There’s an old adage that goes, “the more things change, the more things stay the same.” And for this week’s wonderfully wacky episode of Dokidoki PreCure, that sort of saying rings true for every aspect of the franchise (and in this particular case, of the series as well). Most everything we’ve observed and perhaps learned from the direction that the franchise is now taking with Smile PreCure is quite in full effect with Dokidoki PreCure, whether it be fondly calling back to PreCures past, or stepping towards the future with a specific production approach. No matter how seasoned you are with the franchise, there’s always going to be something to love and take away from these kinds of series, and that’s what makes franchises like these so endearing, despite years of conceptual reboots and revisits.
Joe leaves Ai with the Mana and Rikka even though they are busy with attending school. They enlist the help of Sharyl, Raquel, and Lance to look after Ai, but the three fairies are easily overpowered by Ai’s latent powers. The baby takes off at school, causing ruckus and chaos all around, and the fairies chasing her cause a misunderstanding amongst the students at Mana and Rikka’s school, who presume the events to be caused by ghosts or other mysterious phenomenon. Meanwhile, the soccer and baseball team captains argue over scheduling use of the school field, which leads to their hearts being corrupted by Ira and turning into baseball and soccer-shaped selfish. The entire PreCure team group up and rely on timely help from Ai to defeat the selfish by resorting to their super-speed and sports-related tactics.
To many precure fans, one of the most trying changes to get used to with regards to production philosophy is the fact that the monsters of the week are getting a whole lot less physically imposing, and great choreographed fights are whittling down in number. This isn’t as much a problem when the gimmicks and silliness are cranked up to eleven whenever the need calls for it (which is more of the norm rather than filler, realistically speaking). A lot of interesting and hilarious monster scenes have resulted in the monsters themselves becoming a lot more memorable than most.
In more action-packed series like Heartcatch and Yes 5, the monsters of the week have been nothing but monsters of the week. They lacked identity, and save for Heartcatch, whose monsters are mostly related of the person whose heart flower was stolen (though this is not always the case), removing the “how the precure won” from the equation often leaves us with easily the same monster over and over again.
As much as I love seeing a bunch of frilly skirts slip and slide their way through various tendrils and macross missiles, there is much to be desired from the monsters themselves. Upon recollection, the ones that I can truly remember are the ones with interesting gimmicks that set them apart from the countless others. Here is a list of monsters that I remember the most vividly (and to a certain extent, most fondly as well).
Textbook Akanbe, Smile PreCure: This monster is perhaps the strongest example of what I’m trying to say in regards to the recent shift in production planning in the franchise. Instead of trying to overload on the action (as an aside, Cure Beauty does kick some butt in that episode), there’s a hilarious gimmick that the akanbe has in which he uses study trivia to duel the PreCure with. Compounded by the fact that each girl has a terrible time with the subject matter that they are tested with, this particular Akanbe comes to mind every time I try to think of a monster at all. He’s a perfect blend of gimmick and a bit of action to boot.
Wig Nakewameke, Fresh Pretty Cure: The wig nakewameke from the aforementioned wig episode is memorable enough just from the visual design alone. In short, it’s a goddamn wig. There really isn’t anything else that could be added to that description. It’s a testament to the approach that Fresh took most of the time, that it simply didn’t take itself seriously at all if it didn’t need to, a direction that Smile took and Dokidoki as well. What the wig lacked slightly was a sort of gimmick that could have made it stand out a little bit more, but the monster by itself is memorable enough. However, getting your butt handed to you by a menacing fluff, it’s a bit unsettling from the viewpoint of the Cures themselves, who were put in a hairy situation.
Mecha Akanbe, Smile PreCure: There wasn’t a combat mechanic that dictated this particular fight, but the mecha episode in Smile PreCure was a grand homage to robot anime, and having this particular monster(s) appear at this point of the series was very fitting. The black-nosed akanbe were controlled by the big bad’s henchmen, similar to series before it, but this was the first time that the concept was likened to that of a pilot controlling a robot of sorts. The gattai that occurred later on was also equally entertaining. Mecha fans and non-fans alike can’t help but smile at the reference. It’s a reminder that Majorina monsters are always the best monsters.
Ant Hoshiinas, Yes! PreCure 5 GoGo!: Yes 5 was perhaps the series that saw a step in this direction of gimmick fights. After three years of the same monster getting pulverized into tiny apologetic stars, it feels like the conceptualization of the Hoshiina paved the way for similar monster qualities like the Akanbe nose. In a way, Yes 5 was like a proto-precure of sorts that paved the way for more polished ideas in the future (most notably in Smile PreCure). The microscopic, yet hordelike Ant monsters in this particular episode made for a highly unique situation at this point in the franchise. It was the honey-we-shrunk-the-precure episode that preceded Smile episode 8, and it was a more interesting fight overall than its contemporary as well, despite the great animation quality in Smile’s part.
Dokidoki’s monsters as a whole are quite awesome in this continuing tradition of gimmick mechanics. From the streetlight selfish to the sheep from last week, to this week, there’s always something remarkably goofy and entertaining from watching a bunch of supposedly superpowered girls try to best these monsters. It’s easily one of the great simple pleasures of this show, and when you’re not thinking about where the plot is going, you can always rely on a pair of bickering balls to provide some quality children’s entertainment.
(btw, Diamond is pretty damn awesome.)