Witches were the original magical girls in anime, so it’s somewhat surprising that the now nearly-15-year mahou shoujo franchise Precure would take so long to make a series where magic in the conventional sense is front and center. That’s what Maho Girls Precure brings to the table, and the result is a series that, while not terribly ambitious, is a still a good deal of fun.
Maho Girls Precure follows Asahina Mirai, a normal Japanese girl who one day runs into a witch in training named Liko. Searching for a magical item called a Linkle Stone, the two run afoul of a villain searching for the same item. Despite the fact that Mirai knows nothing of magic and Liko’s own skills aren’t the best, they’re able to summon the legendary power of Precure, transforming into magical girls named Cure Miracle and Cure Magical, fighting off the enemy with their new-found abilities. From there, the two become fast friends, even traveling between the magical and non-magical worlds to attend school, have fun, and protect both from malevolent forces.
Given the presence of a magic school, comparisons with Harry Potter are practically invited. There’s even a wise old headmaster (though considerably younger-looking) and a stern female teacher. You might even call Mirai and Liko “chosen ones.” However, unlike J.K. Rowling’s famed series, Maho Girls Precure isn’t a detective story with the elaborate trappings of a magical world, and in terms of seriousness vs. levity remains roughly in the territory of the early, prepubescent Harry Potter stories. That being said, it’ll occasionally raise the stakes at climactic moments and pull it off well. When it comes time to finish, Maho Girls Precure pulls out all the stops in terms of dramatic flair and animation, which is customary for the franchise but always welcome nevertheless. By the end, it’s even the first to really acknowledge the world beyond junior high since my beloved Heartcatch Precure!
The series is not a terribly bold or daring work, but it also never promises more than it can live up to, which was the issue with the earlier HappinessCharge Precure!—a series that introduced the idea of Precures from all over the world, but never elaborated on it to a satisfying degree. Speaking of HappinessCharge, one aspect from that series utilized to greater effect here is the ability for the Precure to transform into different costumes with different abilities. While it’s not always clear why they use one over the other, they’re all stylish enough in appearance and unique enough in application to not wear out their welcome. My favorites are the topaz outfits, which carry dessert themes and also Green Lantern powers.
The aspects of the magical world I enjoyed most were the silly little quirks of a different society accustomed to spells and physics-defying elements. From the default incantation of “Cure-up! Rapapa!” to the bizarre shell-shaped sleeping bags found on the snail trains (sort of the Maho Girls equivalent of the Hogwarts Express) to the wizard versions of fairy tales (the fairy godmother is the main heroine!), I looked forward to seeing what simple yet amusing elements of magic would pop up next.
However, the most telling thing about how I view Maho Girls Precure is that my favorite part of the anime is not the heroines or their fight against the forces of chaos, but a side character, Katsuki Kana. A fan of the paranormal, Kana is quick to notice that some unusual things are going on in their town, except no one else seems to notice, and the Precures themselves actively deny it. When she first encounters Liko’s witch friends, they nonchalantly blurt out about how things are so different in “their world,” prompting a frantic expression from Kana in response. In addition to her panicked reactions towards any hint of magic, her ongoing desire to learn the truth, carry shades of one of my other favorite supporting characters in Precure, school newspaper journalist Masuko Mika of Yes! Pretty Cure 5.
Speaking of characters, I’d also like to mention that Liko is pretty much the anime version of Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in both appearance and personality. Any fans of Twilight would probably enjoy her antics.
Maho Girls Precure only rarely ever had me dying to see what happens next, but its simple yet expansive relationship between its characters and their worlds made sure I never tired of it. It’s a series you can take your time with, and it’ll entertain and move, at least one step at a time.