The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Heartcatch Precure!

Title: Heartcatch Precure!
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Toei Animation
Format: 49 episodes
Dates: 7 Feb 2010 – 30 Jan 2011

Synopsis: Shy and introverted middle school student Hanasaki Tsubomi has been dreaming of a mysterious girl named Cure Moonlight who is defeated at the Great Heart Tree. Soon two fairies from the dream appear to Tsubomi, and finding that she was able to see the dream, grant her the power to become a Precure. She is later joined by her new friend, Kurumi Erika, with whom she fights the Desert Messengers, who want to drain the Earth of all life and destroy the Great Heart Tree.

The Highlights
Formula: Sticks to it throughout, but executes it well.
Visuals: Bright and fun.
Action: Surprisingly entertaining.
Story: Simple, but made engaging via the appealing characters.

Heartcatch Precure! is the seventh entry in Toei Animation’s Pretty Cure franchise of magical girl series, and it definitely hews close to its pedigree. But at its heart, Heartcatch Precure! is a fun, engrossing children’s show that nails the straightforward magical girl formula as well as can be expected.

Each episode is for the most part predictable. They mainly unfold in a monster of the week format, with a child or adult’s innermost vulnerabilities being used to transform him or her into a grotesque creature reflecting that inner pain, which the Precure must then defeat. The Precure call out their attacks, talk it out with the person and everyone is happy at the end.

But Toei Animation goes the extra mile for its audience. While the emotions the Precure must help heal are not entirely complex (nor subtly presented) from the point of view of an adult, for children they touch on issues they may not yet know how to comprehend: the deaths of loved ones, the frustration at not being able to help a friend, the expectations adults place on children and so on. Not totally mind-blowing stories, but they’re often thoughtfully handled in how they’re presented for kids.

The character growth is handled much the same way. How Tsubomi moves from being a shy introvert to someone who is comfortable in her own skin, and Erika from a loudmouth girl to someone who is more thoughtful in her interactions with others, is not completely subtle but always engaging. Tsubomi and Erika see their problems clearly; while they might not always know how to confront their issues (or may even be reluctant to do so), they nonetheless move forward on their own and with each other, emphasizing both friendship and self-reliance.

That character growth is what gives the story its charm. Although there are some solid twists, the overall arc of Heartcatch Precure! is hardly shocking or out of the norm. It’s difficult to not get behind Tsubomi and Erika – and the friends they pick up throughout the show – though, because they’re quite likable.

Even if one could not care less for all that, the visuals are guaranteed to keep eyes glued to the screen. The character designs are much like the series itself – simple but effective. And the colors for characters and backgrounds are bright and attractive and pop from the screen. (Except, of course, during interludes with the Desert Messengers.) There are also some fun visual motifs in each episode, as well, due to the dual themes of fashion and flowers.

The action is also an important part of the series. Although it’s often the words of the Precure that get through to their foes, they are all well versed in the language of fists. For any mecha fans out there, Heartcatch Precure! comes as close as any magical girl series to being a super robot show for girls: the attacks are big, bold and ridiculous, and are called out with as much energy and passion as the young girls can muster. (And, as an aside, one of the Desert Messengers, Kumojacky, seems ripped straight out of a super robot serial.) The fights can be quite repetitive; however, they are rarely boring.

Heartcatch Precure! does not do anything new, but it molds a familiar formula just enough to create a solid, worthwhile series. It’s a bright, earnest show that deserves to be seen.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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