Some shows are good. Some shows are bad. Some shows...can't seem to decide what it wants to be, or what it is. I like it when an anime wants to tell a story and knows what its doing, even in its filler episodes, and it's not just shows for adults that do this. Kids shows have done this too. Popolocrois, Fancy Lala, and Jewelpet Twinkle are three examples of great kids shows that know what they want and come out great because of it. Everything in the World Masterpiece Theater does it masterfully. Unfortunately, while I do love Happiness Charge Pretty Cure, I admit it could have been done much better.
The story is about Hime Shirayuki, a princess of the Blue Sky Kingdom. Her kingdom was attacked by the Phantom Empire, and despite becoming a Pretty Cure, she is utterly hopeless at fighting, and has to go to Earth for her own safety, accompanied by her friend Ribbon. Her rival--Cure Fortune--blames her for everything and Hime is at a loss as to what to do. She does, however, find a new friend in a young girl named Megumi Aino, a happy-go-lucky girl who is obsessed with love and making people happy. Megumi actually winds up becoming a Pretty Cure alongside Hime--Cure Lovely. Together, along with two new allies, the girls try to fight the Phantom Empire's minions, the Saiarks, and try to stop them from spreading despair. But there's a lot more to the Phantom Empire than meets the eye, and there are many secrets to be revealed.
The animation...fluctuates a LOT throughout the series. Some episodes, it's good, other episodes...are pretty badly animated, with kooky faces with parts out of place, movement being stilted, the animation style being really cloudy and too cartoony for my tastes (but I got used to it), etc. The budget for the episodes is clearly limited, but when they use it, boy do they use it! Hime's transformation is the most well animated and visually pleasing transformation in the entire series, and that's saying a lot. But other than that, the show's animation is sub-par. The music...I don't know what to say about this one. The opening theme is too bubblegummy for me, the ending themes more so. The actual soundtrack...ugh, to be honest, I can't tell if the show even has its own pieces at all, because since the show has the same composer as Doki Doki Precure before it, the anime reuses pieces from Doki Doki in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE! Now, if the show was a direct sequel to Doki Doki, I wouldn't have a problem if they're the same series taking place in the same universe, but HapiCha is an entity completely separate for Doki Doki, so the fact that they reuse music from Doki Doki makes the production team really come off as lazy and uninspired. I get that there are budget issues involved, and other series used music from other series too, but at least Suite made sure to not use Heartcatch and Fresh pieces in EVERY episode (I haven't seen Fresh or Smile so I can't comment on that).
The characters...are arguably a mixed bag. However, before I get to the bad, I really need to talk about what I feel is THE best part of the entire show: Hime. She is by far the best main character in any anime I've seen. She's well developed, has plenty of flaws and weaknesses, good qualities and strengths, has the best executed character arc in the show, is proactive despite her royal upbringing and occasionally selfish personality, grows as a character throughout the series awesomely, and has more spotlight on her than the pink character. The show seems to be making her out to be the main character, even though it's sort of not the case. And seriously, why can't Hime be the main character, because she's easily the best character in the entire show even though she's made of traits that people would absolutely hate if done wrong, and Hime's character is done so right it's not even funny. I'm glad the writers really pulled out all the stops when it came to Hime. Also, Glasan is awesome.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the other characters. Now don't get me wrong, they're not bad. They're all engagingly flawed...except for Yuuko. I'll get to that in a bit. One thing I like about the series is that the characters all come off as annoying at first, but when you least expect it, the writers realize it and completely redeem them for you. I used to hate Megumi in the beginning, because her constantly harping on about love and happiness got on my nerves, and it seemed to be her only character trait. Thankfully I grew to like her starting from episode 30 onward. I used to hate Iona too, for being a straight up jerk to Hime for plot reasons, but she dropped the act and realized her own faults as well. The other characters all have engaging flaws...except for one: Yuuko. Sorry, guys. I hate to admit it, as I like her too, but there's no denying it: Yuuko is kind of a Mary Sue. She's unfailingly kind and friendly, loves food and rice to insane levels, doesn't make any mistakes, all of her potential flaws are presented as cute character quirks instead of realistic flaws, everything she does is praised by everyone, she's always in the right, nobody questions what she does (save for a few, but even they change their views later on), and she's loved by everyone. Her character writing is one of the show's low points, as a character like Yuuko just isn't very interesting, and her focus episodes were all poorly executed, especially the cheesy episode 31, with the fact that the entire episode implied she had a love interest that turned out to be something else entirely. Both her character and that episode could have been handled so much better. But I do appreciate that she contributes no more or less than any of the other characters, that her attacks aren't foolproof, and that she's still on the same level as the girls, so I can give kudos to the creators for that.
The villains are pretty much the same. Mirage and Phantom are the only good villains in the show, whereas the bumbling bad trio are the worst. They're never developed, their backstories aren't elaborated on, and they're very bland, one note characters who don't do much throughout the entire show. They were the biggest waste of characters ever. Also, I absolutely hate Hosshiwa. Her voice was annoying, her character was annoying, her personality was annoying, her evil laugh was annoying, God everytime she opened her mouth I just wanted to deck her! Another contender is the final villain. I won't spoil anything, but he is the whinest, most annoying, most pathetic villain I've ever seen. He constantly whines and moans about how love is bad every five minutes any time he's on screen! He doesn't even do anything really threatening, just brainwashing people and being annoying, and he REFUSES TO SHUT UP!!! Seriously, I can write a better villain character than him!
Which also brings me to the show's biggest flaw. Now, let me say this: when it knows what it wants to do, Happiness Charge is great. But when it doesn't, it sinks. Hard. What do I mean? Well, some episodes are written well, while others are very poorly executed, like the writers were battling over what the moral of the episode should be and wind up making an episode that's a big mess. Unfortunately, Happiness Charge is pretty guilty of this. Episode 17 is one such example. To me it looked like the moral was going to be about Hime learning that it's okay to share your friends with other friends, but Megumi and Yuuko force Hime to support Seiji's karate tournament, and at one point Hime says "Curse you, Seiji!" for no reason at all, implying that she secretly hated him. I won't go into detail about other episodes, as it'd take waaaay too long. But yeah, it's like the show is at a fork in the road and it goes on one road, only to constantly zigzag between that road and the other, and in the end it finally decides on a road, only to still have doubts and regrets and the feeling of not having reached their destination. That's how Happiness Charge's filler episodes are to me. But different strokes for different blokes, I suppose. Plus, all the romance was really forced, and in a way, it didn't really need to be there. My mom often says "don't buy the car if you can't drive it." For this series? Don't try to write about something if you're going to write it badly...or in this case, indecisively. So lack of focus is Happiness Charge's biggest problem. But there are shows that did this far worse, and when the show knows what it wants to do, boy does it shine! I only wish it was this focused during its filler episodes, too.
While not a great show, Happiness Charge is a cute little slice of entertainment for your daughter, sister, niece, etc. It's not perfect, but nothing ever is, so I enjoy it for what it is, though many parts of it could have been done much better.