It's the 24th PreCure movie, the 10th team-up and the second (after Pretty Cure Dream Stars!) since they decided to stop including everyone. Including all 55 main PreCures from the past fifteen years would be insane, so of course they did that in another movie in October.
However the norm these days, as here, is to cover the last three years. Here that means Hugtto! (2018), KiraKira a la Mode (2017) and Mahoutsukai (2016) teams. (Go! Princess has dropped out. Sob.) That's a pretty good balance. It's not ridiculously huge, but that's still twelve girls, even without Macherie and Amour. This film was released before they'd become PreCures, you see. It came out on 17 March 2018, between Hugtto! eps.6-7, which is early enough that Homare's still damaged and pessimistic, at one point shouting "I was saved by Hana!"
Anyway, the plot. It's about lies and promises. Hana mentions in passing early on that she's sworn always to keep her promises, because she feels bad about an occasion long ago when she didn't. That's all the detail we learn... at that point. Next thing we know, though, the film's villain has emerged and is turning flowers to stone. (It'll soon be starting on buildings and people.) It's called the Usobaakka and it's quite funny.
"I'm very sorry (lie)."
"I won't do it again (lie)."
Everything it says has "lie" at the end. Guess how far you can trust it. That said, though, petrification is an intimidating power and there are moments later in the film that can feel almost scary. The Usobaakka believes that promises are for fools and that it's not the liar who's at fault, but the person who believes him.
This turns into a surprisingly effective little film. We meet that boy from Hana's past. His name's Clover and there's emotion in his story. There are also superhero fights, of course, but ultimately what's important is digging into the hearts of the baddies and monsters. Hana heals them. You can turn all her friends to stone and she'll still cheer for you.
At the same time, though, the film's funny. Hana runs into the KiraKira PreCures, literally, through a self-inflicted goofball crisis. (Hugtan disappearing downhill on a trolley made me laugh.) There's character exploration, teasing and comedy banter among the eaten PreCures inside the Usobaakka, in what could easily just have been filler scenes. There are plenty of laughs here.
It's worth talking about our heroines. Each team has a lead, i.e. the one that escapes when her friends get eaten. The film's basically Hana's, as is right and proper for the lead of the show currently running. However everyone gets a decent amount of screen time, with for instance the Mahoutsukai witches having magic powers that no one else has (e.g. broomsticks, doors into the past). I also quite like the KiraKira girls, for what it's worth. It helps (ooooooh, so much) that the film doesn't show them cooking, but their character designs are distinctive even in a franchise where the default heroine looks like Disney on psychedelics. The most extreme is Cure Whip. What the hell is that hairstyle? It's as if she's being eaten by a jellyfish brain parasite. You could identify her from space, but magnificently.
It's a good film. There's emotional weight, alongside the usual comedy, fluff and superhero fights. Admittedly it's still PreCure, of course, so the plot's simple, the running time's short and you'll have to sit through a chain of everyone's transformation sequences. (This was mandatory and I don't disagree with its inclusion, but it takes a while.) Nonetheless there's heroism. There's a baddie who's a source of both comedy and tragedy. (Admittedly it's warm, gentle, pastel-coloured tragedy, but we're still essentially watching a death.) I've become a PreCure fan.