Posted on 16 July 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Heartcatch Precure




So, because of Heartcatch Precure I’m doomed to watch every All Stars Precure from now on until eternity, just to see more of Tsubomi, Erika, Itsuki and Yuri, even though they’re all pretty bad movies. Imagine this: a movie with 21 main characters. To give an indication of how incredibly crowded this is: it took this movie three minutes and twenty seconds to get through the transformation scenes of everyone. There was like… no end in sight to them!

What’s more is that the Precure Franchise has always been very clingy to its own formula. What this means for this movie is that it’s pretty much the same as the previous All Stars movie. The general plot outline in any case is like an exact copy. Heartcatch Precure solved this with really good characters, animation and storytelling. This movie however… yeah.

With 21 main characters plus a truckload of mascot characters that gets a bit hard if you refuse to stay with the same formulaic premise. Usually stories just pick four or five characters and give those some depth, but even that doesn’t happen here: the main characters from Suite Precure just get a few more lines, that’s all. Apart from that, everyone is equal. And equally bland if you haven’t seen the series they belong to.

I will say this, though: this third movie IS better than the first. The animation is more creative for one, but it actually does attempt some serious drama other than “bad guys evil. Kill them again”. It doesn’t pick out any characters to focus on, but instead it goes with a theme that everyone can relate to: partnerships. These themes are explored without any subtleties at all (even going as far as to make Heartcatch’s Erika act out of character just for the sake of getting its message through), and its messages are really obviously shallow, but at least it gives the movie more of a structure than what happened with the second movie. Oh, and the ending is a Deus ex Machina ending. That doesn’t help either.

Aside from that, this is a very bright, flashy and colourful movie. Flashes, beams and sparkles are incredibly abound, and this all happens with a huge amount of fluidity. The interesting thing however is that this movie really leaves things to be desired in terms of hand to hand combat: it looks gorgeous during the long-distance fights, but when characters actually need to touch each other the animation resorts to shortcuts, still frames and awkward cuts. This leads me to think that Toei put a ton of money and talented animators on this thing, but left things to be desired on the animation direction and production.

Now, I do wonder about the point of these movies. Of course it’s fun to watch your favourite characters all together in a movie. I get that. But the first precure series is already seven years old by now. That’s older than actually some of its fans and the franchise’s target audience. I mean, there’s a reason why Disney re-releases its movies every seven years: there are going to be so many kids who wonder who the heck the older characters are. And this movie is purely fanservice. It’s not like it’s doing a good job introducing the characters to people unfamiliar to them or anything. This movie was entertaining. I give it that. But not much more, unfortunately.

Storytelling: 7/10 – At least it’s mildly fun and the action is good to watch, but it depends way too much on its own formula.
Characters: 6/10 – You’re going to have to put in effort to make a story with 21 main characters work. The characters who ended up stand out the most to me are actually the exposition mascots!
Production-Values: 8/10 – Really, really flashy, sparkly and beamy with often fluid animation, but leaves things to be desired on the hand-to-hand combat.
Setting: 5/10 – Forgets some of the things it introduces, brings characters out of characters, completely contrived set-up.

Suggestions:
Heartcatch Precure Movie – Hana no Miyako de Fashion Show… desu ka?
Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva
Digimon Movie 2 – Bokura no War Game

Posted on 13 March 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Heartcatch Precure




After the Precure Allstars Movie and Suite Precure, I was a bit wary of the Heartcatch Precure Movie, especially how it was made by different people than the TV-series. The way in which Toei just keeps coming with these cash-in movies definitely had me worried. That’s why I’m so glad that this movie did manage to capture the charms of the TV-series!

The first thing you have to know for this movie is that it has a bit of a misleading title. Yes, the cast travels to Paris in order to participate in a fashion show, but they end up doing something completely different. The real plot of this movie is very much like the TV-series: it follows your standard movie plotline, conforming to a lot of cliches, but it does this so well that it doesn’t really matter, subverting quite a few other cliches in the process.

You can see that the creators of this movie carefully discussed with the creators of the TV-series what this movie should be, unlike what was the case with the Precure Allstars movie. Imagine the TV-series animation, with a movie budget. The fight scenes here are animated even better with the same addictive combination of close-combat martial arts and long-range beams, rather than just trying to zap everything.

Now, this movie could be seen as a glorified episode, but it’s a bit more than just that. The story in this movie would have never worked as an episode because it really makes use of its allocated time of 70 minutes. It’s a whimsical adventure in a wonderfully portrayed Paris, but at the same time it paints a great picture of the two new characters that are introduced in this movie. Yeah, they both start out as stereotypical, but the movie really spends its time to make their characters more than just cliches. The villain in this movie rocks because of his dynamic personality and he’s got quite an adequate backstory, making him actually more than just someone who is evil for the sake of being evil. That’s not something I expect from a main bad guy in a Precure series.

And to top things off, the movie also contains just the right amount of slice of life, in which the creators get the chance to show off both the excellent cast of characters and the tourist areas of Paris. It’s the kind that isn’t just random fluff to sit through just to get to the good parts, and instead they’re all really enjoyable to watch, wisely making use of the TV-series that already did a ton of build-up on their characters.

It’s not like this movie came with some brilliant idea like with the first and third movie of Digimon; this movie isn’t going to break any bounds, but on the other hand, it just did everything it was supposed to. It’s a must-watch for fans of Heartcatch Precure. For people who have never seen it I wouldn’t recommend it, though. The best place to start this show is really the first episode.

The reason why I’m rating this lower than what I did for the TV-series simply has to do with its length. Heartcatch Precure was a consistently entertaining ride for fifty episodes that just kept amazing me and completely redefined what it meant to be a good Mahou Shoujo. This movie lacks that value and instead just does everything it does right. Blame me watching the Third Digimon movie for that.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Whimsical, exciting, charming and adorable. Conforms to cliches but does them really well.
Characters: 9/10 – Both the recurring and the new characters are wonderful to watch.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Perhaps not the best animation for movie standards, but compared to the TV-series the extra inbetween animation really had an excellent effect.
Setting: 8/10 – Actually expands on the Sabaaku history a bit, plus an excellent portrayal of Paris without being either Xenophobic or overly obsessive. Just don’t expect much from the fashion show…

Suggestions:
Digimon Movie 3 – The Golden Digimentals
Arete Hime
Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea

Posted on 30 January 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Heartcatch Precure




In the first year after I started this blog, I personally was a big fan of the mahou shoujo genre (heck, my favourite series is one). Over the years though, this fandom became less and less. This mostly had to do with the genre stagnating: the mahou shoujo that got released lacked creativity, were all just poorly executed and never really took advantage of their formula to show some great characters. Heartcatch Precure broke this trend, and how! From the outside, it looks like just another Sailor Moon Clone, but within its premise, it does just about everything right here.

To start off with the production values: this show has better fights that most shounen series out there. The battles in this series are consistently dynamic and despite a huge amount of transformation scenes they never get boring or repetitive. This show excels both in hand to hand and long-range combat, and it looks ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS in the process. The animation in this series is consistently of a high quality, and always interesting to look at. Combine this with an awesome soundtrack, and you’ve got a feast for the senses.

This show also sets itself apart with characters that just are good, right from the start. Tsubomi and Erika are immediately very likable characters, and the entire series just focuses on portraying them as down to earth girls whenever they’re not busy fighting monsters. The characters that join and meet them are also wonderfully written and subtly developed throughout the series. Just about every recurring character has his or her chance to shine in this series.

You should note that this series does follow the classic mahou shoujo format. There will be a lot of episodes that are just dedicated to the characters running into people who have a problem, or are worrying about someone. Even here this series delivers though, because it consistently manages to portray these characters well and makes their problems easily relatable. Hardly ever does this show go for cheap ways to solve these issues, and here too things are kept wonderfully down to earth.

The main flaw of this series is that in the end, it does follow a pretty predictable formula, so expect to see the surprises in this show more in the fine details than in the overall plot. Having said that though, this show proves that you can do amazing things with that formula, and for every mahou shoujo trope that this series adheres to, it also subverts another one.

Another thing that might get on your nerves here is that this series really likes to use a lot of transformation scenes. Most episodes have around two to three minutes of them in total. The good thing though is that these are the best transformation scenes that I have seen since Utena. The animation in the series is already good, but in these scenes it’s five times better. Some of them are a true visual orgasm.

Still, what it boils down to is this: if you have yet to see the classic shoujo oriented mahou shoujo, but are interested in why people are raving about them, there are two series that I recommend: Cardcaptor Sakura and this one. Heartcatch Precure was exactly what the mahou shoujo genre needed and it shows the great things that simply an excellent execution and cast of characters can do to such a simple premise.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Dynamic, fun, childish but consistently enjoyable.
Characters: 9/10 – Both the recurring and the minor characters are all wonderfully fleshed out.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Gorgeous production values and soundtrack.
Setting: 8/10 – Simple, but well fleshed out.

Suggestions:
– Cardcaptor Sakura
Mahou Shoujotai
Otogi Juushi Akazukin (Note that I would rate this one a bit lower if I were to watch it now).

Posted on with categories: Heartcatch Precure




Ah, of course: this episode still had the final moment of our bad guy left: the point at which he increases in size and… holy crap is he huge!

In terms of physics it obviously made no sense whatsoever, but it really looked cool here. The finale mostly stands out in its eye candy, in terms of what actually happens, it pretty much ends like you think it would, including a bit of a deus ex machina that allows the four precures to grow huge enough themselves in order to be able to beat it. Not really a great ending, but it still was a very good one, simply due to the execution and the aftermath that followed afterwards, wrapping up the rest of the story quite nicely, plus we actually got to see Tsubomi’s new sister. I would have liked to see how Cobraja and Sarosina ended up as, but this episode gave enough hints that the two of them also ended up fine.

Now, Suite Precure. This episode indeed ended with a preview. One thing is for sure at this point: it is not going to be the visual orgasm that Heartcatch Precure was. To start, you should know the following:
– Heartcatch Precure’s characters were designed by the guy who also did the character designs of Casshern Sins.
– Suite Precure’s characters were designed by the guy who also did the character designs of Kaidan Restaurant. And this guy is also going to be the chief animation director!

Get what I mean? The result is…. ugh. The animation also doesn’t look as polished as Heartcatch Precure either, nor does the editing look any good.

The only thing we can hope for now is that the mysterious series composition guy actually knows what he’s doing, and that the director is up to the job. He did direct the One Piece Strong World Movie, but I have no clue whether he’d also work for a long series as Suite Precure. He was the episode director of three Heartcatch Precure episodes before, which were all pretty good and especially in the way that they focused on the characters. I really hope that he’s going to take that over to Suite Precure, because there still is some potential.

In any case, to get back to Heartcatch, it has definitely been fun following this series for the past year. It ahd a lot of mahou shoujo tropes, but had such a solid execution that those didn’t matter at all.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 23 January 2011 with categories: Heartcatch Precure




There are some series that leave their climax for the final episode. There are others that put the climax in the penultimate episode so that they can use the final one for an epilogue. Heartcatch Precure… to be honest I’m not sure into what category it falls. This episode ends at the exact point where Dune gets pummeled by the ultimate Precure attack. At this point it’s not yet certain whether the creators intend the final episode to be the aftermath of that battle, or whether he still manages to pull some sort of trick out of his sleeve.

Either way, whichever case it may be, this episode was just awesome. The first half was entirely dedicated to Yuri, her father and Dark Precure. And I mean, Christ: people actually died in a kids’ show! The creators didn’t chicken out from this controversial topic, in which most kids’ show refuse to show anything in that direction thanks to censors. It’s awesome to see how much screentime Yuri has actually gotten in this finale: I mean, she really was the main character of the final few episodes of this series. That is just awesome. I know that this series’ fault is that it adheres to a ton of mahou shoujo cliches and all, but for every cliche it follows, it also excellently subverts one.

The creators here really set up the perfect prototype for the mahou shoujo of the new decade and I really hope that it inspires many more mahou shoujo to really put effort in its visuals, characters and stories, because it was really a genre that was about to die out before Heartcatch Precure aired (and this is coming from someone who at one point used to be a big fan of the mahou shoujo genre, and this series definitely reminded me again why).

The second half of the episode was the battle against Dune. It’s not like it got a better budget than usual, but dear god, the animation really was gorgeous, and the action was worthy of this series climax. The action was over the top, and yet not too crazy, and the art too was gorgeous during the busy parts (I love it when the creators sacrifice their character models in favor of fluidity and dynamics).

I do have one point of criticism here though: Dune. The next episode may prove me wrong, but unfortunately he remains a flat final villain who is just evil for the sake of being evil. I really would have loved to see the creators gave the same kind of depth to him that they gave to the other characters, but alas. The final fight against him also made him much weaker than what he once used to be, but I’ve seen much worse in this area.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 16 January 2011 with categories: Heartcatch Precure



Okay. That was awesome.

I mean, Cure moonlight once again proves here that she’s my favourite character of this series. An entire episode devoted to her fight with Sabaaku and Dark Precure, only being helped by Cure Blossom. In just about any other mahou shoujo, characters like her often take up the role of a supporter in the background: creators would have put priority on the real main character, in this case Cure Blossom. Here instead we get an epic fight between her and Dark Precure, worthy of the climax of this series.

On top of that: Professor Sabaaku. Dear lord, he’s Yuri’s father. I always wondered what happened to Yuri’s father, but somehow it only occurred to me that he might be also part of Sabaku when his mask fell down. That really was an awesome plot twist, to think that he created Dark Precure, entirely because he wanted to beat his own daughter. That Dune is one bastard here. If he somehow found out what Cure Moonlight would become later (presumably because he got some sort of similar radar like the one that the mascots have), he really could have pulled it off by brainwashing her father.

And the best part is that things aren’t even over yet. This episode ended at the exact point where Cure Moonlight beat Dark Precure. Like, immediately after that. No aftermath. Heck, not even a “curing scene”. This really convinced me that the creators are trying to save the most heartwarming moments for last, which is also why we haven’t gotten to see Kumojacky and Cobraja’s real forms yet. I mean, pretty much the only bad guy left at this point is Dune. With two episodes left, the creators can really pull off an amazing finale at this point.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 9 January 2011 with categories: Heartcatch Precure




Ah, it’s just as I hoped: this episode was entirely devoted to the final fights with Cobraja and Kumojacky. They’ve consistently used Desatorians during the series when they fought with the Precures, so what is the final tactic that they choose to go all out with? One on one fights! Awesome!

The animation strangely had its ups and downs here, where some parts were really good, while others were surprisingly off model in a way that seems strangely sloppy for this series, but the fights themselves totally made up for it, and it was a worthy ending for the two of them. I’d just wish that we got to see what their human forms looked like, but perhaps the creators are saving that for the ending. Either way, I really like that both of them got their final bit of development here: this episode really made use of the fact that they’re just simple desatorians: Kumojacky is someone who loves fighting, while Cobraja was more about the dark side of beauty. They weren’t really fighting for a reason though, which fits this kind of shoujo series pretty nicely.

Also, next week: Dark Precure vs Cure Moonlight! This episode did a great job of hyping it up, especially in the way that it kept hinting towards Professor Sabaaku, and the way in which the episode closed off with Grandma begging Cure Blossom not to fight them. With three episodes left, the creators have enough time for a smashing finale that can give plenty of time to the remaining three villains, so I really hope that they make use of this opportunity.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 27 December 2010 with categories: Heartcatch Precure



The previous episodes were surprisingly light for a show that’s so close to its end, so I figures that it was using these quiet moments in order to build up to something. And dear God was it building up to something!

I mean, talk about overkill: Dune easily beats just about every main character, he easily takes back his old powers, nearly destroys the Heart Tree and all of the hard work that Tsubomi and Erika put into it, turns the entire world into a desert and its entire population into crystals. All in about five minutes.

And I mean, at the end of the series there will probably be some sort of magical power that can restore everything back the way it was once Dune dies (though interestingly Tsubomi and Itsuki did destroy a building in this episode), and there were a number of survivors, but the only people who survived were the ones who were previously turned into a Desatorian: everyone’s parents are completely gone, despite being a HUGE theme of this series. Only Itsuki and Erika got lucky that their respective sister and brother managed avoid being turned into a crystal.

Also, this pretty much puts an end to the episodic nature of this series: there’s no way that Kumojacky and Cobraja are going to be able to turn anymore people into Desatorians. With four episodes left, there is plenty of time to give all of the villains a worthy conclusion, and I really hope that the creators use that opportunity.

On a side-note: Koppei was bad-ass.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 20 December 2010 with categories: Heartcatch Precure



Up until episode forty, nearly all of the random stories for this series were focused on kids of Tsubomi’s age. And then suddenly, this series started focusing on kids of kindergarten age. It definitely added an extra cuteness factor to this series, but at the same time it’s also become a lot more childish than it already was, since it focuses on the sentiments of little kids after all. I definitely think that the creators are using that as a build up for the finale of this series and while these stories indeed are far from the best that this series has shown, they still are really charming.

This episode was about this little girl who wants to see the Precures, but her biggest part was in order to support the main cast. First of all it was so Tsubomi could relate to how she was when she was a little kid (also not good at making friends). But just about everything in this episode was overshadowed by grandmother being awesome. It’s taken forty-four episodes, but finally we get to see what she looked like as Cure Flower. Even at a fraction of her powers, she still completely kicks ass.Not to mention that Dune finally makes his appearance.Everything is pointing towards things heating up next week.

As for the Desatorian, it was a nice idea to have the girls battle a giant snowman. I also like the little jab at otaku that the creators put in with the rather creepy guy who confuses Precures with girlfriends.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 12 December 2010 with categories: Heartcatch Precure



The start of this episode showed Tsubomi rushing into the hospital for her mother. My first thought was “ah damn, here we have the sick mother trope again, along with the tendency of series to put random characters in a hospital near the end of the series for some extra tension”. However, when it turned out that Tsubomi’s mother was pregnant, it completely made my day. What an awesome twist.

Of course the idea that Tsubomi is going to get a little sister is adorable beyond belief, but it also completely ties in with the major themes of this series: family. The entire series has been establishing the importance and warmth of a healthy family, and this really is a great time for the main family of this series, Tsubomi’s, to get expanded. And not to mention Tsubomi’s character development! You could really see that this episode changed her into an even more responsible girl. A lot of this episode was spent on Tsubomi filling in for her mother at the flower shop, exactly for that reason. And to make things even better, you always see Tsubomi blossom up when she gets to talk about her passion: flowers.

I could get worried that there is little time left for this series to spend on un-plot-related episodes, but with episodes like this I just can’t fault the creators. Nevertheless, I do want to poke this show and remind it that it does have a cast of villains that it needs to take care of. At the same time though, the way in which these past episodes have been so down to earth at this stage in the series could be a hint that the creators have planned something very interesting for the finale. Since Suite Precure starts at February 6th, and this series will probably have one more hiatus (the infamous new year hiatus that every show has), that means that we’ve got six episodes left. Enough for a smashing ending.

And on a side-note: it’s also great that we learned how Tsubomi got her name. Could that perhaps be a shout-out to how moronic some of the parents of the previous Precures must have been? “Yes, when I looked at your mother and realized how much I loved the English language, I decided to name you Love. Deal with it.”
Rating: *** (Awesome)

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  • Bam
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 11:09 AM)
    @ninja: I certainly hope that they got better shit to do.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 11:08 AM)
    @Emma: I agree. I also had no clue that it was a Shoujo, tines have certainly changed. I enjoy me a Ray Mustang type of character every once in a while.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 08:52 AM)
    @Bam: Furthermore watching these ovas , its like being twelve again =P
  • Emma
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 08:49 AM)
    @Bam: Of interest twilight of the dark master is considered shoujo and its such a shame that the demographic has gone to for most part shit since the old days.
  • ninjarealist
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 08:48 AM)
    @Bam All this talk about drugs being bad is for the benefit of my personal NSA monitor. I just want them to know I’m right with the DEA. The NSA is reading everything we type so it’s nice to give them some fanservice when you can.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 08:48 AM)
    @Bam: And would you believe Akiyuki shinbou directed this? It was interesting enough to trace back to his early work/beginning of his directing style and compare it to now.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 08:46 AM)
    @Bam: I just finished twilight of the dark master, enjoyable nonsense. What I liked about these old ovas is that you don’t really end up caring about the why, you get a bit of fun violence, an artstyle you just don’t see enough of anymore, the plots are simple, quick, entertaining and digestable.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 08:31 AM)
    @Emma: easier said than done. The results of a mixture are often strangely unpredictable and quite overwhelming
  • Bam
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 08:21 AM)
    @ninja: a bit of an over-generalization don’t you think m8?
  • Emma
    (Friday, Nov 21. 2014 07:53 AM)
    @Friend: And speaking of scenes from a marriage, I really do wish that anime could, like some films like that, focus on a mature couple.

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