Good grief. That was terrible.
I should clarify. The first half is a strong, likeable PreCure series with heroines I'm fond of.
After that, the second half dies. Those episodes are barely even watchable. They're not annoying, mind you, unlike Suite
. Instead, they're empty. My attention kept sliding off. It's as if the showrunners have forgotten how to write television. The heroines do nothing, want nothing and have no dramatic motivation. The second-half replacement villains are even worse. Scripts won't be character-based, but will be just be twenty minutes of the girls being cute and doing magic.
This was by far the worst that PreCure had ever been... and then, rubbing salt in the wound, it ends with a cameo for next year's KiraKira PreCure a la Mode. (The pain got worse. Don't watch KiraKira.)
The target audience probably liked it, though. It's "PreCure does Harry Potter", so there's lots of whimsical magic comedy. What's more, I enjoyed this series on first viewing. Here's what I wrote in 2018... "It's fine. I don't think most of it's that good, to be honest, but I'm reasonably fond of the season and I'll definitely be watching the movies as usual. There are stretches that are worth your time."
Riko's the interesting one. She's a Blue PreCure (i.e. serious, clever, lonely), but also an insecure, prickly tsundere who's sensitive about being bad at magic despite all her desperate studying. She's got sister issues, she doesn't like her birthday and she really has to work to maintain her perfect facade when living in the Mundane World.
Mirai's the Pink Leader. She's nice and full of beans. Thoroughly likeable, but no surprises. The most interesting thing about her is her attachment to her teddy bear, Mofurun, who learns to talk.
Pleasingly, this season has the smallest average team size since PreCure dropped "Futari" (i.e. "two people") from the title. I like the focus. Mirai and Riko are a strong duo and apparently they're a lesbian couple in the manga. However, this becomes three girls when Cure Felice arrives in ep.22, which is the traditional time to introduce new PreCures. (Seven of nine consecutive PreCure seasons around now added a new regular in ep.22 or e.23, viz. Fresh
, Go Princess
, Mahoutsukai and KiraKira.)
As for Cure Felice, she's lots of fun. She's the most entertaining heroine in the second half, after the show's lost interest in telling stories about characters. As a magical being, she's both clueless and super-powerful. With no training or practice, she can cast impossible spells. She's cool when trashing monsters in ep.22 and ep.24. The following, though, is alarming in ep.23. "I hope I can be with Riko, Mirai and Mofurun forever!" We never learn the limits (if any) on her magic powers, so what if one of the friends died? I'm imagining horror.
Yamou's the only one worth watching. Look at his suicidal devotion to his master and his Dokuroxy totem.
Otherwise, the first half has Batty, Sparda and Gamettsu. They're entertaining and it's notable that even second-half episodes become watchable when they show up. Their second-half replacements are... you know, I couldn't even remember their names. I had to google them. Some of them look sexy (Benigyo female and Orba male), but the only one worth noticing is Chikurun, the bee fairy who befriends the PreCures but is spying for Orba.
Ep.6, where the girls inspire mermaids. "So you can be friends with people from other worlds?" If you lived in the sea, you'd be scared of surface-dwellers too.
Ep.29, with a comedy retelling of Cinderella. (Previously done by Yes! 5
and by Smile
Ep.49 and its timeskip after the baddie's been defeated. That made Natsuki cry.
...and that's it, frankly. Even many of the first-half episodes are middling, in both the scripts and the fight scenes. The ep.9 airborne battle is oddly limp. The mid-season finale's only okay. They even fumble Mirai's granny having met a magician when she was young, although that's still good up to a point.
I thoroughly enjoyed that first half, mind you. Mirai and Riko are lovely and the magic's fun. That half-year is a solid show with lots of good episodes and developments... but it's not as tight as it looks.
Mind you, the closing run has lots of wacky ideas and developments that should have been dramatic. Ep.43 has a fairy village, ep.44 reverts the girls to infanthood and ep.46 has them filling in for Santa. Somehow, though, even those fail. It's all dead. The show's lost its spark and can't get it back.
SPECIFIC PROBLEMS WITH THE SET-UP
1. The secret-keeping. Sigh. Just tell everyone. Mirai charmed me in ep.3 by telling the absurd truth to her family, but that's soon retconned. (They didn't believe her.) Furthermore, the show has two levels of deception, since Mirai and Riko might be hiding their secret identities as either witches or PreCures.
That's shitty, because it always is. Especially in magical girl shows. Here, though, it's also preventing any connection between the girls and their lives in the Mundane Realm. Nothing there matters. They don't talk to their muggle friends about anything real. They don't have hobbies, school clubs or anything like that. They don't even have any enthusiasms, beyond occasionally food. They're drifting in a bubble of "no one must find out", which gives us annoying secret-keeping comedy (which made my children laugh but shatters credibility) and a friend who keeps seeing them on their broomsticks. They tell her a mile of lies.
2. The magic's both a blessing and a curse for the scriptwriters. It's good because it's cool and funny. Isaac-sensei's teeth coming out always made Misaki laugh. However it's also lulling them into building episodes around silly magic rather than something that matters to the characters. Here's a synopsis of a random episode (ep.37):
"Kyoto contacts the Cures, asking if they've seen Kouchou. The Cures return to the Magic World, where Kouchou's checking on the mandarin oranges. Everyone visits the freezing cold ice land to freeze the mandarins, but the Ice Dragons can't freeze the mandarins because they aren't healthy. Will the group be able to get the dragons to freeze the mandarins?"
This is whimsical and fun to look at. Natsuki laughed at the dragons encasing people in ice by breathing on them. However it doesn't make sense, e.g. if you're going to be freezing cold, why wear a short skirt? The magical challenge of "make something warm" is sort of entertaining, but frozen mandarins don't matter and nothing there is character-based. You could cut-and-paste anyone's dialogue with anyone else's. In fairness I like the suggestion (never followed up) that a dragon might be in love with Haa-chan, but ultimately I was bored even though the episode's more fun than its immediate predecessors because we've left the Mundane Realm.
Then, ultimately, it kills the finale. Ep.49 beats the baddie with an empty load of nothing that happens, literally, by magic.
3. The cast become dramatically stable. They're happy and relaxed, they all get on with each other and they don't want or need anything. Mirai's a static character. Riko had the biggest journey, but she completed it in the show's first half. (Theoretically, she gets character episodes like her father in ep.33, her mother in ep.40 and her birthday, also in ep.40. However, these are surprisingly weak and go nowhere.) Similarly, at first, Haa-chan's a breath of fresh air, but she becomes as passive as the others after ep.26 or so.
It's worth noting the few, brief moments when the second half comes alive. (No, not just the last episode-and-a-half.) There's a throwaway scene at the end of ep.44 where Mum thinks Mirai has a cold, so has only made her bland rice porridge for dinner. That's character-based. It's trivial, but it works. Ditto for the character moment in the Santa job swap episode, which in fairness has such a mental premise that it's a laugh. Flashbacks to the first half would also wake me up, e.g. a return of first-half villains, or Granny meeting the Headmaster.
4. The second-half villains aren't driving episodes either, bar Chikurun. Sexy Villainness turns into a devil bird in ep.47 for a big fight and I have no idea why. What's she trying to achieve? Good apocalyptic visuals, though.
The first half's good. Everyone's likeable and it's thoroughly entertaining PreCure. It should have been sharper, but there's still a lot to enjoy in there. The music's fun, as are Riko and Mirai's three magical classmates, Jun, Kay and Emily. (Oh, and their remedial lessons in eps.5-9 are so cool that I'm surprised students weren't deliberately failing their exams to go on them.)
This is also the first time PreCure really stepped outside the real world. Until now, PreCures had been fourteen-year-old schoolgirls and the magical girl genre elements had been the only fantastical part.
With the show's second half, though, it's insufficient to call it "bad". It either doesn't understand drama or it's actively rejecting the concept. It's not functional TV. Being cute and pretty isn't enough. This series is actually worth watching, but only selectively. I'd suggest watching eps.1-26, 29, maybe 32 (although the secret-keeping can piss off), 38 (which made me laugh), 46 (Santa) and 49-50. Also include 34 and 40 if you're a fan of Riko. You'd be missing Chikurun and quite a lot of plot, but that's a price worth paying.