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!)
Let's take another look at Toei's PreCure franchise. So far, I've looked at Futari wa, Max Heart & Doki Doki. This time around, let's talk about Splash Star. The third instalment of the franchise that ran from '06 to '07. How well does it hold up compared to the other instalments we've looked at? Let's take a look.
Young Mai is moving back to a city she used to live in. While exploring, she encounters a familiar looking girl, Saki, underneath the sky tree. The two encounter a pair of faeries, Flappy & Choppy, who remind them that they briefly encountered each other beneath that
same tree five years ago. A brief instant that was so formative for the pair that it apparently caused their fates to intertwine because PreCure has never been subtle with its massive amounts of subtext. The two are confronted by a leafy looking menace who demands that the faeries disclose the location of the fountain of the Sun. Saki and Mai go to their defence, transforming into Cure Bloom and Cure Egret. Together, they set off on a mission to revive the holy fountains.
Honestly, there aren't any major problems with the series. About the worst you can say about it is that it's very much a magical girl series with all the optimism, enemies of the week, transformation sequences and such that are prevalent in the genre. And there's nothing inherently wrong with a work in a genre being very much grounded in that genre. Especially when it's something like this with a young target audience.
Splash Star has a lot of aspects that are kind of similar to Futari wa but that are also distinct. Both series feature an athletic girl and one who is into more intellectual pursuits. The characters even look a bit similar. But they're involved in different things and have different issues related to those interests. Both series have a generic male love interest who's barely acknowledged because every time he shows up for a moment with the girl who has a crush on him it's used to transition into a bigger moment for her with the other PreCure but Splash Star makes use of that a lot less and has different kinds of moments betwixt the girls as a result. In both of them, the athletic girl has a younger sibling. But the relationship dynamic that Nagisa had with her brother was a lot different from the one Saki has with her sister.
I do like the pacing in Splash Star. It does a really good job of introducing a variety of major villains, giving them some time to be menaces and then bringing the next one in before you can get tired of the current one. Splash Star also features a superb redemption story with some surprisingly tragic moments within it. Darn it, PreCure writers, stop making me feel things. I'm supposed to be a cynical git. A cynical git who hates everything. Or so I've been told. There are some strong moments of tension in the series as well. They really make you curious about how Saki & Mai are going to resolve things. Although you know they will because it's PreCure. The climax is really well done too. The series is just generally fun, cute and endearing.
There are some strong characters in Splash Star. Saki and Mai are great. Their families are a lot of fun. Michiru and Kaoru are great. The supporting cast has a lot of fun, colourful characters within it. In terms of antagonists, most of them are pretty standard. The big exception is Alex Louis Kintoleski. There is something utterly delightful about him and his techniques that have been passed down the Kintoleski line for generations. Shitataare and DoroDoron are kind of fun at times. The worst character, by far, is Moerumaba. He comes across as a strange blend of gay and Latin stereotypes. The faeries aren't particularly compelling, but they're decent enough.
There's a lot of praiseworthy aspects to the artwork. The backgrounds are nicely detailed with some very nicely done scenery. The action sequences can be absolutely amazing. I do love the way this franchise incorporates really physical brawling into its action sequences along with the special magic attacks and Splash Star is no exception to that. It does suffer from the same issue with the stock footage attacks that Futari wa did. Namely, that there are very few and they start to get dull after a while. This was before they'd learned to vary them a bit more, clearly. There are some really interesting villain designs. I can't stand Moerumba's and Alex Louis Kintoleski may be the best villain, but his design is kind of boring. He's just a golden muscle man. Those two aside, great villain designs. I do like the PreCure designs too. I like that Saki & Mai have multiple Cure forms and I like their outfits. The monster designs continue to be very creative and interesting. Which is another thing the franchise has been consistently good at.
The best performances come from Kimoto Orie, Enomoto Atsuko, Fuchizaki Yuriko & Imai Yuka. There are plenty of other good performances as well. Sato Naoki is back for the soundtrack work and he does a really nice job.
Saki and Mai may be marginally more homo-erotic than Nagisa and Honoka were. They're heavily inspired by one another. They gain strength when their hearts come together as one. They talk about their fated meeting. They have a date where they actually feed one another home made bento. They talk about how energised they feel when they hold hands. I can only imagine how much that's going to increase when they get older and start snogging. In any case, their dynamic is adorable.
So, that's Futari wa PreCure Splash Star. If you're a fan of the whole magical girl aesthetic, it's for you. You will almost certainly garner enjoyment from watching it. If you aren't a fan of the genre, it's not going to change your mind. For myself, I pretty thoroughly enjoyed it. Loved the characters. I give it a solid 8/10. Next week I'll look at Wolf Guy.