Futari wa Precure protagonists Nagisa Misumi and Honoka Yukishiro are about as different as two people can get. Nagisa is the captain of the lacrosse team, a lover of food, and a hater of homework. Honoka loves to learn, working with the science club and earning the nickname "The Queen of Knowledge" from her fellow classmates. Their lives are unconnected until one day, when a mysterious star shower unites them.
Nagisa and Honoka meet Mipple and Mepple, two residents of the Garden of Light. Their homeland has been conquered by the evil forces of the Dark Zone who now have their sights set on the Garden of Rainbows: Earth. With powers from the Garden of Light, Nagisa becomes Cure Black and Honoka becomes Cure White. Together, they are Pretty Cure! Now Pretty Cure must locate the Prism Stones, the only power strong enough to defeat the Dark Zone and repair the damage done to the Garden of Light. Will these magical girls be able to protect their home from the evil that threatens it? Or will they be sucked into the darkness?
We've reached the end of magical girl month, so let's dive back into the Precure franchise. It wasn't that long ago that I looked at Doki Doki Precure, one of the more recent installments in the franchise. This time let's go far, far back to 2004 when Toei animation first started the franchise with Futari wa Precure. Was the series as good back then or is this one of those franchises that got a rough start? Let's take a look and find out.
Young Misumi Nagisa is in her room when she notices falling stars. One of them crashes into her room, hits her in the
head and turns out to be a strange creature that had turned into a cell phone like device. He calls himself Mepple and asks Nagisa to take him to Mipple. She goes out, following his directions only to run into a classmate she barely knows, Yukishiro Honoka. The two are attacked by a strange villain called Jean Luc Pisard, who looks like he belongs in a Kabuki theatre. To fight him, they hold hands, go through rainbows and transform into Precure. After fending him off they find out that Mepple and Mipple are denizens of the Garden of Light, which was invaded by the Dark King. In order to save it they have to defeat his minions and get the seven Prism Stones, two of which they already have.
Let's open, as usual, with the narrative problems. The first is that the story arc is kind of bizarre. It's like the writers thought that the series was only getting twenty six episodes only to find out that it was going to be nearly twice as long when they'd already set everything up for the finale and they had to backtrack to rekindle the conflict. I'm glad that the series has the extra twenty three episodes because a lot of them are really good, but they still involve a lot of re-treading, at least in terms of the conflict. Another issue is that the characters who are supposed to be aiding them are frequently pretty useless. Take Wisdom as an example. He's so useless that the one time he actually does anything he has to be told to act by Pollun of all people. Bloody Pollun.
Now, I'm going to talk about the gratuitous romance separately since I wouldn't call it bad, but I also wouldn't call it a good element since it is pretty pointless. However, it is kind of interesting in its execution. What do I mean by that? Well, it has to be the most passive aggressive inclusion of a gratuitous male love interest ever. It's like the writers were told that they had to include a male love interest but they didn't want to so they gave the guy a boyfriend who would always be by his side and engage in typical romance story tropes with him. Like one running happily to the other and apologising for making him wait. They sometimes bring up Nagisa's crush on him and then use it as an excuse to develop her relationship with Honoka while avoiding doing anything between her and him. It's like they're actively sabotaging it with the combined power of yaoi and yuri. To be fair to the writers, if I was writing something for a studio and they insisted on it having het I'd do pretty much the same thing and it does lead to some funny moments.
There's a lot about the series that's praiseworthy. Futari Wa has a lot of really fun and funny moments, including an episode that focuses on Honoka's dog taking care of a puppy. More magical girl series need episodes about dogs. But it's not all fun. There's some emotional depth to the series. It manages some really good tragic moments. Sure, they're used sparingly, but they're still there and they really work. There are some good tense moments too. The series is also good at building up major plot points and giving them a strong payoff.
Nagisa and Honoka are really strong leads and they have an excellent dynamic. Their families and friends are well fleshed out, with pretty much all of them having verisimilitude. There are also some strong interactions with them and their family and friends that really help flesh out their characters. I even like Fujimura and his boyfriend, and it's rare to find a likeable character who is technically there as a gratuitous love interest.
The villains are the big weakness. They're largely pretty one-note characters without much personality. To be fair, there is a reason for their actions that makes sense, but they still aren't developed or interesting in the least. There is one major exception with a sympathetic villain who gets complexity, but I won't spoil who it is. I also kind of like the two butler Zakenna. They aren't developed but they are pretty hilarious. The Garden of Light denizens are another weakness. Most of them are just bland. The exception being Pollun. If he's not as annoying as Ai was in DokiDoki, he comes really close. He's bratty, obnoxious, frequently throws tantrums where he repeats the same phrase in the most grating manner possible and just causes problems for everyone. Especially the audience.
The art and animation are largely really good. Futari wa has good designs, except for the second set of villains who just look boring. It also has really good physical action sequence and detailed backgrounds. The monsters are nice and creative and I do like the little black stars who start apologising when they lose. They're simple but well done. It does suffer a bit from repetitive stock footage. Especially in terms of special attacks. Nagisa and Honoka have two major attacks they use in the series and the animation used for them setting up even looks pretty similar. The big difference between them is what kind of beam gets fired. They get downright lazy with the Queen of Light too. Her design is pretty cool, but she doesn't really move or change expressions.
Honna Youko and Yukana both deliver strong performances as Nagisa and Honoka. Really, most of the cast does really well in their roles. Sendai Eri and Kiuchi Reiko both do really well too and Ono Kenichi makes for a pretty intimidating villain. The big issue is Ikezawa Haruna. She's not a bad actor, but she does voice a character who constantly whines, yells and is generally just painful to listen to. Honestly though, I don't think anyone could have done better with a character like Pollun since his main purpose as a character is to be an annoyance. The music is stellar and there are several cases where they incorporate lyrical works into episodes to great effect. The choir episode in particular.
I touched on this a bit when talking about the romance, so I'll refrain from repeating too much of that. For ho-yay we've got Fujimura and his boyfriend. There's a bit of les-yay between Shiho and Rina. The main source of les-yay comes from our leads, Honoka and Nagisa. Even ignoring the rainbows and hand holding, though they hold hands about a hundred and thirty three times, there is a lot of homo-eroticism between them. For every awkward scene that goes nowhere with Fujimura, Nagisa gets ten really adorable scenes with Honoka. These two talk about how close they've gotten and share a bed while holding hands. They also play Romeo and Juliet and Nagisa forgets her lines and speaks purely from the heart in an amazing scene. Even with the gratuitous male love interest, the series earns a 6/10 for ho-yay.
Futari wa Precure is a really strong series. It has a nice level of emotional depth, it's fun, hilarious. a lot of the characters are well developed, the action is great and the acting is strong. Still, it does suffer from some story issues, Pollun, bland villains, Pollun, over-used stock footage, Pollun and some laziness. My final rating is an 8/10. I do suggest checking it out if you're a fan of magical girl works or if you like super subtexty les-yay. So, that's it for magical girl month. Next week we'll open February with Natsu no Arashi.
A lot of the older "fighting hero" type shows have something about them that all the modern day ones do not. While I'm unsure what that is, it always seems to be the 90's shows that entertain me no matter what their target demographic is.
Pretty cure is almost exactly what you'd expect a magical girl anime aimed at pre and early teens, to be. Each and every episode is an excuse to kick ass. However unlike some shows of this age, Pretty Cure ties it all in despite being 49 episodes long, making it seem like there are no fillers and every episode, whether it
even just be character development, is there for a reason. They go though their everyday school life while dealing with things an everyday student of that age would deal with. Only, to make it more entertaining, they throw in magic powers and someone to beat up every episode with the final battles spanning over a few episodes.
The art, for today's age cant be held much for trail as what's released today is much sharper and higher quality, not to mention the animation progressions allow more moving objects to be on screen at any one time. However for it own time of the late 90's, this is surprising well done, even for a childrens show. The occasional 3D for some items or major beings, while is clearly noticeable in the show, it still blends in astoundingly well. From there the rest of the animation can be jumpy at, time of large battles and seem like too much is happening too fast. However rarely does the animation noticeable stand out from the background and scenery as it all blends well and makes it all seem it was made together and not animations done over a still canvas. But then comes in irritably noticeable time scenes are reused. Some to the point where you lose count and just make you skip past it back to the actual show.
Music was very off and on. Many times were themes reused every single episode. Although there were a few themes that will actually make you move to the beat they're that catchy. Whether you like rock, jazz, orchestra or something more funk. Precure has it and it does it well.
Character is everywhere. From main to secondary and villains. Everyone has their own personality and for a school setting, they're played amazingly on key, its astounding how relate-able they can be. While there main two heroines are the shows main focus, there are episodes where even the secondary character get a lot of character development and it really works with tying into the main characters story line as it is called upon and mentioned in later episodes.
Enjoyment is... Well quite touch and go, while it has many entertaining parts. It has just as many cringe worthy moments that made you want to skip ahead. They seemed to go quite hand in hand as every second episode one or the other seems to happen. Lastly while each episode, when you take out the into and endings, is about 21 mins you still end up skipping more when you take into account the reused scenes that get really freaking boring to see every single episode.
I'm a big fan of the magical girl genre, so I decided it was about time I watched Pretty Cure, a show which has had 7 seasons so far. I don't know if the other six seasons are any good, but the first one certainly wasn't, which has put me off watching the rest of the show.
Basically, Nagisa and Honoka meet Mipple and Mepple and find out that they're the legendary soldiers, Pretty Cure, destined to protect the Garden of Light from the Dark Zone. And that is pretty much it. The entire series is basically filler, with Nagisa and Honoka fighting one enemy
after another from the Dark Zone in every single episode. There are no major plot twists and the romance between Nagisa and Fujipi-senpai doesn't seem to go anywhere. Possibly the most interesting thing that happened was the introduction of new enemies halfway through the series.
The art was the best aspect of the show for me. There was nothing wrong with it, but at the same time, it wasn't amazing. I did, however, like the character designs and the Pretty Cure costumes. Other than that, nothing really stood out for me.
The sound was not particularly memorable. Like the art, it was acceptable, but uninteresting.
Nagisa and Honoka had the potential to become excellent characters - if they had been given any character development, which they weren't. Nagisa also got on my nerves with her constant wails of, 'Arienai!' As for Mipple and Mepple, I seriously wanted to strangle them. They were the most annoying mascots I've ever seen in a magical girl series. Porun was also incredibly irritating, and I found myself growing a large dislike for pretty much everybody in the series.
As I said before, the whole series was pretty much filler. Whilst I enjoyed the battle scenes in the first few episodes, it soon got stale and boring for me. I never enjoyed it and I ended up forcing myself to watch it, sticking to a strict schedule of 2 episodes on weekdays, 5 at weekends, so I could finish it as soon as possible. Watching it felt like a chore.
Pretty Cure is probably the worst magical girl show I've seen. It was boring and unenjoyable and I wouldn't reccommend it. Of course, it's all a matter of taste - there's many people who have loved this first season and given it 10s. Perhaps the other seasons are better - this one, however, was very disappointing.
I had mixed feelings toward this series even beyond the halfway point before I made up my mind on what I thought of it, and those thoughts never really changed or felt challenged afterwards: that this is a wholly average, yet enjoyable series.
The show developed a good bond between Nagisa and Honoka and fleshed out their respective personalities quite well. This extended to the fairies also, which is more noteworthy in Mepple's and Popo's cases because I didn't like either of them at first. The villains' personalities and motives fluctuated a lot in quality, but overall I thought they were
The plot was a lot more shaky and was the overall low point of this Precure iteration. Although there were definitely highlight episodes in relation to the plot, the big picture always felt very simplistic, and while that in itself isn't a bad thing, the straightforward nature or the villains' goals (regardless of their motives) combined with the repetive feel this iteration had at times made the majority of the plot aspect feel lackluster. I do caveat that the ending was still pretty great and surprisingly bittersweet though.
Regarding themes, this is the first Precure I've encountered that was so theme-light, which unfortunately also contributes to its non-standout nature. There's a vague idea of never giving up and keeping hope that is conveyed, but little more.
And as for the action, the Precure claim to fame, it was serviceable and on occasion well choreographed, but rarely ever well animated. For as much as I've seen Futari wa Precure hailed for the Cures getting their hands dirty with the action, I can't help but think those claims are somewhat exaggerated.
All of that being said, aside from some of the repetitive aspects there's very little I could point to that the series actually did "wrong", and the characters carried it pretty well enjoyment-wise. Futari wa Precure did the bare minimum I'd require from the mahou shoujo genre and as such it will in some ways work as a baseline for me going forward. This show is the line where, if a mahou shoujo isn't at least doing this well, I'm going to start levying criticisms more heavily and will consider dropping the series.
The thing is, if you can handle the repetitive aspects in Futari wa Precure, you can probably handle them in, say, Sailor Moon as well, and Sailor Moon gets much much better than this series does when it gets good, so if given the choice I would rather relegate this series moreso to people who are already mahou shoujo fans or those who really want the historical context. It's just not standout enough to recommend to most people outside those categories.
If you're interested, then go for it. Just be aware of where your expectations ought to be. Even within the Precure franchise there are iterations better at pretty much anything you could want from a mahou shoujo, be it great characterization, a great plot, great thematic development, or just great action. As such I'd ask that others don't base their views of the franchise on this installment, especially if they insist on this one as their first Precure.