Two Quintessences?

Suite Precure wrapped up last Sunday. It was an acceptable installment for the franchise, with some nice silly concepts and a handful of good fights. It played the revelation of the third and fourth magical girls’ identities well, and Cure Beat’s electric-guitar hair was a brilliant little touch. And for those who didn’t watch it (so, everyone) I’m not talking about her appearance. I’m talking about the fact that her ahoge is strummable.

But it was never much more than acceptable (‘as average as it gets for PreCure‘), and contained little to entertain normal adults, so what I’m saying is, I suppose, that you, dear reader, probably shouldn’t bother trying it.

That judgement makes me think about how we divide up the franchise as a whole. There’s a trend towards what I’d call Heartcatch exceptionalism: the position that Heartcatch Precure is, quality-wise, just better than the other iterations. Reluctantly, I agree. Reluctantly, because while I like Heartcatch very much, it’s not probably not my favourite—I think I prefer the original, which was my introduction to Precure a year or so ago.

Heartcatch is also one of the bits of the franchise most easily enjoyed by more normal anime fans. I’ll put it another way: I’ll cheerfully watch a boring, cheaply-animated, bad episode of Precure because there are things in the franchise’s central concepts which I enjoy, entirely independently of the quality of their execution. You are probably not like this. Heartcatch is better-placed to appeal to you. (The All-Stars DX movies are the other bit of the franchise worth checking, because they are short and endearingly mad.)

Oddly enough Heartcatch‘s position within its franchise reminds me of a very, very different title, Macross Plus. I think Plus is easily the least Macrucian Macross. Apart from anything else it is, as I’m sure a zillion people have said before me, substantially more pessimistic about music, love and transforming mecha, the three legs of the Macross tripod.

Every part of the franchise gets to play a part in deciding what’s Macrucian, true (even Macross II… hell, if you were introduced to Macross via Robotech—I wasn’t—that too will have influenced you…) but, at less than three hours, Plus is too short to much affect the impression left by the TV shows. I suspect there was a time when Plus had enough prominence among Anglophone anime people to counteract that, but nowadays the fan on the torrent tracker thinks Frontier when one says ‘Macross’.

Plus is also good. Like, really good. Solid, good fun, and great Itano circuses. It’s my favourite Macross thing. But! I don’t really enjoy Macross’s central tripod that much. I’m not a Macross fan. Perhaps I should say ‘not yet a Macross fan’, because I suspect that might change as I grow older, but that’s by-the-by. I’m no authority on the subject, but my best guess at the show which is most Macrucian is Macross 7. You will note that it is unusually long for Macross, which (I think) gives it influence as it just wears people down into its way of thinking.

12 responses to “Two Quintessences?

  1. I am a bit on both sides. I love precure as a whole. I watched the original when it broadcasted in Canada, though I never really got a chance to finish it. I’m carefully working my way through Yes5, and patiently waiting for the rest of Fresh to be subbed. I can say with certainty that Heartcatch is the ‘best’ precure show, based on qualities that many perceive objectively, but it also has the distinction of being my absolute favourite. It’s really strange, though, that even though I looked at Suite as typical PreCure faire, I still enjoyed it a lot, especially its characters and soundtrack, as I’ve already said in my post before. I’m glad that you were able to enjoy it as well; for precure fans, I’m quite sure that they were for the most part satisfied by this year’s iteration. I’m so hyped for Smile. Can’t wait for February to come.

  2. I’ve only seen Heartcatch out of the Precure series. I like it immensely, but I guess I’m not as inclined to check out the other shows as much as proper Precure fans would. Suite didn’t catch my fancy. Maybe I’ll start the original series, and follow the upcoming Smile. Maybe.

    I didn’t like Macross Plus at all, when I watched it almost 5 years ago. My first encounter of the franchise was with Robotech (which I liked), and there was precious little Macrucian goofiness to Plus. Its quality was outstanding, but I’d be more at home with a random dumb episode of Macross 7.

    And yeah, I’m adding the word Macrucian to my vocabulary!

  3. Sounds like a Shakespeare character. Macrucio! The tragically romantic mecha fan. Or is it romantically tragic?

  4. The first anime thing I ever saw (besides Pokemon) was an episode of Sailor Moon, and through Toonami and my sister, my two main anime providers at the time, I’ve seen my fair share of the standard magical girl. So when I first saw the original Pretty Cure, I can say with some confidence that it was quite ordinary. Now, I’m not trying to invalidate your affection for the series, just explaining the context in which I experienced Heartcatch and the expectations I brought into it.

    Heartcatch is exceptional while still embodying all the traditional values of the fighting magical girl genre. While Macross Plus is specific to the macross-verse, Heartcatch is more like how Gurren Lagann is specific to the entire super giant robot genre. They remember all the great stuff about their respective histories and thematic cores (both rooted in genres for kids), but with a stylistic flair and sensibility that makes it accessible as an entry point for newbies. Because Gurren Lagann is also a TV series, it had the lasting impact on its fandom that Heartcatch did with its.

    • So your comment provoked a few thoughts:

      1. What else out there is doing the Sailor Moon conflict-based magical girl story for kids thing nowadays? Or, in other words, what’s the difference between being an unusually well-executed example within a franchise, and being an unusually well-executed example within a subgenre, if at present the subgenre and the franchise are pretty coterminous? (Unless there’s a big body of this stuff still being made which I’m unaware of, in which case someone should start subbing that, immediately.)

      2. I spend quite a lot of my time observing fairly obsessive mecha fans — the sort who stay on top of whatever’s being recovered from the ’80s, that sort of sort — and they tend to dislike Gurren Lagann. That may, of course, be because normal people tend to like it.
      2a. Gurren Lagann seemed to me to be a great deal more nostalgic for its predecessors than Heartcatch, though that may have just been my ignorance.

      3. I think mecha is a much more arbitrary and loose genre than magical girl anime, and also one which has travelled much further, and in greater numbers, from its basal, child-focused form.

      • 1. Precure is definitely the most prominent magical girl franchise out there now, but others exist. Shugo Chara ran for 3 years, Sugar Sugar Rune had 50 episodes, and short-running obscure titles like Pretear are out there too. Even the non-fighting magical girl series share such structural and thematic similarities with each another, I’m thinking of Mojomo Doremi and Yumeiro Patissiere-type shows, that you can construct a hypothetical ‘average’ magical girl from just the 2nd-half of last decade.

        2. I attribute this to mecha fans being a fair bit more OCD and exclusionary than magical girl fans, but maybe I’ve just missed that type of the latter (or I don’t hang out with pre-teen girls enough).
        2a. Again, the youth of the target demographic of magical girl limits the sorts of homages Heartcatch could make, but I think how it acknowledged generations of Precures (grandma, Yuri) lends my interpretation some credence.

        3. You may be right, but I can’t say for sure. A robot is certainly a more feasible element to fit into a story than a magical girl is. Mecha can be part of a greater fictional universe, whereas magical girl shows have to revolve around magical girls.

  5. I’m not really a mecha fan. I really liked both TTGL and Macross Plus. I’m not really a traditional shoujo fan (depending on definition). I thought Madoka was fantastic.

    Heartcatch is in my backlog. I guess I’m more excited about it now? Or something.

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