“I’m gone, but then, I’m not gone. So if I do leave, you can never be sure that I am gone, can you?” – Merlin, The Sword in the Stone
Out of all the completed PreCure continuities to date, Dokidoki PreCure seems to take the most from Fresh Pretty Cure from a holistic design standpoint. Going through the starter precure quiz and picking answers based on qualities exhibited by this year’s installment so far, the quiz ends up suggesting Fresh as a starter precure series. The final question leading up to the quiz’s diagnosis addresses the story considerations and the dynamics of relationships and statuses of people and places over a period of time. Dokidoki takes a page from Fresh’s tendency towards character and plot dynamics and takes it to a noticeably further extent, especially in this week’s episode, with not only Joe’s reveal as Princess Marie-Ange’s fiancé, but with Cure Sword’s relationship and reaction to these events.
Of the four girls in the main cast of cures,Sword is the sole character that identifies as PreCure first, civilian second. Originating from the Trump Kingdom, we never actually get to know much about Cure Sword except through her backstory and how she relates to the driving plot of the series. While she eventually joins the other three during the early episodes of the show’s run (for All-Stars inclusion reasons, above all else), she still remains nearly as aloof as she was in the beginning of the show, often distancing herself from the others in an attempt to continue her search for the Princess and to vanquish King Selfish for good. Her primary motivation is to find Marie-Ange first and foremost, and the developments of this episode form the first real leads that she has in finding the princess, primarily through the statue itself as well as Jonathan’s sudden appearance.
This particular sequence of revelations spurs Sword towards her objective, and as a small consequence, it most importantly drives her somewhat away from the rest of the group once again. Instead of admonishing Mana for solidifying her allegiance with Regina, she takes precautions to ensure that Regina does not find out about the royal crystals. Furthermore, despite an attempt at reassured counsel from Alice, Sword blows her off to follow a hunch regarding the princess, which results in the discovery of Marie-Ange’s statue. She even drops her guard shortly after, mentioning the princess in front of Regina despite her warning to Mana. This sequence transitions visually into Joe’s appearance by using the same profile shot of Sword looking at the statue with Joe doing the same, relating both characters to Marie-Ange who was previously depicted with the exact same shot.
The visual direction in this episode also did a fantastic job at separating Sword from the rest of the girls in her intensified search for Princess. In the three shots above, a similar pose and composition is used, but the way each character is presented in comparison to each other communicates subtle differences in their role in the story up to this point. Sword’s eyes are wider than the others, indicating that she’s using her visual senses to take in information about the world she lives in, comparing that to the vivid memories that she has of her past experiences in the Trump Kingdom, particularly of Marie-Ange. Her slightly opened mouth is reflective of her distraction from her own surroundings as a result of processing this information.
Joe’s face is different in expression, depicted with more intent than Sword. His sharpened eyes indicates an intense focus on the statue, which he already identifies with so well. The slight grin from his mouth exudes a bit of confidence, as if he’s knowingly aware of the origin of the statue, and reinforces his connection with it. We learn later that he is Marie-Ange’s fiancé, which explains his apparent fondness for the statue as he is introduced. Of the three shots, Joe’s expression is the most poker-faced, which only serves to further drive the importance of his mystery. We don’t know much else other than his relationship to the Princess and his standing as a knight of the Trump Kingdom. The profile shot is a perfect angle to use to convey this sense of mystery and hiding of information. It makes the viewer (myself especially) ask even more questions about his story, which assuredly will be addressed next week.
The shot of Marie-Ange is described straightforwardly by Sword when she mentions the princess’ affinity for statues. Obviously, there’s a different context in which the shot is set up; she’s looking at a statue depicting herself as well as the individual next to her, revealed to be Jonathan Klondike. It makes for an interesting visual point of reference, since the other two characters who relate so closely to her are also looking at a statue depicting the same primary subject. Marie’s is more tightly-framed, conveying a slightly more restricted tone in regards to her feelings towards the sculpture itself. She stares longingly with narrower eyes, and her lips are curled downward. Compare the framing of the shot with Sword’s, whose face is slowly zoomed in before immediately cutting to Joe’s appearance. Sword gradually draws closer and closer to her goal, but the tighter grasp that she has on her own search, the easier it is for her objective to slip away.
Perhaps the penultimate shot indicating Sword’s distance from the rest of the group is seen in the screenshot above. In the scene where Regina observes the precure girls laughing together in camaraderie after cleaning up the broken statue of Marie-Ange, Makoto stands a very subtle distance away from the girls. Her posture is slightly stiffer than the others, who are more relaxed in their admission of allegiance to Mana and her Happy Prince tendencies, their shoulders moving as a result of their laughter; Sword simply stands there with her left hand awkwardly connected to her hip, forming an unbecoming pose of a person whose appeal as an idol comes from naturally beautiful lines of motion when she moves through space.
Makoto Kenzaki isn’t exactly where she wants to be as both a PreCure and as a friend to the rest of the group. She hasn’t yet found her Princess, and she hasn’t yet settled into her role in relationship to the other girls. There’s a slight bit of tension between her internal and external motivations to accomplish both, and it serves as a fascinating depiction of the duality of a PreCure character. Unlike most characters who are thrust into extraordinary circumstances to become legendary warriors and save the world, Cure Sword is born into those circumstances to begin with, and her need to balance her PreCure persona with her civilian one is a captivating reversal of that particular tension developed so wonderfully in Fresh. With the development of Joe’s reveal as Marie-Ange’s fiancé being addressed next episode, the progression of plot beats in the overall story of the series comes even more rapidly than that of Fresh, but still maintains an excellent sense of relating the main characters with each other.