Jun 28, 2011
5camp (All reviews)
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.

And yet…

And yet…

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.