Freshly-grown Willpower: Power-ups in Fresh PreCure

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Art by AJTheFourth

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!

7 thoughts on “Freshly-grown Willpower: Power-ups in Fresh PreCure

  1. Excellent stuff. For all you readers who would like to write for Cure Blogger, feel free to contact me with your thoughts and ideas. If I enjoy what you have to add, and if it fits with what is usually written on Cure Blogger, then I’ll definitely share it with everyone. Proper credit will be given.

    AJ, I loved this post! I really enjoyed the tension of the show when they were unable to get the necessary power-up to combat Eas’s villain upgrade. While they did get a round of power-ups through the cure sticks, they received them way too early, which did not coincide well with the card that Eas received soon after. You could chalk it down to unfortunate timing, as Eas only had a limited number of uses for that particular power.

    In particular, there was one battle against an Eas-boosted nakewameke that they managed to defeat not just through willpower, but through quick wits and planning. While they were unable to defeat them from a distance, their game plan was to vanquish them point-blank, which added an interesting dimension to the perception of power in the magic that they use. It’s only through the will to survive that they were able to come up with the solution to defeat that particular monster. Adapt or perish, as the Heart of the Swarm adage goes. (I’ve been playing SC2 nonstop, so I had to include that, lol!)

    To further build on this point you made, even after Setsuna joins as Cure Passion (an upgrade of sorts as you already said), she doesn’t get any further upgrades either until very late in the series. This period of time after she joins is spent further incorporating Setsuna into the group from an personal standpoint. Her relationship with Peach is already well-documented by this point, but the episodes that build her chemistry with Miki and Inori also provide the emotional core that allows her to join the others in their struggle to find the next power-up after Northa appears and the plot picks up due to spoiler reasons.

    1. I love your point about Setsuna’s emotional journey while trying to ingratiate herself into the group. Usually, someone joins the group and they easily fit in. (Here I would point again to Minako/Sailor Venus as a late addition who immediately become friends with the other Inner Scouts.)

      It will be interesting to see how DokiDoki handles this. Cure Sword’s journey seems similar to Heartcatch’s Cure Moonlight’s; however the latter appears to be far more emotionally-fraught –– where Sword’s is more of a “I didn’t want other people to get involved for reasons that you’ll find out in Episode Seven” reason. Or rather, leaving what DokiDoki may or may not do out of it, the difference between Cure Moonlight and Cure Passion is that the former came through the bulk of her emotional narrative prior to joining up with the rest of the Cure team whereas Cure Passion goes through the bulk of her emotional narrative after. It’s through joining up with the rest of the Cures that Passion unlocks her true potential –– specifically through the episodes that you mention –– and I love the show to pieces for it. Coupled with a few other things that happen later on (Episode 45), along with what I already covered in this article, it makes Fresh one of the most grounded Precure series (and for me personally, the most emotionally-resonant).

      Thank you for hosting this. Writing this, and drawing the accompanying art, was so much fun. ^ ^

  2. @Krizzly: I will have to submit some PreCure ideas in the future sometime, but I will start my journey through Fresh soon and Yes 5! I got my brother interested in trying both of them out even though he was the one who got me caught up in the addictive fun of PreCure in the first place with Heartcatch and some random episodes of Suite…

    @AJ: Nice post! It has me excited to eventually watch this series and I have always loved the idea of how and why the various PreCure girls gain their new power ups! I guess I should get cracking on Fresh hahah

    1. Oh man, you’re going to love it. ^ ^ It’s the perfect balance between silly and poignant. Let me know when you start/finish and what you think!

    2. Yeah fosh, if you ever come up with something, I’ll definitely take a look. Yes 5 is also really fun! Nozomi/Cure Dream has a similar kind of joie de vivre that 2DT mentioned a while back when he was shipping you with idolmaster girls. I think that you could enjoy watching that character a lot, even if she’s a bit scatterbrained like all the other lead cures, hehe.

  3. I really loved the mid-season arc for a number of reasons, and one of them was the tension you talk about here that resulted from the girls trying to be successful as a dance trio while remaining as precure. Even after they had exhausted themselves and earned an unscheduled trip to the hospital, the three of them were still intent on continuing to do both activities for the simple reason that they wanted to do so.

    Having the desire and determination to do something is a theme that comes up multiple times in Fresh. In Buki’s introductory episode (and then a later episode with Setsuna) the other girls waited until she was sure that she wanted to join them in dancing instead of forcing her along. Love and Miki did want Buki to join them, but they also wanted her to come on her own terms. The beauty of the mid-season arc is that while everyone around them are trying to make them choose one thing, the girls are able to make it through (with a little difficulty) by making a choice and having the determination to follow through with it.

    Sorry it took me so long to leave you a comment on this great post!

    1. Glad you can join in the conversation. This was indeed a wonderful post. I can see where you’re coming from with regards to Buki and Setsuna’s joining the dancing group. You can definitely tell that they truly wanted to join. It wasn’t something that they did out of obligation to the group; you can feel the desire to get closer with their friends (tl;dr I’d ship it). It’s a choice that involves hard work and dedication, as the story indicates. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed the Buki/Setsuna episode so much.

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