It's PreCure's fifth season, the second of the Yes! team and the last ever sequel series. After this it was all standalones. There's only one standalone in the first five years, but GoGo! tanked badly enough to change Toei's minds on that. PreCure itself only survived because Fresh PreCure! did better the following year.
That's just TV ratings and merchandise sales, though. How about the show itself?
Unfortunately, I hadn't been the biggest fan of Yes! PreCure 5 to start with. Their first season was okay. The start of this one doesn't even reach that level. It's not painfully horrible or anything, but it's a bit pointless and it had a habit of making my eyes close.
It recovers after a while, though. It gets up to "okay", with some good material. They've fixed the problems I had with Yes! 1, although with Rin/Karen they achieved that by making them too bland to be fussed about. What needs discussing, though, is...
THE MAIN GIRLS
That opening stretch flounders. The production clearly have no idea how to tackle another year of these characters. I can't believe it was their choice to do a sequel series. The spikier characterisation edges that gave the characters most of their spark and comedy? All smoothed away over last season. Masuko Mika, schoolgirl journalist and one of my favourite Yes! 1 characters? Barely appears all year. Romantic relationships? They ditch all of last year's groundwork, because of course that was all a big tease and they'd sooner die than take it anywhere with fourteen-year-old schoolgirls.
The romantic reset is particularly frustrating. Sometimes they just hope we'll forget about it, i.e. Komachi/Nuts. Sometimes, though, it's being almost completely ignored and yet I think they expect us to remember, i.e. Nozomi/Coco. They blank it out. They do nothing with it... but it's still there, subliminally, even when other girls show up. Coco gets romantically targeted pretty seriously by Kurumi, then later and more comedically by Crepe. Nozomi never does anything. Nonetheless, there is:
Ep.12 = a "blink and you'll miss it" non-reaction shot or two for Nozomi, when Kurumi's going all-out.
Ep.34 = where Crepe confesses to Coco and gets rejected as he says he wants to be with Nozomi. This would have been absolutely huge if Nozomi/Coco had still been a thing... but of course they're not, really.
The GoGo film = holy shit.
The girls are pretty bland, to be honest. They were better last year. They're likeable, but they're no longer as good at generating good scenes just by being themselves.
Then, on top of that, they also become rubbish as superheroes. It's bizarre. When Milky Rose appears, the show wants her to look impressive and save the others... so suddenly they don't stand a chance against Hoshiinaa unless everyone's present and even then they're regularly getting trashed. In ep.10, they're useless in heavy rain. That's not even a fan interpretation. It's official. The show states it explicitly and villains base their strategies around it. Split up the gang and they'll be useless. They'll barely even be capable of blocking attacks. In ep.19, for instance, Karen and Kurumi are being hunted by a giant monster and don't even consider transforming to fight it, because there are only two of them.
Ep.43 = "We may be small and powerless..." It doesn't feel untrue.
They still have their superpowers, of course, but the show never lets them use them intelligently. How useful should Urara's Prism Chain have been, for instance? She can tie up anything, no matter how huge. That should have been the gang's first tactic in every fight. Immobilise the Hoshiinaa, then pummel it. Similarly, Karen's Aqua Ribbon has a secondary "sword" function that could have been invaluable.. and then EVERYONE gets a lightsabre. Again, this is almost never significantly used. You'll grow old and die waiting for PreCure sword fights. Rin never burns anything with her fire powers, even though she could have wreaked havoc by torching everything (and then Karen could use her water powers to put the flames out).
The show also overloads its merchandise-flogging. That's always been part of PreCure, but here there's so much of it that it drags. It can get painful to watch the girls brandish three or four different bits of cheap, shoddy-looking merchandise in turn, as the focus points of endless power-up sequences. Take Rin's accessory-making kit, for instance. She makes accessories. It's important to her characterisation and she spends a lot of time inventing new designs that customers will buy... but the show clearly did a merchandise deal, so she always makes them with this nasty, plastic-looking turn-a-wheel thing that you'd give to a four-year-old. Her accessories are thus all basically the same and the character's main activity is being made to look stupid.
This ties into not-a-Cure Kurumi. She transforms into a superhero form like everyone else... except that she doesn't, because she uses different cheap merchandise for a different transformation sequence (grrrr, snarl, zzzzz) and she doesn't have "Cure" in her name. Instead she's Milky Rose. This seemed bonkers and I had to google the reason. Apparently it was believed in the early years that PreCures had to be human, which also explains Shiny Luminous. Of course that soon got ditched and there are lots of non-human PreCures these days, so a modern fan watching Yes! 2 will just be mildly baffled.
That said, though, the girls are also a plus point.
Five regulars is a lot (or six if you count Kurumi), but they stayed for two years. 97 episodes and two movies, not counting All Stars reunions. Over that time, they got real character development, overcoming the problems they'd started with. Nozomi goes from hopeless idiot to wannabe teacher. Rin opens up to her feminine side. Karen becomes more of a people person and decides to become a doctor. Everyone gets focus episodes, e.g. ep.18 for Urara and her late mother, ep.27 for Komachi and Rin's very different reactions to yokai, or ep.30 for Milk's Coco-worship.
Besides, even in Yes! 2, the girls can still be entertaining. Nozomi always has comedy potential, e.g. food and eating (ep.8, ep.17, etc.) or the Kappa-Nozomi in ep.27.
Around ep.5, I felt that everyone had become fluffy, marshmallow versions of themselves. However the show has a plan for finding some spark and grumpiness. They introduce new characters, e.g. Syrup, the jobsworth delivery bird. I have a problem with Syrup. His job is delivering letters and parcels, but he gets huffy if asked to do freebies. If it's not work-related, he's surly and rude. However I never understood what the difference was, since it costs no money to send stuff by Syrup-post and he's capable of receiving packages from, say, a bird in a nest. (No, not a talking bird. Just an ordinary bird with chicks.)
Syrup also causes plot problems, although admittedly this show hates its characters' superpowers and avoids even sensible uses of them. Syrup can fly. Ep.4 transcends absurdity when everyone's running up all endless stairs and you're screaming "FLY THERE ON SYRUP!!!" Syrup has the beyond-useful ability to go anywhere. If he's given a letter to deliver, he can magically find his way there. You could explore the universe by Syrup Teleport, although admittedly ep.30 creates a loophole in his powers. (He can't deliver a letter unless there's strong feeling behind it.)
Despite my grumbles, though, Syrup and people like him are how this season recovers. They're characters with oomph who can carry a scene. (The PreCures are capable of it too, but the show's lost its touch with this.) Yes! 2's first eight-ish episodes are bland, but after that come developments and an upward trajectory. Milk's gets involved. (She's always made a huge difference to this show, even in her Yes! 2 toned-down version. She's no longer a ghastly Nozomi-hating troll, but she's still arrogant and a bit of a problem person.)
Also, surprisingly, the show finds something useful to do with those tiny pointless McGuffin fairies that the PreCures keep collecting. This year, they have personalities. They might think they're Lord God-King Poobah. They might never stop talking and so their minder/victim can't get any sleep. Maybe they think they're Coco's fiancee and will trample on any dissenting opinions (including Coco's). That was funny.
Also, of course, we have the villains. My favourite was Bunbee, a minor villain from last season who survived and got a job with this year's evil organisation, Eternal. Bunbee's great and clearly the best thing in Yes! 2. For starters, the actor's having a laugh and giving us the most entertaining voice in the show. He's also a punch-card villain. He's only working for Eternal because he needed a job. A man has to work. That's as deep as his motivation goes. Of course he takes his job seriously and keeps trying to kill the PreCures, but he'd have been equally happy being heroic. Eventually he gets in trouble with his Medusa-like boss, Anacondy, and starts considering options.
One of those is mad. And brilliant.
There's also Shibiretta, the human mushroom. She can trap people inside fairy tales, including Pinocchio, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Urashima Tarou, Princess Kaguya, The Little Mermaid and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. I bet they got the idea from last year's Cinderella parody. None of Shibiretta's episodes get that funny, but they're still cool and a bit different. They also allow fantasy ideas like a Pinocchio Syrup in ep.13 whose nose grows longer every time he becomes a tsundere.
The fairy tale episodes are a highlight. If I had to pick one, maybe ep.40. The Little Mermaid transformations made me and Natsuki laugh.
Ep.1 = a deceptively good reintroduction, with the delivery boy (Syrup) being somewhat amazing. The villain's fairly menacing and the PreCures running away made me laugh.
Ep.8 = birds send a letter. In context, this actually makes sense. This is merely the show recovering back up to PreCure-normal, but the episode's still distinctive.
Ep.9 = Komachi plays Sherlock Holmes for a whodunnit episode with multiple incompatible versions of the past as our heroines try to learn who stole a cake. Again, this one's a bit different.
Eps.10+ = the show wakes up. A story arc begins, with the arrival of Kurumi.
Ep.35 = Bunbee comedy.
Eps.36-37 = an evil game show, complete with a host who says they'll be back after the break... immediately before the episode's real advertising break. The monstrous cheating is also fun.
The white jackets appear in ep.22 and ep.33.
There's idiot plotting in ep14, when the girls see Nuts acting out of character and don't ask him about it, but instead tail him.
It made me happy when the season's second closing theme was from Splash Star. It's a nice homage.
After a poor start, it ends up being okay. Bumbee's the best thing about it, but I also like the fairy tale episodes. The girls are less entertaining than in Yes! 1, but I can't argue with their character development. It was surprisingly nice to return to this series after returning from holiday. It's relaxing and comfortable.
Let's draw up a quality scale for this kind of show.
5 = fantastic, e.g. Kodocha.
4 = it's good. Even if you're an adult, I'd recommend watching it all.
3 = it's somewhere around "okay". It works for its target audience. You could make something worth watching if you picked out the best episodes.
2 = don't bother.
1 = burn it with fire.
Personally, I'd rate this series as a three on that scale. That said, though, it placed third out of all the series in NHK's 2019 All PreCure Mega-Poll, after Futari wa (2004) and HeartCatch (2010). I'm happy with the top two places...