In a similar vein to the enigmatic Regina, the writers of DokiDoki Precure are selfishly trying to encapsulate as much of the franchise’s past success as possible. How has this had an impact on the most recent installment’s direction, composition and characters?
Being a 21 year-old male and watching shows intended for girls half your age is a strange feeling indeed. Besides people possibly giving you funny looks, it can be difficult at times to view Precure shows with the intended juvenile mindset when one regularly focuses on elements such as writing and characterization. As a result, there will undoubtedly be certain oversights on the writers’ parts as they are putting together these shows for their target audience and not those strange deviants who derive enjoyment out of seeing a bunch of middle-school girls in frilly outfits. Hey now, don’t give me that look! I swear on my Precure image folder that my intentions behind watching these shows remain pure!
Also, a brief shout-out to ajthefourth as her write-up on DokiDoki Precure was both an inspiration and starting block for my analysis.
The most recent installment in the franchise, DokiDoki! Precure, has stirred up a bit controversy as of late. Although other Precure seasons are not without their flaws, DokiDoki’s shortcomings can be traced back to the entire scope of the show rather than just the usual underwhelming conflicts and plotlines. Due to its haphazard direction and composition, DokiDoki has already become one of the more problematic seasons before having even reached its halfway point.
With this installment being much more focused on external events and plot twists than the average Precure season, it’s no wonder DokiDoki has caved when the writers attempt to cover as many bases as possible within a short span of time. Specifically, it seems as though DokiDoki is attempting to encapsulate the spirit of many of its predecessors without taking the time to really forge its own charm. To name a few, Smile’s comedic scenarios, Heartcatch’s monster concept and Fresh’s proto-villain turned Cure arc have all factored into DokiDoki’s storyline. Although one could see this as Toei throwing in a boat-load of references for the franchise’s long-time fans, the writers have haphazardly inserted these threads with no respect to the season’s composition. At times it feels as though DokiDoki wants to be a comedy like Smile, while at others it wants to focus on NPC characters like Heartcatch did. The overall effect of the poor composition is that many plot elements feel rushed and the Cures’ group dynamic is compromised.
For instance, the most recent episodes have centred on Regina, the newest villain and possible candidate for the fifth Precure. As the writers abruptly introduced her only a few episodes ago, she’s completely hogged the spotlight from the rest of the cast, save Mana. This has caused Alice, Rikka and the other villains to sit in the backburner as the narrative primarily focuses on Regina and Mana’s interactions. Making matters worse is that DokiDoki still attempts to juggle the Trump Kingdom plotline alongside this, introducing new twists such as the Royal Crystals and the sudden appearance of Jonathan Klondike. As the writers cannot decide on a solid direction, this has resulted in is a jumbled mess, skewing pace, tone and characters alike.
A lot of what drives Precure shows forward is not innovative plotlines but rather a diverse cast of charming characters. Though the Cures are simple archetypes such as the star athlete or student-council president, it is both their down to earth portrayals and amusing group dynamics that allows them to collectively stand out. However, in the case of DokiDoki, the show has had difficulty achieving a cohesive dynamic between its four main girls. This is not due to an issue of incompatibility, despite characters like Alice and Makoto coming from rather unusual walks of life. In fact, one would think that given the relative differences in personality types, that there should be plenty of time allotted for the girls to bond.
This leads me directly to the girl of the hour, our number one altruist, Mana. Possessing a heart of gold, Mana’s sole goal in life is to be as selfless as possible. This is a glaring flaw of DokiDoki’s premise, as Mana is a girl who will help anyone, regardless of whether it’s an entire kingdom, an old lady crossing the street or some adult male who watches magical girl shows. The bottom line is that Mana’s self-sacrifice to restore the Trump Kingdom doesn’t carry enough gravity, as to her it’s essentially another good deed. While many of the past series did initially follow this pattern, the big difference back then was that the heroines were given plenty of time to bond with the third parties, thus strengthening their resolves. Although Makoto is Mana’s friend, the two feel more like acquaintances due to the series compromising their relationship in favour of the recent plot developments. Compared to many of the other entries in the franchise, Mana’s case seems much weaker in comparison.
One theme that has always been central to Precure seasons is the bonds of friendship between the characters. It’s a message that Toei has been preaching to the minds of prepubescent girls a many for the past ten years now, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. With that in mind, DokiDoki still attempts to convey this theme, but with a poorly founded group dynamic it simply collapses upon itself. This makes sense as it’s difficult to take the Cures’ speeches about love and friendship seriously when only half of the group has decent chemistry. Specifically, Rikka is the only girl that has a close relationship with Mana. As the two were childhood friends, they’ve already developed a repertoire where they can casually joke around with one another, giving their exchanges some flavour. Now, Rikka occasionally butts heads with Mana as she helps keep her out of trouble, essentially acting as a wife figure of sorts. If only the two would get married, though I suppose that’s what the doujins and fanart are for.
On the other hand, Alice seems like the odd one out in the group. In a similar vein to Rikka, Alice is also Mana’s childhood acquaintance, but sadly she rarely gets a chance to shine or even appear on-screen. Part of the problem with Alice is that she just isn’t around enough, due to the fact that she doesn’t attend the same middle-school as Mana. With a great deal of the narrative centred on Mana, Alice is often left in the dust until the monster of the week segments. However, by then, most of the character-centric moments have already occurred, making it difficult for Alice to harmonize with her suite.
So how does Toei remedy the situation with characters like Alice? Simple, they basically take the other extreme and dedicate entire episodes to her character growth. While on a standalone basis, these episodes do satisfy the requirement of developing Alice as a character, they are still unable to convey that Alice is an unbreakable part of the group. The problem here is that these episodes are entirely focused on Alice while the other Cures take a backseat. What’s worse is that following these episodes, Alice once again reverts to her role of a background character, giving her two cents here and there but not contributing to the overall dynamic otherwise.
Last but certainly not least is Makoto, whose primary purpose in the show is to function as a lead into the Trump Kingdom. In short, Makoto’s reason for joining up with the other Cures is to restore her kingdom to its former glory, a premise which is virtually identical to that of every season. However, the issue at hand is not a recycled plotline, but rather that Makoto’s interactions with the other Cures are almost entirely linked to achieving her central goal.
In many respects, Makoto acts as a plot device to give the Cures a reason to collect the Royal Crystals and revive the Trump Kingdom’s princess. The problem here is that very little time is dedicated to Makoto as a character. Rarely are we shown scenes of her integrating into Mana’s society or even her double life as an idol, beyond episodes dedicated to developing her. Once again, these episodes run into the same set of problems as Alice’s, except they are even more inconsequential in the long run due to Makoto’s inconsistent portrayal. For example, the earlier episodes showed Makoto opening up to the other Cures while in the more recent ones, her personality reverted back to that of a total stranger. More than anything, it begs the question of why the writers require her to do a complete 180 every time they want the audience to emphasize with her grief for the Trump Kingdom. As a result, Makoto is unable to achieve a deeper connection with the other Cures that goes beyond their common goal.
While I’ve harped excessively on DokiDoki’s flaws in writing, this was for the primary purpose of bringing them to light rather than trashing the show. Above all, Precure will still be a show meant to entertain prepubescent girls, and as such these fallacies may not even have an effect on their viewing experience. However, for the rest of us who have prided ourselves upon watching a bunch of middle-school girls in frilly outfits, it could be a very mixed encounter. If anything though, audiences new to the franchise will probably be more turned off by the plot stagnancy and monster of the week formula whereas it’s really the hardcore fans who may find themselves siding with some of these criticisms. At the end of the day, a huge Precurefag like me will probably still enjoy DokiDoki, just perhaps not nearly as much as the more well-rounded installments.