Happiness Charge Precure First Impressions – Not Heartcatch, they said

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The most Heartcatch Precure that wasn’t quite Heartcatch Precure, but still Precure nonetheless.

Anyone who knows me on a more personal basis will know that I’ve been a pretty big fan of the Precure franchise for quite a few years now – my more vocal moments probably putting most of the target demographic to shame. Despite stagnant plot progressions and the occasional infantile moralizing, I’ve come to enjoy (most) Precure seasons immensely for their lighthearted charm, energy and colourful casts. As such, it’s no surprise that I could barely contain my excitement last night, while waiting for the premiere of the newest installment.

Many long-time fans of the franchise will know that Precure seasons aren’t exactly known for their innovative premises. In fact, they’re about as inspired as the current seasonal lineup of anime – which, if I may spoil a perfectly good joke, is to say not very.  Although some may disagree, I’d have to say that going headfirst into a brand new Precure season knowing exactly what to expect is part of the fun. For a viewer such as myself who has seen every Precure season out there, I know the set-up is going to involve some evil B-list organization trying to destroy the world, a happy-go-lucky girl who becomes a Precure and some drop-kick mascot that 10-year old girls probably go gaga over (seriously). Because of this, the first episode of Happiness Charge Precure was less about surprises and more about the new cast, production aesthetics and most importantly of all, FABULOUS TRANSFORMATION SEQUENCES. But you weren’t really expecting more than that from a first impressions post about a little girls’ propaganda cartoon, right?

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To start, the characters were easily the main draw of the first episode, since I already mentioned why the PLOT is of little concern in the grand scheme of things. The season’s main heroine, Megumi Aino, is your typical energetic girl, who never hesitates to lend a helping hand to others (beware of optimism). Her qualities make her the spitting image of most of the franchise’s previous Pink Cures, so there’s not a whole lot to say here. As you could probably tell from reading this paragraph, she’s not exactly a character type that I’m fond of, as she runs the risk of being a Mary Sue, which was exactly the case with DokiDoki Precure’s Mana. At the very least though, Megumi doesn’t seem to be as flawless as that other abomination of a Cure, as she ended up making more of a mess of things when helping someone. That counts for something, no? Character flaws are good!

Anyway, the real star of the show was undoubtedly the season’s Blue Cure, Not!Erika, otherwise known as Hime Shirayuki. Fans of Heartcatch Precure will immediately get my lame attempt at cracking a joke here, as in many respects Hime is very similar character-wise to her Blue Cure brethren. Thankfully, being compared to another Cure is anything but a bad thing in this case, as many fans will probably agree that Erika Kurumi/Cure Marine had the most entertaining personality in the franchise. Of course, it’s not difficult to see why, as her actions were almost entirely dictated by her whims; moving to the beat of her own drum most of the time. Erika was also one of the most expressive characters, with many of her exaggerated facial expressions acting as a great source of background comic relief.

Blue Cures are always the best

Blue Cure bias

Back on topic, a lot of what I’ve just described about Erika applies heavily to Hime, though that isn’t to say we’re dealing with an exact carbon copy here. Unlike Erika, Hime also appears to be more withdrawn, having difficulties communicating with people and resorting to stalker tendencies when scouting out a Precure partner. The good thing though is that Hime’s personality isn’t entirely overshadowed by one set of traits, as she abruptly goes back and forth between in-your-face energetic and sulky depending on the situation. And speaking of being sulky, she has a good reason, as in a bit of a cruel twist she’s an outright incompetent mess of a Cure. Although this sort of goes against the franchise’s goal (since the Cures are supposed to be role models), it’s an entertaining bit of viewer sadism nonetheless. Or maybe it’s just something people call moe. I don’t really know. What matters is that Hime has already claimed the title of best Cure in the show for me.

Oh yeah, and overalls, I guess…

One aspect of Happiness Charge Precure that I found kind of neat by the franchise’s standards was the setting. While still a typical civilian town pervaded by Japanese values, the active presence of the show’s evil organization, the Phantom Empire, provided a nice twist. Usually in Precure seasons, the bad guys’ presence is only acknowledged by the ordinary citizens when they summon a giant monster. Then for some unexplained reason which can either be deux ex memory resetting, lazy writing or some combination of the two, people forget entirely about the entire ordeal. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case in Happiness Charge Precure, as the remnants of the monsters’ attacks still linger in the background and the NPCs are (somewhat obliviously, mind you) aware of the threat at hand. More importantly, the Precure are acknowledged by the civilians, so they’re actually regarded as superheroes unlike a few of the other installments where they were closet warriors. Sure, the flavour of the setting will undoubtedly fade out into the background as time passes, but it’s an interesting detail nonetheless – at least in my obsesses-over-settings-more-than-I-should view.

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Finally, the show’s aesthetics and art direction were quite pleasing, though what I really enjoyed about the production in Happiness Charge Precure were the myriad of small throwbacks made to Heartcatch Precure.  From the sickeningly bright colour palette to Hime’s exaggerated facial expressions, I had to rub my eyes twice to conclude that this wasn’t a direct sequel but rather a spiritual successor. It stands to reason though, as the director of Happiness Charge Precure, Tatsuya Nagamine, had previously worked on Heartcatch Precure. As a result, the episode retained a lot of Heartcatch’s colourful energy, flashy style and overall sense of fun – just with a slightly lower animation budget. It was a nice visual treat for long-time fans, and will at least ensure that the show’s direction remains entertaining.

So what can I say, I’m sold. Happiness Charge Precure had a terrific first episode and I’m glad to be excited about Precure again after the disaster that was DokiDoki. Additionally, elements such as the Cures’ multiple forms and the return of Yoshimi Narita as the primary writer have me extremely hopeful for this one. That said, it remains up in the air as to how this one will turn out, as although I have faith in Yoshimi Narita as the primary writer (Yes! Precure 5 being one of my favourites), Precure seasons can quickly turn sour due to stale episode plotlines and contrived excuses for conflict. There’s also the slight fear that Happiness Charge may attempt to recreate the same success of Heartcatch Precure, and fall flat by failing to forge its own ground. Regardless of the eventual outcome, at the present moment, there’s only one thing I can say about my happiness.

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7 responses to “Happiness Charge Precure First Impressions – Not Heartcatch, they said

  1. I agree with a lot of your sentiments. Regarding the characters, Cure Princess caught most of my attention because facial expressions, and her inner conflict. I’d say Cure Lovely is definitely the most happy-going Cure of all, as she had openly announced how she just LOVES being HAPPY and also bringing HAPPINESS to EVERYONE. She feels a bit more gimmicky than the rest of the Cures, but this is fine. I still like her!

    I’m also interested that the writer of Yes! Precure 5 is also the head writer of Happiness Charge. Though, I see he’s also written the script for the GoGo movie, which was really AWFUL. So I’m kinda confused. (I liked that one scene in the Cake kingdom whatever with the fun cast dynamics, but that’s it. Pretty Cure you know which scene I mean- oops I’m rambling).

    There definitely is a Heartcatch aura in Happiness Charge, what with all dem facial expressions, fun energetic cast dynamics, topped off with quirky, entertaining art direction. (The Cures yelling and then we see a mini-version of the Cures inside comes to mind).

    Nice read!

    • Cure Princess is really a barrel of fun so far. I love her personality quirks and the fact that she’s hopelessly incompetent in battle (we need more Cures like this for pure comic relief). The scene where she first met Megumi and completely stumbled over her words was hilarious as well.

      Hmm, Cure Lovely being the most happy-going Cure of all? I don’t know if that beats out ULTRA HAPPY or shiawase ghetto. So far I’m okay with her, as long as she doesn’t become like Cure Heart (you’ll know once you finally watch DokiDoki).

      It’s hard to know whether Narita will do a good job with Happiness Charge, though I have my fingers crossed. The writing in Precure movies is usually pretty awful on average, and GoGo’s was no exception. Also, I’m assuming you’re thinking of this scene in GoGo’s movie, since it was objectively the best part of the movie. Yeah I know you mean the one where the Cures were intentionally being over-dramatic to spite Karen.

      Those miniature mouth-residing Cures were a great touch. I’m already liking Happiness Charge’s comedic direction.

      Anyhow, thanks for your comment, Gary, and hopefully now you’ll be able to trudge through the less successful seasons of Precure with Happiness Charge on the side. :3

  2. Excuse my odd grammatical errors in my previous post; I forgot to proofread.

    I’m liking Cure Princess so far as well!

    Oh yeah, there’s Cure Happy. I don’t know how I forgot about her.

    KOMACHI AND KAREN BEST FRIENDS FOREVER

    So yeah, pretty sure sitting through an episode of Futari wa Precure kills brain cells. It’s the equivalent to watching paint dry. In that sense, watching Heartcatch afterwards revives brain cells! It’s my go-to medication because I need it. Hopefully with Happiness Charge now around, it’ll make it easier to watch the rest of the seasons.

  3. I’m thinking about venturing into the Precure series. How is the series structured? Any season that is needed to introduce me to the series, or can I just dive in to the current season?

    • Precure is a more traditional mahou shoujo series fused with super sentai elements – the end result being slice of life moments with battles against giant monsters at the end of each episode. The basic plot formula remains the same throughout the season’s entire run, with a few exceptions here and there. As such, I’m usually a bit hesitant to recommend Precure to people out of the blue, since it really depends on how much one enjoys traditional mahou shoujo shows. If you’re the type who is bothered by things like repeated stock footage, it may not be your cup of tea. Though if you can look past this, there are plenty of uplifting messages, charming characters and (most of the time) great fights.

      Other than the original Futari wa and Max Heart, Yes! Precure 5 and GoGo, none of the seasons have any continuity with one another , meaning you can just dive right into Happiness Charge. Although, if you’re interested in checking out an older season alongside it, I’d recommend Heartcatch or Splash Star. Both are highly regarded by most fans of the franchise, and Happiness Charge makes quite a few throwbacks to them.

  4. Whoaa, what a strange time for a premiere. And here I was thinking it would start roughly at the same time as Spring 2014 shows. Anyways, how would you say Happiness Charge Precure would be for a first-timer’s try at the franchise? Did much of its enjoyment require knowledge of other series?

    • Precure and most other Sunday morning kids’ shows air a bit differently than stuff produced for the late night anime crowd. The first week of February is always when the new season of Precure starts.

      As for Happiness Charge, it’s hard to say where it will end up, though I suppose it isn’t a bad starting point for a newcomer to the franchise. Although I’d have to say a lot of my enjoyment of this first episode was due to the small visual throwbacks made to Heartcatch, the show still had plenty of silly, lighthearted moments. The main thing you have to ask yourself though is whether you think you can stomach a traditional mahou shoujo show with plenty of reused stock footage for 50 episodes. At the very least, watching it weekly may make some elements seem less repetitive, and it’s a good way to get your feet wet.