t!

16rating_10

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 09

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 7.43.27 PM

This week served a full plate of contradictions. The tasty morsels included: Subaru recounting the aspirations of each village child to compel Rem to participate, king of exposition Roswaal wearing reasonable clothes and flying off without any exposition, and Rem and Emilia devouring scenes bond-strengthening with Subaru. We also finally learn the source of the curse and witness some brutal combat in the forest.

Of all shows, Re:Zero has been remarkably good at packing its plates—often skipping opening or closing credits—and even though very little narrative has actually happened, the density and emotional impact has always earned it for me. Unfortunately, parts of this episode were slow, as if intentionally dragging its feet for an unearned cliffhanger ending. Additionally, many of the slower scenes were static, and the general animation quality was noticeably lower than normal.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 8.02.19 PM

Focusing on the good, Re:Zero just nails Emilia’s character. She could very easily be the perfect nice girl central love interest, but the fact that she really doesn’t know Subaru’s motives—that she really doesn’t understand him at all—but accepts that he’s probably a good person anyway gives her a lot of nuance.

Her best scene this week is no different: she enters mid conversation, not even knowing what Subie’s said to Rem and Rin, gets the gist, and gives him a little prayer for safety. Their back and forth is compact, simple, but full of lovely facial expressions. Seriously—just watch how her mouth subtly changes when she’s happy, exasperated, or bemused.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 7.23.59 PM

Rem gets two solid scenes as well, and while both are much more Subaru-pushed than the scene with Emilia, they are still quite touching. Also, narratively advancing, as we learn a little more about the need for barriers to protect human settlements from the creatures of the witch, and that Subaru reveals he knows she can smell the witch on him.

I greatly appreciated how these scenes are painted as less romantic than Subaru’s scenes with Emilia. Here he has a kind word, makes a pinkie-promise, and shows his trust in Rem. It’s friendship, not harem-building, and that adds nuance to the format that easily could be about getting all the girls.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 7.26.51 PM

Intentional or not, the last strong scene starts and ends poorly. The animation leading up to the fight was lackluster, there was a lot of static dialog, and we still don’t know the motives of the villain. That abruptly changed with Subie’s epic kill. Like his fight with Rem several weeks ago, this had a ‘screw you I can take a beating’ vibe that makes all of the Subie fights enjoyable to watch.

Rem’s fight was decent too, for the most part. I get the sense that it ate most of the episode’s budget and the brutality was sweet but the storyboarding was weak. Call me a grouch, but having back to back ‘saved by your partner’s sacrifice’ moves, plus Rem being smashed by what looked like a dodge-able earth attack, felt generic. Eye-rolling, honestly.

The uneven quality of the fight aside, Rem’s brutality is a nice contrast. Specifically, we’ve only seen this kind of slaughter from evil characters before and…that’s kind of the point with Rem.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 8.34.42 PM

Because this episode really works or doesn’t based on it’s reveals, and you will probably only enjoy it more if you’re looking at some of the details, this review has largely been spoiler free.

Technical shortcomings aside, my biggest criticism is that for all the things I didn’t spoil, a lot wasn’t answered. As Rem says, she has a lot of questions and we better be ready to answer. And hopefully soon.

16rating_8

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 08

rez71

Subaru wakes up, in the bed, once again, with the twin maids sitting beside him. This time, he volunteers to work at the mansion once more and spends as much time with them as he can, working his utmost to earn their trust from the start, so they won’t suspect and kill him! His second priority is finding and stopping the shaman who killed him and most recently Rem in previous loops.

rez72

For the latter part, Subie learns from Puck that he has the somewhat rare “darkness” alignment, rather than any of the standard four elements. Excited to be able to focus his mana through his “gate” and perform magic for the first time in this world (aside from Return By Death, obv) he get’s a little too carried away and blows out all his mana at once.

rez73

Like Explosion Girl in KonoSuba, this leaves him barely able to move, but he’s absolutely committed to continuing his tireless work with Ram and Rem, knowing his life and future may well depend on the results. Everyone notices that Subaru is simply trying way too hard, hiding his churning troubles beneath an overly chipper, caffeinated exterior. Something has to give, and it does, when he’s overcome by nausea.

rez74

Emilia is outside the bathroom when he boots, and he can’t fool her any longer, so she takes him up on his desire to lay his head in her lap when the need arises, and it arises. Emilia is so kind and tender and matronly as she gives Subaru something he’s needed for some time: a pressure valve.

Safe in her lap, free of complications, he can let it all out, and Emilia is glad to see him not holding it in. In fact, it proves to her that he’s a truly good person, and she relays that to Rem. It’s such a lovely, calming scene, and the episode perfectly built up all that pressure and tension.

rez75

His Emilia-aided lap pillow catharsis, then, turns out to be the means by which he achieves his first objective: earn the trust of the staff. Emilia assures Rem, who tells Ram, who tells Lord Rosvaal. I’d like to think that’s how it works, anyway!

That catharsis and its positive effects would not have been possible if Subie had been a mere houseguest and not someone doing his part in the mansion with the maids. He’s done being lazy and half-assing things; that’s how people have died in the past.

Of course, there’s still that shaman to contend with. He believes both he and Rem (at different times) were hit by a fatal spell in the village. Now he and both sisters will be going to the village together, and thanks to “Beako”, he knows there’s a way to detect a spell before it’s cast (much like a boss’s big timed attack in RPGS).

But once that spell is cast, it can’t be un-cast, so I hope to hell he’s careful and doesn’t have to go through all of this yet again. Another important thing he learned was that people who help him prefer simple thanks to elaborate apologies.

Honesty and simplicity are Subie’s tools of salvation. Cry when he has to, accept help without shame, and thank those who give it. If these people see every side of him, not just the artificial ideal, they just might not end up being the “poisonous flowers” he dreads.

16rating_9

DanMachi – 10

dan101

Bell and his new party of three—a good number for exploring dungeons, if you ask me!—hit the middle floors full of confidence and swagger, and the first wave of enemies aren’t much of a problem. But then the waves keep coming, and coming, and before long the party is overwhelmed.

dan102

DanMachi does a great job escalating the situation into near-chaos, as minor injuries get worse with subsequent attacks, magic fatigue sets in, and hordes of enemies surround them menacingly, never relenting. As Ryuu warned him, the dungeon is a cunning place that toys with you until it finds your weakness. Bell’s isn’t that hard to divine: he’s inexperienced on this floor, pure and simple.

dan103

Hestia, who had a worrisome look about her when Bell set off, has her fears confirmed when her friend Take’s familia emerges from the dungeon and reports that their party initiated a “pass parade” on Bell’s—dumping their enemies on to him. It was a selfish move, but I can’t fault the party leader, with the responsibility of a lot of people on his back, for choosing his party’s survival to that of “strangers.”

Hestia lets them know, however, that if Bell never returns, she’ll never forget (though she won’t hate them). She also formally issues a quest, and she’s never looked as goddess-like when the light shines through the stained glass as she asks for volunteers.

Take offers some of his familia to assist her (as amends), but Hermes (a fellow god who we haven’t seen thus far, but assume is fast) and his adjutant, Asfi also join in.

dan104

Bell’s party survives a hellhound attack thanks to Welf’s “Will-o-the-Wisp” ability, but he’s in a bad way. Obviously Bell isn’t going to leave anyone behind, so when three minotaurs corner them, he relies on his “Argonaut” skill to overcome them. But this winds him; if this were an RPG I’d say both his HP and MP were critical, and they’re nowhere near the exits.

dan105

Bell’s got skills, but his power isn’t limitless, so it’s a good thing the cavalry is on its way. I really like the idea of Hestia taking an active role in her familia’s rescue, ignoring the rules forbidding gods from the dungeon. I’m curious what the consequences for breaking that rule are, as well as what battle skills she’ll be showing off. I’m also pleased that Ryuu Lion is joining the party, coming out of semi-retirement.

All in all, a nice illustration of how tough and unforgiving the dungeon can be, and how while Bell may have his detractors, he also has a good number of people looking out for him. All he has to do is sit back (as much as one can do so on the middle floors of a dungeon) and wait for his friends—and his family—to come get him.

8_mag

Houkago no Pleiades – 04

ple41

The magical transformations girls make in Magical Girl shows often go hand in hand with their personal growth. It’s as much about discovery and mastery of their identity as much as their powers.

Pleiades is no different from this convention; where it continues to distinguish itself is in the execution and the emotional impact of its situations. Last week was about Subaru. This week, it’s Hikaru’s turn to get fleshed out.

ple43

At the same time, the show continues to incrementally extend the reach of its magical girl action with each passing episode, much to my delight. First the sky, then the boundary between Earth and space, and now…the moon. The training, involving being able to attain not only escape velocity, but a speed that will ensure they don’t miss school! I love it.

While largely about the highly intelligent and talented, yet underachieving Hikaru’s personal emotional impasse with her similarly intelligent, talented, overachieving parents, there’s also room this week for Subaru’s weekly visit to Minato’s garden of encouragement, where he plants the seed of believing someone, and being believed, if there’s no reason for them to think you’re lying.

ple46

That’s important, because Hikaru’s family communicates their daily whereabouts primarily through whiteboard. Her apartment may look empty and lonely at first glance, but that board is crucial, dutifully filled out as it is every day without fail: it’s the way they devised to always stay in contact in spirit, if not often in person.

Before leaving for the moon, Hikaru makes something up on the board, once again “doing things halfway”. But then she decides to wipe out the white lie on the whiteboard and write where she’s actually going: the Moon.

ple44

It’s another awesome journey full of grace and grandeur; another wonderful study on the full breadth of magical girl power. I especially liked the different, more subtle sound space made once the girls were clear of Earth’s atmo, and I really enjoyed Hikaru’s cute little dream where her subconscious’ version Subaru as a bit of an idiot—only to learn Subaru shared her dream!

That’s also key because Subaru knows about Hikaru’s unease with her father and the song he wrote. One night she heard music in his practice room even though he wasn’t in there, and decided to write a measure of music in a place where he had gotten stuck. It’s something she always felt guilty about, worried she was interfering in her parents fully achieving their dreams.

ple45

Where she’s wrong is that she is the shared dream of her parents; one far more important than any concerto or astronomical discovery. When her dad sees she wrote down “Moon!” on the whiteboard, he and her mom work together to send his piano music to the Moon; to the cherished daughter they don’t feel they deserve.

She didn’t mess up her dad’s music; she helped him finished it, and the loving way he plays it demonstrates his pride and gratitude for that. The nabbing of their biggest fragment yet is a great product of their lunar excursion, but it’s overshadowed by Hikaru finally being able to show her feelings in front of her friends, who may be initially shocked by her tears, but are also happy they’re seeing another side of their friend.

So, all in all another very good episode from Pleiades. I look forward to seeing who’s turn it will be to get a little more fleshed out next week—Itsuki? Nanako?—and hope the show’s expansion will proceed deeper out into the solar system, and beyond!

8_mag

Houkago no Pleiades – 03

ple31

I entered my third week of Pleiades a bit ambivalent. Here was a nice-looking show with a mild degree of Gainax flair whose most glaring flaw was a slavish adhesion to the well-tread magical girl formula, with a hint of repetition Even the girls seem a bit listless in their cosplay club, wondering whether they’re just going through the motions in vain, having worked hard to secure another engine fragment, only to have it snatched away by that stuck-up crimson-haired twerp.

ple32

The alien president tells the girls it isn’t their potential that’s the problem, only their amorphous wills and resolve, which are borne out of the fact they’re in the gray area between childhood and adulthood. When Subaru comes home to see her father tinkering with defective engine parts (probably from a Subaru), she sees herself as a defective part, keeping the machine that is the group of girls from working properly.

ple33

At another accidental visit to Minato’s garden, she laments her crippling hesitation in making decisions, but when Minato asks her the question “do you want to be with them?” she doesn’t hesitate; she does. It’s not that she hasn’t made a decision, she’s just scared of executing. But Minato tells her she shouldn’t think of herself as the only one who’s scared. When you have friends, you cease being defined merely by yourself, but by others, revealing things you never knew you possessed.

ple34

Despite thinking she’s a fifth wheel, what Subaru possesses, at least in the immediate present upon returning to the clubroom, is the ability to amplify the signal of Nanako’s tracking circle, which allows them to pinpoint the next fragment. Just like Subaru said, her friends were waiting for her. Far from being left behind, they needed her power in order to proceed.

ple35

Pleiades truly distinguished itself this week, both in breaking the pattern of the first two eps and greatly expanding the depth and breadth of the girls’ powers under the Pleiadian, who is able to harness more of their potential the more unusual situations they find themselves in. This time, neither they nor Minato manage to grab the fragment in the sky, and it drops into the ocean, but because they’re magical girls, they don’t have to worry about the lack of air or the crushing pressure of those depths…though they do have to change into swimsuits! Umi Monogatari, anyone?

pl36

The expansion continues when, after they surface with the fragment, and the duel with Minato continues, Itsuki, their best flyer, is able to level up thanks to help from Subaru spotting the wind. This level-up is accompanied by even more overt Subaruization of Itsuki’s drive shaft, complete with Forester grille and instrumentation. Where before she was hitting the rev limiter above a certain altitude, now she can soar ever higher into the sky, with the others in tow. Aoi then uses her athletic prowess to knock the fragment away from Minato for the others to catch.

ple37

Before they know it, they’ve risen all the way up into space, adding yet another layer of grandeur and discovery to their exploits this week. Minato follows them even here, but this time Subaru uses strong, uncompromising words to force his retreat. She rejects all the mean things he says, and insists they have as much a right to the fragments as they do, and she won’t hear her and her friends be called failures.

After he’s gone, the girls can “hear space”, their potential realized to a level never before achieved. It’s very grand and a bit trippy thanks to the ambient music and striking visuals.

ple38

The episode closes back down on the good old earth with a nice family moment. Her father tells her she’s not some manufactured part that can only serve one purpose. Rather she can take any shape she wants at any time, and indeed, that’s what we observed from her and her friends: all of them chip in here and there, according to their individual strengths, and together they form a a humming fragment-collecting engine to be reckoned with. All they have to do is have confidence in themselves and trust in one another, and they’ll do fine.

7_mag

Houkago no Pleiades – 02

ple21

Pleiades is undeniably pretty and inoffensive show, but at the end of two episodes the forgiving sheen of newness has worn off, revealing what is (and was from the start, really) a fairly lightweight and highly derivative affair.

ple22

Whether being very reminiscent of a show I’ve already watched is grounds for dropping depends on the show it reminds me of, and in this case, Pleiades is at a a distinct disadvantage. It’s directed by the same guy who helmed FLCL, while its obvious thematic and aesthetic inspiration would appear be Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

ple23

Pleiades isn’t nearly as original as Fooly nor as dark and profound as Puella, and if we’re honest, contributes virtually nothing new to stand apart from either. But to be fair, both those shows cast huge shadows…and despite its directorial pedigree and familiar milieu, it’s also not really trying to approach the greatness of those singular classics.

ple24

Rather, it’s content to have a good old time bringing two rootable former friends, who aren’t quite sure why they forgot one another or got split up in the first place, back together. Subaru and Aoi are the focus of this episode, with the latter giving the former flying lessons.

ple25

Again, there’s nothing either deep or groundbreaking, but the two co-leads still made me care about them reconnecting, and indeed its the power of their friendship, and a mutually-remembered song, that nets them two big engine fragments for their alien president.

ple26

Then Minato swoops in and snatches one, and here’s where the show falls down a bit. While he seems to be a nice enough kid in that hidden fountain garden room, to the point he almost resembles a potential love interest for Subaru, his complete character shift to sinister bully feels arbitrary, not to mention repetitive.

ple27

Until there’s a little more revealed about why he’s picking on the girls and Subaru in particular, Minato will remain a rather dull enigma. But despite his sabotage, the girls are making progress, and have even secured a room at their school under the aegis of the official establishment of the “Cosplay Research Club”; as good a cover for a group of magical schoolgirls as any!

6_mag

Houkago no Pleiades – 01 (First Impressions)

ple11

FLCL is one of our favorites here in the office—I know I often check Craigslist for used Vespas—and Zane is a fan of the first Medaka Box. So when the director of both is involved with a new show, we at least take a look. And my first impressions of it are pretty good.

ple12

So what have we got? A solid, straightforward, and earnest new entry in the magical girl genre, with enough self-awareness of the legacy it’s carrying on and including enough unique details to keep it interesting. This show will never be accused of inventing the wheel with regards to its character types or the situations they find themselves in, so it comes down to those details, technical execution, and how it makes me feel.

ple13

For those who want a quick(ish) synopsis, here goes: Subaru (pink hair) is a relatively unremarkable, slightly slow and clumsy girl who loves stargazing and ends up invited into a secret club of classmates, including her former friend Aoi (blue hair) by their president (a jellyfish-lke alien).

The balance of the quintet is made up of Itsuki (raven hair), Nanako (lilac), and Hikaru (orange). There’s also a sickly dude Subie meets who has crimson hair. Whatever your favorite color—or hat type, for that matter—there’s a girl for you!

ple14

We follow Subaru through her brisk initiation, which half-explains things along the way, because even the already initiated know very little about exactly what’s going on. For those not aware, Subaru is the Japanese term for the constellation Pleiades, and also the brand name for Fuji Heavy Industries’ automobile division, with the constellation as their logo.

ple15

Some of HnP’s amusing details may only appeal to gear/petrolheads or owners, but Subaru’s family owns a Subaru R1, and the front ends of the broom-like “drive shafts” they use to fly resemble the front fascias of various Subaru models. Whether this is stealthy product placement or simply the creators’ love of the marque, I for one love Subarus, so I’m glad they made the connection.

ple16

Whether it’s flying over them in airplanes or bursting through them in a movie or tv show, there’s something awe-inspiring about the cloudtops at dusk, especially when there’s a big rainstorm just below them. That breathlessness is captured perfectly when Subaru’s drive shaft shoots her into the stratosphere, followed closely by her new comrades, in order to capture an engine fragment of their alien president’s spaceship.

They fail on their first try, and indeed have never succeeded up to that point, but when Subaru realizes Aoi doesn’t know what she’s doing any more than she does, she finds her confidence and leads them back, and this time they succeed in cutting off, degenerating, and finalizing the fragment, all terms that are intentionally not expanded upon, because there’s no time for elaborate explanations, even if the other girls had them, which they don’t.

ple17

Enter the good/bad antagonist: when Subaru is attacked by a “dark shooting star”, the crimson-headed bishonen Minato saves her from falling, but steals the fragment away, as if in payment. However, the fact of the matter is, Subaru, slow and clumsy she may be, was the group’s missing piece, and she even manages to score a mini consolation fragment. The episode closes with the new quintet watching the meteor shower Subaru had been looking forward to all day.

I was looking forward to HnP as soon as I heard about it, and while it wasn’t life-changingly fantastic, it was a solid, colorful, entertaining effort with a hearty helping of whimsy, which is easy on the eyes (unlike Sailor Moon Crystal, which I couldn’t quite get through) but not too taxing on the ol’ noggin. An ideal show for hump day.

7_mag