Monday, October 5, 2015

Anime Review: Happiness Charge Precure

"Didn't you say you were trying to be more on time last week?" FIFTEEN HOUR WORK DAYS MAN and this is why I keep planning on building up my buffer of reviews and it doesn't happen. But this show is already a year old so a few days don't matter as much, I already have to explain to people why I'm watching last year's iteration of Pretty Cure instead of this year's Go Princess (which is apparently quite good!). So here it is: two years ago I watched Heartcatch Precure and loved it so I tried out the new series that year, Doki Doki Precure as well as the original. I plan to go back to the original someday but it starts slowly and all of the official streams are pretty low quality, Doki Doki just ended up being really nuts so I gave up on it after a bit. So then I returned last year to HaCha and while I liked it I just fell behind with everything else I was watching.

And so, after I finished Wish Upon the Pleiades it seemed like a good time to go, finish HaCha and see if I could maybe, maybe catch up with GoPri before the end of it's run next January.

Happiness Charge Pretty Cure

Shy Shirayukihime has come to Earth to escape the destruction of her world by Queen Mirage and is still really shaken by how she couldn't do anything despite being a pretty cure. She's lost and has no confidence in herself and so the god of Earth takes pity on her and gives her a charm to turn another girl into a precure to fight alongside of her. Through an unorthodox method, Hime chooses the vivacious and bubbly Megumi to help her save the world and the two, plus some company, are off to a rousing start to kick butt and bring some happiness into other people's lives.

So, as established earlier, I have not actually seen a ton of Precure compared to a lot of other folks. Therefore my comparisons between series will be a bit limited and mostly to Heartcatch but you know what? Heartcatch was good and a pretty good measuring stick for the other series anyway so I think this will work out! The first biggest difference between these two is how much more plot-focused HaCha is; Doki Doki also tried to focus more on the bigger plot instead of the week to week monsters and while I do prefer a plot-centric show, it doesn't always work. There will be monsters and transformations every week period, no exceptions, and when the episode isn't already focused on the trigger for the monster then a lot of times the monsters feel pointless. "Oh we're having this important discussion but hey there's a bad guy out there, guess we'll have to continue this next week!" Heartcatch was really good about avoiding this, I did feel like the plot really kicked in a bit too late but the show made it's weekly monsters and problems important and it made the whole show feel very cohesive. It's one of the qualities that elevates the good magical girl stories to great, how do they manage two very different kinds of plots and create an emotionally satisfying ending from that balancing act?

Part of the problem with HaCha is not only that part of the episode each week feels unexpected with the sudden monster apperances but also that the series introduces a lot of plot points early on that gets dropped. There's a potential conflict early on about how collecting the [real world toy] cards after every battle will only let one person have their wish granted, despite four people doing the work, that I don't remember ever being resolved. In the end Yuuko (another precure) never had a wish, Hime's world is saved, and Iona's (the last precure in the group) sister are saved all without the cards. I think some of the cards may have been used to help Iona early on but since that's well before the halfway point I'm surprised it's never brought up again. There is one good thing about this which is that there's a very touching conversation between Megumi and her parents about how her mother will never be "cured" of her unnamed illness that Megumi wanted to wish for. It's something you rarely see acknowledged in any kind of fiction actually, that yes sometimes there is no cure, people have to just keep moving on and live as a life as they can and they can truly have a happy one! I liked the that the show took that route, just not that a big plot point was dropped in the process.

To touch a little more on dropped plot points, I'm really confused in retrospect about what they were doing with Blue Sky Kingdom, Hime's homeland. Early on her goal was to save her world but after a failed attempt the kingdom is left on a backburner of sorts. When the series begins to wind down and we learn more about Queen Mirage it sounds as if the only world she has ever attacked was Earth because she had a connection and a reason to focus on Earth, so what happened with BSK in the first place? Heck, if she's been around for 300 years, is there a long line of dead worlds in her wake? That line of thinking is probably a little much for this show but it does highlight an idea, it was the more ambitious, big plot points from the first half that were dropped in the later parts. I didn't mind this as much since there was such a large gap in my watching but it's still a failing none the less.

But beyond that, I did really like this series and recommend it as one of the better Precure titles. Sadly it is a bit hard to skip even the slower episodes, the show tends to plant at least a small nugget of plot in every episode at some point it seems like, but if people really want me to make a "must watch" list leave a comment and I will get on it! For me a large part of why this season worked was because it was silly with a lot of humor, Hime and Megumi has a really good rapport with each other so they were good characters to start the series off with. To be completely honest I found Yuuko rather dull and Iona feels a bit like a plainer version of Cure Moonlight, she just didn't have enough unique points to counteract the similar personalities, but I also really liked Seiji, Megumi's guy friend who finds out about the precure in episode two and remains a friend of the group throughout*. The eventual resolution felt pretty solid, I liked the additional outfits the Precure got to wear^, how we saw that there is an entire world of magical girls keeping everyone safe, a few of the plot twists were wonderful and silly, and I just had a lot of fun with the show. I still recommend Heartcatch first simply because it is the better show, a great show even, but I think a lot of magical girl fans, hardcore Precure addicts or not, will find a lot to love in this show too. 

*Also, "the one who keeps getting kidnapped" since if your only non-precure characters are a god and a 14 year old it's the boy whose getting brainwashed/turned into a puppet etc
^even if, imo, they weren't used enough, what's the point of CGIing the outfits if they're barely used, practice?