During the summer festival five years ago, two girls met at a mysterious tree and saw two glowing spheres. Now, these two girls--Saki Hyuuga, ace pitcher on the school softball team; and Mai Mishou, who prefers sketching over stargazing--are chosen by the spirits of flowers (Flappy) and birds (Choppy) to restore the Seven Fountains and save their worlds from Dark Autumn. Together, they are the NEW Pretty Cure.
"The shining golden flower, Cure Bloom!"
"The sparkling silver wing, Cure Egret!"
"We are Pretty Cure!"
Pretty Cure has become a monster of a franchise with multiple different seasons and continuities, and that's not even counting the movies. Splash Star is the first of those alternate continuities, and in my opinion the best. I will try to make this review as spoiler free as possible, but still be wary. This is an updated version of the review.
Right from the beginning the first thing that anyone would notice about Splash Star is that it looks similar to it's predecessor. The general plot outline and even the main characters look
similar, Saki and Mai even fill out the same archetypes of their older sisters Nagisa and Honoka respectively. And this is possibly a big flaw of Splash Star's, that it is too similar to the original at first. However it does indeed come into its own and really ends up distinguishing itself from the original, and similar doesn't mean the same, even with just a few episodes it's easy to see that while Saki and Mai have similar physical designs their personalities aren't really that similar to Nagisa and Honoka. And the plot has enough twists and differences from the original to really be its own. Due to spoilers I won't go into what makes it better and the key differences, you'll have to watch the show.
The story is simple but because of that the series is very consistent in episode quality, and while it never tries to be a really intelligent, thought provoking anime it still has serious and important topics and themes to it that are all able to be conveyed nicely because the characters put so much emotion into them. The show is great at being serious when it wants to be, and Pretty Cure show a sense of maturity and realism when faced with their greatest foes and they need to ask themselves why they even fight in the first place, what's their resolve for continuing their struggles and not giving up? There are some really great lines and conversations in this series, most episodes also have sweet and well done subplots to them as well. And add to that there are some really beautiful and touching scenes in the series, I found myself on the verge of tears several times throughout the show.
Splash Star features a lot more thought and effort put into it's writing than the original, this becomes apparent with what the monster of the weeks are created from, the elemental themes of the minions, the powers of Pretty Cure, and just the whole world of Splash Star in general. The theming of the villains and theme-naming of the Cures actually mean something and tie into the world and greater themes of Splash Star. Several of the biggest twists in the story are foreshadowed far in advance, even episode one hints at possibly the biggest twist in the series.
The characters themselves are of course rather simple, Michiru and Kaoru are probably the most complex the series has to offer, but the leads are just so fun and likable and entertaining that it isn't as big a problem as one might suspect. The series is always more about emotion and heart, and it really gets you to care about Saki and Mai by having you be there with them throughout all their ordeals.
The villains however are in all likelihood much more entertaining and funny than our heroes. Special mention goes to Kintoleski who is without a doubt one of the best things about this show.
Of course though not all the villains are hilarious, both Akudaikaan and Gohyaan have moments that would make them genuinely frightening to the younger audience this series is aimed at. And Michiru and Kaoru's character arc and plight is anything but funny.
Of course you cant talk about Pretty Cure without talking about the fights, and it's here where the first big difference between Splash Star and the original takes place, as Cure Bloom and Cure Egret they fight often using forcefields and blasts of energy, it gives a nice edge to the fights coming right after the original.
As for actual quality of the fights while Splash Star has some of the best fights in Pretty Cure, including possibly the downright best, many fights are rather anti-climactic and can loook rather stiff and have choppy animation. This is more prevalent in the earlier arcs. Aside from the few really good fights the fighting in Splash Star seems to emphasize awesome moments over actual good fighting, for example in the second episode when the girls are learning how to control their powers they throw the monster of the week across the city and into the ocean.
The actual animation quality on the whole is surprisingly pretty good for a year-round show made by Toei. The quality is consistent throughout and occasionally looks great, usually during the better and more intense fights.
As for sound the music is good and very fitting, plenty of happy, relaxing, and melancholic themes when they're appropriate. There aren't too many standout singular tracks though. The opening and endings however are great. Happy and energetic, the kind that get you shaking in your seat. They're the perfect songs for a series like this.
The voice acting is excellent, especially on the villains side. For example veteran seiyu Jurota Kosugi voices Kintoleski and it's no surprise that his performance is the best in the whole show.
Still after all the good things about Splash Star it has some rather noticeable flaws, becuase of it's similarity to the original the earlier arcs are rather dull compared to later on and it really does take longer than it should for the series to set itself apart from the original. And despite the series having much tighter writing and a better thought out plot there is one plot hole that can only be filled by your imagination.
But Splash Star is able to still be a super fun and enjoyable show throughout its run, even with the repetitiveness I found every episode fun and entertaining. And it has possibly the most epic and heart-pounding finale of all Pretty Cure seasons, with the villain throwing Earth-shattering attacks and Pretty Cure never backing down, it's on a level far above anything else in the series. And what happens after is one of the most beautiful and touching epilogues in the franchise.
It's a kids show, Pretty Cure always will be a kids show, but it's also able to have serious and mature moments and topics and pull them off nicely. In the end, Splash Star is great clean fun.
Oddly enough, a decision made by Toei Animation was agreed to give the character designs for the two protagonists in Splash Star appearances reminiscent to that of the two protagonists of the first Precure installment. Whatever the reason was for this, Splash Star should not be dismissed for watching merely due to little similar character designs, as some people do apparently. As the saying goes, one should not judge a book by its cover, as Splash Star contains the best quality of writing of all Precure installments that exist to this date.
Adhering to the firmly rooted staple within the Pretty Cure franchise, girls attired in
pretty frilly dresses must fulfill their rightful duty to go out to fight monsters to save the world. But what truly makes the franchise a delight to watch is not just that; but the coming-of-age storytelling alongside the ways in which they convey morals and themes. Simplistic morals as they are however, their sincere, subtle execution, as well as very entertaining character and cast dynamics allow for all ages to enjoy. Despite similar overarching themes present in every season, the franchise continues to be entertaining season after season, thanks to each installment having its own unique charm and freshness in regards to characters and cast dynamics, as well as brand new story contexts. In particular, Splash Star gives itself an edge amongst the other installments for having more mature themes. More on this later though.
Saki Hyuuga is an athletic, rather happy-going middle-schooler who plays softball as a pastime. In contrast, Mai Mishou tends to have a more reserved personality, is surprisingly well-mannered for her age, and observant through her passion for sketching. Moments after Mai moves into the city where Saki lives in, the powers of Pretty Cure are suddenly bestowed upon them. Their mission: to recover the Seven Fountains and save Earth from the clutches of the evil Dark Fall. While all of this sounds plain, Splash Star thankfully rather much focuses on becoming character-centric instead of heeding attention to the overarching plotline.
Splash Star makes sure to give bountiful attention towards characterizing and developing the characters. Saki and Mai’s repertoire towards each other is best described as a caring one, yet playful at times; they are always willing to help one another when situation calls, and the dynamics between the two often carry a serene atmosphere with bouts of humorous playfulness on the side. As a coming-of-age anime, we see character growth of Saki and Mai as time steadily passes as they hang out, learn and think about ideas that realistically portray what adolescents their age would be capable of thinking of. One time, Saki starts caring and worrying about the whereabouts of her little sister and begins to search, something what one would expect of a girl her age. As well, side characters including families and classmates receive character growth. Splash Star’s storytelling is subtle like a stream of water flowing through a gentle, quiet river; nothing is ever rushed and nothing downright unexpected to the viewer ever occurs. Instead, build-up is carefully constructed; events are woven tightly and naturally, paving paths for very convincing and spectacular character growth and characterization. As a result, the show manages to successfully convey its morals/themes, (this is usually done during a battle), and the show often becomes prone to becoming quite heartwarming. It should be noted that Splash Star has the most consistent quality of writing of all Precure seasons so far.
Splash Star gives off a tighter sense of community than of the other installments due to the excellent attention given to the side characters; families and classmates feel as if they’re an actual part of the Cures’ lives. They see and interact with one another on a rather daily basis, naturally blending in with each other’s lives. For instance, Saki is often seen helping out her parents at their bakery. As well, classmates gradually get to know each other better as the show progresses. As a result, Splash Star strings together a tight sense of community that gives off a presence of realism. In particular, Kenta is a notable character for his comic relief, as his bad puns often receive a cold reaction.
This season is particularly notable for its more mature themes, more so than the other installments. The simple things in life that we take for granted as well as beauties of nature and natural beauty are emphasized in a very subtle, gentle manner for effective narration, the culmination adding to some of the show’s most wonderful characterization and character growth, especially within the Kaoru and Michiru arc, (which also might I add, contains a particularly excellent theme nearing the very end of the arc). For instance, things like a simple smile and the flowing of the wind are emphasized. Now Saki and Mai are very much naturally endowed with an interest in visionary for such simplicities in life. One example that displays this is when Mai draws a picture depicting an old lady’s smile which shows her appreciation for natural beauty. Themes and motifs pertaining to natural beauty, the simple things in life, and beauties of nature are prominent within the show, and ultimately carry significance from the very beginning of the show up towards the finale.
The villains certainly deserve to be mentioned as they are arguably the most interesting villains within the franchise. In particular, Kintoleski is a body-builder colored in gold who isn’t defined by one-dimensional characteristics unlike a lot of other Precure villains in the franchise. He maintains a strong resolve to fight the Cures in a fair battle, never resorting to unfair tactics or advantages. Kintoleski hands out some of the show’s best comic relief; his habitual love for working out is comically exaggerated. The other villains also have their own quirks that stand out: Moerumba combines his affection for dancing and his Spanish dialogues for amusement, Shitataare has a back-and-forth playful demeanor with Goyaan serving as comic relief, and DoroDoron’s cluelessness can sometimes be amusing in his own right. Their characteristics and quirks add flavor to their otherwise one-dimensional traits. Karehaan, the first villain who appears in the show has unfortunately bland characteristics and no redeeming traits. Yet, Saki’s forgetful habit of being unable to remember her enemies’ names often results in her calling out the wrong names, Karehaan included. So in a way, humor is still exercised despite Karehaan being a bland character. Fortunately, he’s the only bland villain in the anime.
Animation is a pretty work to look at overall; character designs are charming, good detail is given to facial expressions and body movement, and background objects look very appealing and even beautiful. While the animation during the battle scenes for the first half of the show can sometimes appear to be a little choppy, the second half strikingly increases its animation quality for the fight scenes owing to much more fluid animation and improved choreography. Also in regards to the second half, the battles steadily become more intense and start to span longer times as the show continues to progress. The increase in dramatic caliber is very much welcomed thanks to convincing character development. Therefore nothing ever feels over the top or melodramatic.
Splash Star’s sound department is one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Soft and delicate music beautifully captures some of the more heartfelt moments in the show. And the orchestra triumphantly plays uplifting music, supporting backstage for the Cures’ encouraging moments in certain battles. Splash Star’s soundtracks give Yes! Precure 5’s soundtracks a run for their money. Sato Naoki who composed both Splash Star and the two Yes! 5 seasons’ music should be commended.
With all that said, amongst all the Pretty Cure installments, Splash Star walks out as the top contestant for having the best quality of writing as well as the most consistent writing quality. With fantastic character growth tied especially to some of the more mature themes, an amusing ensemble of cast dynamics, a sense of tight community, and beautifully orchestrated music on top, Splash Star makes for a fascinating package that both fans of Precure and fans of the magical girl genre would not want to miss.
Now I’d read lots of praise about this Precure series, but for me it really didn't live up to it.
tl;dr: Episodes without Kaoru and Michiru = average. Episodes with Kaoru and Michiru = good.
I found the story was too slow paced with little happening and not interesting enough. Apart from Kaoru and Michiru of course, their part of the story was the best. Unfortunately it doesn't focus on them all of the time. Precure stories aren't the fastest pasted in anime, but this series seemed especially slow and dull compared to others. The main story itself is generic - a big bad guy with various
minions trying to destroy the universe/worlds. There's only one plot twist right at the end. I feel other Precure series handled this better, especially Fresh.
I also felt like there was too much filler which wasn't the most entertaining. I think how there are only two main girls lets the filler down as there is only so much you can do with 49 episodes of the same two characters all the time. The filler wasn't up to the standard of other series.
The animation was pretty bad. Lots of derpy faces and poor drawings, but what can you expect.
The designs themselves are awful. Again, apart from Michiru and Kaoru. I really liked Michiru's as she reminds me of Will from W.I.T.C.H.
Saki and Mai character wise are a bit different from Nagisa and Honoka, but that doesn't stop them from looking like poorly done rip off fan designs. The first outfits you can put up with, Saki's second outfit however is terrible! The colour is greeny-yellow! Who thought that looked good!?
Another thing I disliked was that Saki and Mai just got beat up most of the time instead of getting stronger until the last few episodes. In other series the Cures actually get evidently stronger and beat enimies faster as time goes on. Saki and Mai just get punched down until the last moment of a fight when they fire their main big finishing attack. The fight scenes lacked compared to other series, but they seemed to be stronger cures in terms of their magical powers, they just didn’t use their fists enough.
The writing is very good. No main character gets more unnecessary screen time than another.
The characters themselves are good. I liked all of the fairies, Saki and Mai are likable (far from my favourite Cures though). The first villan is kind of dull and I hated Moerumba he was so annoying. I liked the rest of the villains. Ms. Shitataare is the best, she was really entertaining and added in good comedy. The series itself did make me laugh quite a few times.
Kaoru and Michiru however are by far the best characters, their development is wonderful and they are really interesting. I like them a lot more than Saki and Mai.
I know this review seems pretty negative, but this isn't a bad show itself. I just found the other Precure series I have watched to be better. (and no I haven't seen Doki Doki!)
My first Pretty Cure series was Heartcatch Precure. I did see the first episode of the first series, Futari wa Pretty Cure way long ago, but I never went beyond it, partly because of other things, and partly because one mascot's voice was so grating and annoying I just couldn't stand it. But after I finished Heartcatch Precure thanks to a fellow blogger's praising it up the wazoo, I later watched the first 5 episodes of Smile, but I had to put it on hold due to other real life obligations. Then I found Splash Star on TVTropes and apparently people used to outright hate
it back when it aired but now its held with higher regard. Out of curiosity and boredom after watching too much Pokemon and Sword Art Online, I decided to check it out. As of now, it is the second Pretty Cure series I have ever watched all the way through, and my second favorite, for very good reasons. This is a very good series, and it really needs to be seen by American little girls.
Like the first series, it starts off with two girls who are very different from each other: the cheerful and sporty Saki Hyuuga, and the soft-spoken and artistic Mai Mishou. They actually met once when they were younger, but they separated since then, only reuniting once they enter middle school. But their reunion is quite a strange one: two fairies appear from a big tree in the neighborhood, Flappi and Choppi, claiming to be from a place called The Land of Fountains, which had been taken over by the evil organization called Dark Fall. The fairies give Saki and Mai giant cell phones which transform them into the warriors named Pretty Cure, Saki as Cure Bloom, and Mai as Cure Egret (for those wondering, the word egret is a medieval term used to describe white birds, usually herons, with long, graceful plumes during breeding season. Mai's powers are based on the wind and the sky, so it makes sense). Together, they have to defeat Dark Fall and restore the Land of Fountains back to its original state. But they also have to protect their own world, as Dark Fall won't spare it either, especially since they're also trying to find the elusive Fountain of the Sun, the only fountain they haven't destroyed or claimed yet.
The animation...isn't really much to write home about. There is a lot of movement during the fight scenes, which is good considering the hard hitting attacks Pretty Cure is known for requires a lot of movement, but at times the characters look a bit off model, especially during later episodes. But they're minor, so they don't hurt the show entirely. One reason for this may be that Splash Star made a lot less money on its debut than the original series, probably because people were turned off by the character designs and premise looking way too similar to the original Pretty Cure series before it. No one really knows why Toei made Saki and Mai look so similar to Nagisa and Honoka of the original series, and the most common theory is that they were afraid of potential backlash from the audience that liked Nagisa and Honoka, fearing cries of "Replacement Scrappy!" But whatever the reason, that's still no reason to put off this show or dismiss it as a rip-off of the original series. Again, I haven't seen the first series and its sequel, Max Heart, so I can't properly judge it.
The music, while admittedly not as good or dynamic as later seasons, still manages to be really solid. The music manages to capture the mood, atmosphere, and intents of all of its scenes really well, and nothing feels out of place, unlike some anime (Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, anyone?). I particularly liked the music that played when the Pretty Cures, in their new forms, unleash their final attacks on the monsters of the week, and I consider those pieces to be the high point of the entire OST. Also, the opening is extremely dynamic and catchy. It'll never leave your brain! I certainly liked it, and I don't see why American audiences wouldn't like it either.
The Pretty Cure series is very reliant on character development. Some series do it well, and some...don't. Splash Star does it well. While Saki and Mai may look like rip-offs of Nagisa and Honoka, they're actually very different characters. Saki is cheerful, energetic, and friendly, but can be a little reckless and stubborn at times, Mai is sweet, soft spoken, slightly indecisive, and a little shy, but is very insightful. I personally liked seeing them interact and get along and influence each other throughout the series. Most anime tend to just give a character one trait and that's it. You don't see that in Splash Star. The main characters actually have hobbies and interests. Saki likes sports, but she also likes working in her parents' bakery, and she even tries her hand at drawing, even though she isn't very good. Mai likes drawing, but is also interested in astronomy. They have interesting lives! The other characters, like their family members and classmates, also have a strong presence, and don't just show up for one episode and then be gone forever. They all influence the main characters' growth in some way. I will admit though, I didn't like Michiru and Kaoru much. I always thought they were creepy until the very end of the series.
Unfortunately, however, while the main characters are very well developed, I'm sad to say this isn't the case for the villains. While I appreciate them being intimidating and having some personality, in the end they're still typical, cliche, generic, power hungry villains who want to destroy the world for dumb reasons. Plus I felt there were a bit too many of them. I would have liked to see them be fleshed out some more. Yes, I know, it's a kids show, but that's still no excuse to not develop your villains. Sometimes kids like interesting villains who don't want to destroy the world. But one thing that really makes me respect this series is how realistically it handles its character conflicts. In one episode, Kenta spills a drink on Mai's brother's book, and Saki is extremely angry at him. But both of them know it's an accident, actually apologize to each other right after, and try to find a way to fix it. There's no overblown misunderstanding, no melodrama, no shouting "this has nothing to do with you!", etc. God, I've waited so long for a series to actually make characters understand each other's intentions, actually talk to each other, and be proactive in trying to solve them in the most down to earth way possible! I'm so sick and tired of anime making characters act really stupid and refusing to talk to each other for the sake of drama and padding things out for a really long time just for the sake of spicing things up when all it does is drag it down! Thank you, Splash Star!
Splash Star may not be the best series in the franchise (for me, that honor goes to Heartcatch), but it definitely has a special place in my heart. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch Suite, because I'm enjoying it immensely! And seriously, why can't shows like this be faithfully dubbed in English for American TV? Little girls would love this kind of stuff!