Doki Doki! PreCure Episode 2: The Happy Prince and Swallowing Pride

Rikka sees Mana transform into Cure Heart.

Rikka sees Mana transform into Cure Heart.

[Doki Doki! PreCure Episode 1]
[Doki Doki! PreCure Episode 3]

Good pacing in storytelling always involves knowing when to shift gears between action and reaction; while episode one of Doki Doki sets the entire series in motion by transforming Mana into Cure Heart for the very first time, the follow-up episode provides a natural, fitting repose, while at the same time, adheres to the restrictions of the genre’s monster-of-the-week formula. The reaction to becoming a PreCure is explored beyond a typical self-narration from the main character (a cornerstone to the structure of series during the Futari wa period) and is incorporated into the plot of the episode itself.

Synopsis

After purifying the Crab Selfish at the top of Clover Tower, Cure Heart extends an offer of alliance to Cure Sword, which she refuses. After turning back to normal, Mana tries to confide in Rikka about turning into a PreCure. Rikka responds with disbelief, maintaining concern about Mana and her recent activities. Mana is told by the Trump Kingdom fairies to keep her PreCure identity a secret from Rikka, but when a Selfish attacks the school the next morning, she decides to transform into Cure Heart in Rikka’s presence, and asks for her help in purifying the Selfish.

As mentioned earlier, Doki Doki’s second episode takes special care to examine the immediate consequences of becoming a PreCure (and in the context of the genre, a magical girl in general). Too often in previous series, the girls who transform into PreCure immediately acclimate to their new superhero lifestyle without nary a change to their civilian lives. In particular, if the first episode/arc doesn’t immediately result in the first two girls awakening as PreCure (as seen in the Futari wa shows and Suite), the following episode/arc always transforms the next girl in the cast into a PreCure as well. Combined with the fact that the second girl is often the closest friend to the main character, there is little to no opportunity to show any sort of dynamic involving the lead cure and her best friend before the second cure awakens.

The series that comes closest to this sort of dynamic is Yes! Pretty Cure 5. In Yes 5, Nozomi’s immediately recruits her childhood friend, Rin, to become a Pretty Cure and help her restore the SweetsKingdom by collecting pinkys and defeating Nightmare. Like Doki Doki, Rin’s initial reaction to Nozomi’s revelation is utter disbelief, and playing off of her snarky “straight man” personality, the exchange is played for laughs at the beginning of the show. Even after Nozomi introduces her to the mascot character Coco, Rin has a difficult time of making sense out of it all.

Rin mockingly pulls a henshin, akin to Mana in Doki Doki episode 1.

Rin mockingly pulls a henshin, akin to Mana in Doki Doki episode 1.

Like Rikka (and most people in general), being introduced to such a farfetched circumstance is likely to result in disbelief, and as the childhood friend, Rin has to fare that line of her belief in the rules of reality and trust in her best friend, and her eventual answer to the call to become a PreCure arises out of necessity to protect her useless and clumsy friend. Rikka is no different with regards to Mana’s clumsiness, but in a wonderfully novel approach, she answers the call to help Mana without having to become a PreCure. This establishes a sort of tension that exists within the double-life led by a magical girl, seen in other shows outside of PreCure, such as Cardcaptor Sakura and the Sailor Moon anime. Both shows stretch the gamut of roles that the best friend plays in the magical girl’s life; where Tomoyo is immediately involved with Sakura’s adventures through her resourcefulness in the former series, where Naru remains distant and removed from Usagi’s battle, but nonetheless finds herself unintentionally involved with countless mysterious occurrences in the latter.

PreCure foregoes this tension altogether by turning the closest friend into a PreCure, and Rikka’s civilian involvement highlights the primary message in the episode, that the struggle between the Trump Kingdom and the Selflish is a war that affects everyone that gets involved. Not only is Rikka concerned with Mana’s unspoken involvement with her new PreCure duties, but Mana’s family as well. Mana’s father brings up a point that Mana is unable to disclose what exactly she is involved in, but she simply cannot be ignored by those closest to her. From a distance, all they can do is provide support, but due to the message of the episode, there’s a real threat to their safety that may or may not be addressed later on.

That threat makes Rikka’s involvement with Cure Heart in the last battle all the more interesting. Civilians are rarely involved in a monster fight, but under special circumstances, the weight of their decision to aid the PreCure is considerable and holds merit due to the novelty of its occurrence. What made Rikka’s involvement particularly fascinating are the parallels between the Rikka and Mana’s relationship and the story of the Happy Prince (an actual fairy tale written by Oscar Wilde), which run deeper than the concept of selflessness and interdependence that Rikka tries to explain to her friend.

Rikka gets caught up in Heart's fight with the Selfish.

Rikka gets caught in Heart’s fight with the Selfish.

The relationship between the swallow and the Happy Prince is a two-way street between the two characters, and while Doki Doki examines the Prince’s side of the tale, through which his selfless acts come at the expense of losing his livelihood, drawing the help of a meager swallow. Mana’s insistence to help everyone as a result of her stature and role as the student council president is a trying one, and with the added role of becoming Cure Heart, Rikka’s role as the swallow arises out of meaningful necessity.

If Rikka truly is the swallow in Mana’s life, then there is a lot of potential here in Rikka’s characterization with regards to backstory and her friendship history with Mana that is similar to that of Rin and Nozomi in Yes 5 (the closest comparison, as far as primary and secondary cure relationships are concerned). Rikka likely has her own issues that she needs to sort out, but by answering the call and becoming Cure Diamond, she essentailly follows suit (pun totally intended) with Mana’s selflessness and buys into her charitable philosophy. This is possibly for the better, but the tension between Diamond’s own needs and that of Mana and the others can come at great cost. More on this in next week’s post.

What Rikka doesn’t tell Mana, despite all of this, is that the swallow eventually dies in the story, and that the Happy Prince, after giving out every lavish decoration that made up his being, was eventually deemed unfit for a statue in the town, and was eventually melted away for scraps, except for its leaden heart. Both eventually transcend their earthly lives and are celebrated in heaven. If the relationship between Rikka and Mana is that of the swallow and the prince, then the current situation of Mana being Cure Heart alone and Rikka staying civilian cannot simply last. They have to join forces as equals, and help each other by making up for each other’s shortfalls. As Cure Diamond, we can potentially see a very intense partnership that develops between her and Cure Heart.

Doki Doki! PreCure

Then the Swallow came back to the Prince. ‘You are blind now,’ he said, ‘so I will stay with you always.’

How this fits into the grand scheme of a four-cure team of Heart, Diamond, Rosetta, and Sword, is a fantastic concept to take note as the series progresses when the other cures join in. Indeed, we don’t see Alice or Makoto at all in this episode, and that’s quite okay. We’re only two episodes into Doki Doki, I have a great feeling that this show is being given a careful treatment as far as storytelling goes; for better or for worse, this could be the most intense PreCure story yet.

Further reading: Lessons from The Happy Prince, by Through the Frozen Glass

20 thoughts on “Doki Doki! PreCure Episode 2: The Happy Prince and Swallowing Pride

    1. Not going to lie. It’s a very good pairing. I really love the dynamic of their relationship. It’s no Hibiki/Kanade, but it’s really good within the scope of this series. BUT CURE SWORD THO

    2. @Dave: +9999 to this OTP!

      @Krizzly: Cure Sword would be a interesting pair for Mana! They have that whole love/hate thing going on between them hahah

    3. It’s a pretty awesome one-sided relationship going on, at least as far as alliances go. Heart wants to join forces with Sword, much to Sword’s dismay and distance. Makoto would make a natural tsundere, hehe.

  1. i think they are setting up Mana to fall/be captured or change sides.

    Actually, I just hope that happens. It would make a lot of sense for them to take out the most competent character the franchise has seen thus far (I mean, she *is* smart and athletic as well as outgoing, honest, and friendly, plus she’s the StuCo president on top of all that). So making her the villain’spawn or just capturing her (after the team was built of course) would be an amazing turn.

    1. Either Mana or Rikka would be great in that position. I can see Rikka’s heart getting corrupted and turning to the dark side and having Mana snap her out of it. Alternatively, as far as rescue arcs are concerned, I like the idea of the lead cure getting captured and having her friends rescue her, as you said. Either of the two would make a captivating midseries arc, and would be the coolest thing ever.

    2. I’d rather it be Mana, simple for the “what happens when superman fails?”-ness of it all. I mean, I can’t think of a more competent *character* in PreCure history, so to have what looks to be a nigh unstoppable force completely dominated? Gives me a thrill just imagining it. Also, have you considered switching to Disqus for your comments? It’s oh so much more convenient. Oh and do you know anyone else who’s blogging Dokidoki? I find that it really enhances my enjoyment to see what others are pulling from the story; half my review for episode 02 came from our discussion on here :)

    3. Oh Disqus, I’m a little tsundere for that commenting platform tbh. It’s never played well with me whenever I tried using it. I’ll try to see what other alternatives are there anyway, thanks for the suggestion.

      As for anyone else blogging DokiDoki episodically, the ones I know so far are Metanorn, Desu Ex Machina, and Open Your Mind. Though there have been posts out there that do talk about the show, even though it may not be on a week-by-week basis.

    4. Well, give Disqus another shot. It’s been updated lately, plus it would help in my grand master plan. I want to try to create a community/network of like minded bloggers and being able to comment on each others articles with ease would be convenient. Plus, I’ve found that commenting on sites with Disqus drives traffic back to my site. And there’s the added benefit of Disqus possibly promoting your blog and the potential for monetary kickback.

  2. I know I mentioned this before, but I really wish that the Rikka’s induction into the ranks of the Precure was delayed in order to further explore the dynamic between the two friends when they are in different worlds. That said, I’m still liking where this show is going especially with the connection to The Happy Prince.

    Another thing I’m curious about is with this “intense relationship” between the Heart and Diamond, how will things settle together with the other two girls? I’m pretty excited for it because it is very different from what I’m used to from Smile and Futari Wa.

    Also, reading The Happy Prince has guaranteed Mana x Rikka as my ship.

    1. I’m also very curious as to what the relationship will be like between the characters as well, and what tensions will arise as a result of their incorporation into the Doki Doki group. I’ve just realized that the usage of “Doki Doki PreCure” as a group name catchphrase will not happen until Rikka becomes Cure Diamond anyway, but as a result, I can appreciate the whole aspect of identity of Cure Heart by herself at the moment. She’s just Cure Heart, and because of the title’s namesake, she won’t be just Cure Heart for long.

      That said, I agree with you regards to the delay of Rikka’s transformation, but I think this episode did a fantastic job addressing what it needed to in regards to examining Rikka and Mana’s relationship. *sigh* I just love The Happy Prince now, now that you’ve mentioned it in your post. I also love Doki Doki as a result of it.

  3. Interesting episode this week b/c I was so waiting for Rikka to become Cure Diamond, but I welcome the change even if it was something small like that and it seems like Doki Doki is trying out all kinds of new things! Well “new” to ones that skipped out on the previous seasons of PreCure.

    I really enjoyed the whole scene with Rikka saving Cure Heart by pressing that button! It was just awesome to see a non cure step up and save the day, but the whole king story was a nice touch for the whole Rikka / Mana pairing which shows us that Mana is not all perfect as most people thought around the first episode because hey she has issues asking for help and I can totally relate in to that in my real/online life.

    I gotta get to my recording! I plan on doing video reviews for Doki <3

    1. These concepts certainly *feel* new, and I think that’s the main thing to take away from the franchise whenever a series is viewed. That is the true value of Izumi Todo’s writing.

      I definitely agree that the scene with Rikka pressing the button was really cool. As I mentioned to Justin in one of the comments below, it’s an interesting approach compared to Meiling, since she’s a practiced martial artist. Rikka has absolutely *no* combat experience whatsoever, and she’s not athletic to any extent either, so watching her try to help Heart despite her position of weakness makes for a good source of tension. Of course the audience knows that she’s going to pull through somehow, but I liked that she did get caught and got frozen as well after managing to push the button. It simply extended the tension even further.

  4. Actually when you mentioned the tension between the magical girl world and the real world with Cardcaptor Sakura, my first thought wasn’t really Tomoyo but Meiling. That doesn’t fit into the best friend dynamic, but they did have an episode where they really focused on whether or not she could contribute to capturing the Clow cards despite her lack of any magical powers whatsoever.

    1. That’s an interesting example you provided, since she’s moreso involved with Syaoran’s side of the story. There definitely is a sort of tension in her arc because of her civilian status, but she’s still a capable fighter compared to the average human. I used Tomoyo as an example here because of contrast between the degree of her involvement compared to Naru, who actively tried to avoid Usagi’s mysterious lifestyle (and got caught in a lot of stuff in the anime and live-action).

  5. Do you think the Happy Prince idea could be taken even further? Like… we all know the immediate Precure-civilian inequality will be, at least at the time, balanced next episode (thank you, episode titles). You mentioned how it gives an idea of Rikka’s backstory, but it could mean a lot of sacrifice in the future, if taken further, too. Nothing like dying (it’s Precure, after all), but Rikka potentially suffering for Mana’s sake, and Mana’s response to that… I get the idea that Mana does what she does so others don’t have to suffer, so someone dear to suffering because of that would probably hit hard.

    You didn’t talk about Cure Sword, and rightly so, but do you think the reason she refuses help is because she views the current situation as her fault? A ‘my mess, my responsibility’ mindset? Because that way, she kind of mirrors Mana. Two people who try taking on burdens alone, and the only difference is that Mana’s willing to accept help.

    1. The Happy Prince comparison can be developed to many different outcomes. In my post for Episode 3, I even went so far as to suggest the possibility of the halfway point’s major story arc involving Rikka getting her heart corrupted by the Selfish and moving over to the bad guy’s side and having to be rescued by Heart and the others. Having Rikka switch sides (unwillingly or not) would be an interesting means to get a reaction from Mana, as you said, because she would probably shoulder a lot of the responsibility after realizing how much Rikka has suffered for Mana’s sake. In fact, Mana would probably fault herself for getting Rikka into this mess since she herself initially recruited Rikka despite knowing the consequences. It provides an opportunity to examine both characters’ sides in this potentially harmful relationship.

      As far as Cure Sword is concerned, I agree with you with regards to Cure Sword shouldering her own burdens. I feel that potentially, her primary concern is to not get others involved, because she doesn’t want to see anyone else suffer. It’s a very interesting parallel to Mana’s approach to selflessness as you said, though in both cases, people eventually get dragged into their messes regardless of whether or not they asked for it. Isn’t that what Madoka was about anyway? hehe.

    2. *nods* I think that an important part of relationships is understanding how much you could or have hurt each other, the consequences of being bound together in different ways. I think Rikka understands this, as she seems to have accepted Mana’s need to help and goes along to make sure Mana doesn’t burn herself out. But Mana? If it doesn’t show up as part of their past, then it’s certainly going to be part of their future. It’ll be great to see Mana in that sort of situation. Her loved ones suffering due to her desire to lessen suffering.

      …If nothing more comes from the Mana/Rikka front, I will be irritated. So. Much. Potential. Or at least more on how Mana’s drive to help is not purely beneficial.

      It’s interesting, because so far, all the Precures exhibit selfishness…in a way. Mikoto refusing to rely on others, because she wants to deal with ‘her’ mess alone. Mana ignoring personal well-being, and in turn the wishes of those who want to help her. Rikka being more concerned with one person, rather than the good of many others. In the end, the only real line between selfishness and selflessness, is who are you doing it for? Are you helping others for the sake of it, or doing so to make you feel good?

      *shudders and suppresses desire to run away in terror* I see it. I don’t want to, but I see it. Thankfully, no Kyubey.

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