Maybe I just haven’t seen enough mahou shoujo anime and wouldn’t know, but the first two episodes of Heartcatch Precure impressed me with something that I don’t see much in these sorts of anime, and if it’s true that the mahou shoujo genre has a lot of it, then maybe the genre itself is impressive this way. I’m sure someone will let me know in the comments~. Now, these episodes impressed me in a lot of ways that are general to the show – some of my favorite character designs ever, energetic directing, splendid animation (especially during fights~), a balls-tighteningly awesome opening scene, grandiose metal-inspired music, and girls who are just too damn cute – but we’re leaving all that aside for now. I want to talk about the interesting way that this show treats it’s two main characters as individuals.
I may not have seen a great amount of mahou shoujo anime, but I’ve at least seen some, and I’ve also seen a lot of similar shounen anime that utilize the same kind of monster-of-the-week formula that mahou shoujo usually does. What I usually see in MOTW shows is that if there is a character who the protagonist has to fight (be it directly or through bad guys controlling them), then their purpose in the episode is usually to show the main character something about themselves, or conversely, for the main character to show them something about themselves.
To bring up a shounen example, the early episodes of FullMetal Alchemist very much featured a ‘villain’ of the week, and each time, the villain would be someone who’s ambitions were in some way similar to Edward Elric’s (and the phrase ‘you are no different from me!’ was used a lot), and we would learn a bit about Edward from the encounters; Perhaps about how far he’s willing to go, where his principles lie, or what he holds important and personal. On the flipside of the coin, take Pokemon. In most episodes of Pokemon that involve Ash and friends being directly at-ends with another human, Ash’s dedication to his Pokemon and the power of friendship will teach the other person that they had to become a better trainer and a better friend. (I think this is what eventually led to Ash losing all semblance of a personality as the episodes became more and more about the people and events he influences rather than how they might influence himself. I digress.)
Maybe it’s just because this is the first two episodes of the show, and only because these are the two main characters (I haven’t watched past this yet so, once again, you can correct me if I’m wrong in the comments), but what I find interesting is that in these episodes, we get deep into the problems of both characters and each of them equally influences the other.
We learn first about Tsubomi’s fears and doubts revolving around her shy and quiet personality and how she wishes that she could change her image. This sort of plot is nothing new (in my experience, Shugo Chara comes to mind first, which I’ve only seen 14 eps of mind you) and when Erika was introduced, I thought ‘there you go, we have the energetic friend who is going to help Tsubomi change her image.’ My expectations were more set on a one-sided change, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The first time that Tsubomi turns Erika’s misguided help down is a fairly standard scene wherein the expectation is that Erika would only feel more determined and keep on helping Tsubomi. This does happen until Tsubomi turns her down again-
-and the reaction is a little different. Instead of chasing after her, Erika gets pissed off and goes to her room. That I did not see coming! Erika becomes more complex here, not just a mindlessly energetic girl hell-bent on making/helping a friend, but a girl with her very own emotions and capacity to get hurt and to turn Tsubomi down. Her older sister tells her it’s her fault-
-which I would have expected as a lead-in to Tsubomi’s introspection, leading to further determination, but instead she actually gets more pissed. We find out that Erika has a deep-seeded jealousy of her older sister and hates that she’s the one telling her off – another complexity not necessarily expected of the seemingly-mindlessly-energetic girl. This is where I got really excited~ As Tsubomi and Erika notice each other through their windows (as their rooms are parallel) they both seem indecisive as to whether they should remain sour about this or try to make up to one another. Both of them head out on a walk individually, perhaps with the secret hope of running into one another and apologizing. Instead, Erika’s heart flower is taken and PLOT HAPPENS for the rest of episode one and most of episode two.
During PLOT, a manifestation of Erika’s worries spells out all of these things about her unexpected flaws, which, as expected, makes Tsubomi fight harder, with the burning desire to reconcile in her heart. She saves Erika and sometime later watches as she wakes up from her brief comatose, and of course we know that apologies are in order. My expectations were (more lightly) stricken out once again here, as I expected Tsubomi to be the one to apologize, now having found out about Erika’s uneasiness and understanding that she was only trying to help. However, it is instead Erika who apologizes-
-and Tsubomi who forgives her. I found this interesting, because I felt that it achieved a balance. We know that Tsubomi has learned and grown from the experience already, but this moment also really shows that Erika has learned and grown equally – no one side was meant to be the one getting a lesson here, but both.
I don’t necessarily think that this is the first time I’ve seen this in a show like this (and certainly I’ve seen it in shows that aren’t like this) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done so impressively and equally. Sometimes the main character will learn a lesson while the opponent magically changes their ways just because they lost, which I don’t think is fair to call the same thing we see here. In any case, it was definitely an interesting pair of episodes that more than have me excited to continue the show.
Other great Heartcatch Precure posts I’ve read:
Sdshamshel talks about how Heartcatch Precure may not be subtle, but that doesn’t mean it’s subject matter isn’t serious.