Random Curiosity

Houkago no Pleiades – ONA

Episode 01

Episode 02

Episode 03

Episode 04

GAINAX’s unusual joint anime project with Subaru makes its debut on YouTube, and the only real connection to the Japanese car manufacturer is the Pleiades star cluster that its name and logo are based upon. (Subaru is the Pleiades’ name in Japanese.) Much like the later promo videos suggested, this is actually a magical girl anime at heart, in the more traditional sense than SHAFT’s offering this season.

Comprised of four mini episodes that were all released simultaneously, this Original Net Animation (ONA) is more of a one-shot anime than a series. However, despite its relatively short length, I quickly grew fond of the characters and was surprised by the wide range of emotions depicted. Coming in without any real expectations, I was impressed by the way the show immediately grabbed my attention too, starting with the surreal opening scene and mysterious encounter shortly after. There wasn’t much in the way of an introduction as to what’s going on, yet it wasn’t the least bit jarring since it was pretty evident that was the effect the writers were going for. For the most part, I was just as lost as the main heroine Subaru (Takamori Natsumi), but answers came when she stumbled upon a clubroom with four magical girls. Seeing her friend Aoi (Oohashi Ayuru) among them, she soon becomes a magical girl as well to help their Pleiades alien club president find a way home. Joined by Itsuki (Tateno Kanako), Nanako (Fujita Saki), and Hikaru (Makino Yui), they take to the skies to gather star fragments.

While the premise itself was pretty outlandish, everything happened fairly quickly so there really wasn’t any time to start asking questions. Coincidentally, therein lie the beauty of it, as Subaru was dragged into collecting “Engine Fragments” for their president, only to find out that the boy she met earlier, Minato (Kuwashima Houko), is their enemy and doing the same for some unknown reason. They battled, then there was a bit of a rift between Subaru and Aoi, before they made up and faced Minato again. Admittedly, the whole becoming a star bit was odd since it wasn’t explained in any detail, but I found myself too immersed into the presentation of it all to dwell on twenty or so minutes of plot not making perfect sense. All I know is that there were a lot of aspects that I like, ranging from the character interactions to the mysterious cosmos, which left me wanting to see more of this unusual project.

Quite honestly, I still don’t know what the purpose of this joint venture is since it doesn’t really promote Subaru (the car manufacturer) in any way, but if it was a means for GAINAX to dazzle everyone with one of their productions, featuring great character designs and concept art that translated beautifully on screen, they sure achieved that in my books. In fact, watching this ONA made me wish more studios would receive funding to take a bit of a risk and test viewer reception by creating conceptual anime shorts, in hopes that one of their creative ideas will catch on and get the green light on a television series. After all, I went into this show with very little understanding on what it’s about, yet came out with a feeling that it’s a unique take on magical girls that I want to watch more of. I can only imagine how many other seemingly unusual concepts never make it beyond the planning phase, when some of them could have turned out as “positively surprising” as this one. It was cute and had an inexplicable charm to it.

Of course, I gather having Subaru’s financial support helped a lot with getting Houkago no Pleiades out the door. Interestingly enough, it also featured a lot of end card illustrations from various artists in the ending sequence. A lot of them are really nice too. See below.


ED Sequence

ED: 「放課後のプレアデス」 (Houkago no Pleiades) by 高森奈津美, 大橋歩夕, 立野香菜子, 牧野由依, 藤田咲 (Takamori Natsumi, Oohashi Ayuru, Tateno Kanako, Fujita Saki, Makino Yui)
Watch the ED!: Download, Streaming ▼

January 31, 2011 at 10:05 pm
  • January 31, 2011 at 10:13 pmKiiragi

    I just can’t help but love Gainax for always having something worth seeing in their shows, even when it seems least likely.

    • February 2, 2011 at 5:19 am♕Croosboy♕

      hahaha. i was about to say that

  • January 31, 2011 at 10:32 pmProoof

    The ending art really is nice; wish they released high res versions

    • February 1, 2011 at 1:19 amPw3age

      They may release an art book filled with leftover concept art. That is if Subaru lets them get more money than they already gained from this. I can only hope they release.

  • January 31, 2011 at 10:45 pmKurisu Vi Britannia

  • January 31, 2011 at 11:20 pmfall3nbs

    Still can’t believe this is a Gainax work. I’m liking everything about it so far. Episode 3 seemed a little faced paced for me though. The concept art in the ending is gorgeous too.

    The other things I spotted to be “Subaru-ish” are the stars on their clothing and the possible magical staves starting up like cars. It would have been awesome if they used their traditional flat-four engine sound to make it distinctive. And the icing on the cake would be the future rival’s names are Mitsubishi or Lancer.

    • February 1, 2011 at 12:48 amfall3nbs

      Ah, forgot to add I watched up to episode 3. Just finished episode 4 and I have to say, this is definitely a Gainax series, it left me wanting more. I felt that this series had lots of potential behind it with the pretty visuals.

  • January 31, 2011 at 11:34 pmP0NCH

    Love Gainax XD
    Definitely going to check this out

  • January 31, 2011 at 11:50 pmClick

    Good lord, the ending art is so beautiful ;o

  • February 1, 2011 at 12:18 amSirMuffin

    Posts like this make me glad I’m a RC follower as I wasn’t going to watch this at first because I was too naive to see pass the “Magical Girl + Subaru” label. But now I realize I was wrong and will now watch it this evening! Thanks!

  • February 1, 2011 at 12:19 amrasone0104

    hands down gainax never fails to amuse me

  • February 1, 2011 at 12:30 amKyzel

    This felt slightly K-on-ish. Gainax really just amazes me with their direction working with any plot… thanks for blogging it Divine.

  • February 1, 2011 at 12:59 amvoor

    Yeah, even though I thought the engine sounds were cheesy, I was hoping for a nice boxer rumble. The stills at the end of ep 4 were really nice; pixiv-quality even.

  • February 1, 2011 at 1:11 amRei

    The art was simply beautiful. Love the sky, love space, galaxy and all the magic. The symbols were pretty and clear. The characters were all unique, my favourite is Nanako – her hair is so pretty and that PIRATE hat! YEAH CAN BE USED FOR ATTACKS EVEN. lol the Pres… kawaii XD
    typo btw for Subaru’s name right before the seiyuu (not Subura). She reminds me of Nodoka haha x]
    I thought Minato was gonna be a girl at the start and was disappointed when it was a guy :( Didn’t understand the whole “becoming a star” either. It more confused me. I was like: wait so Minato is actually a GIRL? No, impossible. The body’s way too male. Then, long hair? No, it looks totally feminine! Before I knew it, the action rekicked in.

    http://randomc.net/image/Houkago%20no%20Pleiades/Houkago%20no%20Pleiades%20-%2004%20-%20Large%2007.jpg BEST IMAGE EVER.

    The main, powerful Mahou Shoujo’s tend to be Pink haired now don’t they xDD

  • February 1, 2011 at 1:17 amPw3age

    The whole ONA was beautifully done. Truly eye candy. With all the money from Subaru, and the online streaming, Gainax certainly went all out on the budget on this one. Unfortunately, the uncommon set of seiyus made it kind of disappointing. Not to mention they didn’t voice too many lines. Though I don’t see what Subaru gained from all this, I don’t feel like buying their cars at the moment.

  • February 1, 2011 at 1:23 amDa5id

    So basically, the Mahou Shojo genre’s been deconstructed, parodied, and now played straight all in one season.

    Anyone else expecting a reconstruction in the near future?

    • February 1, 2011 at 2:23 amkeiOnDaisuki

      ahahaha! i need to agree with you. L0L. mahou shoujo genre is definitely this season’s favorite. *LOLs again*

  • February 1, 2011 at 3:38 amZaku Fan

    Ha the engine pieces look like giant konpeitou sugar candies.

    Now this one is a straight mahou shoujo wth the standard “minor quarrel and make up” and other stuff you would expect to see. Their mahou shoujo dresses aren’t distinctive enough though but the club house is colorful and looks cute

  • February 1, 2011 at 3:39 amalex

  • February 1, 2011 at 4:16 amNorwegium


    Somebody had to do that, and you know it.

  • February 1, 2011 at 4:42 amsaviourshadow

    seriously wat’s ther to say bout tis anime it’s gd i bet many ppl would start drawing fanart of those characters

  • February 1, 2011 at 4:57 amc2710

    nice to watch but hard to chg perception of magic girls show after watching madoka

  • February 1, 2011 at 5:09 amLitho

    Disappointed :(
    I was expecting at least one chick to be named Impreza WRX STI

    • February 1, 2011 at 8:07 amZaku Fan

      Just be glad it didn’t turn out like the other commercially linked series this season Rio Rainbowgate :p

    • February 2, 2011 at 2:08 pmpheranchis

      how about legacy, forester, tribeca, outback

  • February 1, 2011 at 6:41 amDuqs

    We now have a positive mahou shoujo and a dark mahou shoujo this season alone XD

    • February 1, 2011 at 9:38 amDBS

      dont forget the zombie masou shoujo

  • February 1, 2011 at 7:20 amc2710

    im more in favour for a dark mahou shoujo…. hard to go back to the positive mahou shojou

  • February 1, 2011 at 8:09 amLuxorcist

    The first few minutes of episode 1 gave off a 5 cm/s vibe… maybe it was the darkish/glowy artwork and skyline shot (http://i245.photobucket.com/albums/gg69/psyopslayerx/vlcsnap-382811resized.png)?

    • February 1, 2011 at 8:12 amLuxorcist

      Heh picture didn’t let me link. Here it is again, the 5 cm/s sky shot that looks like Houkago no Pleiades’ opening minutes.

      And one more thing, was I the only one who thought Subaru spoke and acted a lot like Akari from Aria?

  • February 1, 2011 at 9:04 amfeal87

    Might watch it as I got quite burned by Madoka Magica lately. :D

  • February 1, 2011 at 10:02 amMC

    This was like Black rock shooter to me, in that it’s a very beautiful one-shot/ova/ona, that leaves you thinking at the end. Loved it.

  • February 1, 2011 at 11:13 amE_I

    Minato is a girl, not a boy.

    • February 1, 2011 at 6:15 pmAnonymous

      ^^^ This. Yuri and reverse-traps FTW.

  • February 1, 2011 at 8:43 pmS.suke

    Subaru wanted to show off their engine sound (showed in ep2 when the girls transform and fly) that why the jointed with GAINAX xD

  • February 1, 2011 at 10:57 pmbaka~

    the story felt lacking… I could’ve wished they released this in a series of OVAs rather than ONAs so that they can weave the story better. story aside, everything else is good with this anime: from animation to character designs… even the friggin vroomsticks look badass

  • February 2, 2011 at 3:08 amAshen

    I had absolutely no positive expectations for this ONA, but after reading this review and seeing the screenshots, I have to say I, too, am pleasantly surprised. And now I wanna give this a chance to suck me in. <3

    For some reason I can't explain, the pink-haired boy instantly made me think he'd be a character I'd like.

  • February 2, 2011 at 5:06 amgawrshness

    awww they should make a full length series out of this DX I was just starting to get into it when it ended

  • February 2, 2011 at 5:52 ammika-chan

    Mediocre show, fail at majokko but good for Subaru adv. Madoka IS the majokko of the season. :)

  • February 2, 2011 at 2:12 pmKayDat

    What, no pan shot on ED image 12? Son, I am disappoint.


  • February 2, 2011 at 10:44 pmBROOKLYN otaku

    yeah…..but is it any good?…………………*just watched*. SUCKED A.S.S!..GAInaX FAIL?????…i can’t believe it.. hehehehe, i BLAME SUBARU!!! step ur WRX models UP!!! I’m having difficulty’s ditching the popo these dayz LOL!!!!!

  • March 4, 2011 at 10:49 pmmimichu

    ahhhmmmm . . im just curious is it done already !? i want to know when is the airtime >_<

    i like this anime i want to watch more so i want to know ^_^ thanks :D