Saturday, February 26, 2011

Anime Review: Heartcatch Precure

Heartcatch Precure was, for me, the surprise treat of 2010. I've tried Futari ha PrecureYes! Precure 5, and Fresh Precure, but I had never gotten into any Precure series beyond its opening episodes prior to Heartcatch. They weren't bad, but they didn't compel me to watch them for a full 40+ episodes. I tried Heartcatch because of the buzz over its light eau de yuri and stuck around for the story.

Hanasaki Tsubomi is an introverted 14 year old who has just moved to a new town and wants to reinvent herself as an extrovert at her new school. She fails, but makes friends with her outgoing, straightforward classmate Kurumi Erika after transforming into a Pretty Cure and saving her from one of the baddies.

Tsubomi's dream about two women beating the snot out of each other in a magical battle under a giant tree turns out to be true. The tree is the magical Heart Tree, which the nefarious Desert Apostles want to destroy because...they're bad. (As much fun as Heartcatch is, the Precure franchise's strength has never included an especially rich mythos- although I really like the "long tradition of Pretty Cure fighting" aspect.)

Cure Moonlight (my favorite!) fought to protect the tree, but she was defeated by Cure Dark, her familiar (as we later see) was killed, and the gem that allows her to transform was broken. Later in the series, she gets her fighting spirit back and joins Tsubomi (Cure Blossom) and Erika (Cure Marine) as a fellow Pretty Cure. (When she isn't fighting as Cure Moonlight, she's a cool-headed 17 year old genius student named Tsukikage Yuri, who is best friends with Erika's older sister Momoka.)

We also have Myoudouin Itsuki (Cure Sunshine), the sweet, hyper-competent student council president who crossdresses because she's the heir to her family's dojo. (She hides her fondness for cute and girly things to appear "worthy", but later becomes comfortable with enjoying girly things in public and joins Tsubomi and Erika's Fashion Club while coming to practice judo because she enjoys it, rather than out of duty.)

In each episode, the Desert Apostles prey on troubled people (illustrated by their "Heart Flowers" wilting) by turning them into monsters, and the Pretty Cure save them. Each time they succeed, they collect a Heart Seed that heals the damaged Heart Tree.

Eventually, the Desert Apostles wilt the Heart Flowers of everyone in the world who hadn't previously been saved by the Pretty Cure (I loved how the people who had been saved came together- not a hand wave when almost all of them live in the same town- to cheer on the Pretty Cure) and turn the world into a monster-infested desert. Naturally, the Pretty Cure save the world. The final fight is an epic, visually lush spectacle in outer space that Gainax would heartily approve of.

In the peaceful aftermath, I especially like how we get a glimpse of Sasorina, Cobraja, and Kumojacky in their post-villain lives, and the incredibly cute final scene, which shows Tsubomi's little sister looking at a certain photo. I'm also pleased that when Tsubomi and her friends articulate what they want to do with their lives, not one gushes the age-old, "I want to be a bride!" (Tsubomi enjoyed her time in space so much that she wants to be an astronaut.)

The yuri is in the form of girls squealing over Itsuki. Tsubomi briefly goes blushy and doe-eyed while looking at Itsuki a few times after learning that Itsuki is a girl, and there's a cute little scene in which Tsubomi gets caught up squealing over Itsuki with hearts fluttering around her while Itsuki spars. (Or heck, check out the 10th Heartcatch DVD cover.)

So- fun, strong characters, slick fight scenes, and a light dash of yuri. (Did I mention that Tsubomi's grandma Kaoruko is awesome? She fought- and saved the world- as a Pretty Cure, Cure Flower, when she was younger, allowing her to dispense advice to the younger Pretty Cure when needed and be more awesome than adults in kid's shows are normally allowed to be. Seiyuu fans can also nod knowingly at Mizuki Nana playing Tsubomi and the lovely Hisakawa Aya as Yuri, and sputter a little at Ishida Akira as Yuri's familiar.)

Definitely recommended.

Story: Varies between B+ and A
Art: The style grew on me. Very well produced. A-
Overall: A


trzr23 said...

Good review. I didn't even realize that there was an anime like this released in 2010.

Katherine Hanson said...

@trzr23- "Good review." <- Glad it was useful! :-)

(For a while after it premiered, Heartcatch slipped under my radar also.)

Richard Beaubien said...

Same with me until I finally caught it and was blown away by it. A slick mix of fight scenes, a really good plot and some awesome characters and we have one of the better Magical girl series out there.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Richard Beaubien- "A slick mix of fight scenes, a really good plot and some awesome characters and we have one of the better Magical girl series out there."<- Definitely.

trzr23 said...

Heartcatch Precure wins an award at the Tokyo Anime Fair :D


Katherine Hanson said...

@trzr23- Yay, Heartcatch! :D Well-deserved.