Tag Archives: oh so pretty

Review: Thoughts on PreCure

Yeah, we’re going down an anime rabbit hole this week, partly because I splurged on hardbacks that won’t be here for a couple more days, mostly because I’m binge watching and have feelings…and a small part because of an upcoming surprise in roughly two weeks that makes me want to touch on my girly obsessions a little more publicly so no one is necessarily surprised out of liking me.

So I am a magical girl genre fiend…provided the story isn’t stupid and the transformation sequences aren’t sexualizing the characters. That means my options are extremely limited. Sometimes something really cool will happen, like Madoka, that break the genre, but usually you have three options: the classics (Card Captor Sakura, Sailor Moon–I can’t speak on Crystal yet, I hated the animation quality of the first season too badly and I hate Rini as a character and she seems to have an even bigger part in Crystal, soooo I’m dragging my feet, etc.), those gross animes that use a genre meant for young girl viewers as a chance to cater to the lowest denominator, or the one magical girl series that is always putting out new content–PreCure, which is short for Pretty Cure and is a bit like sentai shows, just with magical girls.

Now, PreCure feels like it has been around for ages, but it actually only came out in 2004. It just churns out a new team (with two early exceptions) every year, each with a different theme, and the main focus is supposed to be on these girls figuring themselves out and female positivity. The year actually surprises me because the first team, a pair actually, have such 80’s designs…and actually some of the others end up that way too. I’m not sure if it’s because the character designers for those seasons are older and don’t know what girls actually wear or if Japanese fashion during those years has gone weird, retro directions, or what.

The idea of PreCure is that the main characters are supposed to be in middle school, and the early seasons kept with that–the characters looked their actual ages. And sometimes, the newer seasons fall back on that. But PreCure 5 actually pushed up the physical or appearance ages of their team a little, and then Fresh! took it even further. While Heartcatch (which is what I saw a couple of years ago) tried to go backwards with three of the four members reflecting more childish bodies, Suite went right back to high schoolers…which sort of defeats PreCure’s purpose in my opinion and plus I just couldn’t fall in to Suite.

Now what caught my attention to PreCure in the first place? …Oh, I got suckered in, badly. They threw a cold, elegant girl associated with moonlight and roses into Heartcatch, I felt obligated to watch because that is my jam to the utmost. (My favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! character is Seto Kaiba and in Yu Yu Hakusho it is Kurama, I have tropes and aesthetics that you are guaranteed to get my attention with.)

Cure Moonlight

Admittedly, Cure Moonlight is a bad one to use as a measuring stick, she’s overpowered as hell, but I digress. I stayed not because there was one character who matched my preferred aesthetic, but because the writing of Heartcatch was absolutely to die for. I bawled at one episode, it was that intense.

The problem is, it seems like PreCure has one writer who is capable of taking the tropey, overly saturated parts of the genre and making them into something that is enjoyable not only for young children, but also for us old fossils who refuse to stay out of the genre. Yes, Heartcatch is fashion and flower centric, which should be too sweet to stand. But then you add that it also addresses familial commitments and pressure, parental abandonment or feelings of it, grief for passed friends, failing and having to figure out what happens next. It’s so hard to balance without going doom and gloom, but God did Heartcatch manage it.

I couldn’t find another one that caught my attention in the same way (I tried Princess, it made me cringe), though now I’m wondering if I was too hasty with some of the more in-between seasons. Why? Because I finally saw all the transformation sequences for the main team of Kirakira, which I initially dismissed as too stupid. Sweets, okay, animals, sure, together? To paraphrase Ginny, “WHY?! Why not one or the other?!” And then I heard the reasoning behind it and that just made it worse. Too stupid for words, hard pass, thank you. But see, it already had a crumb of my attention because the front three were in the same, more childish designs as Cures Blossom, Marine, and Sunshine had been. And the original clips I saw sped past the older two girls. So when I finally saw Macaron, I knew I was sunk.

Cure Macaron

I knew just from how her face was drawn, this character was too interesting to ignore because that face reflects a lot more personality than usual tropes. A little bit of digging, and I had suspicions that whoever wrote Heartcatch was involved with Kirakira. I am only 17 episodes into it, and I can guarantee that, or at the very least someone there took a few pages out of her book because it is hitting on deeper themes already, and it is also doing it in ways that are different than Heartcatch had previously done (or really, that I had seen everywhere). Cure Macaron being a prime example, who is also smart, finally someone who is as smart as the villains!!! I am also admittedly eating up the Macaron and Chocolat interactions with a spoon…

So, what does that mean about PreCure? Well, it’s like any other sentai show (or the U.S. equivalent which is Power Rangers). Sometimes, everything from story to character designs is on point and something that not only young children, but also older viewers. Other times, the character designs are awful or at least illogical, but the story might be salvageable. Sometimes the character designs are great, and then you are left with superficial garbage for story. And then there are times it’s a total wash. It’s sort of a round robin coin toss on what is going to work, what isn’t, and what is going to survive. But you know what? At least PreCure tries new things with each team, and tries to go, “Okay, you didn’t like this years PreCure, next year is different so maybe it’ll be more your speed.” I can get behind that.

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Review: Miraculous Ladybug

I live! And I have a new fandom I am gushing over. So I thought I would review the first season with my loves and (of course) my nitpicks.

Miraculous Ladybug¬†(or alternatively,¬†Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir) is a French cartoon, the story of two teenage superheroes, Marinette and Adrien, also known as Ladybug and Chat Noir, respectively. They fight to protect Paris–yes, that Paris–from the corruption of Hawkmoth and his akuma, using the power of good luck and bad luck (three guesses as to who has which power, and the first two don’t count). Most of the background plots focus on the love square with our heroes…which unknown to them, only involves two people. Because they don’t know who each other is.

Ugh, the love square. It has made this fandom sickeningly sweet and fluffy (like give you cavities sweet), or heartbreaking angst (so much character death, and no one ever tags it properly). And yet, I love it. The two people in question are so oblivious in the show and yet heartsick over it, even if I differ from canon and think Adrien has at least a clue about how Marinette feels about him. She’s just too obvious, and he’s too flirty for it to be coincidence. Regardless of your stance, you just want to shove them in a closet when their powers are fading and get the reveal over with so there can be fluff! Considering how old and cliche this trope is, the writers still have you sucked into this show with it. That’s good writing.

…Not perfect writing, mind you. They have been following the monster-of-the-week formula for the most part, which worked well to establish the world regardless of when you start watching. But we’re running out of side characters to turn into akuma, and the last few episodes introduced some plot hooks that are too interesting to not flesh out. I hope they start easing out of their formulas to follow up on them. Otherwise, it’s going to grow stale very quickly. I can only take so much obliviousness and teen drama before I want story to pay off.

The characters themselves are actually in balance for the majority, which is always a nice change. The various side characters are built well without trying to compete with the main characters, while the two leads are multi-faceted without getting cluttered or overly perfect. The superhero aspect just fuels this, since it allows the hidden selves and subtle traits of the main characters to show themselves. Awkward, overly excitable Marinette becomes confident and focused as Ladybug, but her kindness and cleverness shine through in either form. Cool and slightly aloof Adrien as Chat Noir is showboating and flirty (err, flirtier, yes Adrien, I’ve got all those little winks of yours), but his loyalty and sincerity are undeniable regardless of which one you are dealing with. The traits are there in both forms, but the hero-forms just bring them into focus to let the audience appreciate them better.

The villains need some work, though. We love to hate that one spoiled teenage blonde, hell I’ve got one of my own to write at some point, but Chloe’s antics are getting old, especially since she never really faces consequences for them. And now we’ve had a full season of Hawkmoth terrorizing Paris, but with no real idea about his plan and motivations. I respect needing that first season to get the basics established, but now we need growth, or even just depths that are already there to be revealed to the viewer. (Sorry, I’m harping)

Aesthetically, there is so much about this show that is so pretty. Seriously, so pretty. All the little details in the background are so perfect, and you almost see a new detail every time. The animation is smooth, and while graceful, they aren’t too overly exaggerated. I know the 3-D aspect annoyed fans who were following the creation process, but I can’t find it in me to care. I love all variations of animations equally as long as it is pleasing to the eye, and this style serves the show just fine.

There are some quirks I could do without, though. The two kwami (the transformation creatures that remind me a lot of PreCure) could have used a little refining. Plagg is fine, Tikki just seems really dumpy looking to me sometimes, depending on what they are doing with her. Similarly, let’s compare Chat Noir and Ladybug’s costumes, shall we?

Look at how intricate his is! He is very clearly built to be a tank, the front line fighter. He’s also got the stealth aspect. To put it simply, Chat is meant to be in the thick of things, and his signature attack and weapon reflect this. (Okay, the bell is just silly since as far as I can tell it doesn’t even ring, but it amuses me, so I don’t complain.) Now let’s look at Ladybug. Very streamlined and simple (actually too simple to me, but we’ll get there, trust me), the yo-yo can attach to her costume. She is the mage/cleric/ranged to Chat’s tank. So…why is she in eye-catching, distraction costuming? I understand wanting her to look like a ladybug, but the all-over polka dots is an eyesore. Even ladybugs only have those on their backs, and some care definitely could have been needed. Hopefully there’s a costume edit in her future.

Overall, the series is great so far. It’s silly and goofy, heartwarming and cute. The concept feels fresh, even though they really could have gone wrong and over-used. Do I have problems with some parts? Oh yes. Could it go horribly backwards in later seasons? You better believe it (just look at the travesty that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has turned into for proof of that). But for now, enjoy the first season, and if you want any recommendations for between-season reading, here are three of my favorites:

Meeting with Master Fu
Little Princess
Stupid Kitty