When it comes to matters of the heart, Toei knows how to catch individual feelings and spin fantastic little moments and stories from them, all within the framework of a formula involving magical girls and flashy finishing moves. Heartcatch PreCure took on this concept and concocted a fantastic plot device in the form of the Heart Flower, which represents the feelings of individual people, capable of blooming and wilting based on the individual’s feelings. The Desert Messengers aim to make the world tree wilt by exploiting the negative feelings of people, making their heart flowers wilt, thus turning the world into a planetary desert.
With Dokidoki PreCure, we were subject to the possibility that this sort of idea would be touched upon once more; the feelings of particular characters are preyed upon by evildoers, and it is up to the pretty cure to protect the purity of people’s hearts. I predicted before the series’ debut that “Doki’s villains are probably going to attack positive feelings and turn them into negative ones…” based on the title by itself, but with the events of episode 12 wrapped up quite nicely, this particular idea is brought out in a different direction than in Heartcatch, putting a significant spotlight on the emotions (and by extension, doubts) of the pretty cure themselves.
What makes Heartcatch interesting is that the purity of the girls’ hearts while they are precure are hardly questioned. While Cure Moonlight’s burdens stem from her defeat at the hands of Dark PreCure (and thus serve as the exception to this rule), the other girls’ heart flowers were only vulnerable before they became PreCure. Erika Kurumi’s heart flower is stolen in the episode before she became Cure Marine, a result of her jealousy of her sister Momoka, whose success as a teen model overshadowed Erika’s genuine qualities and talents in the fashion world. Itsuki Myoudouin’s inability to reconcile her feelings about inheriting her dojo’s martial art style and her love for cute and girly things leads to her heart flower being stolen, long before she became Cure Sunshine. Cure Blossom, by nature of being the first awakened PreCure, never has her heart flower stolen.
In Dokidoki, however, the idea of the corruption of the feelings and emotions of other people hit much closer to home for the girls. In episode 10, we see Rikka’s heart unexpectedly waver out of jealousy for Makoto, who grows closer to Mana as a result of joining the team. Episode 12 is Mana’s turn to experience emotional resonance with the wavering-heart-of-the-week in the spotlight side-character, Jun, whose lack of self-confidence and tendency to put Mana on a pedestal results in a misguided motivation for self-improvement. With each passing day, we see him struggle with trying to become more like Mana, building up his own expectations that he could be as apparently perfect as her. His pure intentions led to impure action and motivations, and the hilariously cute (yet awkward) Selfish is ripped out of his heart.
The ensuing battle is typical PreCure fare, with the girls locked in combat with the monster of the week, citing their defense of the preyed-upon and weak like Jun. In most episodes of Heartcatch though, the girls’ speeches are often high and mighty, with nary a regard for their own self-reflection. They claim defense of those with weak hearts, and their untainted-by-default hearts make those particular messages fall slightly short in actual meaning; the brunt of the emotional impact comes from the inner-testimonial of the suffering individual. Dokidoki follows the trend in regards to the inner-testimonial, but an added layer of doubt allows us to see how fragile and weak these PreCure are, especially that of their hardy leader, Cure Heart.
When the other three girls take their turns citing their defense for the pureness of Jun’s heart by speaking their honest perception of how Mana became the seemingly perfect girl that she is, those words not backed up by the words of Cure Heart herself. She insists that the girls speak too highly of who she is now as well as how she got to where she is. This admission is a necessary step in putting the girls in their place about how much they actually know about themselves and about the reality of sacrifice and loss as roadblocks to their goals. They’re fledgling magical girls, barely weeks removed from forming an actual team together, and only an episode from getting their first power-up. They know a whole lot less about people and the world than they realize, and Heart keeps them and herself grounded.
This is what allows her to keep pushing forward the way she does without coming off as seemingly perfect. She’s not. She is in her position of strength based on hard work alone, and she bared her own weaknesses in front of the enemy to get that point across. She freely mentioned the potential weaknesses in her own heart, which she hides every day because of her brand of selflessness. It’s a timely source of self-depreciation that is often difficult to see in other PreCure shows, which makes this particular moment very special for the girls at this point in the series. By highlighting their weaknesses early on, the girls sow the seeds of maturity that push them towards self-improvement in the same vein as the very individuals that they save on a weekly basis.
In the case of Jun, the resolution is straightforward and pointed in its seemingly obvious truth about being oneself, and simply aiming to become the best version at that. He takes up gardening, and by extension, takes up the mantle of green-hearted guardian of his own feelings and dreams. The book-end that highlights this change is all sorts of wonderful, as it highlights the slight change in the world as well, from the first shot to the last. A small change such as the flowerbed in front of the girls’ school is a drop in the pond of the entire human race that they defend, but thanks to them, Jun has finally found a place in it.
What of the PreCure, though? They save the day once more, but at what of themselves? Their insecurities remain, and despite being fearless protectors, they are the most insecure group of heroines yet. As long as the tiniest doubt remains with them, their virtues are likely targets to be turned into vice. Not only will they battle the Selfish throughout the course of the season, but the creeping selfishness in their own hearts as well. To what extent these battles will rage remains to be seen, but the idea that the threat is real makes Dokidoki personal and weighty as a series in its own way compared to its emotional predecessors. Time will tell whether or heart flowers will bloom, wilt, or perhaps both.