Subaru (the car company, yes) has teamed up with Gainax to create a short 4-part anime called Houkago no Pleiades (放課後のプレアデス). All four episodes are available on Youtube. The channel design is cute and astronomical in theme, which fits the anime and the sponsor. Subaru is Japanese for what we call the Pleiades.
The story is a simple one – a schoolgirl named Subaru uses a key to get into a rooftop garden where she meets Minato, a boyish girl. The run-down garden has been magically transformed into a paradise.
The same magic accompanies Subaru when she finds her best friend Aoi with a number of other girls, all in “magical” attire, in a sumptuous club room – with an alien creature as club president.
Subaru joins the club, has her magical transformation, but flubs her first mission and gives up the star they gathered to the baddy…who is clearly Minato. Subaru and Aoi have an argument about Subaru’s membership in the group, but they make up with confessions of like.
In a final confrontation, Subaru defeats Minato, but promises to look for her. Minato bequeaths her ugly grey cardigan (c.p., Panic, Strawberry; Shizuma’s ugly grey cardigan) to Subaru who we later see wearing it.
The final credits include still art from a variety of artists that really drive the point home that the club is composed of one of each “type” required by moe fans these days. ^_^ And Subaru is color-coded pink so the girls watching will naturally like it, as we all know girls react on a cellular level to pink.
I want to thank 16_nikki on Twitter for the heads up about this series. I was told that it is 60% Yuri in order to motivate me to watch it – I think that might be a fair estimate. It’s short, but there’s still plenty of space to fill in a relationship between Subaru and Minato and a best-friend-y thing with Aoi. I’m sure at least *one* doujinshi circle will pair them all up, since we all know that twin-tail tsunderes and Nadesico beauties can’t resist the competent leader and the genki forward.
As a magical girl series, Houkago no Preadesu hits all the typical notes. The costume and accouterments designs by Gainax are cute, familiar and ever so slightly innovative. There’s nothing in the series a little kid couldn’t watch, but the lingering looks at thighs reminds one that Gainax is still a male gaze kind of shop. Aside from the shot of the Pleiades at the beginning of each episode and the car key Subaru uses to unlock the garden, the company has kept themselves out of the way of the story.
Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 4
Service – 1
Overall – 7
This anime isn’t going to ring chimes all over the world, but I’m betting you’re gonna see more of this kind of thing as time goes on. If two of Japan’s major exports – anime and cars – team up, we could see a whole new “soft power” wave headed at us in the days ahead.