What’s it about? Shy, socially anxious Konohoshi Umika has never fit in with humanity, and longs to find aliens who might understand her instead. But a wish on a falling star brings an alien to her instead: Akeuchi Yu, an extroverted girl with the power of “foreheadpathy.”
It’s nice to close out such a varied and very, very big buffet of premieres with a bit of sweetness. This is another entry in the burgeoning “socially anxious girl makes friends” subgenre, with a spec-fic angle and some yuri to tie it up with a bow. Its premise taps into one of the most powerful fantasies of the anxious or otherwise neurodivergent: don’t you wish you could just wire your brain directly to someone else’s and get your feelings across, without all the hurdles of talking getting in the way?
Stardust Telepath is all about that fantasy of heart-to-heart connection, and a pretty interesting example of how much gender dynamics can change the vibe of a premise. A story about a magical, upbeat alien girl blowing into the life of a withdrawn everyboy and instantly intuiting all of his needs would be of zero interest to me, because there are so many societal pressures for women to uphold all of the emotional labor in cishet relationships, and because the phenomenon of undercooked female love interests who only exist to further a male lead’s development is so widespread that it spawned an entire term, even if the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a bit too era-specific to still be useful as a modern critical tool. Often in these stories, you have one or two girls who end up being, at best, emblematic of the supposed otherworldly unknowability of their gender for the presumed audience.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say a show focused on female characters is 100% guaranteed to have deeply drawn ladies—there are definitely phoned-in shows out there about gaggles of girls who feel like market-tested one-note stereotypes totally disconnected from even a simulacrum of a real human. But I think that’s becoming less common, and I don’t think it applies to Stardust Telepath. There’s a lot of empathy on display, even in the cutesiest gags.
Umika’s feelings of being completely alone in the world, sure that there are others like her but so far away that they might as well be on other planets, is a deeply resonant one as a queer viewer. Her social anxiety seems to have been there since she was little, but it’s gotten worse as classmates increasingly marked her out as “other.” Feeling like an alien amongst the “normals” until one day someone else that you alone seem to recognize kinship in is so familiar, bringing to mind a conversation I’d had with my partner just this morning about the subtleties of “clocking” inside a community versus outside. It’s a simple, sort of obvious metaphor in some ways, but something about this episode really cut straight to the heart.
Maybe it’s Umika’s big, wibbly, expressions, the endearingly deployed chibi inserts, or the the appealingly bright colors. Maybe it’s the gentleness of the tone. Maybe I’m just a big ol’ sucker for “oh no, this coded intimacy (that both parties are totally into, secretly or not) is simply so plot-relevant!” if it’s queer. Blame it on the vampires. Blame it on the Vulcans. The episode’s pacing might give away its four-panel gag origins, and whether you find this episode enjoyable or a bit too saccharine and overlong will depend on whether you click with the metaphors I mentioned above. I, at least, was happy to be along for the vibes.
While the obvious comparison to this show is Bocchi (more the middle-schooler than the rocker, as this doesn’t approach nearly the latter’s anxiety levels), its bright color palette, gay vibes, and silly faces brought me back to my beloved, underrated, and sadly unstreamable tsuritama. If Stardust Telepath can manage the same emotional tenderness with its intertwining of aliens and mental health struggles as that series—and it’s off to a very good start—this one will turn out to be quite the keeper.