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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Ass-Kicking and Bubble Gum Both Still in Supply: Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go

precure5gogo-team

The original Yes! Pretty Cure 5 was in certain ways a radical departure back to the familiar. Whereas the previous Pretty Cure shows had focused mainly on duos, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 went with the five-girl sentai team, reminiscent of Sailor Moon. In execution, it ended up being neither a better or worse decision in that each character still received plenty of the spotlight, but what really made the series stand out to me were the unique villains (a literally evil corporation with company hierarchy and everything), as well as a dedication to showing its heroines eating that surpasses even the likes of K-On!

The sequel, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go, brings a fresh coat of paint that keeps with the spirit of its immediate predecessor. Right from the first episode, the new outfits are much improved from the bizarrely beige/yellow costumes from the previous series, and the attacks are flashier and more impressive: Natsuki “Cure Rouge” Rin’s “Pretty Cure Fire Strike” involves kicking a soccer ball made from flames, for example. The characters’ personalities still provide plenty of humor and opportunities to talk about food, as well as some nice moments of development. The new characters bring excitement and intrigue, especially the mysterious Milky Rose, who comes to save the Cures but initially positions herself neither as ally nor enemy, and eventually starts shooting rose-shaped clouds of shrapnel.

precure5gogo-lemonade

Overall, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go is actually a sequel that improves on the original, as rare as that is.  The show takes the time to how far the characters have come from the previous series, like when protagonist Yumehara Nozomi (Cure Dream) ends up tutoring Rin’s younger siblings and introduces to them her unique approach to learning. It also continues to do a great job of just showing how the characters are more than two-dimensional, like how Kasugano Urara (Cure Lemonade) is clever yet surprisingly naive at times, and how Akimoto Komachi (Cure Mint) takes her writing very seriously. That said, I can’t help but feel it lost a couple of important gems in the process.

The first is that the new group of villains, even if some of there are individually interesting, aren’t quite as memorable as the Nightmare Corporation from Yes! Pretty Cure 5. While an evil museum collector is a nice concept, and his assistant Anacondy brings in some of that much-loved evil bureaucracy (you can’t be truly evil until you’ve mastered evil paperwork), it just doesn’t feel quite on the same level. The second oversight is just a lack of Masuko Mika the school reporter, whose insatiable appetite for journalism and a desire to find out the secret identity of the Cures led the way to some of the funniest and most heartfelt episodes of the previous series. In fact, her doppelganger Masuko Miyo (intentionally a reference to Mika) probably gets more appearances in HappinessCharge Precure! than she does in Go Go.

If someone liked Yes! Pretty Cure 5 it’s hard to think they’d vehemently dislike Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go, and I even think the sequel can be viewed on its own without any prior exposure to Precure in general. That said, I do think that watching the first series can help, as it does a much better job of showing where the girls came from and how they developed over the course of their narrative.

precure5gogo-spinylobster

There are two things I want to mention at the end. First, one of the most memorable gags for me is the gag above, which reminds us that Minazuki Karen (Cure Aqua) is indeed extremely wealthy. Second, if anyone ever wondered who the animators’ favorite character was, the exquisite fight scenes with Kasugano Urara (Cure Lemonade) removed any and all doubt.

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The Comedic Stylings of Five Legendary Warriors: Yes! Pretty Cure 5

I was originally going to make my next Precure review about the recently-concluded Smile Precure!, but because of its many similarities to Yes! Pretty Cure 5 I thought it would be better to talk about that one first so that when I do get around to Smile you’ll know where I’m coming from. Do keep in mind that I haven’t seen the sequel, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go, all the way through yet, so this review is “incomplete” in that sense.

Yes! Pretty Cure 5 comes from the time when the official English still demanded that you refer to it as “Pretty Cure” in spite of the Japanese pronunciation, and it’s the first series in the franchise to step away from a pair oriented cast of main characters and do a full-on Sentai/Sailor Moon-style five-man team. As the story goes, one day an energetic girl named Yumehara Nozomi encounters a small mascot creature named Coco, a prince who asks her to become a legendary warrior and help restore his kingdom, which had been destroyed by an evil organization called “Nightmare.” Nozomi agrees and becomes Cure Dream, and is later joined by the athletic Natsuki Rin (Cure Rouge), the idol Kasugano Urara (Cure Lemonade), the gentle Akimoto Komachi (Cure Mint), and the intelligent Minazuki Karen (Cure Aqua), as well as Coco’s best friend and fellow prince, Nuts.

Out of all the Precure shows, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 ranks as one of the least visually impressive. Its animation is frequently awkward and off-model, and the transformed costume designs are awkward and unmemorable, but Yes! 5 is able to make up for those issues through really, really genuinely fun character interactions and antics. The five Cures all have dynamic characterizations, and seeing their personalities bounce off of each other is simply a joy. This even extends to the side characters, especially the school newspaper’s reporter, Masuko Mika (above), and her infectious Lois Lane/April O’Neil-like desire to get the scoop on the Cures.

Because of how entertaining the lunch-time and after-school banter can be, I sometimes refer to Yes! Pretty Cure 5 as the “Real K-ons, ” a comparison all the more appropriate because they girls are shown eating all the time. Four out of the five Cures have huge appetites and/or are obsessed with sweets, and the only one left out, Komachi, is the daughter of traditional Japanese candy maker. It makes for a show where just seeing the five girls hanging out at school is in many cases far more engaging than the action scenes, something which is often the opposite case when it comes to Precure.

That said, when the two halves of talky comedy and action come together, the result can be some incredibly solid episodes. My favorite example is when you find out that Rin (“the red flame of passion”) and Karen (“the blue spring spring of wisdom”) don’t get along quite as well as the others, but when a villain tries to use their lack of cooperation against them, it actually backfires: their rivalry ends up egging each of them on to perform even better, ironically improving their overall teamwork. Smile Precure! has a similar episode but the conclusion isn’t nearly as hilarious. Also, Cure Aqua takes a lot of her attacks from pro wrestling.

Speaking of the villains, Nightmare may be my favorite antagonist group in all of Precure because it actually runs itself like a corporation, albeit one inhabited by otherworldly monsters. You have the CEO, who can only be contacted through an intermediary. You have board meetings where the bad guys discuss their latest plans, end-of-year staff performance reviews, and of course promotions and demotions. For the most part the individual antagonists aren’t much to speak of, but there are a couple of notable exceptions, the aforementioned intermediary, Kawarino (think of him as the equivalent of Smile‘s Joker), and Bloody, a wizened veteran who attacks the Pretty Cures less through brute force and more through psychological manipulation.

Also of note is the fact that the mascots in the show, Coco (right) and Nuts, are the first in the franchise to be able to take human form, and in this case the two turn into handsome fellows. There’s a not-so-subtle undertone of Coco and Nozomi having feelings for each other, as well as Komachi and Nuts, but it remains just ambiguous enough that it needs to be inferred. Somewhat predictably, Pretty Cure 5 is the Precure most popular with fujoshi; if you ever wondered where Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei character Fujiyoshi Harumi’s favored pairing of “Pine x Napple” comes from, it’s a parody of Coco x Nuts.

Yes! Pretty Cure 5 is most certainly a show with its fair share of flaws, but also really noticeable strengths which make the show great to watch one episode at a time or in semi-large batches. The show’s antagonists make for a decent enough threat to motivate the story along, but the real fun is in seeing the antics of the five Cures, as the series does an excellent job of showing the main cast as friends who trust and love each other. Even more fortunate is that the direct sequel, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go seems to make up for a lot of the problems of its predecessor.

PS: Cure Rouge is one of my favorite Cures. Yes, more than Sunny. No, not nearly as much as Marine.

“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.

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.

The Ogiue Maniax Tumblr

For those who missed it, last week I started my very own Tumblr. Its purpose is for housing things that cannot go anywhere else, and this blog is home to a huge variety of posts, so its existence is a matter of necessity. As of now, there’s only one post on it, but I think it’ll make you feel like you can live forever.