2nd year middle school student Tsubomi Hanasaki has just moved with her family to the town of Kibougahana to live with her grandma. She is shy and introverted, but is determined to start off her new school life at Myoudou Academy as confidently as possible.
Lately she has been having the same mysterious dream again and again, of Cure Moonlight's defeat at the Great Heart Tree. She wonders what it all means. Then suddenly, two fairies from the dream appear to her, and before she knows it, she is transformed into the legendary Pretty Cure, Cure Blossom!
Later joined by her high energy classmate and new friend Erika Kurumi as Cure Marine, the two girls vow work hard to protect everyone's Heart Flowers from the evil gang, The Desert Messengers.
Heartcatch has one massive point in its favour over every single other Precure: It can do drama. It’s not stupid. I can’t stress enough how important this is. In Heartcatch, the evil monsters that fight the Precure are created using the wavering hearts of humans. What that means is every episode has someone worried about something happening in their life, and the episode tends to revolve around how they get over that problem. Usually the issue is just that they don’t have enough confidence in themselves. A girl is afraid of talking to the Student Council President she admires so much because she gets all
nervous when she’s around her. A boy is afraid his mum won’t approve of his ambition to become a manga author. Very simple little stories, but each one is handled with care and enough heart, without the solution ever being something pathetic and pulled out of nowhere. Sure, the solution is generally “you’re not weak at all!”, but the solution to each problem is generally the person just needs more confidence in themselves. At its centre, that is what Heartcatch is about. Have confidence in your own mental strength and you can achieve anything.
Another point in Heartcatch’s favour is the animation style. It’s done by the same team who did Casshern Sins, which is a bit of an odd mix. Casshern Sins is a great show, but it’s hella depressing post-apocalyptic material, and to have them do a Precure seems like a match made in “didn’t think this through properly” land. But it works, certainly in the animation style department. Heartcatch is stylish. The designs seem to be made with movement in mind, rather than other Precures where the characters don’t move freely at all and every fight scene is simply them panning across the screen (*cough* Fresh Precure *cough*). The animators are rather happy to let their characters go deformed for the sake of more fluid animation, but the artstyle suits the free-flowing designs quite well. Heartcatch’s fight scenes are far and away the best out of the Precure franchise, albeit that’s not particularly high praise. In comparison to other action anime, it doesn’t compare to Bones or Gainax level material, but it sure is pretty to look at.
The transformation sequences are…well, actually they’re not all that bitching at all. At least, the main two aren’t. They decided a cell phone was too unoriginal for this version of Precure, so instead decided to use perfume as a Precure transformation aid. Full points for originality I guess, but this does mean what you get is a spray-on Precure costume, which is rather underwhelming. It’s only until the third Precure shows up that we get a proper bitchin’ transformation sequence
Not that Heartcatch solved all the problems of the previous Precures. The magical pets are still as annoying as fuck. The BUY OUR TOYS still isn’t that well integrated into the plot. No really Precure, I’m cool with your amazing gospel 2nd ending song having awesome CGI dancing in it, but it’s jarring when every instance of BUY OUR TOYS is accompanied with the product in question being in CGI itself. It makes it stand out all the more jarringly, especially when they have to go through gimicky actions that the toys can also do. Like, come on. What sort of magical girl has to wind up their wand before they can use it? But the fact that it had a brain and wasn’t painfully stupid with its episodic plotlines far outweigh the problems I had with BUY OUR TOYS and annoying magical pets.
Precure is a cartoon aimed at little girls. Kids like repetition, or so I’ve been told. I did too, when I was, like, 4. Heartcatch’s non-plot related episodes follow such a strict formula that they start to get boring after a while. It’s the same problem I had with Hell Girl, and even that tried to mix things up a little more than Heartcatch ever tried to. Every episode follows the exact same damn pattern, to the point that they start to blend together. This is Not Good for an episodic show. Each episode should have something that makes it stand out from the rest. That was the one where they all talked backwards for the episode. That was the one where the colours all inverted. I dunno, I’m not a scriptwriter, but there’s nothing remarkable about most of the episodes. They don’t try to make them stand out, except on very rare occasions. Even the ones where plot-related stuff happen, the show still goes through the exact same motions. It doesn’t matter how great your formula is, it will be less interesting with every repeat of the formula if you don’t mix it up a bit.
Then there was the plot. Yeah. The plot. For gods sake, why do even the apparently good Precure villains fall foul of the pathetically dumb Precure villain syndrome? Dark Precure is Cool. She has a single black wing and is amazingly overpowered compared to our heroes. Then why does she not attack them? There is a scene where she is about to deliver the finishing blow, but then retreats because Mysterious Voice From The Sky calls her away. There was no reason for her to be called away either, she just went anyway. And it’s not like the villains don’t realise what a threat the Precures are to them. I don’t necessarily mind that the underlings are stupid, spending their time admiring themselves in the mirror. They’re meant to be stupid, and the show embraces that. But why are Sabaku and Dark Precure not attacking the Precures when they realise what a threat they are? What the fuck do they spend their time doing in the dark castle? She had no problem defeating Cure Moonlight back in the day, why not these two Precures before they get stronger? Oh wait yeah, I know. Precure Villain Syndrome. Give them a stick and a banana just out of their reach, they’ll proceed to choke on the stick.
But even the plot with the good guys is stupid. Every single revelation to the plot was lame. The revelation who the fancy man who kept saving them was an incredible anti-climax. The reveal of who the third Precure would be was a let down. Every time a plot related incident would occur in the episode, it would never result in something I particularly cared about. The plot related episodes were never particularly good, apart from maybe introducing a new bitchin’ transformation sequence or new move. The best episode of the series was the Mother’s Day one by an absolute mile, and that had nothing to do with the plot. It was just a well-directed episode that told a powerful message. But non-plot related episodes, as I explained earlier, got repetitive and dull. I found myself watching the next episode previews to see if anything potentially different would happen. But this too was a misnomer, as new events never succeeded in improving the quality of the episodes. Next episode has a new Precure, hopefully that will improve the quality, right? Nope, still the same old stuff it has been pumping out since episode 1, except now there’s an extra part to the transformation sequence.
I reached the episode where we got the fourth Precure. But her becoming a Precure was telegraphed to us for the past several episodes, so there was no joy in seeing it be realised. How she came about gaining the power to become a Precure was done via several randomly introduced plot elements over the past few episodes, such as a magical flying castle and the fact the Heart Tree can apparently travel across time and space, and that magical pets come from heart seeds, and all sorts of totally randomly introduced plot points for the sake of advancing the plot. But it’s not like the show ever changed. The villains were still being stupid. The Precures were still going through the same routine. The end of the episode showed the fourth Precure doing her bitchin’ transformation sequence and getting ready to fight Dark Precure. I thought to myself “well that was boring, but I gotta see the next episode because she fights Dark Precure in it”
…and stopped myself. I had fallen into that trap. I’m not watching the anime to see what’s happening. I’m watching the anime to see what’s going to happen. Nothing that’s ever happening in the present ever entertains me. Only the promise of changes in the future keep me going. Even if there is something worth watching, it comes out of non-foreseeable, non-plot related events like the Mothers Day episode. And there was where I dropped it. Episode 33. At the very point of the grand reveal, I gave up.
So I go and I discover this little girls' anime, having never watched a series of Precure in my life, and I come out, after about 3 months of watching the series front to back, and I've truly become a man.
What this anime is, is about 40 episodes of filler. Filler seems to be the no-no word for an anime to be a very good anime, see anime like Naruto for instance. However, as some hallmarks of anime like Cowboy Bebop prove, filler doesn't have to make an anime bad, and can make the series even greater. This is the case with Heartcatch as
well. While the series uses a pretty distinct formula: the main group of girls have a minor conflict, and we're introduced to a character of the week that is having a similar conflict, that drives them to despair. One of the generals catch them in sorrow and steal their sou- ...um heart flower and turn them into a Deserterian, the girls transform and fight the monster, the general mocks the character of the week for their stress , one of the girls, usually Tsubomi argues for the good nature of the character of the week, the purify the COTW and the COTW's conflict is resolved, we learn about some "Flower Language 101" (which isn't just made up by the creators, Google it) and its case closed. Even though the formula is, for the most part, rigid, it rarely gets tedious and they even throw some new tricks into the bag such as the general piloting the Desertarian like its a mecha. Even though they're only one episode long, two tops, they stand on their own nicely.
But its not just episodic narratives all the way through, about 10-15 episodes is dedicated to advancing the story, whether it be introducing new cures, or the excellent last 6 episodes, which pretty much sealed the perfect 10 that I gave the story. The ending probably ranks along with Code Geass and Madoka Magica among the best endings in my book.
They do cut a lot of corners sometimes with the animation, using a bunch of CG for stuff like the activation items, and occasionally sloppy animation. Also the reuse of animation for things like transformations and finishing moves may turn some people down. However, at several points they show how good the animation team is, especially during the final 6 episodes.
The designs are a whole different ballgame, they are very versatile and can work in many situations. Not to mention they are heart-attack-inducing adorable! Also, the Gold Forte Burst animation is jaw-dropping to say the least.
The soundtrack is very excellent. The series got dark and it got tragic sometimes. The art and the soundtrack really are the two things that made these moments so great. One thing I have yet to mention is how the series uses parallelism to great effect in this series. At one point the song "Heart Goes On", initially used during the fashion show that was built up to for several episodes, is used during the climax of the series. The soundtrack helped the series make me cheer, laugh, and nearly cry.
I'll not spend a century focusing on ALL the characters, but they all are solidly built. Tsubomi develops throughout the series from a coward to a bright and loving hero. Yuri Tsukigage is a minor character for nearly half the series, but nearly steals the spotlight from Tsubomi near the end, not to spoil a whole lot. The rest of the cures are excellently built and a great ensemble. The characters of the week are of special mention as nearly all of them get a detailed backstory, except for the last one, who just gets his sou-...heart flower snatched right after he remarks how he doesn't have a girlfriend, and he is never seen again. They serve as a Chekhov's Gun near the end as they help the cures not lose hope when the bad guy is nearly about to win.
Speaking of bad guys, I guess I have to mention them.
The generals are excellent characters, you sympathize with them, but ultimately root for the cures to triumph. They are quirky but not to be trifled with. Excellent.
Sabbaku is defininely worth mentioning as a great character. His best traits are best left undiscussed due to MAJOR spoilers. But near the end reminds you of a certain other masked villain that you'll probably recognize unless you live under a rock.
Dark Cure while kinda vague, definitely acts as a solid adversary, espescially for the final cure.
The big boss, Dune, is a fabulous villain in more ways than one. He nearly accomplishes his goal, which makes him probably the most capable villain I know of, and takes all the strength the cures can muster to defeat. GG Dune.
I was hesitant to give this anime a perfect 10, but this anime is one of the best series I have watched. And to think its a kids' show.
Heartcatch Precure is absolutely gorgeous to look at and Yoshihiko Umakoshi’s character designs are absolutely stunning, the fight scenes in this series are well-choreographed. If you’re looking for a series that is rich in pretty sakuga then Heartcatch is definitely that, oh!, and if you like this then Katanagatari would definitely be up your alley!
• To me, Heartcatch is far more of a story-driven plot than character. I didn’t feel much of an affinity for any of the characters. I felt like a had a girlfriend, who looked very pretty, but I didn’t like hanging out with her for too long. Yeah, that’s an apt
• As the Precure series have evolved, Japan seems increasingly aware that their target is no longer children, but mostly otaku… because, well, the Japanese aren’t reproducing. So, over the years, the lesbian innuendoes in Precure are heavy and the girls are more moe than ever.
• I liked how the plot wrapped around, and the landscapes as well as the characters and choreography were stunning. The twist at the end was fairly obvious to someone who is not a child, but it was a fun adventure.
• Some parts of the series felt like tiresome filler to me, which made Go! Princess Precure a slightly better series overall. Minor character growth happens but not in spades, growth especially with Tsubomi breaking out of her timid, meek, nerd shell (ironic, since the name Tsubomi literally means blossom), but some characters really didn’t change much, like Erica and Itsuki.
• The change in Yuri’s cool and collected act seemed pretty subtle as well. I think the series was a rather enjoyable experience on the eyes. If you’re looking for an intellectual, deep plot then no, you wouldn’t like this series, but if you just want basic fun and pretty girls then… yeah, totally! It’s like a field of flowers… that happens to be full of floral symbology!
• Overall, I initially was going to rate Heartcatch Precure a 7/10, because the filler segments seemed uninspired and empty at times, but the way that the ending tied the loose ends together deserved a 8/10 in my eyes!
How many times have you heard the saying that ‘The flower who blooms slowly is the best of them all’? Yeah, you are probably thinking that you might have heard it in some other ways, but, anyways, as old and boring as that saying sounds, Heartcatch is proof of that. And it takes it to another new level.
Flowers, like everything else, have a reason for being given, gifted. Heartcatch is here to explain that, and the main character’s heart seeds beautifully bloom. One thing that I will always like about Heartcatch is its creativity and experimenting with different flowers. At each episode’s end, they will
say what somebody’s heart seed says about their personality. Now that’s something to watch, with that many different things. But nevertheless, the characters and their own development are a spectrum of flowers of their own. And each has their thorn.
Story: 8 out of 10
The story is like every other Pretty Cure series’. But with a twist. Each person possesses a heart seed inside their heart. They are all connected to the Heart Tree, which watches over them. But, of course, The Desert Apostles are here to destroy that tree and to desert the entire world. Cure Moonlight, a powerful pretty cure, ends up defeated, and two tree fairies/mascots, deliver the Heart Perfume, the Transformation Item, to a girl, Tsubomi Hanasaki, who is supposed to be the new Cure and defeat the enemy.
The story is cheesy, but what the creators do with it, takes the Pretty Cure franchise to a whole new level. The pacing is pretty good, not forcing things and giving each character room to develop and understand/agonize over things the right amount of time. It has some filler since it’s Pretty Cure, but each are enjoyable and not something to be bored of. Although, Heartcatch has a more focused storyline than different seasons, so there is not that much filler in it. The comedy is also good, without moments just being randomly thrown in.
Art: 8 out of 10
The art is amazing. Extremely luscious, pastel colors are used. The characters are drawn differently from the other series, but that just makes it interesting. Their moods are portrayed very well in their face expressions and movements. They also have hair colors, clothes, according to the side they are on. If they are good, they have bright colors. If they are evil, they have dark colors. The art depends on the atmosphere, if it’s a happy scene it’s pretty vivid and bright, if it’s a dark scene it’s pretty dark. It’s very creative and it was a pretty good direction for this season.
Buildings, sceneries, towns are drawn very well and you can point out the details. As I said and will probably keep on saying, it’s very creative. Some things are pretty quirky and fun and they give you a pretty good feeling. It’s extremely vivid also.
The special effects and CG are also good. They seem much vivid than in other seasons and they just blend in with the show and its creativity naturally.
Sound: 7 out of 10
The sound is good, but that’s it. The opening theme is pretty catchy and so is the first ending theme. Characters dancing, ‘bringing it to life’ in the ending themes help out. The second ending theme is more slow and has a softer tune. It is enjoyable, regardless. The OST is cool too, with happy themes and not so happy themes. Still, as I said, it’s not the most memorable thing, but enjoyable.
Voice acting is perfect. Nana Mizuki does a great job in voicing Tsubomi and making her introverted yet quirky personality come to life. Fumie Mizusawa also does a great job in showing Erika’s lively character. Overall, the voice acting is pretty good.
Character: 8 out of 10
What Heartcatch does with it’s characters it’s amazing. Honestly, that’s it.
Tsubomi, unlike many other mahou shoujo heroines, who are clumsy, ditzy, cheerful and extroverted is weak-willed, shy, studious and introverted. That’s one of the many things that sets this show apart from Pretty Cure and probably some other magical girl shows. Tsubomi does not actually want to be a Pretty Cure. Remember the Fresh season? Love accepted her powers so fast and without any questions, but Tsubomi is the complete opposite of that. You will only hear her screaming for help and complaining in the first episodes. And she’s right . It’s not easy putting your life out on the line and getting introduced to such unreal things. What the show does with her is amazing. She says she wants to change and she does. It’s not a one episode change where it all happens and she becomes confident and stuff. It happens slowly. In the end, she not the same she was at the beginning, but she’s not also fully changed either. That is something that I find very true, that people can’t really change completely and that it takes time.
Contrasting Tsubomi and her shyness is Erika, who ironically is supposed to be the ‘blue’, water-themed character, but she is the total opposite of that. Erika is lively, confident, talkative and fun. She may come off as nosy at first but she is a great friend to Tsubomi and her other friends. And she does not change. A bit. But that’s what I love about her.
Other characters include Itsuki, the yellow cure, who is a very courageous and quirky character. Her development with some things going on with her is pretty good and in the end, you see that she has changed a lot since the beginning. Yuri, Cure Moonlight is a fallen cure, who slowly regains her pride and comes to terms with what she’s done. She seems like a strict individual, but has a good heart. Her development is nice too.
The villains are fine. There’s Sasorina who is a selfish and proud woman, who always wants to be the best. Kumojacky, a hot-blooded man who lives for fighting, but is respectable and wants a good opponent to fight. There’s also Cobraja, a narcissistic blue-haired man who has a great love for beauty. There’s also Dark Pretty Cure, who as the name implies is a Dark Pretty Cure, badass and surrounded by mystery. Things will get intense if she appears.
Overall, Heartcatch is a good magical girl series. If you want to watch a fun magic girls show, then Heartcatch is for you. It’s okay if you don’t even want to watch the whole Pretty Cure franchise, just watch Heartcatch. It’s on a whole new level. But you can always drop it, you know. Anyways, Heartcatch is the most critical acclaimed Pretty Cure season for a pretty good reason.
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