Idol anime has been pretty great this year so far. From AKB0048 to Love Live to Aikatsu, there is a fairly wide variety of anime depicting idols across a broad range of settings and production styles. Whether you’re into the Macrucian tone of AKB0048, the overachieving premise executed by Aikatsu, or Nico’s various (and hilarious) facial expressions in Love Live, in each show exists the meaning of being on stage and performing. The uncomfortable nature of idol culture aside, the girls themselves are more often than not larger than life, and audiences can appreciate the hard work they put into being the entertaining personas that they exude. PreCure has its own share of celebrity Cures, and they span an interesting gamut of personality types, with Makoto Kenzaki as the recent spotlight example.
Mana, Rikka, and Alice visit a television station to speak with Makoto after learning that she may potentially be Cure Sword. Mana approaches Makoto in her dressing room, asking her to join forces with the other PreCure. Makoto snaps back, telling Mana that she is disrupting her busy schedule as an idol, effectively destroying any chance of her joining. As Makoto continues performing for a television show recording, another idol’s heart gets corrupted and turned into a star-shaped Selfish. The three other girls transform into PreCure, but the blinding disruption of the Selfish puts them in a tactical disadvantage. Makoto re-appears as Cure Sword, and vanquishes the Selfish with her Holy Sword attack.
Makoto is at first an odd mishmash of a number of character traits from other PreCure shows past. She shares her idol background with that of Urara Kasugano from Yes! Pretty Cure 5, but shares the aloofness of the civilian and cure forms of Yuri Tsukikage (Heartcatch PreCure) and Ako Shirabe (Suite PreCure) respectively. There’s a fine balance that needs to be taken with Makoto’s execution as a written character without feeling too lazily derived from cures past. Thankfully, she doesn’t fall anywhere close yet, and there’s still plenty more episodes to come to fully flesh her story and personality out.
This week’s episode initially reinforces what we’ve seen so far from Cure Sword in her appearances in episode 1 and 2: intensity, competency, and a healthy amount of hubris as a result of her refusal to join the other PreCure. It makes sense from a personality standpoint; when the weight of a ruined kingdom arises from one’s failures as a cure, it would make sense to want to shoulder that burden alone. Makoto feels a need to redeem herself in some sort of way through her actions and abilities as a Cure, while at the same time, refuses to drag anyone else into her problems. This is her way of being considerate to Heart and the others, despite their insistence on helping. The intention is probably there, but it doesn’t translate directly in person.
That said, Makoto’s intensity translates perfectly well to an idol lifestyle. Busy schedules and rigorous demands from fans and production staff keep her on her toes nearly every waking minute, which fits well with her other life as a PreCure. Despite scheduling conflicts that arise from the unshakable responsibilities as a superhero, Cure Sword cannot let up at all because of what is at stake on both sides. It’s this particular design choice that makes Makoto especially interesting, since she has a clear goal/dream in her civilian life that is on a similar level of intensity as her personal goal as Cure Sword.
That isn’t to belittle the life goals set by other Cures in the franchise, or the balancing act that they face between those goals and their lives as PreCure. Fresh Pretty Cure, in particular, does the best job at examining the costs of trying to pursue two dreams at once. For Love, Miki, and Inori, the physical demands of dance training takes a toll on their abilities as PreCure, which, compounded by Eas’s growing powers given to her by Labyrinth, effectively forces them to get by on hard work alone.
Yes 5 also places particular emphasis on people’s hopes of the future as well (the lead Cure is appropriately named Cure Dream). Instead of focusing on the intensity of balancing the double-life of being a PreCure and being an idol/author/athlete/etc, the focus is instead on the civilian lives of each of the girls involved, and the support that they provide each other in order to reach their respective dreams. On numerous occasions, the idol cure, Urara, is often faced with difficult situations, and her friends come to her support to help further her career as an aspiring actress. The PreCure battles with Kowaina essentially reinforce the values and beliefs set forth through the cures’ civilian actions.
In between these two sides of the spectrum, then, lie Makoto and her double-life as both MakoPi and Cure Sword. Both sides potentially are equally taxing because of the extent of her involvement with each. Unlike that of Fresh and Yes 5, she wants to achieve both of her goals without any help, which is the cornerstone of this initial arc that will eventually result in Cure Sword joining the team. Next week’s episode, which involves Makopi visiting Mana’s house, will surely bring them together, at least temporarily, as the All-Stars movie will debut a week later; however, the title for episode 7, “Close Battle! Farewell PreCure!!” suggests that someone will leave the group again, and odds are reasonable that the person leaving will probably be Cure Sword.
It’s a bit weird to have this come-and-go treatment for Cure Sword’s character arc, as it is clearly dictated by the marketing decision to have the story loosely coincide with the All-Stars movie. The timing of the movie’s release often comes at some sort of continuity cost for either side. In Pretty Cure All-Stars Deluxe 2 and 3, the respective focal PreCure series for those years did not have their full ensemble; DX2 only included Cures Blossom and Marine from Heartcatch, while Suite only featured Cures Melody and Rhythm. In contrast, due to the Smile’s cast coming completely together by episode 5, Pretty Cure All-Stars New Stage featured every single cure for every series to date, which fit well considering that Smile’s strengths did not focus on establishing a strong sense of story continuity; New Stage 2 will feature all four girls from Doki Doki, but at the expense of rushing Alice’s introduction and potentially disrupting the continuity of Cure Sword’s allegiance with the other PreCure.
Alternatively, assuming that all of the PreCure come together (and that the episode title for Episode 7 is misleading – not unheard of in the franchise!) and stay together after New Stage, I’m already excited to see how the relationship dynamics play out between all four of them at once. We’re already getting a hint of what to expect with regards to the interactions between Rikka and Alice in the first half of the episode. After Mana runs off to find Makoto, a brief awkward silence is shared between Rikka and Alice, and a whole lot is on display between the two of them.
Alice is more easygoing, but is more eager to go with the flow of a situation, whereas Rikka is more easily stressed out by situations and is a control freak. In relation to Mana after she gets scolded by Makoto, the two of them have a mother/father type of dynamic going on; Rikka lectures Mana for making rash decisions, and Alice pleads for Rikka to go easy on her. You can see which role Alice and Rikka play in Mana’s life, and it provides a neat supportive balance for Mana when she tries to develop further as a person and as a PreCure going forward in the show.
Where Makoto fits into all of this is yet to be seen; future episode titles serve too often as a red herring, and conclusions can’t be fully assured. Regardless, we saw a lot from Makoto this week, and next week will seek to showcase the other side of our aloof ally, hopefully alleviating concerns that she may be too uptight for the others to deal with. Reactions to similar characters like Ako/Cure Muse were mixed, and hopefully, Makoto will come off as more endearing than she lets on initially.