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Dated 9 March 2009: Fresh Precure is the same as it ever was where it matters

Buki, Miki, Chiffon, and Love
Buki, Miki, and Chiffon are aghast at Love's funny face attempt.

So, just as it was back when the original Futari wa Pretty Cure aired, I have gone back to watching Fresh Pretty Cure raws. Like the original, this is a pretty easy series to watch sans subtitles. They could be speaking Latin and the viewer should still have no difficulty following the story. This is a show for little kids, after all.

Love is love.

Through six episodes, Fresh Precure does feature a number of differences with the original Precure. First and most obvious is the newfangled character designs. As I have commented before, the Fresh girls look considerably older than the original Cures despite being the same age. For example, Love is practically the same height as her mother. [Update: Wait, no she's not. I guess it was just the angle.] It is as if Toei saw the fan art designs for Dark Dream and had an epiphany.

Dark Dream
Dark Dream from Yes! Precure 5 GoGo!
(Non-canonical version.)

Second and perhaps most importantly, the mascot characters are not annoying! Moreover, both have already been spotted in the open by non-Cure-type regular people. Tart the talking weasel with the Osaka accent is lying low as Love's pet ferret à la Yuuno Scrya from the Nanoha series.

Tart makes himself at home.

Chiffon is a little annoying, but Chiffon doesn't talk and isn't nearly the troublemaker it could be. It's almost too good to be true, really.

This is as bad as Chiffon far.

There are other assorted differences, but the one that bothers me most is the CGI ED. This is a departure from the original series (and from the clips of the other Precure iterations' EDs that I have seen). It kind of freaked me out at first, to tell you the truth, but I have since decided it does not look so bad at HD resolutions—even upscaled.

Cure Peach
CGI Cure Peach knows no nose.

The Fresh all singing all dancing CGI ED strikes a blow in the battle between computerized Idolm@ster-type idols versus human-type live idols. In fact, I will go on record as saying the first casualty in the War Against the Machines will be meatspace synchronized dancers. A seemingly innocuous casualty with the extermination of the human race on the line, but a sure one. Just watch the Vocaloid cover of the Cyndi Wang cover of the ABBA song "Honey" and tell me I'm wrong. But I digress.

Vocaloid all stars
Vocaloid Army, assemble!

Ultimately what will make or break Fresh Precure for me is the quantity and quality of magikal girls getting really pissed off. And lots of hand-to-hand combat. This is a formula that had better stay true to form during the quickly-approaching All Stars movie.

Cure Berry, Cure Peach, and Cure Pine
For no reason, here is another look at the CGI Fresh ED, arena version.

In fact, I'll make it easy for Toei. Here is a partial list of my wholly reasonable expectations for the Pretty Cure All Stars crossover movie:

Cure Black
Speak to Cure Black with respect.
You don't want rebar to the face.

  • Honoka goes ape shit again and chokes out one of the Yes! Cures for having the gall to address her as "White" instead of "Cure White-sama."
  • At least three or four of the newer Cures should idolize Nagisa and follow her around offering to carry her gym bag and such, crooning "Cure Black-senpai" this and "Cure Black-senpai" that.
  • Bring back David Bowie.
  • NO PORUN. And none of the that other annoying mascot that drives even Porun crazy.
  • Some moment where Cure Black and Cure White Marvelous Screw Rainbow Storm some deadbeats square in the face while rookie Cures stand back, mouths agape, whispering, "Is this the power of the Yakin Due veterans?"
  • Cagalli throws The Ring into Mount Doom. Wait...

I am calling the transformed version East and calling the
plain-clothed edition Easy. It's entirely reasonable, okay?
[Update: Eas/Easy in battle costume, Setsuna in street clothes.]

In other news, I am fully prepared to declare Easy the best Pretty Cure villain of the franchise. Even better than David Bowie. True story. Your mileage may vary (and likely turn on whether or not you consider Dark Dream a villain or not).

Kaoru ogles the girls
I admit that does look like a good donut.

In other other news, I am not so sure it is appropriate for Love to address Mr. Heart-Shaped Donut Vendor as "Kaoru-chan." Then again, it's probably not appropriate for him to be selling donuts out of the back of a van, so I guess it's a wash.

Dated 24 July 2009: Things you'll find during the hottest two minutes of the Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie

Cure Peach
Love gets excited when she talks, okay.

Between minutes 58 to 60 in the Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie, you'll find wall-to-wall mahou shoujo beatdowns. It also starts off with Love doing that thing she does where the longer she talks, the faster and louder she gets.

Cure White, Cure Peach, and Milky Rose
Nice of you to join the fight, Peach-han.

Cure Peach also does a rather simian run for no reason, but it looks cool. Actually, it's probably to keep her enormous hair from dominating the screen entirely.

Cure Black, Shiny Luminous, and Cure White
Max Heart is here to eat takoyaki and kick ass.
And they're all out of takoyaki.

The Max Heart crew doesn't save anyone's ass during these two minutes. They already bailed out all the rest of the Cures earlier in the movie. Well, not the Fresh Cures; they were too busy being incapacitated to need saving.

Cure Rouge, Cure Aqua, Shiny Luminous, and Cure Mint.
Cure Rouge, Cure Aqua, and Cure Mint need to learn to spread out more.

I lied. Shiny Luminous totally bails out Cure Rouge, Cure Aqua, and Cure Mint from the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go! team.

Cure Black and Cure White
A signature move of the original Cures.

You'll also find that signature wall-stick move of the original Cures with all the flips. I'm still pissed they eliminated and then retconned out Cure Black's superfluous flip after she sticks, just so you know.

Cure Aqua
Cure Aqua gets to attack without reciting extended incantations.

You'll also find a lot of beam spamming by the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go! team. At least they get to whip that shit out in real time during the movie.

Cure Pine, Cure Peach, and Cure Berry
Your flying attacks are unsynchronized, rookies. UNSAT. Try it again.

The Fresh Cures also finally get into the act after spending most of the movie imprisoned in the La Brea Tar Pits.

Cure Black and Cure White
Never mind. Cure Black and Cure White have got this.

The Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie didn't do too much with the experienced Cures overshadowing the newer Cures, but it's there. There is one extended sequence when the Fresh Cures see all the other Cures in battle costumes for the first time. Appropriately, the rookie Cures are completely awestruck.

Cure Egret and Cure Bloom
Airborne Cure, Airborne Cure, where have you been?

Taking me completely by surprise, the two most telegenic of all Cure attacks in the movie belong to my least favorite Cures. Easily taking the top spot is the high altitude synchronized drop the much maligned Splash Star Cures execute just to show off. I might have to reconsider the possibility that what I originally assumed to be blatant ripoffs of the original duo are, in fact, actually re-imagined imitators in the flattery-type vein. Too soon to be an homage, but perhaps embodying the same spirit. I might have to watch Splash Star after all.

Cure Lemonade
That's not lemonade.

Probably the second-best looking attack is the one where Cure Lemonade Spider-Mans the dog shit out of the Big Bad. I didn't know she had it in her. And there you go. Two solid minutes of hard core wall-to-wall ass kickings in a 70-minute movie that's 90 percent ass kickings anyway.

Milky Rose
Milky Rose is a one-shot wonder.

Oh, I forgot to add that Milky Rose's big contribution to this fight is also really showy. I'm not entirely sure what to make of Milky Rose. She's actually one of the annoying mascots just transformed into a human dekochin ojousama form. My initial impression is she must think she's better than the other familiars. Why wasn't she at that meeting with the rest of the mascots? Even Coco and Nuts were there. Too good for staff huddles, eh?

All the mascots except Milk and that mailbox thing I guess.
If you all know each other, why didn't your Cures ever team up before?

To be fair, being at that staff meeting would drive me insane too. ALL the Pretty Cure mascots in one place at one time yammering back and forth at each other? Uh, no thanks. I will take your free rainbow flashlight, though.

Cure Rouge
Cure Rouge gets loose.

So what about the other 68 minutes of the Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie? Not bad, but pity it couldn't have been longer. I guess you can't really have a kids movie run too long, but were little girls even the movie's real target audience? I'm thinking that's the demographic that went to the theaters, but most of the movie is heavy on the fight scenes, even for Precure.

Milky Rose, Cure Mint, and Cure Aqua
The sky is falling, Cures. And, uh, you too.

I noticed similarities in the Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie to the climatic battles in My-Otome to tell you the truth, but All Stars DX outperforms My-Otome in mahou shoujo beat downs by a mile. These girls make the welkin ring.

Cure Black and Cure White
Does this count as fan service? I know there's an armpit
fetish. How about the back of the knee?

Overall, Pretty Cure All Stars DX is Pretty Satisfying. It hits about all the notes you might reasonably expect, including making the Max Heart and Splash Star Cures more capable than the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go! sentai team and the almost ineffectual rookie Fresh trio. All Stars DX obviously takes place early in the Fresh timeline—before they could dance, even. If there's another All Stars movie (and I'm betting there will be, as long as Precure remains a cash cow), I wonder how the inclusion of Cure Passion will change up this dynamic?

Dated 13 December 2009: Slowly watching Futari wa Precure Splash Star

Cure Bloom and Cure Egret
Cure Bloom and Cure Egret discover new powers.

Futari wa Precure Slash Star is the redheaded stepchild of the Pretty Cure franchise. It "only" ran for one 49-episode season whereas the original and the Precure 5 series each had about 100 episodes. (It looks like Fresh Pretty Cure will join Splash Star after its current run; it is already due for replacement by Heartcatch Precure.) Because of its close similarities to the original series, Splash Star is often regarded as a ripoff.

Mai and Saki
Mai and Saki get along better than Honoka and Nagisa did at first.

However, after giving Splash Star a chance, I am prepared to suggest its similarities to the original series are more evolutionary than derivative. Obviously Toei realized it was giving Splash Star very similar elements to the original Futari wa Pretty Cure. While these parallels were likely motivated by conservative financial considerations, they aren't direct copies. For example, the Splash Star fighting styles are noticeably softer, with many more circular sweeps and flourishes than straight linear strikes. As a result, Splash Star might have some of the prettiest fights in the Pretty Cure franchise.

Mai and Flappy
Mai has an observatory dome and telescope on her house.
I hope that doesn't violate local zoning codes.

Each season of Pretty Cure seems to have more beam spamming than the one before it. Yes! Precure 5 GoGo! is famous for it. But back when it was still okay for musclebound goons to punch 14-year-old girls in the face, Cure Black and Cure White in Futari wa Pretty Cure, the first and most openly violent series of the franchise, spent quite a lot of time trading blows with humanoid opponents. This is a far cry from the current series, Fresh Pretty Cure, which has foregone hand-to-hand combat almost entirely; the Labyrinth goons are almost always content to monsterize some random nearby object to do all their fighting for them.

Cure Egret
Beam spamming is for losers, Kira.

Because of this progression, Splash Star occupies a nexus of sorts between the two styles, combining the two forms to mix flowers and sparkles with kicks in the gut and energy beams blasting down from the sky. It's a good combination, and had I watched Splash Star before, I would not have been surprised Cure Bloom and Cure Egret had the most telegenic attack of the first Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie.

Cure Egret and Cure Bloom
I can see my house from here.

Admittedly, I've not seen enough Splash Star to conclusively determine whether or not the criticisms levied against the show are wholly unjustified or not. However, from my initial impressions, it seems very likely a lot of potential viewers simply dismissed the show out of hand (as I originally did) without giving it a chance. So far, these aren't ripoffs—they're the sincerest form of flattery, and they don't prevent me from declaring Futari wa Precure Splash Star the most underrated title in the Pretty Cure franchise.

Dated 13 August 2010: Searching for the two hottest minutes in Pretty Cure All Stars DX2

Erika and Tsubomi
Erika and Tsubomi before they learn their place.

It turns out the second Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie is really the first Heartcatch Precure movie in disguise. Whereas the first All Stars DX movie was basically a greatest hits album of fan-favorite Pretty Cure attacks and moves, All Stars DX2 sort of has a narrative as we watch the two least effective Cures of all time stumble their way through battles way beyond their abilities. I've accused Cure Blossom and Cure Marine of being the worst Cures in history before, but that has always been part of their personae; Heartcatch Precure itself accuses Cure Blossom of being the worst Cure ever. While this is generally true during Heartcatch episodes because Cure Blossom is a dojikko, capable of only fighting bad feelings (no, really), it's especially true in All Stars DX2 because Cure Blossom and Cure Marine are the rookies and somebody at Toei does take the whole Cure Senpai bit seriously.

Miki, Setsuna, Erika, Tsubomi, Love, and Buki
Try not to laugh in their faces, Fresh Cures.

All Stars DX2 does allow the Heartcatch Cures to take the first stand and act as if they're going to solo the newly discovered enemy by themselves, but then the movie subjects them to the humiliation of being patronized by the Fresh Cures (who themselves spent most of the first All Stars movie incapacitated by sticky, sticky goo) before being promptly bailed out of trouble. The express train of shame doesn't stop there, however. The Fresh Cures end up saving the hapless Heartcatch duo twice during the course of the movie. Really, if you count Love keeping Tsubomi from getting pegged in the face by a plastic flashlight any other character in the Pretty Cure franchise could have easily dodged (including that walking mailbox thing), Fresh saves Heartcatch three times. By my count, one or both of the Heartcatch Cures is rescued no less than six times in the course of a 70-minute movie. No wonder the other Heartcatch characters with cameo appearances in the movie pretended not to know them. Oh yes, there are cameos. Everyone and her mother is in this movie.

Love and Erika
Purses are so Freudian, Love.

If the first Pretty Cure All Star movie was the Home Run Derby (and it kinda was, really, with Cures just teeing off at will), DX2 is the actual game. There's an assortment of "All Star" bad guys from seasons past in DX2, most of which I'm pretty sure returned from beyond the grave. No David Bowie, though. Sorry. Take it up with the Ghost of Olivia Newton-John. No Zakenna butlers either. Man, those guys sure got shafted. They probably weren't even evil!

But I digress.

Although previously vanguished enemies return, it's obvious the Precure All Stars movies cannot be canonical. Besides the temporal anomalies and the characters playing fast-and-loose with their secret identities and those of the mascots, there's just no clear way to rationalize the various inconsistencies and contradictions among the various Precure generations. For example, Max Heart non-combatants conveniently pass out during Zakenna attacks. Conversely, the Fresh-verse populace suffers the kind of gruesome fates you might expect of civilians on the mahou shoujo battlefield; they simply just don't care. (I think Clovertown should probably be named after a different plant.) Even differences in character designs have to be handwaved away just so the successive generations can play ball.

Buki and Love
After hanging around Erika and Tsubomi, Buki and Love got a lot less...aerodynamic.

In the case of Fresh Pretty Cure and Heartcatch Precure, it means the amount of time characters from both series are in the same frame simultaneously is limited, and the Fresh girls' famously pronounced bosoms are whisked away, leaving all the characters uniformly flat. [Setsuna: Ha! Now you know how I feel!] They also don't stand shoulder-to-shoulder much, since Miki would be about two feet taller than Erika, for example.

Poor Easy. First they took her powers, then they took her adulthood,
and then they took her bust. Now they've taken her nose.

Towards the end, this conglomeration of vastly disparate character designs gets mushed into a rightfully maligned CGI battle that doesn't fit with the rest of the movie at all, but probably heralds the future of Pretty Cure animation if I don't miss my guess.

CGI Cures
It's the circus, Pretty Cure.

One thing All Stars DX2 did get right was addressing the disparity in the limitations each Cure generation faces. For example, Nagisa and Honoka are unable to transform into Cure Black and Cure White unless (1) they are together, and (2) they have Mepple and Mipple with them. On the other hand, girls from the Yes! crew can transform individually whenever the Hell they want. Although this liberates the Yes! girls quite a bit in terms of the restraints on their abilities, this freedom does introduce a number of hazards from which the traditional restrictions safeguard. Really, they're just asking for trouble in Nozomi's case. You know it's just a matter of time before she dozes off in class and transforms into Cure Dream in her sleep. Five will get you ten Nozomi eventually levels the entire school with a stray somnambulistic PRETTY CURE SHOOTING STAR one afternoon after eating a big lunch.

Cure Dream
Nozomi? Dojikko basket case. Cure Dream? Full-time ass kicker.

So what else does All Stars DX2 do right? Well, the Splash Star Cures once again have the best looking moves of the movie, especially the part when they simultaneously Fastball Special the Heartcatch Cures into almost doing something useful. After the first All Stars movie and 26 episodes (and counting) of the series proper, I have newfound respect for Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star. This is easily the most underrated and overlooked generation of all the Precure series. I'm guilty of it too, but it really was overshadowed by the first generation and overlooked by Honoka & Nagisa loyalists. They'll probably always get the short end during future Precure projects, but they certainly make the most of the little screen time they do get.

Cure Bloom, Cure Marine, and Cure Egret
Armpit service.

It's also nice how All Stars DX2 packs in essentially every single character that ever had a speaking role in any Pretty Cure series or movie. It didn't get everyone, or at least I didn't see everyone, but they damn near very well did. The entire movie is a "Where's Waldo?" exercise in identifying as many supporting Precure characters as you can. Still, I hope they don't attempt to do this much more. It really doesn't make sense to me to have supporting characters with superpowers of their own riding the pine, contributing nothing to the fight except some half-hearted Miracle Light waving. Cure Moonlight, Cure Sunshine, Cure Grandma, Wester, Souler, et al., I see you. Way to be only as useful as the six-year-old girl sitting in the eighth row of the theater. Thanks for nothing.

Crowd of supporting characters
Yeah, there are spoilers in this picture.

I do hope there are more All Stars movies, although with the ever ballooning cast of Cures crowding the 70-minute-attention-span ceiling, maybe Toei will be better off making Pretty Cure Team-Up movies, wherein the (presumably) eventually competent Heartcatch Cures show next year's newbies the ropes. Hope Tsubomi keeps Love's phone number on speed-dial.

Cure Black and Cure White
I don't know which explanation would be the
more appalling: That Cure Black and Cure White
missed, or that they fired a warning shot.

Oh, and to answer the titular question, the two hottest minutes of Pretty Cure All Stars DX2 are the combined sequences of all the times the Heartcatch Cures had their necks saved by other Cures. I knew Cure Blossom and Cure Marine were good for something.

Dated 18 August 2010: Futari wa Pretty Cure batting styles

Charlie Lau, eat your heart out.

It took me 25 episodes to notice Saki doesn't let her top hand fly off the bat during her swing. In related news, I really hope All Stars DX3 includes an all-Cure baseball game wherein Saki gets her first at bat as a Cure and crushes a ball out of sight, going, "Eh? EEEEEHHHHHh????!!!!!!" There was already a softball segment in Fresh Pretty Cure, but it's just not the same.

Dated 6 December 2010: In re that Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha movie

Put on a Barrier Jacket, Nanoha. It's cold out.

<@ghostlightning> Nanoha Movie 10:34 WHOA OK, NOPE NOT WATCHING THIS /dropped

Okay, yeah, there is a naked transformation sequence. Now, magikal girl shows have always had transformation sequences. The more tasteful ones aren't quite so overt with the "between outfits" nudity. For example, in Futari wa Pretty Cure, Cure Black and Cure White are naked the way Marvel Comics' Silver Surfer is technically naked. Unfortunately, there is a large Nanoha fan base for which its fan service is critical. However, the franchise does have its merits, and I don't believe a single scene should discourage someone from watching the rest of the movie.

Nagisa transforms into Cure Black.

Think of the first Nanoha movie as Pretty Cure with a budget. I suspect the Pretty Cure franchise probably generates more revenue as a whole than Nanoha, but Toei probably wastes it all on hookers and blow instead of pumping out improved fight sequences. The fights are where Nanoha shines. The franchise is at its best when it is about magikal girls trashing the dog shit out of each other. And make no mistake, the first Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha movie is very much about Nanoha and Fate whaling on each other.

Nanoha and Fate
Never turn your back on a fire, the ocean, or magikal girls.

Unfortunately, aside from upgraded animation and a condensed storyline, this movie is essentially the anime's first season in a two-hour block. I was hoping it would explore new ground by taking Fate's point of view, but I guess it is Nanoha's show, after all. Most of the changes are minor, such as Fate's brown belt replacing her red one. Also Raising Heart talks way too much now. I guess Raising Heart is still better than most of the yammering Precure mascots, though.

Yuuno, you're not half the weasel Tart is.

To me, the most significant changes are related to Fate and her mother. Although the tension in the movie is thicker than I remember from the series, I believe Fate suffered more abuse during the series. But most importantly, the content of the exchange between Fate and Precia at the end of the movie is critically different than how it played out during the series. These changes soften some of Nanoha's harder edges—a mistake in my book.

Fate and Precia
Maybe things will go better this time, Fate.

Then again, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha had already rejected Gripping Magikal Girl Melodrama by StrikerS. A second movie has already been announced, presumably re-imagining the A's season. Hopefully they won't back away from the darker elements of that season also, or we'll end up with a two-hour block of tensionless fights a la Pretty Cure All Stars DX. Speaking of which, it's a pity All Stars DX3 won't have nearly the animation quality of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha The First. I suppose I'll have to wait for The Second for more Top Fuel magikal girl brawls, unless someone talks Kajiura Yuki into writing that three-hour The End of My-HiME ~My Purest Heart Love for Thee~ opera.

Dated 25 December 2010: Cure Grandma is actually Lena Sayers [SPOILERS]

Hanasaki Kaoruko
Hanasaki Kaoruko, Tsubomi's grandmother.

If you've been following Heartcatch Precure! you'll know "Cure Grandma," Tsubomi's old nana, was a Cure back in the day known as Cure Flower. After her final battle with Dune (not the version with Sting), she's mostly been slumming around town and taking care of plants in her greenhouse.

Cure Flower
We were totally cheated out of a transformation sequence.

Surprising no one, I'm sure, they finally found an excuse to drag Cure Flower out of retirement and she promptly goes all Miss Maria on us to whale on some deadbeats that Cure Blossom, Cure Marine, Cure Sunshine, and Cure Moonlight weren't able to handle on their own because there were only four of them. (Maybe they were suffering from too much Christmas Cake.)

Lena Sayers
Arika's mom kinda doesn't fight fair.

Cure Grandma's rheumatism prevents her from breaking out her flashiest attacks, but she does pull a page from the Book of MILF Beat Downs by copying and pasting some Lena Sayers attacks before returning to her gardening.

Flower Carnival
Zetsubou no Flower Carnival

Really, though, Cure Flower's appearance raises more questions than it answers. Does this make her a viable All Stars DX candidate? (We saw her riding the pine along with Cure Sunshine and Cure Moonlight in DX2.) What happened to her partner? (Cures don't work alone.) And why does her mascot transform into a ninja? That seems really unfair. Unfortunately, there will probably be some handwaving, and aside from a token reappearance before the end of the season, I suspect that will be the last we see of this old gunfighter.

Dated 23 March 2011: Holy crap, there is baseball in Pretty Cure All Stars DX3

Cure Rouge
Maybe Cure Rouge will stop yammering about purity all the time if she rounds third.

Well, it's probably not baseball in Pretty Cure All Stars DX3. They're wearing shorts, so in all likelihood it's softball they're playing. I'm not sure why I don't see Saki on that lineup. Maybe she's on the other team. (Hint: If that's the case, bet on the other team. Cure Bloom bats fourth.)

Shiny Luminous, Cure Pine, Cure Lemonade, Milky Rose, and Cure Sunshine
Cheerleading doesn't actually have any place in baseball. Sorry.

Rally caps, girls. Rally caps.