Less HeartCatch, More PreCure: Why I am Excited for HappinessCharge PreCure

The general consensus in the Pretty Cure fandom is that HappinessCharge PreCure is similar to HeartCatch PreCure, and depending on who you ask, the reaction to this common observation is either that of sheer joy (Hell yeah! More HeartCatch!) or utter disdain (Oh hell no! More Heartcatch?). As odd as it is for me to say this, those who fall under the latter camp seem to place themselves there for either of two reasons: either they didn’t like HeartCatch — they do exist, as weird as it is for me to admit — or simply loath unoriginality, ultimately begging the question as to why they watch Pretty Cure in the first place.

That said, I can sort of see why those who fall in the former camp could come to not appreciate HeartCatch at the end of it. I personally love the series; it has a fantastic cast dynamic between the main girls, an overarching tragedy and redemption storyline in Cure Moonlight, incredible art style lent from the talents of Yoshihiko Umakoshi, a vast, self-contained PreCure continuity and universe featuring the history Cure Flower (and if you count the Paris movie as canon, Cure Ange as well), and some wicked-ass fight scenes to boot. When you look at these particular points of praise, they all add up to a fine quality piece of work, but only as far as any one person could say about any work in general. Remove the PreCure names, titles, and visual cues, and you’re still left with a great show. Ask most people who have come into familiarity with the PreCure franchise, and most likely it is because of HeartCatch and the general quality it exudes. But therein lies the problem! It’s good for an anime, but is it good within a franchise context?

When looking at the entire big picture of the franchise, a given series is hardly ever viewed upon within its own vacuum. Anyone who loves this property as a whole simply can’t help but see other products past when peering into the present. It’s the reason why, despite Dokidoki’s tremendous individual (and overall structural) problems, that particular show can still provide incredible value to the hardest of the hardcore while driving away less familiar fans. It’s that ultimate quality, that quintessence (curetessence?), that makes a show purely PreCure.

After watching and loving PreCure as much as I have, I still love HeartCatch for what it is, but what it isn’t is quite easy to pin down; it’s not really that PreCurian. Perhaps, then, HappinessCharge is what will change all of that. As the 10th anniversary series — which I honest to goodness mistakenly assigned to Dokidoki PreCure, which was merely the 10th series, but debuted in the 9th year of the franchise — HappinessCharge gets to build on a sort of focused nostalgia that Dokidoki did with the PreCure franchise as a whole. Where the latter simply gushed nostalgia in different directions, HappinessCharge gets to revisit an old series in HeartCatch and make commentary on how far this franchise has come since the good old deluxe days.

A show that lacks that PreCure soul can be resurrected in a better PreCurian image, and I already see promise in its debut episode. Hell, I already see promise in its OP, so let’s just take a look at that briefly (and by briefly I actually mean we’re probably just at the halfway point, wordcount-wise) at the similarities between both shows, and extract potential differences between the two. [Doremi-LPHH].Happiness.Charge.Precure.01.[1280x720].[4104F1C8].mkv_snapshot_04.21_[2014.02.03_20.58.05] Right at the beginning, the primary fairies fly towards the screen, behind them the main cast of girls. What’s important here is that HappinessCharge immediately makes a point of revealing all four girls at once as PreCure, without the dramatic buildup and spoiler factor. We were given this hush-hush treatment with Cures Passion and Sunshine in the earlier shows, but the franchise seems to have shifted towards revealing all the cures at once with the ensemble formation of Smile and Dokidoki (Cure Ace being a notable exception to the rule, but for specific reasons I won’t get into right now). Having all the girls together at once is critical to the effectiveness of a set PreCure series formula. Informing the viewer early of the existence of Cures Honey and Fortune trains them at the very basic level the relationship of the girls with each other. With HeartCatch, the introduction of the latter two Cures wasn’t reflected very well at all in its opening nor in its stock sequences, two very important elements of a PreCure show from a formula standpoint. [Doremi-LPHH].Happiness.Charge.Precure.01.[1280x720].[4104F1C8].mkv_snapshot_05.12_[2014.02.03_21.10.21] The dramatic purple cure is rife with underlying story elements that gradually unravels over the course of the show. I loved Cure Moonlight’s arc, and may very well argue in a future post that the show was ultimately about her, rather than that of Blossom or Marine. Overarching storylines are not new to the PreCure series, as Dokidoki has previously shown. The tradeoff between screen time (very important for marketing purposes!) and story in a PreCure show was one of the marketing shortfalls of Moonlight’s arc. By the time she joins the cast, the show is already heading towards the end, and she needs to fit in right away. Dokidoki immediately incorporates Sword into the cast with interesting tensions in the cast dynamic, but due to the Regina/Ace storyline, this potential was left unrealized. I’d like to see more focus this time around with HappinessCharge; perhaps we’ll be blessed with greater fortune. [Doremi-LPHH].Happiness.Charge.Precure.01.[1280x720].[4104F1C8].mkv_snapshot_05.04_[2014.02.03_20.46.01] Forget for one moment that the curl at the bottom of Queen Mirage’s hair almost looks like the top of Professor Sabaaku’s head; the composition of both screenshots are incredibly similar, and based on the details surrounding Sabaaku and Moonlight in HeartCatch, one can easily put on a tinfoil hat regarding the relationship between Blue and Queen Mirage. The two are both overseers of their respective groups, and occupy opposite ends of the malevolent/benevolent spectrum. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they are related somehow; HeartCatch occupies a lot of grey space with their own little pair, but Dokidoki really pushed this tone to the forefront with King Selfish’s reveal at the end of the series. I expect a similar large-scale development by the end of the show.

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The Desert apostles in HeartCatch meet their rogues gallery contemporaries in the Phantom Empire’s trio, consisting of what appears to be a similar personality dynamic with episode 1’s Namakelder occupying Cobraja’s finesse fighter role, and the other two by extension becoming the brute force commander and wiley female that Kumojacky and Sasorina were. Namakelder felt incredibly familiar to Yes 5’s Girinma with his insect-like appearance and classy dress, though Yes 5’s version wears a bowler instead of a top hat, which is an especially nice touch. I am particularly excited that a lot of HappinessCharge’s scenario comes from a team that has had extensive work on Yes 5 and its sequel.

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Here is where the choreography really gets eerily similar. At the chorus of both OP sequences, we’re brought to an outer space setting where the respective Cures battle masses of underlings in order, showcasing their fearsome combat skills. As I’ve already mentioned before, having all of the girls present from the get-go provides a lot of opportunity to establish a more balanced dynamic between each character. In the senior series, HeartCatch squeezes Moonlight into the end of Sunshine’s cut, failing to showcase her in any sort of competent light (even though she’s clearly the strongest fighter in the group). To rectify this, Moonlight’s analog in Cure Fortune gets put into Sunshine’s spot, while Honey gets bumped to Marine status, eschewing a Marine Dynamite for what turns out to be a classic “Yellow Utility” spell, seen below.

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Just fantastic. The shuffle leaves a wonderful balance, which allows Cure Princess to barrel flail her way through the mass of enemies, nearly in the same fashion as the Marine of old, but with the sort of insecurity that early versions of Blossom exuded within the series.

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I could write an entire post about how Princess is the meta-offspring of Marine and Blossom, but I would like to see more of it in action before writing more about it. There’s a really great approach being taken here with Princess being the spotlight of the premiere episode, something that the series hasn’t done before. The separation between emotional leader and tactical leader (from a sentai perspective) is not entirely new in tokusatsu in general, but has plenty of space to explore from a PreCure perspective. I can only hope that this approach is pursued further throughout the series.

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Overall, the two HC Pretty Cures have a lot of similarities going for them, but it is through those similarities that we can find meaning in the differences between the two. A lot can happen within a span of four years, and whatever it is that we can extract out of the show from a PreCure database standpoint, we can learn so much more about what it means to be a PreCure show. HeartCatch may not have been an exemplar of this, but HappinessCharge has an opportunity to be that spiritual successor that I’ve always wanted.

 

12 thoughts on “Less HeartCatch, More PreCure: Why I am Excited for HappinessCharge PreCure

  1. I love Heartcatch, but since my introduction to Precure was through Smile, I admit that I’ve wanted a Precure series that’s the best of both worlds. And I really hope Happiness Charge can do that.

    And I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw all the similarities in the opening!

    1. I am on a similar boat with you in regards to wanting HappinessCharge to be a modern spin on what HeartCatch provided. I’m really looking forward to what the show provides in the future!

  2. I’m impressed that you found many similarities between HC and Happiness Charge. As you said, this series is the 10th anniversary of Precure franchise. So, Toei animation, its company, introduces the all past Precure points, for example, a part of relics from 5gogo, a part of the ending of the same cinematography as Suite Precure and calls and lines from Max Heart and Splash Star.
    In addition, Cure Lovely and Princess shows big smiles, nice costumes and background effects of flower in the ending dance, which reminds me of Smile, Fresh and Heart Catch as well.
    It’s very interesting to find similarities from other Precure franchise as well.

    1. Yeah, with the ending, I got a pretty nice Smile Vibe, given how colourful it was in comparison to Smile’s second ED. I still think both songs are ok, but as with most themes, it usually takes a while and a lot of repeated listening to it in order for me to start liking a song a lot. Thanks for commenting and welcome back Jun!

  3. My son told me that Megumi and Hime feel a lot like they took Tsubomi and Erika’s personalities and just randomly swapped around their personality traits. So if you add up all of both of their personality traits, you get the same whole from the pair in both series, but they individually bring different pieces of that than their predecessors.

    Did anyone catch Megumi pulling an Erika on Ribbon when it was time to transform? Ribbon tries to explain to Megumi how to transform, and Megumi cuts her off “I know how already, I just watched Hime do it.” Very similar to what Erika did in Heartcatch when Coffret tried to do the explanation to her.

    1. Megumi is a really interesting one, and she definitely has bits and pieces from Tsubomi and Erika as well, although they’re more subtle than that of Hime. Megumi feels a bit more like her own person, and for me personally, I attest that to just how awesome Megumi Nakajima is with the role. All I see is Cure Ranka, to be honest, hehe.

  4. The reasons I personally dislike Heartcatch have nothing to do with the parts of Happiness Charge that are similar to it. My biggest issues were the heavy focus on the victim of the week and the shy uncharismatic pink, and HaCha has neither of those judging by the first episode alone. I’m personally looking forward to it myself. Strangely, the series I am most reminded of is Fresh despite the references to all of the other seasons.

    1. The focus on the victims themselves were a matter of design choice, and while HeartCatch was admirably consistent with that matter, I can see where you’re coming from when you say you wanted to see more focus put on the characters themselves. It definitely feels a little less PreCurian that way, so I can definitely agree with you in that regard.

      That you are reminded of Fresh with this series is particularly interesting to me. I don’t see it too strongly, but I can appreciate the relationship established between Seiji and Megumi; it has Love/Daisuke written all over, it’s not even funny. I can totally ship this.

  5. I felt the same way Krizz! I thought that Doki Doki was the tenth anniversary PreCure and with Happiness Charge coming at us next I instantly saw the similar things in this new series and Heartcatch, especially the goofy expressions which I have missed since Smile and Doki Doki seemed to avoid using, but overall I was quite happy with the first episode!

    OP/ED are both awesome I could listen to them over and over again <3

    Soooo what do you think this new PreCure will do? Will it be more goofy with some serious things thrown in or will it do something brand new? I felt that Smile was more crazy and random while Doki Doki seemed to have more serious episodes! Maybe we will get a combination of both like Heartcatch?

    I guess it is super early to ask who is your favorite since we have barely seen the girls interacting but based off design who do you think you will love to watch? I think I am leaning more towards Cure Princess and Cure Lovely but I will wait to see Cure Honey because I do tend to like the yellow cures.

    Great post and I look forward to seeing more!

    One last thing to mention I finished Fresh PreCure recently and WOW that was a ton of fun~

    1. I think I’m going to have to keep a folder of Himefaces.

      Both Dokidoki and Smile had an interesting mix of serious and silly, though I feel that Smile’s brand of silliness was more thoughtfully written whereas Dokidoki was very extreme and random (no one can hear you transform in space!).

      I always have a soft spot for the yellow cures, but the blue cures have always been a favourite for me (Aqua, Beauty, Diamond, among others), and I definitely love what they’re doing with Hime so far. She seems to be the second coming of Marine, and as much as I loved Marine, I just so happened to love Sunshine considerably more, so maybe with another mellow yellow like Rosetta was, I’ll come around to liking Hime the most by the end. So far Princess is definitely my favourite.

  6. The last sentence of your first paragraph was really judgemental and I didn’t like it. I discovered Precure with Suite, I absolutely loved it, as well as fresh, smile, and doki doki, and I am really enjoying happiness charge so far. However, I was actually turned off from heartcatch. The reasons for that are probably among the same reasons other people decide it is their favorite, such as it being more dark. I also despise Madoka Magica, yet it’s more popular than precure. Probably because the only people that gave precure a chance were the people who liked dark stuff and saw heartcatch first. >.<

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