Tag Archives: writing

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The worst way to end a series?

There are a lot of different ways for a series to end. Some are really appropriate for what’s been happening, others involve contortions so that the writer can get the ending they want even though it doesn’t make that much sense. Some are really good, some are awful. Undoubtedly, there are a lot of craptastic clichés that get employed when it comes to endings. That being said, there’s one particular ending trope that I find to be particularly egregious and annoying. Let me warn you in advance, this discussion is going to have some spoilers for Blue Gender and Shin Sekai Yori

It may surprise you to learn that I’m not talking about a deus ex machina ending. Undoubtedly, a deus ex ending is lazy and contrived but at the same time it at least has some variety in execution. I can talk about an ending involving deus ex elements without spoiling the ending. In contrast, if I mentioned this type of ending you’d know exactly how it goes. I’m referring, of course, to the babies ever after ending. 

Yeah, you know the one. The characters go through their trials and then settle down to have babies and be domestic and boring. There are several anime I’ve reviewed where I specifically mentioned the ending being terrible and this is what they did. So, what about this type of ending makes it so obnoxious? Really, there are three big reasons.

The first is just that it is always the same. Going back to my aforementioned comparison, if I tell you there’s a deus ex moment, you don’t have any idea what form it’s going to take or what the actual ending is after the main conflict ends. If I tell you that something has a babies ever after ending, you know exactly what happens. The main protagonist hooks up with their love interest and they have kids. There’s not exactly much room for variation. 

The second is that it’s frequently out of place. sometimes for the characters who become parents, sometimes for the narrative itself and sometimes for both. Take Blue Gender. We find out that the bug monsters were the planet’s defence mechanism and they came out because there were too many humans. So, do they learn their lesson from this? Seemingly not, since a big part of the ending is our main couple, who I can’t be bothered remembering the names of, end by contributing to a higher population. There’s nothing about how they’ll be more careful this time. Just, babies ever after. For that matter, look at Shin Sekai Yori. The entire series establishes that this society is really screwed up and our main protagonists who have seen the most definitive proof of that end by hooking up and assimilating into that society and the anime, at least, treats this like a good thing. Way to undercut your own dystopia. 

The third is that this trope frequently involves the characters deciding to settle down and be boring and domestic.  We don’t want to see these characters be quit of their adventures. We want to see them keep going with what they’re doing. We want to see them keep contributing, not become side characters in their kids’ adventures. 

Now, I’m not saying that no characters should ever have kids or that no franchise should ever continue with the adventures of a new generation. However, I would argue that characters having children shouldn’t be a focus of the ending. There needs to be more to it than that and, if the franchise is going to continue, the characters who became parents shouldn’t just be a side-note or have their entire characters decimated to focus on them solely as parents. 

That’s why I personally loathe the babies ever after ending. Not only is it trite, but it frequently comes at the expense of the narrative, the characters or both. 

Writing Extremes: The Inane light and the unpleasant dark

Today, I thought I’d talk about two types of writing aesthetics, both extremely unrealistic but on opposite ends of the spectrum. To be specific, the light-hearted work that’s over the top and goofy compared to the excessively grim and gritty work. Now, you can have a light-hearted work that has a realistic scenario and characters just like you can have a dark and edgy work that’s very realistic. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the ones that go overboard.

To begin with, let’s talk about the overly goofy. To use an anime example, Heroman is like this. With villains who are one-dimensionally evil and a goofy super hero story with no sense of realism. Alternatively, consider Galaxy Angel. A zany comedic work with only a tenuous relationship to reality. Is that a bad thing? I would argue that it’s really not. A series like Heroman can be fun and entertaining in its absurdity. It may not have verisimilitude, but it’s also not trying to. This silly, over the top aesthetic can work for comedies or for more light-hearted action works.

Let’s move on to the area where I’m going to spend a bit more time. Namely, the excessively grim and gritty work. It’s just as unrealistic but, in my opinion, it’s worse. Why? Well, that’s because the overly light and fluffy aesthetic has some genres where it works and the overly dark stuff really doesn’t.

Think about it. Whereas the overly goofy stuff can be comedic or entertaining, the overly dark stuff is meant to be dramatic and serious. The problem is that it doesn’t work on either of those levels. In trying too hard to be dark and adult, it ends up going outside of any realm of believability for there to be a real drama or connection with the characters and no connection means no dramatic tension. Take Cheesesteak Suppository (Aku no Hana) or Midori Shoujo Tsubaki. Both works try to shock the viewer with how extremely dark they are, but neither one works because their characters read more as exaggerated parodies than as people. Which doesn’t work for a serious dramatic piece.

Compare them to something dark and well written like Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin or even BerserkBerserk may have fantasy elements, but the characters are complex and the dark moments are balanced with normal, everyday scenes that show the characters acting as normal, everyday people. In contrast, the excessively grim and gritty stuff has to constantly emphasise that its characters are abnormal and dark to the point where their characteristics are so far to that extreme end that there’s nothing about them that’s relatable or realistic. For a goofy comedy, having completely absurd and exaggerated characters can work. In a serious work, it just ruins any potential for immersion and makes it seem like the writer’s trying too hard.

Of course, I think the biggest problem with the excessively dark end of the spectrum is that works in this category frequently try to handle serious issues. Abuse, Sexual Assault, Murder, Insanity and so on. These topics get thrown in not because the writer has a good story use for them, but because they think it’ll make their work seem more adult. The trouble is that it, like the rest of the dark content, gets handled in a very over the top and rather puerile way. Rather like a young teenager trying to sound “adult” when they clearly have no real conception as to what they’re talking about. Bringing these issues up in the way they do just illustrates how far removed these works are from reality and comes across as disrespectful to those serious topics.

Let me emphasise, once more, that things can be either goofy or gritty without going to the extremes and those works are fine on both sides. But, when discussing the extremes, I am personally a lot more okay with the overly light and goofy than I am with the overly grim and gritty. Both are completely outside of any realm of reality, but the goofy stuff can be entertaining in certain arenas & the gritty stuff just comes across as unpleasant.