Editor’s Note: This guest post was submitted by AJTheFourth, author of the anime blog Altair and Vega. AJ has previously written about PreCure on her own blog, but has graciously shared her thoughts about her favourite series today. Not only did she provide the written content, but the feature image shown above as well. Enjoy!
One of the more enjoyable facets of watching Fresh Precure is that the series, quite cleverly, does not take itself too seriously. The designated monsters of the week possess talents such as staining a passerby’s clothes with juice, or causing random wigs to appear on people’s heads in place of their actual hair, make them far more annoying than they are scary. When a monster appears that could cause a significant rift between two people –– one does by expelling one’s most secretive thoughts about another in an instant –– these misconceptions are solved quickly. More importantly, they are solved by the human heart and nothing else. It’s not the precure that clean up the emotional mess following the harsh truth of another’s scrutiny, but the ability of one to apologize, fess up to the truth of their words, and explain themselves within context.
In the same vein come the Fresh Precure heroines’ various power-ups, which end up being a renewed emotional resolve instead of greater magical prowess. Traditionally in magical girl series, although this is especially true of Precure series, the solitary magical girl, or group, will receive a mid-season power-up, along with an end-of-the-season power-up. The mid-season necessity for power is brought on by stronger monsters, with the opposing side receiving amplified powers simultaneously. Examples include the most recently completed Precure series, Smile PreCure, where the five-girl team receives their Princess Candles in episode 23, or episode 32 of Heartcatch Precure, where the precure set to obtain the Heartcatch Mirage, a legendary item. Born of the need to keep up with their villainous counterparts, the mid-season power-up becomes part of the Precure formula, and something for the viewers to look forward to.
Fresh bucks this trend by giving the opposing side a magical power-up without giving the precures one as well. They must defeat their overpowered adversary on sheer willpower alone. Additionally, the series also chooses to address another well-worn trope within this setting to test the girls’ endurance: the choice between the desire to be magical, and their personal ambition. The easiest, and most well-known, example of this is the character of Minako/Sailor Venus from the Sailor Moon series, who struggles with her personal ambition to become an idol and her magical duty to protect her princess, Usagi. Minako chooses to protect Usagi time and time again. As the Sailor Moon series wraps up, she admits that she has found that protecting the one she loves is more important than her personal career goals.
By forcing Love, Miki, and Buki to choose between their ambition of becoming a dance team, and their duty as precures, the series places an additional layer of stress on its heroines with no magical solution in sight. Opposing them is Setsuna, who is not yet a precure but their opponent. She, through a new item, has been given the edge in these fights. While the precure group continues to choose both dance and protecting the town, eventually earning a trip to the hospital, Setsuna struggles with the repercussions of her decision to accept the magical advantage, unable to understand why the precure are still able to defeat her.
The answer, of course, is in the effort and emotional determination that the girls are putting in to both dancing and being precure. They choose to remain true to their own personalities without a magical representation of their steadfast will. When they are asked the question of which would they rather be, a precure or a dancer, their response is always unequivocally both, reiterating the idea that they shouldn’t have to choose. Unlike Minako, Love and company do not have a grand destiny laid at their feet and, like all Precure series that came before it, Fresh remembers that it’s the everyday things that are the most important to protect: a hometown shopping district or one’s ambitions of winning a local dance competition.
It’s a stark contrast to seeing Setsuna torn to shreds in accepting an aid that is still defeated by magically underpowered opponents. Here, Fresh Precure lays the groundwork for Setsuna’s eventual defection and subsequent transformation into Cure Passion by showing her wavering resolve to serve the precure’s opponents, Labyrinth. When Setsuna does finally join up with Love and company, it’s still a while before the four of them together receive an additional magical power –– and this power too, is only accessible after the precure undergo intense physical and emotional training. Setsuna herself becomes the magical mid-season power-up, which is far more meaningful than mystical clock, new wand, or music box. Like the misconceptions caused by the monsters, Setsuna’s self-loathing can only be solved with the human heart.
Editor’s note: For further PreCure reading, AJTheFourth also writes about Heartcatch PreCure. Go check it out!