“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.” – Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
One of the more noticeable fingerprints left by this show on the Pretty Cure franchise is that of its numerous references and shoutouts to previous iterations of the series across history. It makes sense, considering that Dokidoki is marketed as the 10-year anniversary series in Toei’s cash cow production. These references are the best way to paint a history of Pretty Cure without making direct connections between continuities the way an anniversary series like Kamen Rider Decade did with its tokusatsu brethren. Since Pretty Cure All-Stars already exists and serves the mega-crossover function that Decade does, remembering love for previous PreCure is the most ideal approach to take.
This nostalgic style of production isn’t limited to just visual cues like that of Love Force Arrow, but also narrative ones as well, as I’ve outlined right from the start of the series. With every new plot development and new character introduced, a seasoned veteran of the franchise has up to this point trained themselves to dig deep into the precure database in an attempt to find connections between past and present. It’s a wonderful little bonus baked into the series without alienating newcomers too much. While there are aspects borrowed from different eras of the franchise’s history, it can serve as an interesting starting point for heavily curious prospective PreCure fans.
That said, the introduction of Regina in the past few episodes leaves me in a bit of a conundrum with regards to the direction that she will take as the show progresses. This episode provides an opportunity to showcase in her in a light that sets her up really well for a number of potential outcomes, each of which take from PreCure series past. Let’s take a stroll through the history of PreCure and examine the potential outcomes of Regina’s character arc.
The Princess’ Life: Futari wa Pretty Cure Max Heart
The first possible Regina-related outcome comes friom the sequel to the original Pretty Cure’s second season, Max Heart. In the Futari wa universe, the fairys’ homeworld is ruled by an entity known simply as The Queen, and holds the power to create things (as opposed to the Dusk Zone’s ruler, the Dark King, who holds the power to destroy). Proceeding the events of the end of the first season, both the Queen and Dark King disappear mysteriously, leaving behind several entities that make up their being. The Queen, in particular, breaks up into three components: the Queen’s Life, the Queen’s Will, and the Queen’s Heart.
The Queen’s Life takes the form of the third member of the Pretty Cure Team, Hikari Kujou, who transforms into Shiny Luminous. The Queen’s Will is composed of the 12 heartiels, fairy-like who represent different virtues posessed by the Queen. The Queen’s Heart takes the form of a chierect that houses the heartiels. Likewise, the Dark King leaves behind a being in the same manner as Hikari, a boy named Hikaru. The boy, despite being the essence of the evil king, is childlike, naive, and unaware of his circumstances and identity.
The overarching plot of the series revolves around the Pretty Cure searching for the heartiels and resurrecting the Queen, while at the same time, preventing the Dusk Zone from resurrecting the Dark King. Should a similar premise resurface in Dokidoki, the main players in the grand plot will be both Regina and Ai. Both are currently shrouded in mystery, but both have the same blank slate characterization that was given to Hikari and Hikaru. Regina in particular reminds me a lot of Hikari because she is a character who is steadily learning about the world around her (in this episode, about friendship), and her natural selfish tendencies lead the audience to believe that she is indeed her father’s daughter.
But what if she is actually a component of the life of the Princess or King Selfish? Nothing is said of Ange’s whereabouts since the Selfish’s attack on the Trump Kingdom, and claims of King Selfish’s paternity come from Regina herself. There could be a scenario where both Ai and Regina play an important role in the resurrection of Ange. Consider that Regina’s name comes from a Latin word that means Queen. If Dokidoki takes this route, I would be quite happy with the outcome, as it makes for a fantastic shoutout to Max Heart, and it can be played out in a way similar to Galaxia’s arc in the Sailor Moon series.
No Redemption Without Fall: Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star
Splash Star gets overlooked a lot in the PreCure franchise because it is in a precarious position of being one of the oldest Pretty Cure series in the history of the metaverse, but isn’t noteworthy for being the first in the series like Futari wa and its direct sequel Max Heart. However, this series has plenty to offer, including a fantastic midway arc that centers around the Kiryuu sisters, Kaoru (left) and Michiru (right). Created by the big bad, Akudaikan of the evil group Dark Fall, they were born with the same blank slate as Hikaru and Hikari, and tasked with protecting the Fountain of the Sky, which was captured and taken away from the good guys.
Prior to their “turn” as antagonists (earlier iterations of Pretty Cure relied on a sequential villain progression rather than a rogues gallery seen in Fresh/Heartcatch/Smile), they infiltrated the Land of Greenery (essentially Earth), and scouted out the PreCure to find their weakness, only to befriend them altogether. When the Kiryuu’s cover is dropped and Cures Bloom and Egret try to persuade them to leave Dark fall, the sisters refuse and attack directly. However, their perception of allegiance is changed forever due to their developed friendship with Saki/Bloom and Mai/Egret, and they ultimate sacrifice themselves to save the PreCure from Dark Fall in one particular event.
The sacrifice serves as an emotional turning point in the series, as it makes the main girls examine their situation and re-evaluate their goals as PreCure. In the context of Dokidoki, there is plot design space that allows for Regina to undergo the same shift in allegiance as the story progresses. What is lacking in this department, however, is that there isn’t the same tension of secrecy in allegiance that you see with the Kiryuu sisters and Eas in Fresh (more on that in a bit). That said, Regina is already questioning her own personality tendencies as well as what she represents as the symbollic (and supposed) daughter of King Selfish.
Under the possibility that she is actually linked to Ange in some way, that only adds to the inevitability of her characterization crossroads when she is forced to make a choice between siding with the girls and with the Selfish. We already see tension between her and both sides; the Selfish trio are afraid of her because she is King Selfish’s daughter, and Makopi cannot forgive her due to her allegiance and what the Selfish did to the Trump Kingdom. Regina is ultimately in a no-win situation, and a fall situation where she decides to sacrifice herself for either side would generate a ton of sympathy and emotional resonance simply based on that tension between sides.
Ace in the Hole: Fresh Pretty Cure (and Suite PreCure)
The most prominent theory in fandom, simply due to wild rumors of a fifth cure, Cure Ace, involves Regina making a straightforward heel-face turn and joining the Dokidoki girls. PreCure defections are represented in the text solely by two examples, Setsuna/Eas/Cure Passion in Fresh, as well as Ellen/Seiren/Cure Beat in Suite. One of the more interesting tendencies I’ve seen in fandom so far (particularly in the limited amount of time I’ve spent looking through reactions on tumblr), is that Regina taking this particular route does not fit well at all with the rest of the show, at least from a comparitive standpoint. Regina’s arc so far isn’t “living up” to the redemption story that Setsuna undergoes.
It’s a natural reaction, this negative reception of Regina so far, particularly by fans of Fresh. From a series-wide standpoint, I feel that Ellen doesn’t get enough mention in this particular discussion. Her defection was a thing, and it was an important story element in Suite, as flawed and uneven as it was when it aired. Dokidoki, with all of the balls that it is currently juggling, may very well fail to keep it up, and become a more spectacular of a “failure” as Suite was, but one shouldn’t discount it from the history of the franchise altogether. Was Ellen’s defection badly received because Setsuna did it first/better? Perhaps, but as far as Dokidoki’s fingerprint is concerned, a defection fo Regina isn’t entirely out of the question.
The main point here is that if she does defect, it would be the emotional narrative behind that defection that takes center stage in the storytelling department. What the images in this show represent is a lot more nuanced and subtle than most viewers catch on initially. It took me a second viewing of the episode to really pick up on the visual composition of the show so far, and the series is doing a fantastic job chronicling Regina from a visual standpoint, from her Dark Cure comparative color scheme to camera framing and composition and beyond. At the end of the day, regardless of how well she would fit in with the rest of the group (not well at all, unless she takes a secondary power role like Candy at the end of Smile PreCure, which is my perceived best-case scenario with this outcome), she will become the third defect in the history of the franchise, and she will be studied greatly in relation others that came before her.
Dokidoki is treading an interesting line as far as Regina’s involvement is concerned, and while Cure Ace is the predominant item of discussion in fandom, I feel it necessary to point out the other ways in which Regina’s story could be addressed. Given the tendency of this series to shout out to shows past and present, I wouldn’t dismiss entirely the other shows that exist in the franchise, particularly Max Heart and Splash Star, two very underappreciated shows in the history of Pretty Cure. One does not necessarily have to like those shows in their lonesome in order to further appreciate the franchise as a whole. Even if Doki fails to intrigue me by its story, it has already succeeded in making me appreciate the rest of the metaverse. It is that very appreciation that has been intended by design for a show celebrating 10 years of doing the same thing over again, yet in different and amazing ways.