Halloween Means Precure!

I’ve come to realize that my favorite Halloween-themed episodes in anime come from the Precure franchise. This might be because it runs all year long (thus making holiday celebrations a common part of the shows), but I also think the mix of magic (in the form of magical girls) on a night associated with the occult works in its favor. Out of the many Halloween-themed instances of Precure, three stand out in particular: an episode of Suite Precure, another from Maho Girls Precure, and the movie Go! Princesss Precure: Go! Go!! Gorgeous Triple Feature

Before I proceed, here’s the requisite SPOILER WARNING.

Suite Pretty Cure

One of my main criticisms of Suite Precure is that, once a major character development moment passes, the show acts as if the new status quo is the way it’s always been. The key example of this is when the character Siren goes from antagonistic cat character to fellow human Precure. All of her history as a villain is seemingly forgotten after a couple episodes. The one major exception comes in the Halloween episode, where the now-Kurokawa Ellen dresses up as a cat girl. When a classmate asks about her costume, Ellen (without missing a beat) casually begins to mention that she used to be a cat, which prompts the other Precures to jump in and brush it off as a joke. It’s a clever bit of continuity in a show which often put it on the back burner.

The character Atarashi Ako is herself dressed as a princess, which is also a joke based on her true identity. Amusement all around!

Maho Girls Precure

The Harry Potter-esque world of Maho Girls Precure lends itself perfectly to a Halloween episode. One of the running jokes of the series is the way that visitors from the Magical World will sometimes forget that they’re supposed to be hiding their identity and will just casually mention things that the Muggles (so to speak) shouldn’t know. Halloween is presented as a major exception, because in the festive, costumed environment, magicians can come as they are because people will think they’re dressed for the occasion. Even then, the Maho Girls find a way to push the limits. The star of the show in this instance is probably Haa-chan, the third Precure and by far the most powerful of the trio in terms of magic. She appears throughout the episode in bizarre costumes, like a mummy complete with sarcophagus, and an alien being taken away by Men in Black.

It’s just a fine episode of nudges and winks and fulfilling the expectations one might have for a Halloween episode in a show about wizarding magical girls.

Go! Princess Precure

Go! Princess Precure: Go! Go!! Gorgeous Triple Feature is actually an entire Halloween-themed movie, consisting of two shorts and one longer standard Precure movie. It was (appropriately) released on October 31, 2015. Go! Princess is already one of the strongest entries in the franchise, and many of its strengths—animation, charismatic characters, strong and positive themes—can be seen in the movie. Interestingly, the main thing the film seems to take from Halloween is the prominence of pumpkins. Whether they’re jack o’ lanterns or pumpkin desserts, the iconic Halloween vegetable seems to overshadow the costume and trick or treat aspects of the holiday. In a way, it’s probably the best of the three story-wise, but the weakest in terms of Halloween hijinks.

I do need to make a special mention in regards to the movie-exclusive transformation, though. The Cures here have a special Halloween-themed power-up that is appropriately flashy.

So those are some of my favorite Halloween anime. In the 90s, the holiday wasn’t a big deal in Japan, but has grown in prominence over the past couple of decades. If we were to move away from Halloween the holiday and more towards “monster”-themed anime, then Kore wa Zombie Desuka? would rank much higher. If you have your own special Halloween shows, feel free to leave a comment.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

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A New Way to Look at Precure Character Archetypes

The Precure Pretty Store in Tokyo has a new batch of idol-style merchandise around the theme of “summer festival.” For it, each of the girls are wearing special outfits and have been separated into different groups around a common theme.

While that’s not unusual in itself, what I find fascinating is that the groups for the most part are not along traditional lines, like “show origin” or “color.” In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any real consistency from one theme to the next. Even so, I think it provides a new perspective on shared values between individual characters, so I’ve decided to lay out the categories below.

Pro Celebrities: Kasugano Urara, Amanogawa Kirara

Love: Momozono Love, Aino Megumi, Aida Mana

Otherworld Singers: Kenzaki Makoto, Kurokawa Eren

Fantastic Dreamers: Haruno Haruka, Yumehara Nozomi, Asahina Mirai

Athletes: Misumi Nagisa, Hyuuga Saki, Natsuki Rin, Hino Akane, Midorikawa Nao

Wildly Expressive: Kurumi Erika, Shirayuki Hime

Bookish Glasses Girls: Yukishiro Honoka, Hanasaki Tsubomi, Tsukikage Yuri, Shirabe Ako

Fairies-turned-Precure: Hanami Kotoha, Mimino Kurumi

Creators: Mishou Mai, Akimoto Komachi, Hoshizora Miyuki, Kise Yayoi

Martial Artists: Myoudouin Itsuki, Aoki Reika, Yotsuba Alice, Hikawa Iona

Musicians: Minazuki Karen, Houjou Hibiki

Secret Hard Workers: Aono Miki, Izayoi Liko

Chefs: Kujou Hikari, Minamimo Kaede, Madoka Aguri, Oomori Yuko, Usami Ichika

Aspiring Doctors: Yamabuki Inori, Hishikawa Rikka, Kaidou Minami

White-Haired (Former) Villains: Eas (Higashi Setsuna), Twilight (Akagi Towa)

Princes: Coco, Natts, Masame Oji, Kanata

Villains Disguised as Schoolboys: Kiriya, Luntaro (Wolflun), Kurosu (Close), Rio (Julio)

Young Mascot Fairy Boys: Syrup, Pop, Rakeru, Rance, Aroma

(The One Exception) Kira Kira Precure a la Mode: Kenjou Akira, Tategami Aoi, Kirahoshi Ciel, Usami Ichika, Arisugawa Himari, Kotozume Yukari

So what do you think of these categories? Do you like thinking of Precures along these lines? The one category that still perplexes me a bit is “Secret Hard Workers,” because Liko and Miki have very little in common. Is there something else they have in common that I’m missing?

And where would the a la Mode girls fit if they had to be divided into them? Would they all go into “chefs,” or would that only work for some of them? For example, would Aoi fit better in “Musicians?”

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“Smile Precure!” Transformations Are Widescreen as Hell

Smile Precure! began this month, and it’s bringing back the five-man team back to the Precure franchise. Incidentally, Yes! Precure 5 was also the first Precure to use a widescreen perspective, and when you compare Smile to Yes 5 and its other widescreen predecessors, Smile’s transformation scenes really stand out in terms of how they utilize screen space, particularly with the individual transformations.

Let’s take a look at the old ones first.


Cure Dream, Yes! Pretty Cure 5


Cure Dream, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go


Cure Peach, Fresh Pretty Cure


Cure Blossom, Heartcatch Precure!


Cure Melody, Suite Precure

Now here’s Smile Precure!‘s heroine, Cure Happy.

Cure Happy’s pose fills the screen in a way that I very rarely see in any sort of transformation sequence, whether it’s Precure, mahou shoujo, anime in general, or even live-action tokusatsu. Happy is not only shot closer, but her body is also slightly angled with both her arms and her hair spread out wide. This makes it so that her body is contact with all four sides of the screen while also occupying the majority of the space in between.

Then we have Cure Sunny, who doesn’t take up quite as much space as Happy does, but still has a body which cuts the shot in half diagonally almost perfectly, again emphasizing the length of the screen.

Granted, not all of the transformation poses in Smile Precure! are done in this manner, as can be seen by Cure Peace above. But whereas the previous series in the franchise stuck to the single figure in the middle of the screen as almost a rule of thumb, the large amounts of empty space on either side of her becomes more of an individual character flourish, and is perhaps even an indicator of her personality. Though I’m not 100% on this, I get the feeling that leaving that much space around Peace has the effect of emphasizing her clumsy, crybaby personality. In contrast, Happy’s personality is the kind that can fill an entire room just as her image fills the screen during her pose.

I actually think there’s a practical reason for this change, and that is the fact that Japan is finally going to switch over (almost) entirely to digital TV in about a month. Older series had to take into account a large amount of people with analog signal TVs, whereas now they can rightfully assume that most of their viewers will be watching in widescreen.

The Ups and Downs of Suite Precure

With Smile Precure set to debut it’s a good time to look at Suite Precure. I’ve seen the series lambasted a fair amount, and while I believe Suite Precure to be a flawed series and perhaps one that in the end couldn’t quite overcome a good deal of its problems, I find that a good deal of these criticisms kind of miss the mark as to what exactly went wrong, conflating one mistake for another kind. Thus, I intend to give a fairly thorough assessment of the series, especially in terms of characterization and character development.

I will not just be comparing it to Heartcatch Precure! (which is unfair for most shows in the first place), nor will I be trying to ask Suite to be any more than the children’s show that it was meant to be.

Also, this post is FULL OF SPOILERS.

When the previews for Suite Precure started coming out, they advertised the series as being about a couple of girls who have to fight together but have trouble getting along due to being total opposites. While the franchise has always dealt in contrasting personalities, it was never quite to this degree, and the premise stood out to me. And so begins the first episode, where we’re introduced to Hibiki the energetic athlete and Kanade the organized and studious baker, former friends who have since grown apart. Inevitably, they gain the ability to transform into the legendary warriors known as Precure (Hibiki as “Cure Melody” and Kanade as “Cure Rhythm”),  help the good guys (Major Land) defeat the bad guys (Minor Land), and begin to mend their friendship, though not without some trouble.

Hibiki and Kanade’s personalities start the series with a fairly interesting dynamic, and at first it’s fun to see their little clashes here and there. Once the show decides that they’ve become good enough friends, however, the two seem to forget their past tension almost entirely, like it had never happened at all. As the show progresses, the way it irons out the “wrinkles” in relationships once development has occurred turns out to be a major recurring flaw in Suite Precure. This problem is most apparent with the villainous cat Seiren, whose turn to the side of good  as “Cure Beat” is a satisfying story arc, but who suddenly turns into an almost entirely different character afterward.

That is not to say that the show is devoid of strong and consistent characterizations. Kanade, for one, seems to hold onto her personality much more tightly. In addition, there is the character of Ako, who is revealed in the second half of the show to be not only the mysterious “Cure Muse” but also the princess of Major Land. While Seiren had the more powerful story arc leading up to her reveal, Ako’s revelations manage to build on her existing character rather than rewriting it, resulting in a character who not only sensibly knows more about fighting the enemy (being the princess of the land from which the Precures derive their power), but also works hard to make up for the age difference (at 10 years old when the average Precure heroine is 14, Ako is the youngest Cure ever). She also acts as a potential wish fulfillment character for the younger girl audience.

A special mention needs to be made for the mascot character Hummy, whose ditzy and optimistic personality sets her apart from other previous magical companions in the franchise, and honestly makes her one of the more entertaining parts of the show (something I probably would’ve never expected). Still, the fact that this more thorough and long-term characterization was unable to extend to all of the characters, especially Hibiki (who is the lead of the series), remains a problem.

The Precure franchise for the most part has never had “overarching narrative” as its strong suit and Suite is certainly no exception, but past titles were able to use memorable characters to make the plot feel more involving even when its story is paper-thin. The biggest side-effect of the way character resolution in Suite Precure induces selective amnesia is that the characters’ personalities sometimes end up either under-developed or insufficiently defined, which then results in less emotional investment in the characters’ struggles. As such, towards the end when Hibiki as Cure Melody begins to act the role of a serene savior who expresses the idea that music is better for comforting sadness than eliminating it outright, it feels like an abrupt development in Hibiki’s character that just can’t be explained sufficiently by what had happened up to that point. It is certainly possible for a sudden display of maturity to make sense*, but that wasn’t quite the case here.

Overall, Suite Precure is a series that is capable of both good characterization and good character development, but can’t seem to bridge the gap between them. When it tries to, it often ends up compromising both. Because of the way it seems to not have a firm grasp on its own characters, the buildup of the series towards its climax feels weaker, and I think it makes for a show that, while okay, could have been much stronger had it simply been able to maintain a better long-term memory.

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*Episode 40 of Ojamajo Doremi # concerns Doremi’s little sister Pop wanting to play the piano, only to find out that the family had sold theirs years ago. During the episode, we find out that their mother was once a concert pianist whose career was ended by an injury, and whose her lingering regrets ended up making Doremi reject the piano when she tried to learn it. Rather than being against Pop playing piano though, the normally wacky Doremi not only gives Pop the chance the opportunity to practice, but also brings a piano back into their household. Doremi’s mature attitude about the whole thing definitely stands out as unusual for someone who is typically more of an airhead, but comes across as “uncharacteristic” rather than “out-of-character.”

Suite Precure Transitions

I’ve been keeping up with Suite Precure since it began last February, and while it isn’t quite the masterpiece that Heartcatch Precure! is, it’s still enjoyable enough. We’ve hit roughly the middle point of Suite Precure, and quite a few things have happened along the way, including the reveal of a new Cure or two.

I’m going to discuss some of my feelings on these current episodes (as well as previous Precure series), so if you don’t want to be spoiled, turn away.

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Kitchen Sinking: Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3

Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3: To the Future! The Rainbow-Colored Flower that Connects Worlds celebrates the 10th anniversary film of the series, with eight TV series and a whopping 21 Magical Girls featured. Three franchise-wide crossover films. Three instances of combined attacks. Three opportunities to focus on everyone working together, because as the number of Precure shows increases it becomes increasingly difficult  to actually have any breathing room or down time in these things.

The plot is that of every big crossover movie ever, where the girls have to join forces to defeat a powerful opponent. This time it’s Black Hole-sama, an amalgam of all of the evil energy from all of the defeated final bosses so far. Its minions are villains from the various Precure movies. Aware that being a Precure means having strong teamwork, the villains split the Cures up from their respective partners to limit their effectiveness, while pursuing the “Prism Flower” which connects all of their worlds together, like a cosmic treadmill.

These types of movies simply have no time to develop any real plot, so the main appeal is generally to show all of the characters interacting with each other and appealing to fans of the franchise. I found the splitting up of the various Cures to be an interesting mechanic to accomplish this, and though it’s been done to an extent in the previous films, this time around it’s done thematically. The first group is comprised of the leaders, the second group is comprised of the smart and supportive ones, and the third group is best described as a mishmash of the rest. Very quickly, the leader group finds that while everyone is good at taking charge, they don’t exactly understand each others’ dynamics, while the secondary group thinks before they act but realize they’re accustomed to having someone else act first. The third group is the most balanced, and seem to have the least trouble overall.

That said, even within those similar groups, the character’s individual personalities highlight a number of differences among the similarities. Among the leads, Cure Black is the first to try and come up with a plan, while Cure Blossom is a little more thoughtful. Cure Marine is more headstrong than the other “cool blue” characters, which makes her the catalyst to inspire the others in the second group to not give up. Cure Berry is a little more devious than the other cool Cures. In the third group, Cure Lemonade is the most serendipitous, whereas Cure Moonlight is the most mature. It all works pretty well.

Speaking of Heartcatch, I’ve noticed that in these crossover movies, the heavily stylized character designs have to be toned down to fit in more with the rest of the series, which removes some of their charm but is also necessary in a way. The only time you get to see the “proper” style is when they’re fighting a Heartcatch villain.

A crossover also means big fights, and the movie both delivers and doesn’t. One notable scene involves the various teams doing what would normally be stock footage special attacks, but in fact are newly animated. Rather than doing what’s expected for example, Cure Black and Cure White deliver a Marble Screw while running in unison. On the other hand, with the final combined attack, it just uses the familiar poses and footage, and the attack itself just combines into a rainbow-colored beam. It’s a pretty good looking beam, but given the variety of attacks, it feels kind of lacking because it fails to live up to the potential for a truly epic combination attack. Part of the thrill of seeing a Final Dynamic Special is seeing how all of the finishing blows interact with each other.

One problem in the previous crossover film, Precure All Stars DX 2, was that it didn’t give enough respect to the rookies at the time, which was Heartcatch Precure! Blossom and Marine often looked weak and ineffectual, and it diminished their appearance. This time around the newbies are the girls from Suite Precure, and they feel nice and strong, still the most inexperienced by far but also clearly able to hold their own. They might take it too far though, as some of the more emotional scenes seem odd when they’ve only just begun doing this.

This film also has millions of mascot characters, and that can be a difficult thing to watch for people. The audience-interaction magic wands (the kids in the theater are supposed to wave them to power up the girls) are also back.

Since the first crossover, these films have felt like they’ve been phoning it in a good deal, but it’s overall acceptable. Obvious this movie is for existing fans, and is not really recommended for people unfamiliar with Precure, as it again doesn’t really bother to have a cohesive story and is only really decent for fans who understand the existing character dynamics. A fun watch, but try the first crossover first.