HappinessCharge PreCure: First Impressions

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The desire to make a good first impression with others is a universally understandable trait. The traits that define us as unique people can run deep in its complexities, making it almost impossible to truly share the experience of oneself in a single meeting, which is why the first instance of experiencing something often comes with the goal of establishing a foundation from which one can get to know something a little bit more.

In the PreCure franchise and anime in general, this sort of experience is commonly shared in the moment in which a new transfer student introduces themselves to their peers. It’s a stressful experience, especially for the characters in the PreCure themselves. They’re only in middle school, and at that point, it’s not a guarantee that a person would have fully developed social skills or even are aware of who they are as people. For different characters in PreCure who come from all different walks of life, the first day of school makes for a wonderful foundation for us to get to know these girls a little bit more. What makes the franchise particularly excellent is that each self-introduction from each series exemplifies what a given show offers as a whole, wonderfully variant from its kin.

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Less HeartCatch, More PreCure: Why I am Excited for HappinessCharge PreCure

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The general consensus in the Pretty Cure fandom is that HappinessCharge PreCure is similar to HeartCatch PreCure, and depending on who you ask, the reaction to this common observation is either that of sheer joy (Hell yeah! More HeartCatch!) or utter disdain (Oh hell no! More Heartcatch?). As odd as it is for me to say this, those who fall under the latter camp seem to place themselves there for either of two reasons: either they didn’t like HeartCatch — they do exist, as weird as it is for me to admit — or simply loath unoriginality, ultimately begging the question as to why they watch Pretty Cure in the first place.

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12 Days of Dokidoki PreCure #7: Portrait of an Unyielding Heart

Dokidoki PreCure!

In the midst of despair, you need a leader who can inspire you to will yourself back into fighting condition. The tradition of the PreCure’s “Pink” PreCure often provides characters who lead in different ways, but Cure Heart is perhaps the one leader who has seen her group fall to the most hopeless odds, yet manages to pull them right back up through her own emotional lead and example. Episode 31 is the strongest example of her leadership in action up to this point in the series, and it leads to the rebirth of the Magical Lovely Pad and the super awesome Lovely Straight Flush combination attack.

After Leva and Gula combine into a single monster entity and destroy the Magical Lovely Pad, they make quick work of the PreCure, weakening them to the point of despair and realization of the very real possibility of defeat. It’s at this point where Cure Heart also realizes the folly of her headstrong decision to join Cure Sword’s cause in reclaiming the Trump Kingdom.

Dokidoki PreCure!

She admits to finally understanding the pain of losing the world that she grew up in, losing all of the loved ones she’s spent her entire life around, and the failure to protect those who are closest to her. In finally coming closest to Sword’s feelings, she is the most distant physically from the others in the blocking of this desperate scene. Heart lets out her anguish and despair, crying out to the world that will soon come to ruin due to her inability to save it, and the others fall to the same low as her. All hope is lost.

Dokidoki PreCure!

And then Cure Heart smacks herself in the face, letting out a resounding echo into the world, almost as loud as her cry only a few moments before; a brief pause, and the physical shockwave spreading out from her face indicates that she let herself have it with as much PreCurian strength as she could. By giving herself a wake-up smack, she relieves herself of all the anguish that she’s built up in her heart as a result of her initial defeat to the Leva/Gula hybrid.

Dokidoki PreCure!

There’s a negative emotional connotation when it comes to crying as depicted in fictional media. Usually crying denotes loss, defeat, and shame; even when in a happy context, one is normally not expected to cry, and it’s viewed upon as a sort of novelty or sign of weakness. For Heart, it’s the precursor to her strength instead. When her heart is full and aching, the only way she knows how to deal with the sudden overflow of feelings is to let them out. Mana is perhaps the most freely expressive PreCure amongst her pink peers, and by extension, is probably one of the more emotionally balanced and emotionally intelligent to boot.

Heart recognizes that strong emotions lead to strong convictions, but it requires the ability to handle and sort out the feelings that arises within oneself at all times, whether they be happy or hopeless. The sudden clarity of emotion also allows her to clear the doubts that get in the way of her goals, which, combined with her pluckiness and utter refusal to give up, allows her to overcome her obstacles, as well as those that obstruct her PreCure team. She’s a bit of an odd one, but it’s through that uniqueness of character that inspires the others to rally around her in their own way, stamping their unique brand of togetherness and teamwork that makes them stand strong amongst the PreCures past.

Dokidoki PreCure!

Cure Heart may not be the most well-remembered or most-appreciated lead cure in history, but you can’t doubt her ability to lead the ragtag group that she has, even with her offbeat ideas and antics; regardless of whatever she comes up with, she’ll always have such a supportive team ready to follow. It makes her heart ready to burst at a moment’s notice, and she is always stronger for it.

 

12 Days of Dokidoki PreCure #8: Gang Signs up in this PreShizzle

Dokidoki PreCure!

2012 brought us Smile PreCure and the rock paper scissors game with Cure Peace. Every week, viewers looked forward to playing the most dangerous game with Yayoi Kise, but this year, there’s less audience participation (though in fairness, janken was one of a kind). Instead, Dokidoki brings us the super cool PreCure hand signs pertaining to each respective Cure.

Dokidoki PreCure!

Cure Heart’s is pretty easy to recognize, and it’s probably the most commonly used sign outside of the show. If you want to show someone you love them, you throw up a heart and you’ll make your feelings known while at the same time look like a bit of a fool in the process. Not Mana though, she’s so genuine with her love, she could just flash a heart in your face and you’ll fall in LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVE.

Dokidoki PreCure!

Cure Sword is pretty interesting, because if you think of it, the spade symbol in a traditional deck of playing cards is actually an upside-down heart with a stem coming out of its butt. There’s nothing really too meaningful about this symbol because a spade isn’t necessarily directly associated with swords. It’s okay though, because the way Cure Sword does her symbol, she uses her thumbs to draw the outline between the upside down heat and the base of the spade as well. It’s a pretty cool usage of negative space. Pretty gangster if you’re into visual art theory and stuff.

Say what you will about Makopi; she looks like she’s going to kill someone with that expression.

Dokidoki PreCure!

But whatever street cred Sword has with her hand sign, Rosetta has the same in spades. But shouldn’t sword be associated with spades? Ah, whatever. Rosetta just doesn’t give a fuck about what your selfish heart desires. She’s going to warm you up with her sunshine shit, and there’s nothing you can do about it because her sign is complex as fuuuck. She takes the thumb thing to create the clover stem, but also adds her index fingers to create lines to separate each clover leaf. Pretty legit.

Dokidoki PreCure!

Oh, and if you think she’s not serious about warming your life, you better watch yourself, because she’ll throw that gang sign anywhere, even falling from the sky, upside down. That’s so hardcore, I just can’t describe how gangster she is. She seriously doesn’t give a fuck.

Dokidoki PreCure!

Oh, Cure Ace. You sorta had it. But you really couldn’t do anything but make a letter A with your hands. No outlines here, just spelling out the letters with your hands like you’re trying to do some sort of Naruto seal. Though, with that charming wink, I imagine a thousand Cure Aces all throwing the same gang sign and cute wink would be hella tight.

Despite all of this, the most gangster Dokidoki sign is Cure Diamond’s, hands down. She’s Cure fuckin’ Diamond. She’s the embodiment of swag, she might as well be renamed Cure Swag, right? And you know your sign is legit when everyone in pop culture is throwin’ it down too.

Dokidoki PreCure!

Look at all of those celebs. Spock, Snoop, Jay-Z, That chief from Carmen fucking San Diego. Diamond’s sign is the shit.

And oh, I heard that Beyonce secretly dropped an album on itunes earlier this month. I’m pretty sure it went diamond.

 

12 Days of Dokidoki PreCure #9: The Legend Continues

12 Days of PreCure, 12 Days of Smile PreCure

The legendary warriors known as Pretty Cure have a history of slaying dragons, though those cases are often saved for special events, such as standalone movies and All-Stars. In the Heartcatch PreCure movie, Coupe-sama delivers a rising uppercut to Baron Salamander’s dragon form; he literally does a dragon punch.

HeartCatch PreCure Movie

In PreCure All-Stars DX3, Salamander’s dragon form makes a return, and the girls finish him off with a shining fortissimo. Not until Dokidoki do we get to see dragons once again. In episode 30, the PreCure face off against Melan, the legendary fairy partner to Cure Empress. Thanks to Aguri’s innate knowledge of PreCure history (as far as the Dokidoki universe is concerned; more on this in a minute), she mentions a trio of legendary items:

Dokidoki PreCure!

The Miracle Dragon Glave;

Dokidoki PreCure!

The Magical Lovely Pad;

Dokidoki PreCure!

The Eternal Golden Crown.

I really love fictional elements when they come in threes. In fantasy in particular, three is such a cool number to use, and the legend that Aguri passes down to the PreCure feels like something from a Legend of Zelda prologue. The origin of the Legendary Warriors in Dokidoki is completely different from that of HeartCatch, yet, they share a similarity between each other that they have a history at all. As mentioned before, Baron Salamander is not only the big bad of the Heartcatch movie, but is also the original villain that was sealed by the very first PreCure in the Heartcatch universe, Cure Ange. In an awesome coincidence, the Miracle Dragon Glaive is wielded by none other than the princess of the trump kingdom, Marie-Ange.

Dokidoki brings back the Legend alongside another iconic legendary creature, the dragon, shown in the first screenshot of this post. While this series’ dragon is not the final form of a villain, but rather that of Melan, an overarching storyline to the battle itself is that of Melan’s loneliness as a result of Cure Empress’s passing away. Not only does it make her final form that of a reclusive legendary beast, but it also hints at the particularly long duration of time passing between her partnership with Cure Empress and present events.

Dokidoki PreCure!

Contrasted with the detail that the original three mystical items were wielded by the first legendary warriors some 10,000 years ago, the history of PreCure in Dokidoki is long, yet understated. While it’s not as well-curated as the history of HeartCatch’s PreCure via the PreCure Palace, the scatteredness of Dokidoki’s history and its passing of information through oral tradition is a more subtle, yet fascinating form of world building, making this year’s installment a wonderful little morsel of lore for the franchise’s biggest fans.

12 Days of Dokidoki PreCure #10: Yack PreCulture!

Dokidoki PreCure!

If there’s one thing that I will take away from watching Dokidoki PreCure, it’s that it certainly showcases a lot of qualities that make it PreCurian. As a nostalgia-based bottom-up production approach, a lot of those expected qualities stem from visual similarities, as well as simply having more similarities to precures past than others.

T challenge of designing a show based on nostalgia is the fine touch one has to put into making these nods to the past apparent without ripping it off entirely, and having an unoriginal show as a result. While the show spends a good chunk of its first half doing these shoutouts, it really comes to shine on its own in the second, with moments such as the song that Makoto sings in front of Regina in episode 40. Unsure as to how to snap Regina out of the control of King Selfish, Makoto takes matters into her own hands and sings a song for her; if she puts her heart into her song, then the feelings may reach Regina as a result.

During Makoto’s concert (a live event in which her new song would debut), the Selfish attack, and the PreCure are caught in a bind; Regina pins Cure Sword to the back wall of the stage while Heart and the others have their hands full with a monster of the week, Ira, and Mammo. Regina oversees the battle, on the opposite side of the field from Sword. Sword sees this as an opportunity to sing her song, and the PreCure hold off the enemy while an un-transformed Makoto slowly walks up to Regina, unharmed because of her friends’ defense.

Dokidoki PreCure!

The action is intense and continuous, contrasting with the deliberate pace of the ballad, leaving behind power in its melody and the lyrics that aim to save Regina (and by extension, the world).

PreCurian? More like Macrucian, am I right? This scene is PreCure’s version of Do You Remember Love, albeit not as grand of a scale. Makoto isn’t stopping a war with her song; she simply wants to rescue her friend. There’s no dramatic love triangle here, as Cure Sword has come a long way in reconciling her desire to save Princess Ange and the Trump Kingdom with Mana’s desire to save Regina from the Selfish. But she is an idol, and the way that Makoto uses her position as an idol reminds me a lot of the power that music plays in many of Shoji Kawamori’s works, including both Macross and even AKB0048.

Dokidoki PreCure!

When Makoto finally comes into musical kill range of Regina, she blocks the spear and transforms back into Sword, bringing the power of PreCure and music into one, perhaps in a more effective manner than Cures Melody, Rhythm, Beat, or Muse ever could.

Sorry, Suite, but despite your music-themed attacks and brilliant score from Yasuharu Takanashi don’t hold a candle to the power of music that Cure Sword displayed in this episode. It’s the musical magical girl that I’ve always dreamed of, save for Symphogear. Sometimes I wonder if Izumi Todo looked at how ridiculous Symphogear was and said to themselves, “yeah, if we want this to work, we have to make it as ridiculous as possible.”

Dokidoki PreCure!

Dokidoki’s second half was silly as all fuck, and I love them forever for it, but this one moment, as crazy as it was, hit all of the right notes.

 

12 Days of Dokidoki PreCure #11: The Flip

Futari wa Pretty Cure

There are two action shots from the original Futari wa Pretty Cure series whose iconicity represents the series itself within the entire franchise. There’s the Futari jump, in which Cure Black leaps away from a smokey explosion, and there’s the Futari flip, in which both PreCure sommersault in sync, stopping at a wall or column, punctuated by the girls looking back up at the enemy (as seen above). These shots are repeated as a sort of visual schtick that the girls own, especially during the All-Stars movies:

Pretty Cure All-Stars DX3

In DX3, the “look up” beat coincides with Max Heart’s OP fanfare shot (“Max Heeaaart!!”) that leads to the rest of the show’s theme played as background music for their special attack, and it’s pretty damn great.

Even doubling back to the DX2 ED, the girls use both the Futari jump and the Futari flip in succession as part of the choreography of their section of the medley, to great effect and service to fans of the original:

Precure All Stars DX2 - ED (BD 720p) [Kirakira] [F90B3CD6].mkv_snapshot_02.25_[2013.12.26_22.19.28] Precure All Stars DX2 - ED (BD 720p) [Kirakira] [F90B3CD6].mkv_snapshot_02.25_[2013.12.26_22.08.27] Precure All Stars DX2 - ED (BD 720p) [Kirakira] [F90B3CD6].mkv_snapshot_02.26_[2013.12.26_22.08.31]

As Dokidoki is still the newest installment in the franchise (at least, until HappinessCharge airs in 2014), it doesn’t necessarily have the classic status of a Futari wa to have an iconic action shot, but the show in itself is quite interesting in its cinematic direction. While I don’t really think that Dokidoki could become a “classic” precure to any sort of extent, it still has some really cool action shots that are merely reiterated later on in the show. For instance, the slow-motion backflip that Cure Sword does in episode 1 is emulated by Cure Heart halfway into the series, perhaps as a visual cue that her strength as a PreCure has grown by leaps and bounds, litterally.

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Once a student, now a master. Dokidoki does a lot of cool things visually, and this is one example that reminds me so much of Futari wa and their own iconic shots that I can’t help but appreciate the throwback. Whether this sort of pose is reprised in future All-Stars movies remains to be seen, but I would definitely be one of the few to look out for it.

 

 

12 Days of Dokidoki PreCure #12: Believe in Rikka

Dokidoki! PreCure

Cure Blogger is back, and better than ever! Okay, maybe not better than ever, but it’s back! So much has happened in the world of Pretty Cure, particularly in Dokidoki that, despite the lengthy absence from the blog, the arrival of Christmas has provided the most wonderful little opportunity to catch up with the show by providing 12 days, 12 moments, 12 delicious drops of Dokidoki. It’s almost like I never left, right?

If I really wanted to, I could make this post series 12 Days of Cure Diamond. For all of Dokidoki’s unevenness throughout the show’s run, the consistent rock that provided the emotional core of the show has always been Rikka Hishikawa and her search for herself. Of all the characters in the main cast, she is perhaps the most mundane in her background. Where everyone else comes from popularity and capability (Mana), celebrity (Makoto), and fortune (Alice), Rikka is the girl who, even without her strong emotional character narrative, is naturally the most identifiable of the four. She doesn’t have any noticeable qualities or talents other than her studiousness, which provides the most room for her to grow as a character.

If anything, she is the penultimate blank slate character in PreCure; her identity is not apparent like other girls (i.e., Yayoi with her art, Honoka with her science, Komachi with her novels, etc.), and her character arc is that of discovery, rather than progression. We learn about Rikka alongside Rikka herself, and this plays into her identity and role as a PreCure as well. When tested by Cure Ace in episode 26, Diamond puts her allegiance on the line by assisting an injured Ira, not because of her duty as a PreCure but as a duty to herself and the person that she wants to become. It’s a wonderful sort of selfishness, acknowledged as a point of strength for her, that which has not been present from the start.

The best part, however, is not so much her decision to do it, but the support that she gets from her friends, namely Raquel. Despite her journey of self-discovery, she does not travel alone. PreCure is about friendship, and her friends rally around her defiance in perhaps the most touching manner throughout the series. She draws her strength from them for once, and becomes capable of doing the same in return when the series continues into the second half.

 

Dokidoki! PreCure Episode 20: My Suite Heart

The fundamental difference between the role of a composer and of a musical director in a television or film production is that the composer writes arrangements based on an overall artistic prompt provided by the main series director, while the musical director decides when and where the music is utilized during a particular visual sequence in the show or movie. The individual making the music paints a picture with sound, while the director uses that picture to evoke an emotional response at critical points of a story.

For a four years, spanning from Fresh PreCure to Smile PreCure, the franchise relied on composer Yasuharu Takanashi’s signature style of high-energy rock infused with orchestrals marks one of the primary stylistic stamps of the PreCure franchise during the Deluxe era. His magnum Opus was the score he wrote for Suite PreCure, but has since been replaced by Hiroshi Takaki. Takaki brings a new style to the table, which, when combined with a very strong musical directorial contribution from long-time Toei staffer Sayaka Mizuno, creates a brand new aural signature to the franchise, starting with what has essentially become my favourite aspect of Dokidoki: the flexibility and utility of its score.

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Dokidoki! PreCure Episode 19: Doki de Chance

Dokidoki! PreCure

The “alternate minigame world” stock episode in Pretty Cure serves to provide a novelty battleground setting for the heroines as they are pitted comically against their antagonists. It is an established trope in the franchise that adds a touch of humor to a series that can accommodate it, or to lighten the mood as a contrast to other serious events prior or concurrent. To date, the alternate game world has appeared in Yes 5, Smile, All-Stars, and as of this episode, Dokidoki PreCure as well.

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