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Dated 8 October 2014: Anime Aromas Assessment

Takane and Hibiki
Go on, take a big whiff.

What does your waifu smell like? This is an under-explored (entirely unexplored?) aspect of 2D romantic interests. Due to the nature of the medium, high-level aficionados obviously know what their anime girlfriends look like and sound like. Those well versed in non-canonical studies likely even have a general idea of these girls' potential sexual proclivities, but who knows what they smell like? Most of the time, the answer is entirely up to speculation, but in certain cases I believe reasonable guesses stand a good chance of being accurate.

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Dated 11 March 2012: Smile Precure is Pretty Cure for beginners

Cure Beauty, Cure Peace, Cure Happy, Cure Sunny, and Cure March
Choosing leaders by their affiliated colors is an insane practice.

After six episodes into Smile Precure!, the introductions and basics are mostly set and viewers can probably look forward to numerous monster-of-the-week episodes as the show spoonfeeds the viewer a variety of subplots before developing the mini-boss mid-season arc in a few months' time. On the one hand, it's good that Smile Precure! got all five Cures established in only five episodes, but there is definitely a by-the-numbers feel to the entire process thus far. It is quite obvious nothing has gone at them at full speed yet. The first three episodes in particular took things very slowly, carefully explaining each new Cure's powers and expectations during linear, lackluster fights. There was a lot of standing around as each new girl found her footing, tried a practice shot, miffed, and then took a mulligan as teammates and villains patiently waited for the rookie Cure to get her act together and try again. This is basically the opposite approach from the near-hazing trial-by-fire Cure Blossom and Cure Marine received in the second Precure All Stars DX2 movie where they were thrown completely in over their heads, floundering though one predicament after another as more experienced and capable mahou shoujo bailed them out time and again.

Miyuki
Miyuki loses sight of the mission.

I'm exaggerating here regarding the easy time the Smile Precure! villains are giving the new girls, but only slightly. Both Cure Happy and Cure Peace are dojikkos, and at least one is a dojikko even as a Cure. They are further hamstrung by being restricted from using their special attacks more than once per episode. They also miss a lot. It appears Smile Precure! is downplaying the franchise's focus on fighting, but that also makes the weekly fights comical affairs. I thought Wester and Souler from Fresh Pretty Cure were slackers. Man, those two would be employees of the month on the Smile staff. The Smile villains don't make any effort to defeat Pretty Cure at all.

Cure Sunny, Cure March, Cure Happy, Cure Peace, and Cure Beauty
The name of the game is "Sucker Punch."

I also believe this is the most otaku-friendly iteration of Pretty Cure so far, exceeding even Heartcatch Precure! and Fresh Pretty Cure. Possibly this is due to the blatant moéification of Cure Peace, who is basically Cure Pine except without the confidence or competence. Frankly, I hope this "cute," meek, harmlessness of hers is a short phase, because she's the next Cure Blossom and Cure Rhythm, only worse. Personally, I believe a show with children as its primary demographic—and young girls in particular—should make its potential role models confident, strong, capable, and determined.

Reika, Yayoi, Miyuki, Akane, and Nao
Well, everyone else is using this screenshot too.

Thankfully, despite the aforementioned aspects that I dislike, Smile Precure! as a whole is quite good, with ample charisma among its engaging characters (despite my personal disdain for dojikkos) and a helping of the camaraderie that made Yes! Pretty Cure 5 so much fun. Probably largely thanks to the dumbed down fights and junior varsity coaching by Candy on the sidelines, Smile Precure! gets my vote so far as the most accessible "starter" Pretty Cure series that anyone new to the franchise—regardless of age—can approach and understand and appreciate without effort. It's not good at all with regard to the Pretty Cure aspects that I care most about, but it's a good show nonetheless.

Dated 20 February 2012: I've started watching Another...um, another show

Mei
Another is like horror moé or something.

Another is another show that I started watching because of an animated GIF. The first time was years ago when a flood of Azumanga Daioh animated GIFs saturated a message board I used to read. This time it was a single animated GIF of Another's eyepatch girl behaving in a manner seemingly out of character from what every review and summary suggested so far.

Mei
Another is more like this most of the time.

The first few episodes are all right, but nothing great in my opinion until the moment of Dojikko Comeuppance. I'm no fan of stereotypical clumsy anime girls, so I was glad learn Darwin disfavored them as well. From there, Another starts rolling out a series of unlikely accidents. This is not an especially realistic show, and every single kid in the cursed class except for Mei and her potato is a real cunt. I'm looking forward to a parade of Detective Conan-level grisly deaths for the worst offenders.

Dated 10 February 2012: Winter 2012 update

Irino and Kuroi
Incidentally, Noto Mamiko has a very pleasant adult role in Black Rock Shooter.

Expanding upon my initial post, I've started following Black Rock Shooter, High School DxD, and I finished all VI episodes of Thermae Romae. Suite Precure♪ ended, Smile Precure! started, and I dropped Moretsu Pirates.

Yomi
It's probably a magic phone, but it bugs me that the string is not taut.

There was a lot of hype for the Black Rock Shooter OVA because the original music video was popular, but I remember fan reaction to the OVA being mixed at best. Despite airing only one episode so far, responses to the Black Rock Shooter anime series appears even more negative. I'm no fan of forced lesbian love triangles, but I still thought the OVA was all right and the television series seems decent enough so far. I appreciate how it juxtaposes everyday life with its sci-fi/fantasy world. Black Rock Shooter successfully conveys how devastating minor slights can appear to young teens. Yeah, this girl was mean to that girl, but it's not as if she stabbed her in the heart. It might feel that way, though, and I think Black Rock Shooter manages to show that in a straightforward yet imaginative way.

Lucius
Lucius stultus est! (Not really.)

I found out about Thermae Romae by accident. Its absurd premise about a Roman architect adopting Japanese bathing conventions works very well in this short, simply animated series relying heavily on reaction-shot humor.

Asia
High School DxD even has a clumsy nun.

Through five episodes, High School DxD is way better than I was expecting. It's not quite as trashy as Seikon no Qwaser or even Queen's Blade, but it is sufficiently outrageous to elevate a fanservice harem comedy to entertaining levels. It helps that Potato-kun has no trouble accepting what he is. By embracing his base nature, he comes across as much more likable despite being a cretin. Now that I think about it, High School DxD is basically a shallow fanservice harem comedy crossed with a shounen fighting series. This could work as long as it keeps the shounen jive down. (That was the biggest problem with To Aru Majutsu no Index, another harem comedy crossed with shounen fighting.) The first episode of High School DxD is nothing special, by the way. If you're curious about starting the series but hesitant about whether or not it will be a complete waste of time, I suggest starting with episode two and going back after episode three if you're still on board.

Kanade, Hibiki, Ellen, and Ako
Beginner's luck.

Suite Precure♪ is the worst series of the Pretty Cure franchise. I'll go into more detail if I ever get around to finishing my massive Pretty Cure treatise, but basically there is a direct correlation between the amount of ass kicking the Cures accomplish and the quality of the show. Suite Precure♪ is rather weak in that respect and compounds the problem with serious shortcomings in character development. I also don't like it when the struggle between Pretty Cure and their opponents is all about preserving people's feelings. Alas, that has been the trend since Fresh Pretty Cure, with no indication that Smile Precure! (the fourth straight "bad feelings are bad" series) will be any different.

Miyuki
This is basically how Nagisa was chosen as well.

Although these impressions are based on only a single episode (merely 2% of the projected total), Smile Precure! looks like it will be Yes! Precure 5 for people who never saw Yes! Precure 5. (Well, probably without the inter-species dating.) I hear the character designer is the same, the color palette is very similar, and it seems some of the personalities of the characters will be similarly color-coded. Speaking of which, I have no idea why the yellow one is so popular. I've been accused of not "getting" moé or otaku leanings, and perhaps that's true. For that matter, I don't even support the argument that "the yellow one" should have certain expected traits. I can see how someone might lump Cure Peace with Cure Lemonade and Cure Pine, but to me the "yellow Cure" archetype is Cure Bright, and Cure Bright is nothing like Cure Lemonade or Cure Pine. Cure Bright bats fourth. (Incidentally, I also disagree with grouping Shiny Luminous among "the yellows." Yeah, she's blond, but her entire outfit is pink—all pink. You have to play pretty fast and loose with the definition to insist Shiny Luminous is a yellow. It's practically racist. And this coming from someone who still thinks Cure Beat shouldn't be a Cure because she used to be a cat.)

Misa
Also, this lady's bird hair always bugged me.

I dropped Moretsu Pirates because it wasn't interesting. Send me a telegram if it turns out to be good.

Dated 30 July 2011: Season two of Mahoromatic isn't as good as I remember

Mahoro and Suguru
There's also a lot of nudity in Mahoromatic.

I waited too long to buy Mahoromatic DVDs, and by the time I did the beautiful art boxes were out of print and I settled on the Sentai Filmworks six-episode-per disc collection of digital artifacts. (I figured I'd buy Blu-rays eventually anyway.) Even so, I waited over a year before actually re-watching the show.

Minawa
Just stay down, Minawa.

Unfortunately, I don't care for the second season Mahoromatic as much as I initially did. I always did like the first season better, and Kawasumi Ayako is still wonderful as Mahoro, but I like Minawa no more than I initially did. Actually, I think I like Minawa even less this time around. If I remember right, Minawa is responsible for my intense dislike of dojikko "adorably clumsy" girls. Since I also hate Retard Moe (think Chii from Chobits, Stellar from Gundam SEED Destiny, and Yui from K-On!), this means I basically can't stand any scene Minawa is in. It doesn't help that this time around I'm fully aware of the Minawa-based spoilers from the end of the season. I've never forgiven her.

Dated 31 March 2011: I've started watching Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon (not quite comparing and contrasting magikal girl shows again)

Sailor Moon
Nice boots, Moon.

For some reason, I've never watched a single episode of Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon until now—not even dubbed. Long heralded as a mahou shoujo classic, Sailor Moon ran for hundreds of episodes spread out over numerous season, although Pretty Cure has since surpassed it in terms of episode count. I'm passably familiar with some of the basic Sailor Moon elements such as the talking cat, the "punish you" catchphrase, and the A-list voice cast.

Usagi
Mahou shoujo faceplant in the making.

After two episodes, I've learned a few things I did not expect: I love Mitsuishi Kotono, but her Usagi voice is horrifying. It's closer to her Ebichu or her Suite Precure Hummy animal voices than her Misato or Mireille voices. Usagi doesn't even have Excel's charm, so this is going to make for a long batch of episodes if things don't improve. Second, the show is not as good as I had hoped so far. Granted, I've not even seen the tip of the iceberg yet, but so far it sits pretty low in my "Also Watching" queue. Finally, I understand Pretty Cure is unique for its heavy focus on combat, but I was under the impression Sailor Moon was a bit of a departure from the standard magikal girl party line for having a relatively higher emphasis on fighting than traditional mahou shoujo shows. So far that is not the case.

Cure Dream
Get some, Cure Dream.

Speaking of which, if pressed to choose Usagi's closest Pretty Cure analogue, I'd say so far she and Nozomi have the most in common. Usagi is a self-described clumsy girl, but thankfully I've yet to see her in full-on dojikko mode. There's one important difference between Nozomi and Usagi, though: Cure Dream would beat the living daylights out of Sailor Moon in a fight. Cure Dream doesn't play.

Dated 30 October 2010: Autumn 2010 initial impressions

Dark Marine
Dark Marine > Cure Marine.

This is a relatively light season for me. I'm only following two new shows, and I may have dropped one of them already.

Stocking and Panty
Striped swords are an otaku myth.

My favorite show this season thus far is Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt which I basically only started watching because it's a Gainax production. It's crass and kinda dirty, but a pretty fun cartoon to watch. I'm rather pleased Panty is such a slut. God bless sluts.

Haibara and Conan
Any excuse for more Hayashibara Megumi is a good one.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. Starting with episode 591, this appears to be another solid season of the same sort of thing Detective Conan has been reliably churning out for years.

Cure Moonlight and Dark Moonlight
Dark Moonlight > Cure Moonlight.

Heartcatch Precure! needs to do more with it's new (old) 17-year-old Cure—the oldest Cure of the franchise if you don't count Cure Grandma (and if you accept Setsuna as a 14-year-old). Sadly, I'm disappointed with the way Hisakawa Aya (Hisakawa Aya! for crying out loud!) delivers her transformation announcement. She could take some lessons from Yukana on this one. Seriously, though. When Yukana starts going off about Pretty Cure's "beautiful souls," that is some good shit right there.

Rihoko
Wait until Rihoko finds out she's fatter than Meyrin.

As far as gimmicks go, I still prefer the one Hatsukoi Limited employed. Nevertheless, Amagami SS continues to provide mildly amusing episodes about Potato-kun's serial harem. Despite my dislike for dumb girls (Mouri Ran being a one of anime's All-Time Babes notwithstanding) and my loathing of dojikkos, the first Rihoko episode was rather endearing. She's slow and clumsy and an unwitting compulsive eater with low willpower, but somehow manages to be a sweet kid. If this keeps up, Rihoko may surpass SEX HAIR as the Best Girl of the show.

Megumi
Are genki vampires moé?

Shiki is still the anime equivalent of a B movie, but I'm pretty pleased Megumi gets around a lot for a dead girl.

Haruka
Between the Tortilla sisters and Haruka, 2010 has been
a good year for off-the-shoulder dresses and blouses.

Finally, I've probably dropped Psychic Detective Yakumo, but I may pick it up again if I get sufficiently bored with the above shows. It's not exactly bad, just sort of uninteresting. The presumptive love interest is a real dish, but I'm getting impatient waiting for her to shoot someone in the face. This is still a Bee Train show, right?

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.

Setsuna
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.