Somehow, consulting teen pregnancy guides on google did not provide me with any further insight into the inner-workings of the relationship between a magical girl and her mysterious floating baby. Perhaps it was for the better, because it remains one of the oddest plot devices in the genre to me, personally. I can imagine that such things are put there to fulfill that wannabe mother marketing demographic; baby toys are fairly lucrative merchandising ventures, after all. That said, the concept is once again lifted from Fresh Pretty Cure, and spun in another amusing direction.
The four girls visit the blonde merchant’s store and discover an egg, which hatches into a mysterious baby. The merchant, who introduces himself as Joe Okada, leaves the baby in the care of the girls, who come up with a name for it, Ai. While they try to care for it the way one would take care of an infant, Maamo appears and summons a sheep selfish that puts the girls to sleep after they transform. Ai, in response to her peril and being trapped by the numerous sheep, releases a magical aura that breifly wakes up the PreCure from their spell. The girls try to snap themselves awake in order to save Ai, and use their combined attacks to vanquish the enemy. Afterwards, Makoto reaffirms her allegiance with the other three girls.
This week’s episode is a reminder that meaning can be found in any medium of expression, regardless of the intended audience, and even despite the myriad of ridiculous facial expressions exhibited by the characters in it. In its entirety, this week’s Dokidoki was the series’ silliest so far, which integrated pretty well into an episode whose sole purpose was to simply introduce the macguffin infant in Ai. I’ll touch a bit more on Ai later, but I’m rather impressed with how well the show can devote 23 minutes to girls goofing off and struggling with pseudo-parenthood. Instead of obliging to the necessities involved with plot, Dokidoki pulls a bit of a Smile shenanigans by throwing these girls into unfamiliar situations and have their personalities shine with comedic interactions and reactions.
There’s also a misleading amount of Smile with regards to the name of the mysterious merchant, Joe Okada. Joe Okada is a play on words in japanese phonetics with “Joka da,” which (to my limited knowledge) translates to “I’m Joker” or something long those lines. Red flags probably triggered for people who watched Smile PreCure last year, as one of the primary villains in that series was named Joker, tied to the concept of the demonic jester archetype that occurs in fairy tales and other stories, but within the context of a playing card and tarot iconography, the Joker card is hardly a threatening figure; instead, he is more similar to The Fool, who represents a sort of absentminded guiding figure.
This is actually an interesting take on the mentor character in fiction in general. Mentor characters are wise beyond their years, but are often depicted straightforwardly as such, or are hidden behind guises of incompetence such as that of a perverted hermit, or a wisecracking sage. In Dokidoki, Joe potentially fills the symbolic Fool’s role with crazy wisdom, which he has shown to a small extent so far, but can potentially become more ludicrous in his absentmindedness as the series wears on.
So far, Joe hasn’t really done much to assuage the girls’ concerns about becoming PreCure in the first place; instead of answering Makoto’s question straightforwardly, he abandons them (in his own store, no less) to attend his own matters and tasks them with caring for a winged baby that hatched from a drake-sized egg. He doesn’t seem like he did much, but leaving Ai to the girls resulted in Ai saving their behinds when the selfish got the best of them, and it further strengthened the bond between Makoto and the others.
Seems like he’s definitely affecting things from behind the scenes, and he’s doing so in a way that largely benefits the PreCure themselves. There’s always potential for betrayal or some unsettling reveal that turns the show on its head, but it’s the kind of development that hardly ever happens in a PreCure series. Joe Okada has not yet shown his hand, and when he does, I’m quite confident that it won’t be of the same nature as Smile’s Joker.
As for Ai, however, her role in the plot is more likely to be clear-cut in terms of allegiance, but the potential as a macguffin baby lingers, considering Chiffon’s role in Fresh Pretty Cure. In Fresh, Chiffon is the source of the girls’ developing powers, enabling them to use their first power upgrades in the series. Each girl received their upgrade as a result of a connection formed with Chiffon. Love receives hers as a result of her intention to nourish Chiffon with alternatives to the Cure Vitan. Inori’s natural talents as a vetrinarian allowed her to grow close to Chiffon after treating her, um, constipation. Miki gets into all sorts of trouble trying to care for Chiffon like she would her own child, resulting in largely humorous consequences befitting Miki’s lack of parental skills.
Ai can act as the same catalyst of power for the girls in this show. So far, the finishers in Doki lack the oomph that others have, but that’s okay, as they are prone to get replaced a quarter or a third of the way through anyway. Smile got Rainbow Healing at episode 12, and based on upcoming episode titles, Dokidoki will get theirs during episode 11, which is surprisingly not that far away. We’ll just have to make do with the numerous creatively comical interactions between the PreCure and the selfish. This week’s iteration involves a sheep that replicates itself for the purpose of forcing its opponent to count copies as they jump over a fence.
The humor is mostly derived from both the audacious nature of the selfish’s gimmick, and more surprisingly, the effectiveness of it, as the sheep is able of affecting both hero and villain alike. Diamond’s tactic to confuse the sheep was amusing as hell, and it fit amazingly well with the way Rikka/Diamond’s mind works, as well as her general reaction towards the ridiculous instances that she’s been subjected to so far.
She stole the show long before the battle even started, taking on the tsukkomi role during the entire sequence involving Ai-chan’s birth. It’s quite impressive that her original character description of “looking after Mana and trying to keep her grounded” essentially means “being unable to take care of Mana at all and being subjected to bemused facial expressions.” This is the perfect complement to her more serious nature when the plot is in the foreground of the episode, but when things get silly, Rikka definitely stands out the most.
Dokidoki proves this week that it can switch back and forth between importance and absurdity, much like that of its closest PreCure counterpart, Fresh. There are a lot of avenues of comparison here, and Ai-chan is definitely one of many. There are still a lot of questions behind a lot of plot points that have been brought up, but I’m glad that Doki is taking its sweet time with answering them. There’s still 10 months worth of episodes to make use of, and I’m more than willing to ride it out if the show maintains this level of quality.