HappinessCharge PreCure: First Impressions

The desire to make a good first impression with others is a universally understandable trait. The traits that define us as unique people can run deep in its complexities, making it almost impossible to truly share the experience of oneself in a single meeting, which is why the first instance of experiencing something often comes with the goal of establishing a foundation from which one can get to know something a little bit more.

In the PreCure franchise and anime in general, this sort of experience is commonly shared in the moment in which a new transfer student introduces themselves to their peers. It’s a stressful experience, especially for the characters in the PreCure themselves. They’re only in middle school, and at that point, it’s not a guarantee that a person would have fully developed social skills or even are aware of who they are as people. For different characters in PreCure who come from all different walks of life, the first day of school makes for a wonderful foundation for us to get to know these girls a little bit more. What makes the franchise particularly excellent is that each self-introduction from each series exemplifies what a given show offers as a whole, wonderfully variant from its kin.

Meet the Family: Smile PreCure

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Smile PreCure has a warm and complete cast of thoroughly balanced characters, and even though the series’ premiere episode showcased a self-Introduction of the new girl in town (and inaugural lead PreCure, Cure Happy), Miyuki Hoshizora is initially depicted with an internal nervousness privy only to the audience. She cycles through several different emotions as she attempts to conjure the perfect words for her introduction, and is thrown for a loop by the interruption of class clown Akane Hino, who would later become Cure Sunny. Akane is admonished by the responsible pair of Nao Midorikawa and Reika Aoki, while crybaby mangaka Yayoi Kise softly cheers Miyuki on.

The self-introduction for the class actually turns into a group introduction of the girls to the audience, a perfectly juggled assortment of lines tossed between immediately drawn personalities. This group dynamic also serves as the framework through which the show presents itself later on; a character is in the spotlight, but is supported wholly by her friends. This is in play with Smile, as Miyuki responds warmly to the friendly banter between the other four girls and is able to deliver a confident, personal introduction. Smile simultaneously blends audience introduction with cast introduction while perfectly producing a sentai-like group feel to the show early, and doesn’t let go.

Second Impressions: Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star

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In the first episode of Splash Star, Saki Hyuuga and Mai Mishou discover their PreCure powers through a chance meeting with each other; despite Mai having recently moved to the city, it is revealed that the two were drawn together in a previous incident when they were kids, and were inadvertently connected to the fairies Flappy and Choppy, and thus were pre-selected to become Pretty Cure. They meet the fairies once again in the present, and readily accept their powers in order to defend their city and even mother nature itself.

By even further luck, it is at the end of the episode when Mai makes her class introduction, from which Saki is taken aback. There’s a sense of deja vu in the relationship between the two chosen friends, and their lives as PreCure are set in stone from that moment forward, emphasized by the placement of this scene within the episode, making two supposed strangers seem more like friends for life.

Meet the Other Family: Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GoGo!

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The self-introduction of Kurumi Mimino in the second season of Yes! Pretty Cure 5 is sudden and immediately mysterious. Despite the show itself having an entire season and a quarter under its belt, the appearance of Kurumi and her PreCure persona, Milky Rose, is that of wonderous flourish, albeit at a superficial level; Kurumi interrupts the class before first period begins, and presents herself to her classmates in the absence of a teacher who would normally facilitate the introduction. She revels in her immediate popularity through supposed competencies in drama, literature, and sports, but reveals numerous cracks in her armor through humorous foibles. She refers to The Merchant of Venice as The Merchant of Tennis; she performs a flashy slam dunk against the basketball team, but on the wrong basket; she even almost leaks her identity as a PreCure to her other classmates.

Kurumi is a mystery to the girls, but the veil drops rather quickly in later episodes, when it is revealed that Milky Rose is actually the human form of the other fairy mascot, Milk. The revelation is less climactic than it is comical, which makes for the humorous appeal of Kurumi when she joins the already zany cast. Despite this, Kurumi’s self-introduction and impression on the girls is wonderfully reflective of Milk’s contradicting nature; in her mascot form, she is arrogant, but cares so much about the girls that she constantly demands their attention. We see it here in her school debut, and even though her identity isn’t revealed in that very episode, the personality similarities are uncanny.

Make it Count: Suite PreCure

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Like Yes 5, Suite also uses the self-introduction as a device to formally introduce the new PreCure to the audience after the denoument of her transformation arc. For Suite in particular, this episode delves perfectly into the mindset of Ellen Kurokawa in the wake of her awakening as Cure Beat. When she decides for herself that she wants to attend school with Hibiki Hojou and Kanade Minamino, the latter two offer a fairly comprehensive prep talk about what entails a self-introduction. It plays into the idea of Ellen, who like Setsuna in Fresh, is not from the human world, and has difficulty incorporating herself into society. This difficulty is expanded to Ellen’s overt attempts in preparing for the event. She writes copious notes, but misinterprets them to the point of overcompensation. Afterward, Ellen feels she failed and is overcome with the tiredness from her previous night’s lack of sleep.

Ellen’s desperate need for approval and acceptance by her peers is emotionally resonant in its outward appearance, but stems from an interesting narrative seed. Formerly Seiren, the songstress of Minor Land, Ellen bears the weight of guilt after awakening as Cure Beat through no intention of her own. She’s confused and unsure about her place in society, which explains her desperation to accomplish the perfect self-introduction. She doesn’t want to do wrong ever again, and with the support of her PreCure pals, the road to personal redemption is a whole lot smoother, as reflected by this series of events.

This Isn’t About Me: Dokidoki PreCure

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Like Suite, Dokidoki’s introduction of Makoto Kenzaki involves a fish-out-of-water circumstance in which Cure Sword, who is also not from the human world, joins the class after previously joining the PreCure. The difference between Makoto and Ellen are like night and day; the former is a famous idol, and needs no introduction. They both showcase their unfamiliarity with the human world for laughs, but for the most part, Makoto acclimates herself with her peers exceptionally well.

What the introduction does provide, however, is a backdrop through which the relationship dynamics between the characters themselves are introduced. I wrote about this in a post last year, but a point I would like to emphasize here is that, despite the markings of a self-introduction episode, Dokidoki doesn’t fall into the trap of the stock plot, and instead masks a wonderful undertone of tense relationships between the girls with Mana Aida in the middle.

Passionate Hearts: Fresh Pretty Cure

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Arguably Dokidoki’s spiritual predecessor (in most circles at least, I’m partial to say that Dokidoki takes from a bunch of other PreCure shows other than Fresh), Fresh Pretty Cure was the first to showcase this tendency to disguise interesting stories within seemingly throwaway stock episodes, and uses Setsuna Higashi’s self-introduction as a means to showcase the relationship between Love Momozono and Daisuke Chinen. Like Makoto, Setsuna immediately gets along with her class due to her passionate nature and natural talents at school. Her arrival marks a turning point in Love and Daisuke’s highly nuanced, romantic undertones.  She commands too much attention from Love, which sparks a rift between the two due to an honest misunderstanding.

Because the two of them are incredibly similar in often being unable to be genuinely honest with themselves, Love and Daisuke with the help of Love’s alternate identity as Cure Peach, are able to come to an understanding. A conversation that takes place between Peach and Daisuke is understated, but has enough dramatic irony that unintentionally clears up a lot of tension between both characters. Combined with an incredibly zany pitching machine monster of the week, Fresh delivers both the comedy and fluff that so adequately displays PreCure’s signature production style.

A New Me: HeartCatch PreCure and HappinessCharge

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In the above screenshot, a robotically stiff Tsubomi Hanasaki attempts to introduce herself to her new class, with an attention-seeking Erika Kurumi stalking from the back of the room. Tsubomi sees her move to a new town as an opportunity to start anew and change herself and the way she is perceived by others. Unfortunately, thanks to a highly brash and outgoing Erika, all of her attempts are foiled, and Tsubomi fails to break out of her shy and introverted shell. Unwillingly dragged into Erika’s world, Tsubomi is thrust out of her comfort zone and defensively lashes out at her new classmate’s befriending attempts, calling Erika out on her inability to mind her own business, sparking a separate storyline about Erika’s own character faults.

Erika, a child starved for attention due to an inferiority complex with her model sister, Momoka, acts out with extroverted energy and a craving for personal relationship with others. Contrasted with the inwardly focused lack of self-confidence from Tsubomi, the episode effectively introduces both girls to each other and in result, lays foundation for the greatest OTP of all time establishes the emotional dynamic between both girls as they develop their partnership as PreCure. Erika, being the emotional prey of the monster of the week in the first two episodes, resolves some of the issues she faces, but reveals other facets of her magnetic personality throughout the series. Tsubomi, on the other hand, struggles to find this “new self,” which results in major emotional complications later on.

This duality of introversion and extroversion is perhaps overtly present, but provides a fantastic backdrop from which we can make our observations regarding this brief window into Hime’s personality in episode 4.

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Whether Hime is falls under one HeartCatch facet or the other is uncertain at this point, but it doesn’t necessarily matter. While HappinessCharge clearly borrows from HeartCatch more than its other predecessors at this point, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a carbon copy. The former incorporates many elements from the latter, and utilizes them in different combination to create an ultimately different finishing product. In the case of the Marine-Blossom spectrum, I would say that Hime has the extroverted tendencies showcased by Erika, but is held back by a crippling social anxiety that outwardly seems similar to Tsubomi, but is manifested through different conditions.

We don’t know much about the cause of this phenomenon, as we are not privy to a full season’s worth of characterization as we are with the other PreCure series; however, what we do know about Hime right now is that she has that outward craving for attention that Cures past like Erika and Akane have. Whatever it is that is holding her back from interacting with large crowds, it’s causing a reaction that is wonderfully communicated through visuals such as the shot above. We see the class the way that Hime sees it, towering figures which lord over Hime’s cowering withered self. It visually contrasts rather interestingly with that of Miyuki’s internal representation during her introduction, which was more rife with self-directed internal monologue rather than a skewed outward perception of her peers. This goes to highlight Miyuki’s social competency despite her preference to enjoy activities by herself. She is completely fine with herself, but benefits from the support of others.

Unfortunately, Hime doesn’t readily have that support network that a Smile PreCure would provide; Cure Fortune doesn’t acknowledge her strength as Cure Princess, and Cure Honey doesn’t even exist yet. All she has for now is her two current friends, Megumi Aino and Seiji Sagara, and that’s completely fine for her. She recognizes her limitations early on, unlike Tsubomi, and it provides a nice starting point for her to work through her difficulties, albeit gradually. Hime comes out of this entire ordeal not exactly succeeding in her plan to make 100 friends, but rather leaves this quest as a work in progress. She’s set for the rest of the show the way Erika is, but still has a way to go, much like Tsubomi.

This post was 4 weeks in the making, and it was after this week’s episode of HappinessCharge PreCure that I was able to look at this show through the lens that I’m naturally wont to use: that which was forged from the experiences of PreCures past. By being able to set this seemingly mundane experience against the entire history of the franchise, I’ve come to enjoy the show a whole lot more, both as a fan of PreCure and one who can really appreciate the value of a good first impression. HappinessCharge PreCure’s first few episodes set an exciting stage for me to wait anxiously for future episodes, and while there’s a whole world of possibilities to explore with this show, I’m incredibly excited to easily able to see the entire franchise within this series. It’s definitely not the first time it’s happened.

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