Tag Archives: Futari wa Precure

Futari wa PreCure: Max Heart Film 2- Yukizora no Tomodachi

I’ve talked about the PreCure franchise quite a bit. Including Futari wa, Max Heart, & the first Max Heart film. Thus far, the weakest thing I’ve seen for the franchise was the mediocre Max Heart. The first film based off of that series managed to avoid a lot of its problems and turned out pretty well. Hopefully, the same will hold true for this week’s fare. Futari wa PreCure: Max Heart Movie 2- Yukizora no Tomodachi.

Max heart film2 1.png

Story:

We open with an old man carrying an egg and flying across the sky on the back of a flying squirrel, Muta. Muta warns the old man, Roshi, not to drop the egg. Roshi says he won’t but does and that’s why his grand kids never call or visit. Two ice looking guys sense the situation and move to get to the egg. We cut to the one girl… You know, the boring one who was introduced in Max Heart that I can never remember the name of… I want to say Kanade. She’s working with Akane when she finds the fluffy little bird that hatched from the egg. From there we get to see our heroines, Honoka & Nagisa, as they’re enjoying a ski trip. But what is this mysterious creature and why are Freezen & Frozen after it?

Let’s start with the issues with the film. The biggest one is just that it drags quite a bit. Take the ending. We get our climactic fight and then a good ten minutes of an attempted, but not well executed, secondary climax. We also have some completely pointless scenes of Honoka’s grandmother. I liked her grandmother in the series but there’s no reason for her to be in this film beyond an early phone call where she gives Honoka some advice. Nothing else she does has any impact on anything. The scenes that surround Ellen in general are just a drag. They revolve around her “bonding” with our mysterious friend but its very clumsily done since most of it is her holding the thing while looking dull or watching it also while looking dull. There’s also a part of the film that revolves around Nagisa & Honoka having a fight but the impetus behind it is really weak. Basically, Nagisa overhears some random people who have mistaken Honoka & Fujipi for a couple and she gets upset because that’s her Honoka, dammit. Here’s the thing, though, Nagisa has known since before Max Heart even started that Honoka & Fujipi are old friends and she also knows that there’s nothing more to their relationship than that. There’s absolutely no reason for her to be upset here.

There are also parts to the film I like. In concept, I like the idea of contrasting a pair of true friends who will overcome their difficulties with a pair who will only stay close when things are going their way and I do like a lot of the scenes surrounding that, even if the event that kicks off that plot point is weak. A lot of the Honoka and Nagisa scenes in general are just good. I particularly like the moment where they talk about their hearts burning for one another.

Characters:

The characters are much the same as they are in the series proper. Nagisa and Honoka are still great characters. Ako is still entirely bland. It’s nice to see Shiho and Rina get some nice support scenes. The villains are nothing ground breaking but they’re fine. The same can be said for Muta, Roshi & our little bird. They’re not interesting characters but they work for what the film needs them to do. Pollun is, unfortunately, back to being a major annoyance. He does throw a loud, obnoxious tantrum in this one. Honoka and Nagisa need to start packing heavy duty duct tape.

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Art:

The artwork is nicely done. The action sequences flow well and the backgrounds are well detailed. I particularly like the way the film captures both a very picturesque winter wonderland aesthetic and a very oppressive frozen wasteland at different parts. The magical kingdom isn’t nearly as pretty as the Garden of Hope was in the first Max Heart film but it’s decent enough.

Sound:

I’ll quickly go through the major characters, since I’ve talked about their performances at least twice previously. Honna Youko & Yukana are great. Tanaka Rie is a great actress but her performance in this is flat because Miyuki is a bore. Ikezawa Haruna’s performance is annoying because that’s the aesthetic they decided to go with for her character. Moving on to the film exclusive characters, Nozawa Masako returns. In the last film she was Round & Honoka’s grandmother. In this one she’s Muta & Honoka’s grandmother. Her performance is good. You can’t even tell by ear that Muta and the grandmother have the same voice. Aono Takeshi voices Roshi and he does a fine job. Our villains are voiced by Kusao Takeshi & Hiyama Nobuyuki. Both of whom deliver nice performances. Hinata is voiced by Chijimatsu Sachiko and she’s decent enough. Like with the last film, Futari wa and the main series, we have a Sato Naoki soundtrack which includes Max Heart’s theme tune. Which is basically Futari Wa’s theme tune with minor changes. Still, he is a good composer and it shows here.

Ho-yay:

Honoka and Nagisa definitely have some. And it culminates in the “burning hearts” scene. Because this is PreCure and shoujo ai subtext is what they do. Actually, is it even subtext at this point? They’ve held hands while cuddling up in bed and talking about how close they are and now we get the hearts burning for each other. It might qualify as just text at this point.

Final Thoughts:

This is actually what I expected from a Max Heart film when I reviewed the first one. It has some strong moments, some weak ones and just averages out to be kind of mediocre. If you enjoyed Max Heart or if you were a fan of Futari wa who doesn’t mind putting up with Yayoi and Pollun for some cute Nagisa & Honoka moments you might enjoy watching it. For myself, I give it a 5/10. Next week I’ll look at Chocolate Underground.

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Film Festival Week- Futari wa PreCure: Max Heart Film 1

I’ve talked about PreCure thrice before. I started by talking about Doki Doki and then I moved back to Futari Wa and Max Heart. With the films, I’m going to start at the beginning. Unfortunately, there were no Futari wa films. Which means skipping ahead to the entirely mediocre sequel, Max Heart. Well, maybe the film will be more about Honoka & Nagisa and less about… what was the boring one’s name? Inori? Yeah, that sounds right.

Max Heart film1.png

Story:

We open with Nagisa and Honoka sitting at Akane’s takoyaki stand. They converse with Akane and one another. The other girl… Setsuna is given her break and the three run off. They’re approached by a mysterious cloaked figure who sounds just like Goku and knows they’re PreCure. After a brief battle, it’s revealed that the cloaked figure was actually a bunch of little frog warriors from the Garden of Hope. They request assistance from our heroines as they’re being threatened by a powerful witch. Not wanting to abandon those in need, Honka, Nagisa and the other one agree and they’re teleported to the Garden of Hope.

The only story issue that really merits mention is with the ending. Things wrap up really easily in the end. On one hand, you can forgive it somewhat since this is a franchise for the youth. But, on the other hand, it isn’t as satisfying a conclusion as it could have been.

There are a lot of things to like about the film. It’s paced very well, flowing from one thing to the next very naturally. The conflict has weight to it. The arc of them gaining the friendship of the warriors is nice. There’s also very little of either Pollun or Tsubomi. He might have four or five lines, and she mostly stays relegated to the background or is just out of the fighting due to being Yamcha’d. Honestly, the series proper could have benefited if they’d gone the route of the film and had significantly less of those two.

Characters:

The characters are pretty much the same as they are in the series. Nagisa and Honoka are fantastic and have a strong dynamic. Erika is really flat and boring. Pollun is a bit less annoying here. Mainly because he’s used a lot less and he doesn’t throw any tantrums. In terms of new characters we get for the film, they vary. Most of them are just kind of flat. The big exceptions are Square and Round, who are a bit more fleshed out and Marquis, who’s a little annoying. Our antagonist is one of those villains who only trusts in her own power and mocks the heroes for relying on others. Pretty standard, but there’s nothing really wrong with her.

Max Heart film.png

Art:

I have to give the film credit on this count. While the designs are the same as the series (including Itsuki’s perpetual look of dull surprise), or on par with it in the cases of the film characters, the backgrounds in this are superb. At least, they are when we get to the Garden of Hope. It is a very pretty world. I also do like the antagonist’s design and her bat-like minions. What they do with her ship is really cool. The action sequences are really good as well. Nagisa & Honoka really get physical with the punches and kicks. We also get to see their frog-like compatriots punch some bat monsters. Which is pretty awesome.

Sound:

Honna Youko and Yukana deliver the superlative performances we’ve gotten used to in this franchise. I’ll also give credit to Nozawa Masako & Matsuoka Youko. They’re both good in this. Ikezawa Haruna’s performance is much less annoying, probably because of her character being downplayed. Tanaka Rie still sounds like she’s just not putting in any effort. I’m still certain it’s because Yuri has all the emotional depth of a paper clip. I mean, she displayed emotions as Aizawa Chizuru, Nishizumi Maho, Sei and Neptune. The music is pretty much like the music from the series proper. Right down to using the lazy remix theme tune. Which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that Sato Naoki did composition for this, the series proper and Futari wa. Most of the music is good. We even get some new songs that are quite good.

Ho-yay:

Unlike the main Max Heart series, in this film Honoka and Nagisa are allowed to have moments without them being interrupted by Hibiki. And they manage quite a few. Including one early on where Nagisa says she’ll find someone who likes her for who she is and it’s promptly followed by Honoka saying she’s cute.

Final Thoughts:

So, that’s Futari wa PreCure: Max Heart The Film. Surprisingly, given my general thoughts on Max Heart, I quite liked it. It’s got a lot of charm. Keeping the boring and annoying characters largely to the side was smart. The action is pretty amazing. The artwork in general is pretty, actually. All in all, I give it a 7/10. If you’re a fan of Futari wa PreCure, give it a try. Even if you’re like me and don’t have any affection for its sequel. Tomorrow we’ll keep film festival week going with Kaze Tachinu.

Futari wa Precure: Max Heart: Surely, the most pointful of all sequels

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?

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Story:

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.

Characters:

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.

Art:

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.

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Sound:

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.

Ho-yay:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

Futari wa Precure: Rainbows and hand holding

We’ve reached the end of magical girl month, so let’s dive back into the Precure franchise. It wasn’t that long ago that I looked at Doki Doki Precure, one of the more recent installments in the franchise. This time let’s go far, far back to 2004 when Toei animation first started the franchise with Futari wa Precure. Was the series as good back then or is this one of those franchises that got a rough start? Let’s take a look and find out.

Story:

Young Misumi Nagisa is in her room when she notices falling stars. One of them crashes into her room, hits her in the head and turns out to be a strange creature that had turned into a cell phone like device. He calls himself Mepple and asks Nagisa to take him to Mipple. She goes out, following his directions only to run into a classmate she barely knows, Yukishiro Honoka. The two are attacked by a strange villain called Jean Luc Pisard, who looks like he belongs in a Kabuki theatre. To fight him, they hold hands, go through rainbows and transform into Precure. After fending him off they find out that Mepple and Mipple are denizens of the Garden of Light, which was invaded by the Dark King. In order to save it they have to defeat his minions and get the seven Prism Stones, two of which they already have.

Let’s open, as usual, with the narrative problems. The first is that the story arc is kind of bizarre. It’s like the writers thought that the series was only getting twenty six episodes only to find out that it was going to be nearly twice as long when they’d already set everything up for the finale and they had to backtrack to rekindle the conflict. I’m glad that the series has the extra twenty three episodes because a lot of them are really good, but they still involve a lot of re-treading, at least in terms of the conflict. Another issue is that the characters who are supposed to be aiding them are frequently pretty useless. Take Wisdom as an example. He’s so useless that the one time he actually does anything he has to be told to act by Pollun of all people. Bloody Pollun.

Now, I’m going to talk about the gratuitous romance separately since I wouldn’t call it bad, but I also wouldn’t call it a good element since it is pretty pointless. However, it is kind of interesting in its execution. What do I mean by that? Well, it has to be the most passive aggressive inclusion of a gratuitous male love interest ever. It’s like the writers were told that they had to include a male love interest but they didn’t want to so they gave the guy a boyfriend who would always be by his side and engage in typical romance story tropes with him. Like one running happily to the other and apologising for making him wait. They sometimes bring up Nagisa’s crush on him and then use it as an excuse to develop her relationship with Honoka while avoiding doing anything between her and him. It’s like they’re actively sabotaging it with the combined power of yaoi and yuri. To be fair to the writers, if I was writing something for a studio and they insisted on it having het I’d do pretty much the same thing and it does lead to some funny moments.

There’s a lot about the series that’s praiseworthy. Futari Wa has a lot of really fun and funny moments, including an episode that focuses on Honoka’s dog taking care of a puppy. More magical girl series need episodes about dogs. But it’s not all fun. There’s some emotional depth to the series. It manages some really good tragic moments. Sure, they’re used sparingly, but they’re still there and they really work. There are some good tense moments too. The series is also good at building up major plot points and giving them a strong payoff.

Characters:

Nagisa and Honoka are really strong leads and they have an excellent dynamic. Their families and friends are well fleshed out, with pretty much all of them having verisimilitude. There are also some strong interactions with them and their family and friends that really help flesh out their characters. I even like Fujimura and his boyfriend, and it’s rare to find a likeable character who is technically there as a gratuitous love interest.

The villains are the big weakness. They’re largely pretty one-note characters without much personality. To be fair, there is a reason for their actions that makes sense, but they still aren’t developed or interesting in the least. There is one major exception with a sympathetic villain who gets complexity, but I won’t spoil who it is. I also kind of like the two butler Zakenna. They aren’t developed but they are pretty hilarious. The Garden of Light denizens are another weakness. Most of them are just bland. The exception being Pollun. If he’s not as annoying as Ai was in DokiDoki, he comes really close. He’s bratty, obnoxious, frequently throws tantrums where he repeats the same phrase in the most grating manner possible and just causes problems for everyone. Especially the audience.

Art:

The art and animation are largely really good. Futari wa has good designs, except for the second set of villains who just look boring. It also has really good physical action sequence and detailed backgrounds. The monsters are nice and creative and I do like the little black stars who start apologising when they lose. They’re simple but well done. It does suffer a bit from repetitive stock footage. Especially in terms of special attacks. Nagisa and Honoka have two major attacks they use in the series and the animation used for them setting up even looks pretty similar. The big difference between them is what kind of beam gets fired. They get downright lazy with the Queen of Light too. Her design is pretty cool, but she doesn’t really move or change expressions.

Sound:

Honna Youko and Yukana both deliver strong performances as Nagisa and Honoka. Really, most of the cast does really well in their roles. Sendai Eri and Kiuchi Reiko both do really well too and Ono Kenichi makes for a pretty intimidating villain. The big issue is Ikezawa Haruna. She’s not a bad actor, but she does voice a character who constantly whines, yells and is generally just painful to listen to. Honestly though, I don’t think anyone could have done better with a character like Pollun since his main purpose as a character is to be an annoyance. The music is stellar and there are several cases where they incorporate lyrical works into episodes to great effect. The choir episode in particular.

Ho-yay:

I touched on this a bit when talking about the romance, so I’ll refrain from repeating too much of that. For ho-yay we’ve got Fujimura and his boyfriend. There’s a bit of les-yay between Shiho and Rina. The main source of les-yay comes from our leads, Honoka and Nagisa. Even ignoring the rainbows and hand holding, though they hold hands about a hundred and thirty three times, there is a lot of homo-eroticism between them. For every awkward scene that goes nowhere with Fujimura, Nagisa gets ten really adorable scenes with Honoka. These two talk about how close they’ve gotten and share a bed while holding hands. They also play Romeo and Juliet and Nagisa forgets her lines and speaks purely from the heart in an amazing scene. Even with the gratuitous male love interest, the series earns a 6/10 for ho-yay.

Final Thoughts:

Futari wa Precure is a really strong series. It has a nice level of emotional depth, it’s fun, hilarious. a lot of the characters are well developed, the action is great and the acting is strong. Still, it does suffer from some story issues, Pollun, bland villains, Pollun, over-used stock footage, Pollun and some laziness. My final rating is an 8/10. I do suggest checking it out if you’re a fan of magical girl works or if you like super subtexty les-yay. So, that’s it for magical girl month. Next week we’ll open February with Natsu no Arashi.