Last year one of the magical girl anime I looked at was Futari wa Precure, the first in Toei Animation’s long-running Precure franchise. It was a strong start with endearing characters, a lot of good moments and strong, surprisingly physical fight scenes. Unlike many magical girl works, Precure believes in having their characters kick and punch instead of just tossing out stock animation special attacks. It also had a pretty strong ending that wrapped everything up. Which makes today’s material a little odd. Futari wa Precure: Max Heart is a direct sequel with the same characters, one of the only series of its like in the franchise. So, do they have something interesting for Honoka & Nagisa to do?
After the events of the first series, Honoka and Nagisa have entered High School. It’s at this point where Honoka notices some feelings starting to well up, but she’s afraid to act on them since Nagisa hasn’t shown interest in girls like that. Thus begins their sweet and sublime love story.
Okay, so that doesn’t happen. The actual story takes place with the two of them in their last year of junior high. They’re living normal lives in the wake of the Dark King’s defeat. Unbeknownst to them, the Queen was critically wounded during their battle. She loses her cohesion, splitting into her life, her heart and her wills which take the form of tiny fairies called Heartiels. To make matters worse, the two heroines find themselves under attack by a new band of villains, Shampoo Advert, Moustache, Chin & Female. This time around they also have help, in the form of Shiny Luminous, Mai. In that fashion, Honoka, Nagisa & Saki find themselves in a race against time to find all the aspects of the Queen before their antagonistic foursome can bring back the Dark King.
Let’s start by looking at the big issue with the series as a whole. There’s way too much of a focus on Nozomi and Pollun. He’s as obnoxious as he was in the last series, except now there’s a lot more of him, and she’s just boring. Consequently, all of the emphasis on the two of them is tedious at best. Aside from that, the series just feels pointless. They’re back to fight the same big bad with the same major attack, except powered up while working towards gathering the pieces they need to get the same resolution. How very exciting for all of us.
On the positive side, there are still some strong moments, particularly when Urara stays on the sidelines and lets Nagisa & Honoka do their thing, and there are still some remnants of the good humour and generally entertaining moments that made the first series work. They’re just not nearly as prevalent or as strong.
Nagisa and Honoka are still really good characters and there are a lot of colourful and endearing personalities from our reoccurring side cast. Unfortunately, most of them have much more limited roles in this series. That being said, there are a lot of issues with the new characters. I’ve already mentioned how dreadfully dull Karen is, and how obnoxious Pollun is, so let’s look at some of our other major characters. Our antagonists in this series, Shampoo Advert, Moustache, Chin & Female, are really one-dimensional. The Heartiels are also really dull. Although, in their case there is some reason behind it. Each one is supposed to represent one aspect of the Queen’s still non-existent personality. I guess it was easier to imply that she has these traits than it was to actually show her use any of them ever. We’re also introduced to Pollun’s sister, Lulun. She has all of the characteristics that make him such a nuisance, but she’s actually less annoying to me due to the simple fact that the one who suffers the most from it is Pollun and it’s a bit cathartic to see him get a taste of his own obnoxiousness.
The art isn’t as strong as the first series, oddly enough. It still has creative monster designs, although fairly bland designs for the main four villains. It’s action sequences aren’t as strong either. There are still some really good action sequences, particularly during the climax. The punches, kicks and grapples get used, especially in those stronger scenes, but they’re downplayed in this one. Komachi doesn’t even bother with them. She either uses special attacks or, at one point, she lets the light coming from her device deflect attacks while she just holds it up like an idiot. Speaking of Luminous, there’s also the issue of Rin’s facial expressions. With the other characters, they’re allowed to display a wide range of emotions. With her, most of the time she just has a blank look or an expression of dull surprise. It’s almost like the animators wanted to capture her lack of personality.
The strongest performances in this come, like the last series, from Honna Youko & Yukana. Ikezawa Haruna and, to a lesser degree, Tanii Asuka are the big weaknesses. To be fair to them, they did get cast as the annoyances and I doubt anyone could make those characters sound pleasant or emotionally complex. Even if they’d had Ishida Akira & Hayashibara Megumi voicing them they’d almost certainly still be cacophonous. To be fair, most of the actors sound fine. There are some, like Tanaka Rie, who sound like they’re not trying but I’m almost certain that’s a result of their characters having less emotional depth than your average paper-clip. The music is still good although, in some cases, a bit lazy. The opening theme is seriously just a remix of the opening from the first series.
The les-yay isn’t as strong in this series as it was in the first. Primarily because Setsuna acts as a third wheel, showing up whenever Honoka and Nagisa are having a moment and ruining the whole thing.
Futari wa Precure: Max Heart is a pretty underwhelming sequel. While it isn’t bad and it does retain some of the good aspects of the first series, it also gets encumbered with a lot of pointlessness and suffers from adding a whole lot of trite characters with the most egregious being Miki. Yuru Yuri likes to joke about Akari’s lack of presence, but that girl is so unbelievably boring I’m not sure I even got her name right. It also suffers from excessive use of Pollun. All in all, I think the annoying moments and the good moments even out pretty well. In the end, I give it a 5/10. It’s an average series. Next week it’s Overlord.