“I do not envy Momo-nee, but rather I want to become someone amazing like her!” – Cure Marine
It’s no coincidence that the Aquamarine jewel makes an appearance in this episode featuring the tumult between sisters; HeartCatch PreCure blazed the trail, exploring the relationship between a PreCure and her older sister. Erika Kurumi’s character arc revolved around the discovery of her identity in relation to her naturally talented and successful sister, Momoka. Originally spiteful and jealous to the point of having her own heart flower stolen, Cure Marine’s insecurities about herself left her unable to see herself as her sister’s equal.
She eventually figured it out through the help of her friends, and by the time she faced her ultimate trial in the PreCure palace, she readily confronted her shadow-self and passed the test:
I found out I had my own strong points, thanks to Tsubomi and everyone else…A shadow that makes up everything negative about me is still me! I don’t hate you, you know. I love everything about myself.
She accepts the darkness that makes up a part of her, realizing that her past worries made her the confident lady that she has become, outspoken and with an impeccable eye for fashion.
Riko’s faults lie in her pride, not her inexperience with practical magic. Episode 6 of Maho Girls! PreCure not only plays this up, but also provides the root of her pride and potential; Liz is clearly a sibling to whom Riko bears no ill will or even jealousy, but rather is the very source of her pride.
It’s a dangerous proposition to heap praise on a young kid so early in their emotional development, especially someone in an impressionable position like a younger sister. Unearned praise, or rather, the assertion of potential and assigning future worth, piles on an expectation to meet that value later on in life. Riko understands this all too well, having learned first-hand through her initial failures as a magician. The relationship that she had with her sister centres around the fundamental moment and memory that she holds, when Liz gave her the pendant.
In failing to live up to that praise, Riko feels threatened that her relationship with her sister will fail as well. Her avoidance of Liz is a side-effect of wanting to preserve that moment in her childhood, in which she is still assigned that value of worth as a person, more importantly as a sister. The Momo-Erika dynamic provides a fantastic contrast in how both PreCure deal with this feeling of inadequacy: Riko avoids Liz entirely throughout her later childhood, whereas Erika remains close to Momoka, allowing the inadequacy to manifest itself into jealousy and hostility.
This strain on the sisterly relationship is not the fault of either girl, but rather serves as the obstacle for further growth as people. Tsubomi accepts Erika’s friendship and the two blossom into stronger individuals emotionally. Tsubomi’s maturity occurs a bit later than Erika’s, albeit to its own great effect. Mirai and Riko’s relationship is a bit more important to their individual growths so far; while Mirai’s narrative remains to be seen (and will likely be explored when she returns to earth, as the setting has dictated so far), Riko’s improvement as a magician is highly dependant on Mirai’s support and presence.
Liz knows the importance of positive and negative presence immediately, having observed Mirai’s supportive gestures towards Riko when she tries to cast a water spell that’s too complex for fledgling magicians, let alone Riko herself. Liz’s very presence in front of Riko initially and immediately bears poor results. When Riko runs away, Liz trusts Mirai with talking Riko back down to earth.
The presence of Riko’s sister is that of the weight of pressure to live up to the expectations of her treasured memories. With Mirai’s encouragement in the present, Riko also eventually draws strength from Liz’s encouragement in the past. Instead of trying to mimic her sister, Riko instead tries to cast the water spell using elements from her treasured childhood, her incantation making water take the form of the pendant given to her as a child. The show smartly does not stop at just allowing her to succeed, but rather take that accomplishment even further by infusing Riko’s spell with ice magic, another important element of Riko’s memory. Through this accomplishment, Liz and Riko’s feelings are connected without either of them having to speak much to each other, if at all.
At the heart of Riko’s improvement is the careful distance that Liz places herself while guiding her little sister on the road to becoming a formidable magician. Like Riko, Liz has her own precious memory of Riko, that is in turn the basis of Liz’s unshaken belief in Riko’s potential. The formation of Riko’s wand is almost divine in its circumstance, and Liz connects the dots between the wand and the pendant that she carries. Those two accessories end up becoming the necessary keys to Riko’s awakening as a legendary magician, PreCure.
The legend of the PreCure is strongly tied to this passing down of those trinkets, and while it’s clear that Liz plays a part in Riko’s journey as a Cure Magical going forward, it leaves the audience with further questions as to Mirai’s role in all of this. Her grandmother will surely become an important figure in Mirai’s story later, as she is the previous owner of the pendant that allows Mirai to transform to Cure Miracle.
Unlike Erika, Riko still holds the belief that she can not only follow in her sister’s footsteps, but surpass her completely. Neither outcome is better than the other, but for a show that emphasizes the two-girl dynamic more strongly than any other PreCure show since Futari wa and Splash Star, this outcome is expected. Riko’s hand has been revealed, and her ceiling has never been higher. Right next to her, Mirai will surely fly just as high.