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 Post subject: Pretty Cure + Max Heart
PostPosted: September 10th, 2010, 5:36 pm 
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This is not just some Mahô Shôjo (Magical Girl) Anime - with the exception of maybe (maybe!) Magic Knight Rayearth this is probably the best Anime of that genre since SailorMoon.

Enter Misumi Nagisa and Yukishiro Honoka, both second year junior high students.
Despite being in the same class for about a year they haven't really talked to each other, Nagisa being the hot-headed sports type, the star of the Lacrosse team, Honoka the silent scientist, the brightest head in the science club. The appearance of Mipple and Mepple, the genre-typical mascots, marks the beginning of them teaming up as "Pretty Cure", the emissaries of Light who fight the Dark King and his minions, preventing him from plunging the world into darkness.

The first season, just named "Futari wa PuriCua", has actually two halfs: In the first half the Dark King attacks the Garden of Light (some heaven-like place full of cuddly creatures ruled by a 60 foot humanoid queen) and the Garden of Rainbows (Earth, i.e. our reality plain) by sending out four fighters, but he is defeated by Pretty Cure.
In the second half three new fighters appear, seeking to resurrect him. The Dark King returns stronger than before and Pretty Cure defeat him with the help of the Queen who is (well, kind of) mortally wounded in the ordeal.

But it's depicted in a way that makes no kid cry. The second season shows us that the Queen has been "split" into her defining elements: The twelve Heartiels, which represent her mental qualities like love, courage, inquisitiveness, passion, and so on, the Queen's Heart, in the shape of the so-called Chairect, a throne-like container for the Heartiels, and the Queen's Life - which comes along in the form of Kujô Hikari, a 13 year old girl who acts as Shiny Luminous, making the Pretty Cure duo a trio. But rather than being a fighter Luminous acts more like an energy medium, transferring power to Nagisa and Honoka. With light and darkness growing stronger the final battle is sure to come, although one cannot exist without the other.

In principle that is the main plot. Nothing too big, sure, but this show is carried by other means.

Characters. Together the two seasons consist of almost 100 episodes, which gives lots of time for character depiction and development. It could have been more, but I'm very content with what it's got. Family members and friends all have their episodes in which they can shine, and even the bad guys don't come too short.
The first team of opponents acted much like a family, or siblings rather, the second team had "civilian" appearances and they used to transform whenever necessary, and the third team also has its good moments, like when they argue about the strawberry on the short cake.
A very nice couple are the two Zakenna (the dark-energy beings who use to possess things and fight Pretty Cure, e.g. a roller coaster, a statue, or other inanimate objects) who act as butlers in the mansion where the second and third team reside. You watch them for a while and you'd never believe that they were created by evil forces.

The design of Pretty Cure is kind of remarkable. During transformation the girls change their hairstyles slightly. A rather subtle change, but I have no sense for such things, I only realized the difference when I saw the figurines stand next to each other. Sure, also nothing big but still a nice little effort.

Let's consider colors.
Nagisa is Cure Black. Her main color is, you guessed it, black, and she is the "male" part of the team, being spontaneous, hot-headed, and stubborn. Energetic and indestructible on the outside, but clearly sensitive on the inside. Her mascot, Mepple, is a male. But her secondary color is pink. Her transformation dress has pink frills, but also in private she wears girly stuff like pink socks.
Honoka is Cure White and, of course, her primary color is white. She is something of a "lady in training" with refined language and manners, and her mascot, Mipple, is female. But at the same time her secondary color is blue, which is actually, by social norms, a "male" color, is it not?
This way, gender aspects are not mixed but they are accentuated. There's a focus on one gender in each of the character, but there are also aspects of the respective other. I find this very interesting.

Choreography. Pretty Cure shares the director with DragonBall, AirMaster, and 3x3 Eyes. Not bad for a Shôjo Anime, huh. Once you see the fights you'll see the influences, especially in, yeah, mid-air hand-to-hand combat. Nishio seems to like that. Vivid and overall well done, the girls don't just blast their opponents with energy balls or something. Especially the Max Heart season shows clear Kung Fu references in the movements of the characters. Not that the fight techniques were very Kung Fu like, I don't know enough about that to comment on it, it's rather certain poses that are reminiscent of Kung Fu movies. I find it cool. If it was possible I'd get myself T-shirts of the "Minagiru Yûki!" and "Afureru Kibô!" poses.

Language. This is the point that I found best done.
The side/support character Kubota Shiho for example has a habit of repeating certain phrases or emphatic exclamations three times, like "Hontô, hontô, hontô!" ("Really, really, really!") or "Sugoi, sugoi, sugoi!" ("Wow, wow, wow!"). There are many more examples, and I find it simply adorable. This is just a minor thing, but it's one of the many little things that make up a satisfying whole.
She shares her voice with Triela by the way - what a difference!
(The voice actress returns to Pretty Cure in a lead role in Precure All Stars DX.)

More importantly, the girls don't really know each other when the show begins and they team up out of necessity - they cannot transform if they're not close to each other. Since there are only two girls there is not one who acts as the core of the new unit and other members come along as the story continues, as in SailorMoon. Social norms were broken in SailorMoon: Usagi is such a happy go lucky girl she gets friendly with her new team mates immediately, applying nicknames and all.
Big difference in Pretty Cure. Nagisa might be tomboyish, but she's not clutzy enough to discard good Japanese manners, like Usagi. Even after a number of successful fights Nagisa and Honoka would still address each other by their last names, "Yukishiro-san" and "Misumi-san" respectively, which is highly unusual in such a kind of program. Because they remain alienated from each other for a while they soon have a crisis, during which Nagisa calls out "Just because we're together in Pretty Cure doesn't mean we have to be friends!"
Of course she realizes that she hurt Honoka by saying so, and after some reflexion on Nagisa's side they make up - in a way that doesn't work in western media: She calls Honoka by her first name, indicating that she accepts her as a friend. Junior high students calling each other politely by their last names in school would be quite unbelievable if shown to a western audience. I really wonder how it was translated, I missed these episodes when I watched it in TV.

The language of Pretty Cure is really modern Japanese, which came across very well in the German translation by creating a youthful and fresh slang amongst the characters while avoiding superfisciality. The translator must have been a real pro. However, this pro obviously had problems with neologisms, like "Dark King". They could've called him "Kuraô" (), Dark King, but that wouldn't sound up-to-date. In modern Japanese they'd of course use the English word and within the limits of modern Japanese pronunciation standards it would be pronounced, like, "Jaaku Kingu". The German translator did not quite see through this, or did not have the time to, and so in German the Dark King became "Yaku King". :doh: :mrgreen:

Honoka is voiced by the voice actress simply known as Yukana, who to my knowledge had her most controversial role in Airmaster, where she spoke for Nakanotani Mina, the busty admirer of Maki's. The Airmaster role was regrettable in my opinion because the character Mina was so overdone as a fanservice parody and came across rather hysterical at times. Anyways, Yukana does a great job in Pretty Cure.
I can't make out any linguistic differences between Nagisa and Cure Black, but it's easy to notice that Cure White speaks in a more determined manner than Honoka. Well done, Miss Yukana.

Speaking of voice acting. The four main opponents consist of three guys, Circulous, Uraganos, and Valdez, and one woman, Biblis. (Biblis is the name of a nuclear powerplant in Germany by the way.) The interesting thing about Biblis is not just her being sexy and deadly but from her first appearance on I was sure that I had heard her voice before, but I just could not remember. So after a few days I looked her up and found Kobayashi Ai. Yes, she's the Death Records Manager from Detroit Metal City. Very cool indeed. (She's also Electra from the Cowboy Bebop Movie.)

Another pearl of voice acting are Nagisa's parents, Koyasu Takehito and Shô Mayumi. You might say that the latter hasn't done much, but she did DragonBall's ChiChi. A nice enough reference, don't you think?
Koyasu on the other hand has a ridiculously long list of roles, with Bobobo, Ilpalazzo, Hotohori, Kiryû Tôga, and Rezo having some of Anime's most memorable characters in his portfolio, along with major roles in most Gundam publications of the last 15 years. Female fans might also remember him as Aya from the Weiß Kreuz OVA.

Since early 2004 there has been a further season every year up to now.
I have only seen the first two seasons and I'm somehow afraid to watch more... they've changed the protagonists whom I have grown fond of, turning Pretty Cure into a merchandise that presents a similar universe and a set of similar characters that form "normal" Senshi teams of five members and such. The common thing seems to be the genre and the name of the show, so I fear the quality might spiral downwards. You know what they say: Stop when it's at its best. Anything more is just milking the cow until she drops dead.

I simply love this show, a must-see for anyone who aspires to watch everything important in Anime history. I shed a few tears during the last two episodes because it was so beautifully done, with emotions well conveyed. And if a show conveys emotions strongly I say that's better than the most perfect 3D implementation.

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