It's the first Dream Stars movie! PreCure does two movies a year, one with just the current team and the other being a crossover. Until now, the latter had tried to include everyone. That had started out mental and got more so every year, with 45 PreCures, 34 mascots, 10 villains and 12 other ongoing characters in "Pretty Cure All Stars: Singing with Everyone Miraculous Magic!". From this year onwards, though, they'll only do the three most recent series. That's a long overdue decision, obviously. In this case, that's:
- Go! Princess PreCure (2015) - Flora, Mermaid, Twinkle, Scarlet
- Maho Girls PreCure! (2016) - Miracle, Magical, Felice
- KiraKira Pretty Cure A La Mode (2017) - Whip, Custard, Gelato, Macaron, Chocolat
Those are their magical girl names, obviously. You wouldn't call your daughter Whip or (only slightly less worrying) Custard, unless you wanted to be arrested.
Anyway, I've seen all of Go! Princess and Mahoutsukai, but not Good Grief Please Stop Cooking. (Apparently that series grows a relatively serious plot from ep.12 onwards, though.) I'm not planning to watch it either, but the good news here is that the KiraKira PreCures have learned how to shut up about food! There's no cooking at all when they're introduced. They're talking about ordinary schoolgirl things instead, which made them more likeable. They're a lively bunch. I laughed at the reaction shot of them materialising in the sky, for instance.
Admittedly there's a little food business later on, but this is either "have some of these sweets we've made" or as the background of an acceptably brief one-minute dialogue scene that's using the cooking to reflect the heroine's feelings. Whip talks about putting salt in sugar. That was a good scene.
The film's cast has five levels of importance. Most important are the film's one-off characters, who I thought worked very well. The CGI tengu villain was nothing to write home about, despite his Video Game Boss transformation and a laugh-out-loud moment when the PreCures ask if they could take a break. He doesn't really matter, though. He's the baddie in a PreCure crossover film. He's a forgettable panto villain. What matters is that the film's managed to build an emotional core around Sakura and Shizuku. Against all expectation, you see, I often find that PreCure's got to me. Even though it's candy-coloured kiddie fluff, it's a superhero show where the heroes are little girls, but still facing giant monsters, fight scenes, supervillains, etc. You can get a lot from that, just by playing it straight. What would have been a run-of-the-mill confrontation for Batman can become much more memorable with a twelve-year-old heroine. Here, Sakura's a goldfish (apparently) and Shizuka's a fox. The former had always been left out of things and alone, until she met the latter. Shizuka's maternal. She wraps the human girl in her tails. She sacrifices herself at the beginning so that Sakura can get away. I cared about these two characters and I think they work, including the non-twist. It's so obvious that I think even it's being assumed that even the target audience will spot it in advance.
The second most important character is Whip, as the main heroine of the current series. She can be funny. "Hey, you! You were in my dream last night, right?" Next are all her teammates, who get a full twenty minutes to themselves before any of the older teams show up. That's nearly a third of the film. (Macaron and Chocolat reminded me of Sailor Moon's Haruka and Michiru, incidentally, with the TV episodes apparently having an explicit romantic relationship developing between them. At one point here Chocolat pins Go! Princess's Nanase Yui against a wall and everyone thinks she's trying to pick up girls.)
Fourth most important are the Mahoutsukai PreCures. It takes a while for them to appear, but I thought it was lovely to see the film go to their Magical World and bring back supporting characters like the headmaster and Vice-Principal Kyoto. That's the kind of full-blooded homage that the All Stars movies simply didn't have time for. Riko/Magical gets a fun introduction and it was pleasing to see the film's fox fight finale remembering that Kotoha/Felice was the strongest fighter.
In last place, alas, are the Go! Princess PreCure
s. They're not being belittled or anything and I was surprised by how happy I got at returning to Noble Academy, just as with Magical World, but I think they get fewer character moments and slightly less prominence than the Mahoutsukai PreCures. It's a shame because they're my favourites of this line-up, but they're coming across as the least memorable. I can understand it, though. Of course the film's producers will be prioritising the best-remembered characters, especially given the extremely young target audience.
(Also, importantly, there's a cameo for Nanase. You can't do Go! Princess without Nanase.)
It's a fun and light, but also surprisingly solid film. Despite being a light-hearted cartoon romp for little girls, I think it finds a real emotional level for Sakura, Shizuka and Whip. Even the goofy Miracle Light gimmick sort of helps, since Whip had been losing badly against that monster until everyone shone their Miracle Lights to give her strength. That fight had a decent threat level. (Oh, and those lights seem to get more powerful and all-purpose every time I see them, like sonic screwdrivers. Oh, and the film also breaks the fourth wall for them in a way I've never seen before, with characters stepping out of the film into new CGI versions of themselves to tell the audience how and when to use them. Furthermore, towards the end, the villain sees this and decides to follow our heroines and invade the real world!) I could have lived with less CGI in the animation, but that's not a big deal. It's far better than you'd expect of a kiddie franchise crossover film. It's exciting. It's heroic. I enjoyed it a lot.