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Film Festival Week: Yes Precure 5- Kagami no Kuni no Miracle Daibouken

The PreCure franchise is one I’ve talked about quite a bit. Oddly enough, I started with Doki Doki before going back to prior entries. The last series I reviewed was Yes PreCure 5, which was one of the weaker instalments. But in my ongoing quest to watch everything PreCure, I’ve got to review the films based on the more mediocre series too. Which is why we’re looking at the Yes PreCure 5 film today.

Yes Precure 5 movie.png

Story:

We open with a strange figure on a throne giving orders to some teddy bear looking dudes. They give him a shard of glass with Nozomi’s face on it. He transfers it into a crystal causing a shadowy figure to appear. We cut to our heroines who just watched their own show and are, naturally, feeling a bit bored. They decide to head down to a Princess theme park where all the guests dress up in cosplay for some fun. Which gets disrupted when Coco & Nuts are dragged into a mirror.

The biggest issue with the narrative is just that it’s not very interesting. Yes, all the PreCure films have been quite predictable and they’re all equally guilty of following the same pattern of having the heroines dragged into a fight to save some random magic kingdom. The others, however, had some strong character moments and interactions to make them worthwhile. Because PreCure 5 is made up of bland archetypes, it just makes the usual pattern all the more noticeable. And there aren’t a lot of fun sequences to distract from it.

The film tries to have the same sense of fun that makes the PreCure films, as a whole, entertaining in spite of their formulaic nature but it doesn’t work all that well. The sense of investment just isn’t there.

Characters:

They’re still archetypes. It doesn’t help that the big draw of the film involves the PreCure fighting their dark versions. In some works, they make that cliché compelling by using the dark versions to tell you something about the characters. In this case, they pretty much all win because they draw strength from their friendship. This could have legitimately been an opportunity to add some depth to the heroines but it just doesn’t happen.

In terms of character interactions, about the best we get is a scene where Komachi, Karen & Urara are just joking around. And it is kind of a fun scene, to be fair, but there’s more focus on them participating in theme activities than there is in them actually spending time with each other.

There’s not much to say about the antagonist or the inhabitants of the mirror kingdom either. The antagonist is evil & the denizens are small, plush looking creatures that are easy to kick around.

Art:

The artwork is quite nice. The action sequences have a good amount of impact and the overall designs are nicely done. It does bother me that they spend so much time on transformation sequences when the film isn’t that long. Seriously, they have an abridged transformation scene and then one where they all transform one by one and it feels like they’re trying to pad out what is, ultimately, a fairly short film.

Yes Precure 5 movie1.png

Sound:

The acting is well done. One thing I can credit PreCure 5 with is that the acting has always been better than you’d anticipate given the lack of complexity in the characters. The Dark PreCure don’t have the same actresses as their counter parts which is an interesting decision. Nishimura Chinami, Minaguchi Yuko, Kugiyama Rie, Kiuchi Reiko & Nagasawa Miki do give pretty good performances as the dark versions. The music is decent. It’s pretty much the same thing you get from the series proper, like every PreCure film.

Ho-yay:

There really isn’t any.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Make the victories over the dark versions more personalised. I get it, the theme of the importance of friendship and connections has to be represented. But you can still have the girls win over their dark forms in more varied ways besides just having them all rally because they have people they care about.
  2. Cut out the long transformation sequence. Just have the girls already transformed when they enter the mirror kingdom. We don’t need two transformation sequences in this short a period of time. It just wastes our time.
  3. Give us stronger character interactions. I know the characters are boring archetypes, but you can still provide some entertainment by giving them fun scenes. Like the aforementioned one with Komachi, Karen & Urara.

Final Thoughts:

This film, ultimately, is not very good. The characters don’t have strong enough interactions or personalities to really carry it which just makes the old PreCure film formula very noticeable. I can’t say the film is bad. If you really like Yes PreCure 5, it’ll probably be a fun time for you. But for me, it was a sub-par offering. I give it a 4/10.

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Yes PreCure 5: Go Go Archetypes

I’ve looked at the PreCure franchise quite a bit. With Futari wa, Max Heart, Splash Star and Doki Doki as well as three different films. This time around, we’re going back to the first PreCure series to feature a team, Yes PreCure 5. This one ran from early ’07 to early ’08. The head writer was Narita Yoshimi, who also did series composition work on Splash Star. So, that’s a pretty good sign. Let’s delve back into the world of PreCure.

Yes Precure 5 2.png

Story:

We open with our main heroine, Yumehara Nozomi, running late for school. Something we’ve never seen in any anime before besides ninety percent of them. On her way there she almost trips but gets caught by a very handsome older man. Being more than a little thick, she thinks of it as a fated encounter. Even when he turns out to be a gay squirrel. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. She’s in the library, presumably for picture books, when she encounters the stranger again. The pair of them are attacked by a Mantis man and she transforms into Cure Dream. The squirrel introduces himself as Coco and tells her that they need to find the four other legendary warriors to wake up his boyfriend who’s sleeping in the Dream Collet & the fifty five pinkies to revive the destroyed Palmier kingdom.

Let’s start with my biggest problem with this series, namely, the attempts at romance. Unlike the other PreCure series we’ve looked at where the straight love interest is either absent or a largely ignored element, this one likes to push the idea that a couple of these fourteen, maybe fifteen year old girls should get together with these grown ass men, one of which is their teacher and both of which are actually squirrels.

So, it’s the worst in the franchise in that regard so far. Say what you will about Soccer boy Senpai from Futari wa or Mai’s elder brother in Splash Star, at least they were close in age to the girls who were interested in them and not in positions of power & the same species. Every single episode where they try to push the romance aspect in this series comes across as more than a bit grotty & really cringey.

There’s also the way the whole pinky thing is handled. It’s very much an element the series brings up when it feels like it. Most of them are caught off screen & they barely do anything. There’s an episode where one gets used to treat an illness and another one acts like a photocopier a few times. I think that’s actually it.

But it’s not all bad. The way the overall theme of hope against despair and the way dreams for the future factor into holding on to your hope is pretty well handled. The ending has some nuance to it and really doesn’t unfold like you’d expect. So, that’s appreciated.

Characters:

The biggest problem with the cast here is that they’re very much a bog standard group. Nozomi is the super optimistic, good-natured, dumb as a brick variety of protagonist. Rin is the athletic one. Urara is the excitable, cheerful young one. Komachi is the calm older sister type & Karen is the smart one. And unlike, say, Doki Doki or Sailor Moon the characters never move beyond the most archetypical writing for those tropes in any significant way. The most interesting character in terms of writing is the main antagonist, Despariah. And that’s only because of what happens with the ending.

I will credit the series with trying to juggle the characters and give them all a decent amount of focus. I’ll also credit it with giving each of the main five their own little arc. Even if those arcs are trite. And the dynamics that aren’t pushing the idea of romance between young girls and adult animals can be fun.

One issue with the writing is that the series doesn’t know what to do with their underling antagonists. To the point where two of them exit the series in a really unsatisfying fashion. At least the others get big, final confrontations against the heroines. These two just kind of get unceremoniously axed.

Art:

The character designs are solid, especially for the villains. It also continues the proud series tradition of having very physical bouts and ending them with the big, magic attacks. The action scenes in general are nicely done. I especially like the horseback duel that Karen fights. The villain designs are quite good. The backgrounds are quite nice and, overall, the art just works well.

Yes Precure 5 1.png

(They angered the Gazebo)

Sound:

The performances are well done. Nagano Ai, Ise Mariya, Maeda Ai, Takeuchi Junko, Sanpei Yuuko and the other various major actors are all good at what they do. Overall, I also did like the music. One issue I do have is that they get rid of their original ending theme tune partially through and just replace it with a remix of Splash Star’s. It’s like the Toei team responsible for making the series decided the tune they had wasn’t good enough and they didn’t have time to write something new, so they just modified something they already had. Granted, the theme tunes in this isn’t as good as the other PreCure series we’ve looked at, but they’re perfectly fine.

Ho-yay:

There’s a lot of it betwixt Coco & Nuts. There are also a few scenes with Komachi & Karen where they come across as more than friends. And there are some scenes where Urara seems to have a bit of a crush on Nozomi. (Notice her, Senpai.) This series does have significantly less ho-yay than the rest of the franchise we’ve looked at, however.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Get rid of the attempts at romance. Seriously, you don’t need romantic elements. In fact, they’re downright detrimental when the main stuff you’re pushing is gross in three different ways.
  2. Give your characters something to set them apart. I get it, this was the first time they had a team and they didn’t really know how to juggle character development for five girls. But give us something that moves them beyond archetypes.
  3. Give the two villains with abrupt departures proper send offs. Again, I know why they handled it the way they did. They wanted to emphasise a particular antagonist’s sadistic side with how he disposes of these two. But I feel like they could have done that and still had the send off. After all, they do with the villain who leaves before these two.

Final Thoughts:

Yes PreCure 5 is not nearly the best the franchise has to offer. Honestly, it’s kind of weak. While it has its enjoyable moments and a few interesting elements, it suffers from bland characterisation, the worst romance elements in the series thus far and some aspects that just aren’t handled in engaging or interesting ways. In the end, the closest series I can compare it to is Max Heart. Like that series, it’s very mediocre. I’ll give it a 5/10. Maybe the follow up to it will redeem it somewhat when I eventually look at that, but given that it’s the series that marked the end of direct sequel series in the franchise, I’m not all that optimistic.

Futari wa PreCure: Splash Star- Holding Hands with the one you love gives you power because… PreCure

Let’s take another look at Toei’s PreCure franchise. So far, I’ve looked at Futari wa, Max Heart & Doki Doki. This time around, let’s talk about Splash Star.The third instalment of the franchise that ran from ’06 to ’07. How well does it hold up compared to the other instalments we’ve looked at? Let’s take a look.

Splash Star2.png

Story:

Young Mai is moving back to a city she used to live in. While exploring, she encounters a familiar looking girl, Saki, underneath the sky tree. The two encounter a pair of faeries, Flappy & Choppy, who remind them that they briefly encountered each other beneath that same tree five years ago. A brief instant that was so formative for the pair that it apparently caused their fates to intertwine because PreCure has never been subtle with its massive amounts of subtext. The two are confronted by a leafy looking menace who demands that the faeries disclose the location of the fountain of the Sun. Saki and Mai go to their defence, transforming into Cure Bloom and Cure Egret. Together, they set off on a mission to revive the holy fountains.

Honestly, there aren’t any major problems with the series. About the worst you can say about it is that it’s very much a magical girl series with all the optimism, enemies of the week, transformation sequences and such that are prevalent in the genre. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with a work in a genre being very much grounded in that genre. Especially when it’s something like this with a young target audience.

Splash Star has a lot of aspects that are kind of similar to Futari wa but that are also distinct. Both series feature an athletic girl and one who is into more intellectual pursuits. The characters even look a bit similar. But they’re involved in different things and have different issues related to those interests. Both series have a generic male love interest who’s barely acknowledged because every time he shows up for a moment with the girl who has a crush on him it’s used to transition into a bigger moment for her with the other PreCure but Splash Star makes use of that a lot less and has different kinds of moments betwixt the girls as a result. In both of them, the athletic girl has a younger sibling. But the relationship dynamic that Nagisa had with her brother was a lot different from the one Saki has with her sister.

I do like the pacing in Splash Star. It does a really good job of introducing a variety of major villains, giving them some time to be menaces and then bringing the next one in before you can get tired of the current one. Splash Star also features a superb redemption story with some surprisingly tragic moments within it. Darn it, PreCure writers, stop making me feel things. I’m supposed to be a cynical git. A cynical git who hates everything. Or so I’ve been told. There are some strong moments of tension in the series as well. They really make you curious about how Saki & Mai are going to resolve things. Although you know they will because it’s PreCure. The climax is really well done too. The series is just generally fun, cute and endearing.

Characters:

There are some strong characters in Splash Star. Saki and Mai are great. Their families are a lot of fun. Michiru and Kaoru are great. The supporting cast has a lot of fun, colourful characters within it. In terms of antagonists, most of them are pretty standard. The big exception is Alex Louis Kintoleski. There is something utterly delightful about him and his techniques that have been passed down the Kintoleski line for generations. Shitataare and DoroDoron are kind of fun at times. The worst character, by far, is Moerumaba. He comes across as a strange blend of gay and Latin stereotypes. The faeries aren’t particularly compelling, but they’re decent enough.

Splash Star5.png

Art:

There’s a lot of praiseworthy aspects to the artwork. The backgrounds are nicely detailed with some very nicely done scenery. The action sequences can be absolutely amazing. I do love the way this franchise incorporates really physical brawling into its action sequences along with the special magic attacks and Splash Star is no exception to that. It does suffer from the same issue with the stock footage attacks that Futari wa did. Namely, that there are very few and they start to get dull after a while. This was before they’d learned to vary them a bit more, clearly. There are some really interesting villain designs. I can’t stand Moerumba’s and Alex Louis Kintoleski may be the best villain, but his design is kind of boring. He’s just a golden muscle man. Those two aside, great villain designs. I do like the PreCure designs too. I like that Saki & Mai have multiple Cure forms and I like their outfits. The monster designs continue to be very creative and interesting. Which is another thing the franchise has been consistently good at.

Sound:

The best performances come from Kimoto Orie, Enomoto Atsuko, Fuchizaki Yuriko & Imai Yuka. There are plenty of other good performances as well. Sato Naoki is back for the soundtrack work and he does a really nice job.

Ho-yay:

Saki and Mai may be marginally more homo-erotic than Nagisa and Honoka were. They’re heavily inspired by one another. They gain strength when their hearts come together as one. They talk about their fated meeting. They have a date where they actually feed one another home made bento. They talk about how energised they feel when they hold hands. I can only imagine how much that’s going to increase when they get older and start snogging. In any case, their dynamic is adorable.

Splash Star8

Final Thoughts:

So, that’s Futari wa PreCure Splash Star. If you’re a fan of the whole magical girl aesthetic, it’s for you. You will almost certainly garner enjoyment from watching it. If you aren’t a fan of the genre, it’s not going to change your mind. For myself, I pretty thoroughly enjoyed it. Loved the characters. I give it a solid 8/10. Next week I’ll look at Wolf Guy.

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?

Max Heart1.png

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.

Max Heart.png

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.

Five constructive ways to improve Doki Doki Precure & Kigurumikku

Okay, it’s time to try the final idea I had for weekend posts. Going into this, I couldn’t decide whether to do the list for something that I had given a high rating or something that I had given a low rating. Doing it for something good takes more work but the changes are also going to be less extreme. In the end, I decided to do one of each. For the good we’ve got Doki Doki Precure and for the bad we’ve got the series I reviewed this Wednesday, Kigurumikku V3.

A couple things to keep in mind. First, there are going to be spoilers. So be aware of that. Secondly these are things that I think would improve the series in question.  You may agree with my thoughts on it or you may think I’m off base or completely crazy. Which I’m not, I’m just eccentric. Either way, feel free to share your own ideas on the subject. Thirdly, these aren’t going to be in any particular order. With those details in mind, let’s begin with the bad series.

Kigurumikku V3: 

1. The fan-service. This series focuses far too much on bosoms and other feminine parts. Part of the problem is just that it’s in poor taste, especially given that most of the characters are really young. The other part of the problem is that it doesn’t really do anything from a comedic perspective. Women having bosoms isn’t funny. Women getting their clothes ripped and having their bosoms seen by strangers is also not funny. When you’ve got thirty minutes of content and you’re trying to be comedic you really can’t waste time on attempts at titillation.

2. The train scene. I didn’t really talk about this one specifically in my review, but there’s a scene where the older sister goes on the subway, gets groped by a pervert, rescued by one of the girls and told that she shouldn’t have dressed like that. First off, someone getting molested on a train isn’t funny. But what makes this scene particularly horrible is the whole victim blaming aspect. Not just because it’s bullshit, but because it’s been used on actual people who have suffered from terrible things being done to them. It would be one thing if this was a drama and they were actually using it to contribute to the conversation about victim blaming, but it’s a comedy and it’s not smart enough for that.

3. The performances. The series doesn’t have bad actresses. In fact, I think all of them have had roles in better light-hearted series. Koyama was in Gokujou Seitokai, which I’ll probably review at some point. Iguchi was in Girls und Panzer & Tomatsu was in Sakura Trick. The problem is that the direction in this series called for them to go loud and obnoxious. Subtle and dramatic performances wouldn’t have worked for what they were doing with the series, but there’s a happy middle ground between that and super exaggerated which they should have gone for.

4. The mascots. Yes, mascot characters are a part of most magical girl series. However, given how short this series is they really shouldn’t have had three mascot characters. You really only need one to make jokes about that particular trope.

5. The humour. They have a few genre jokes like having all the girls be instantly recognisable and actually having people recognise them unlike a lot of magical girl series where their identities should be obvious but no one seems to notice but most of them are more focused on the girls talking about boobs or the older sister getting stripped. Most of the jokes are rather tasteless perverted jokes. If they’d focused more on the parody aspect and less on that then they might just have made something funny.

Doki Doki Precure: 

1. The problem with carrots. Let’s talk about one of the bad episodes specifically. There’s an episode where we find out that Ai and Aguri hate carrots. Which you might not consider a big deal. Everyone has foods they don’t like so just let them eat some other vegetables. But no, this is played up as a big deal and they’re taken to a farm to learn about how much work brought those carrots to their plates. Which is bull crap since disliking one type of vegetable hardly constitutes being overly picky. In fact, that’s an easy way to fix it. Have the two of them be really unreasonable about not wanting to eat vegetables at all. Then you’ve got a situation where the other characters don’t come across as majorly over-reacting.

2. Aguri needs more development. When I reviewed this anime I talked about how Aguri is an under-developed character. This did not have to be the case. They could have taken time during those five weak episodes to focus more on her and develop her as a character beyond her liking sweets and scolding the other girls a lot.

3. Ai. The series actually does something interesting with Aguri and Regina being two parts of Princess Ange resulting from the selfish overtaking half her heart. Then it’s further revealed that Ai is a third aspect of Princess Ange and that’s why she needs to be there. Except that this plot element would be stronger without a third aspect. Not only that, but four of the five weak episodes focus on Ai and she’s just really annoying. As such, my solution would be to have Regina and Aguri as the split aspects of Princess Ange, give Cure Ace a regular non-ear splittingly obnoxious fairy to use for transforming and use those extra episodes for more character development.

4. The Fairy ticks. I know that it’s a staple of the precure franchise to give the mascot characters verbal ticks. However, I don’t think it’s a good element to them and I think the acting would have been stronger if the faeries had just spoken normally. At the very least they could have had some kind of different accent instead of saying parts of their names with every sentence.

5. Stock footage attacks. This is one that’s a staple for the genre and, again, the stock footage doesn’t look bad. I still think it would have benefited from taking more time to make the special attacks a more seamless part of combat and ignored the stock footage convention.