The relationship between the lead cure and her partner in crime is a constantly evolving concept throughout the history of the PreCure franchise, with Futari wa and Splash Star laying the groundwork.
DokiDoki! PreCure, for all of its busybody plot, spends a considerable amount of time incorporating Rikka Hishikawa into the cast as the secondary cure, Cure Diamond, and examines the importance of being the supporting best friend. HappinessCharge PreCure! Follows-up on this and expands the secondary into prominence, to the point of even making the entire plot of the series centred on Hime. Cure Princess, while technically not being the leader, is most definitely the central character; HappinessCharge closely follows her story, from her bringing about the demise of the Blue Sky Kingdom, all the way to her eventual redemption and winning back the trust of Cure Fortune along the way.
With Riko, Maho Girls returns to the two-girl dynamic, taking elements from shows both past and present, and showing a completely different look that we haven’t seen before in PreCure. As Cure Magical, Riko is once again a co-cure in the vein of Cure White and Cure Egret, but stands on her own as a character like Cure Diamond and Cure Princess.
Riko’s role in the show is more of a co-cure in the vein of Cure White, but with elements of distinction in HapiCha and Dokidoki. The separation of two realms, Rika’s magical world and Mirai’s home on Earth, serves as the vehicle of distinguishing both characters in the episodes we’ve seen so far. When the two meet, Mirai’s affinity for witches immediately leaves her entranced with Riko, impressed by anything remotely magical that Riko can do. This week, we find out officially (though we’ve been given hints of this in the previous episode) that Riko actually isn’t very good at all, and has to stay behind at the witch school for supplemental training.
This isn’t the same kind of incompetence as HappinessCharge’s Cure Princess, whose weakness as a PreCure is made evident right from the cold open. Where Hime selfishly looks for ways to increase her standing (she recruits Cure Lovely because she thinks that friendship will inherently make herself stronger), Riko spends both episodes withholding her ineptitude to Mirai. On earth, she boasts about making a cat talk, but can only make it speak in tongues at best. On the snail train, she initially boasts about her ability to defrost Mirai’s snack, but insists that it’s supposed to remain a bit frozen.
The separation from this unskilled civilian form and the infallible strength of a legendary witch is both intriguing for the school’s headmaster as well as the audience. He sees Riko’s awakening as a Mahotsukai PreCure as an opportunity to accelerate her growth as a witch in training. For the PreCure audience, the separation between normal witches and legendary witches is interesting in the context of magical girl fare. How does a girl with magic powers become more magical? The most key to this is her friendship with Mirai, an earthling who has no abilities whatsoever. The link between the two of them is the key to unlocking their powers, and by extension, defending both their worlds from the still-unknown enemy.
This episode serves to bridge the gap between both characters. After leaving Riko in the lecture hall, Mirai goes on her own journey around the school, exploring the world alongside the audience. She encounters the Wand Tree, another entity that eventually gives the two girls their powers. Mirai is highly eager to take in her magical surroundings and readily accepts the mystique of being a PreCure despite her non-witch status. Riko also accepts the sudden friendship established between herself and Mirai, scurrying off to rescue Mirai while risking expulsion from her school. She also accepts her ineptitude as a witch so that she can save Mirai with her limited abilities.
The two girls with different world experiences come to the same conclusion and join forces for good, with the intention of defeating Batty again. They transform, this time intentionally, and cement their PreCure partnership with their new attack, PreCure Diamond Eternal.
We know that there are more Linkle stones to collect, and based on the episode preview for next week that each stone provides a different kind of power-up transformation. The alternate forms feel a lot like HappinessCharge’s PreCards, but the way the promotional material has been circulated online and elsewhere, this new power feels more like a permanent fighting mode, like the Cure Bright and Cure Windy forms in Splash Star. If this is the case, then the cast is pretty much set at two PreCure, at least for now.
My hope for this show going forward is that they continue to further develop the two worlds as an extension of the duality between Cure Miracle and Cure Magical. The idea of the PreCure binary has always been of polar opposites, but this year’s iteration feels more closely related than what the superficial appearances seem. It all depends on Riko, and the development of her own story alongside the magical world. We know Mirai’s story, it’s the same fare as all other primary PreCure in the franchise. The narrative possibilities of Maho Girls PreCure is as open as its magical world can take them, and so far, it’s already giving us a PreCure that we are familiar with, yet never seen before.