I watched this because I'd heard that it was the strongest, darkest PreCure series. That might well be accurate, but I still wouldn't take it too seriously. It's still PreCure. Most of its episodes are as dark as the Teletubbies. It's still a show for little girls that's mostly light-hearted fun with a monster of the week.
That said, though, it's also pretty good. I enjoyed it, once I'd put my "darkness" expectations on hold.
I like its characterisation of the PreCures themselves. There's something a bit offbeat about all of them. 1. The main one, Tsubomi, has always been shy and slow to make friends. She wears glasses, she's a gardener and she'll get called the weakest PreCure ever. Admittedly she's only timid in theory, since she soon grows and becomes indistinguishable from any other fun-loving girl, but more importantly she's also very kind and likeable.
2. Her best friend, Erika, is the main cast's only extrovert. She's also lazy, happy-go-lucky, possibly a bit stupid and liable to get carried away. Ep.39 is a great Erika episode, in which she's so irresponsible and rubbish that she ends up having a shouting match with her fairy while the episode's baddies have to stand and watch. I ended up thinking she was great, although it takes the show about six months to spot all the fun they can have with her.
3. Another one. I won't spoil her identity, but it's normal for another PreCure to join halfway through a series.
4. Cure Moonlight. This could reasonably be called dark. Ep.1 begins with Moonlight getting defeated and possibly killed by the baddies. (Her nemesis, Cure Dark is an evil PreCure who's so strong that no one can stand against her for about eight months.) Moonlight also has survivor guilt.
5. Cure Flower. She's cool because she's Tsubomi's granny. She doesn't do magical transformations any more and her fairy (Coppe) has grown up to be a colossal moronic-looking lump in the greenhouse, but she's the team's mentor. She knows it all. She's done it all. She's awesome.
The fairies don't matter much, but I loved them because they don't say their names at the end of their sentences. (It's called "gobi".) Instead they have an exaggerated way of saying "desu", which I can live with.
Most of the show is standard PreCure fare, often at school. The girls have lots of one-off adventures, helping people overcome their personal issues. The show will eventually grow a story arc, but most of its episodes are standalone. It would be harsh but not untrue to call them filler. (The oddest one is ep.28, which is preaching to its audience about summer holiday homework.) That said, though, it doesn't feel too much like filler because the episodes are pretty good and can have entertaining characters. Ep.18 has a scary thug who frightens everyone, but is in fact a sensitive wannabe manga artist who writes his own PreCure stories. (Our heroines' reactions made me laugh.) Apparently one-off characters can return, sometimes in important ways.
As for the baddies, most of them are pretty normal villains, but Cure Dark is a bit disturbing. She's a one-winged dark angel. It makes her look broken to have only one wing. She also tends to keep one eye closed. If you ever see it, it's golden and she's probably about to unleash one of her strongest attacks.
In fairness, there is also that darkness. Moonlight has some heavy stuff to deal with. The PreCure Palace has pugnacious ways of making you stronger. Characters can die, and not just villains. (The last episode tries to claim that no one had died really, but I'm not sure that includes baddies who turned out to be related to our heroines and whose bodies crumbled to slow-motion dust before blowing away on the wind.) Oh, and we see the end of the world.
None of that makes the show depressing or anything, though. It's fun. It's just doing its drama properly, that's all. (You'll have to wait for it, though.) I loved this show as soon as I heard the theme music, to be honest, which is better than usual even for a PreCure show. The second ending dance theme particularly blew my mind. Gospel and cool saxophone farts! That's not what I'd been expecting... but it's still great and sometimes I'd rewind and listen to it again.
1. One of the PreCures' attacks sounds like "Faulty Wave!"
2. The Heart Seeds that they're collecting get pooed out by the fairies. It's magic poo.
This isn't a life-changing show. It's not going to make you leap up shouting "Eureka!" It's just another PreCure series... but it's good PreCure, with well-written regular episodes, some deeper-than-usual emotional drama and no annoying characters. The baddies have minions who can't talk and can be funny. The heroines are genuinely cool. I enjoyed it enormously.