Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014 -- I've Been Beaten Up

This will be my final struggle. It's time to go toe to toe with my old adversary. I'm ending this month by scraping the bottom of the barrel and talking about my least favorite Pretty Cure series: Fresh PreCure.

What makes this show so special? Why, when other PreCure series had plenty of stupid stuff in it as well, does this series in particular send me to the back of the grumpy bus? Find out after the break.

Fresh PreCure

Don't be fooled by the name, this show is well past the expiration date.

You might have figured this out by now, but I actually do like Pretty Cure as a franchise. They're pretty simple shows that tell stories that by now are incredibly familiar, but they generally do that well. Even the less interesting shows in the franchise had something that worked in their favor, something that would make me want to come back to them. Even Yes! PreCure 5 had Girinma and a pretty cool cast of villains. I may not like the show much, but I wouldn't actively avoid seeing it if I was with a friend that wanted to watch it. Because I have so many friends who are just as interested in PreCure as I am.

That brings us to Fresh. I actually had never watched a Pretty Cure show to completion until about 2011. I had, however, tried to get into PreCure in the summer of 2009. The name kept popping up on various anime sites I was into at the time, and I decided to check it out. The show I started with was, at the time, the newest entry in the franchise, Fresh PreCure.

I was less than impressed.

Now that I've seen the first few episodes again, I have to admit that my disdain for this series... May not have been entirely through the fault of the show.

I still think its the worst one of the bunch, but I don't think I was entirely fair to it as 18-year-old Jim circa 2009.

See, 2009 was when I started to get a little sick of certain anime tropes, namely fanservice-y, high school life shows. Fresh PreCure is certainly not that type of shows, but it does have the tendency to try and cater to a more, shall we say, traditional anime audience. These instances may have made me hypercritical of other aspects of the show. I'll try and remedy this by being as fair as possible to this dumb show.

What Works:

1) AWESOME Transformation Music:

I may have to revise my earlier statement that HeartCatch has my favorite transformation music, because I seriously don't remember the music from Fresh being nearly as good as this. It's a little TOO good, actually, because once you see the actual transformation scenes, they don't come anywhere close to the energy and spirit that you feel in this song.

The synthesized brass and wind sections provide an early calm before a badass orchestral storm sweeps you away on wings of awesome. That video is like 18 minutes long and you should listen to the whole thing. Don't worry, you don't have to watch any of the actual show to do that.

2) Cure Pine is kind of cute I guess:

She's nice. I don't mind her as a character. She wants to be a vet and takes care of doggies. That makes her a good person.

What Doesn't Work:

KIND OF A SHORT SECTION, WASN'T IT? Yeah. That's (almost) everything nice I have to say about it. Any other compliments I have for it are either isolated incidents that aren't consistently a part of the show or is just a tiny diamond lodged in the poo-souffle that is this show.

Once again, I have reached a new level of eloquence in
reviewing anime that I don't like.


This show has an odd way of making me feel uncomfortable, and not in the usual way that a show like this would make you as a 23 year old man feel uncomfortable. Now that I think about it, I should probably stop watching PreCure after this year. Happiness Charge might have to be my last.

Anyway, to demonstrate what I mean by uncomfortable, here is the very first scene after the opening credits in episode 2.

Hahaha. She's 14. And now I need a shower.

This series would mark the first time that PreCure deviated from its usual art style from the original, Splash Star, and PreCure 5 series, and unfortunately a lot of it seemed to go into sexing up two of the main characters, Miki (pictured above) and [SPOILERS], both of whom are super underage.

This isn't an isolated incident, either. This theme continues in later episodes.

Hahaha. Again, she's 14.

Due to the new art style, fortunately none of the characters have super-ridiculous hair like in PreCure 5 or Smile PreCure, but at what cost, mang? What do we gotta do to be free of this curse?

2) Worst Opening Theme in the Franchise:

You can skip this one if you want and take my word for it, or you can listen to it and become like me. The choice is yours.


That's what I like to imagine those townspeople cheering them on must think.

Even though the lyrics by themselves aren't bad (by genre standards), this has to be one of the most atonal, screechy, unlistenable songs I've heard in a while. Miraculously, I found episodes that had the opening cut out (and the ending, which actually isn't half-bad, unfortunately) so I never had to hear it again after I watched it the first time.

The intro also gives you a sneak peak at the quality of animation we're dealing with, which I'll discuss in a minute.

3) Everyone who isn't Pine.

Or Buki, as she's known on stage.

What? The B plot of this series is that the girls are trying to start a dance troupe. They dance onstage. What did you think I meant?

The show begins with the main character sitting on a staircase loudly crying in front of her friends who look terrified. We are given no context for this crying for a full minute until we find out she's crying because she saw someone confess their feelings to sempai only to have them rejected. She was crying because someone else got rejected.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our hero: Love Momozono.

Yes, her name is actually Love. First I thought that Buki really just liked her that much, then I thought it was a mistranslation from the subs, after that I thought it was a nickname, but when everybody in the town started calling her that, I began to realize that is her actual name.

It took me three layers of disbelief before I came to the conclusion that was her name. She's impulsive and irritating, like Erika but without being funny. She's far from the most annoying character in the franchise, but man is it ever close.

Then there's Miki, who the show likes to remind you is the hot one.

Oh right, she's 14. I fucking hate it when that happens.

"I'm perfect" is actually kind of her catch phrase. The show seems to hold her to a gold standard of morality, as though she were the most caring beautiful person on the planet, but I don't think I buy into that.

Don't get me wrong, she's not unbearably shallow or vain as that gif might have you believe. She clearly cares deeply for her friends and family. In the second episode, she comes extremely close to sacrificing her own life to save her younger brother from an evil juice machine (just go with it).

That being said, follow me on this: Her younger brother, Kazuki, is supposedly very important to her. He's a sickly kid who she encourages to follow his dreams of becoming a doctor. HOWEVER! When the two of them hang out, she has him pose as her boyfriend.

The creator of Sword Art Online must have seen this and thought,
She does this so that guys won't hit on her when she goes out in public. Does that strike anyone else as being slightly presumptuous? More than a little vain even?

Consider this as well: In the first episode, they see Miki run off to meet up with him. She tells them she's going off on a date, and her friends are shocked and instantly assume that he's her boyfriend. Which can only mean one thing:


You mean that this guy has never once come up in conversation? Must be real proud of him, huh Mick?

Maybe I'm overthinking it, but this paradox strikes me as incredibly amusing. This, combined with the "I'm perfect" stuff makes me kind of dislike Miki. Which makes me sad because I usually like the blue one.

4) That animation...

You saw a bit of it in the opening, but that's pretty much how the rest of the show is. Don't believe me? Take a look at this actual screen capture from the show!

Do you see it? Aim high; you're bound to spot it eventually.

I swear I didn't photoshop that; they actually have no heads in that dance scene.

Which means that Fresh PreCure is a prequel to DRRR!!
The show is like a Where's Waldo of incompetence. It's not outstandingly bad, like Sugar Sugar Rune or similarly poorly-animated shows, just decidedly sub-par.

In a way, that's worse though. You can laugh at truly bad animation, but it's shows like Fresh where the animation is mostly passable until little artistic hiccups happen that are more distracting than they should be.

These animation hiccups would be a little less distracting if it weren't for the fact that there are a number of dance sequences in this anime that look 70s-era Hanna-Barbera levels of ridiculous in terms of quality. I so wish I could find a gif of the scene where Love is at her favorite idol group's concert and is dancing in her chair in a way that makes her look like she did quaaludes with a Grey Goose chaser. It's a sight to behold, her sitting in her chair, swaying awkwardly.

I hope one day that I do, so here's a related clip to make up for it.

Sweet fancy Moses, indeed.

Other problems with the animation are less obvious. There's a scene where they're standing on the back of a monster in episode 3 but don't move or shift positions in sync with how the monster moves, making it look like they're simply floating a few inches to the monster's left instead of standing on its back. These aren't as apparent or funny as other animation errors but are no less distracting and inexcusable as part of a franchise that otherwise generally has pretty solid animation compared to other long-running anime series.

5) Bad/Uncomfortable Transformation sequences

The music was great, but these sequences are not exactly a visual treat. They're uninteresting, and as I mentioned before come across as trying to appeal to an older demographic that they really don't need to try to appeal to. They start off as Sailor Moon-style naked silhouettes as their clothes and accessories gradually appear on them.

The only one that's actually any good is Cure Passion's, because it's apparently the only time the show decided to have an animation budget.

Like the music itself, the scene is almost too good in comparison to the others. It's the only one with energy that even comes close to matching the music, and its also the only one that even syncs up to the music. It really makes you wonder why we couldn't have this caliber of animation for the other scenes or even the show itself.

Here's Pine's transformation for comparison:


I'm done with this. If I watch any more I'm just going to get mad. It's not even that I dislike the core premise of this show, its just that there are too many little things that hold the series back from being good. When compared to shows like HeartCatch, Smile, and even Suite there's just a general sense of fun missing from this show.

It's like Yes! PreCure 5 without the cool villains. It takes characters that are, in theory, interesting but writes them in a way that makes them come across as unlikable. The ones that are likable don't get nearly enough screen time to set up character arcs that occur later in the show, and what quality is there is masked by bad animation, out-of-place pseudo-sexualization of underage characters, and questionable artistic direction.

Having watched it again, I can't recommend this even to fans of the genre. Even as a bad anime, it isn't particularly entertaining, just incompetent. I don't know why Suite PreCure is singled out as a bad entry in the franchise, but Fresh goes largely unmentioned and unnoticed. Maybe we'd rather just forget that it happened.

And so, with Cure March coming to a close, I'd like to send us off with a song. It seems like the most fitting way to close things out.

Thanks for sticking with me this month. I know it's not my best work, but I hope this final PreCure post makes up for it. I know I had a lot of fun writing it. Check out any of the PreCure shows I spotlighted this month if your curious (even Fresh if you really want to). 

As far as the franchise goes, it takes a lot of patience to get used to certain aspects of the Pretty Cure shows. They're made to run for a full year, which unfortunately means there's a lot of filler to stretch it out to the full 45-50 episodes each series contains. If you can overlook that, there's actually quite a bit of fun to be had watching these shows. Then again, if you're a semi-regular reader of this site, you probably know a thing or two about patience.

Thanks again for reading! See you next time!

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