After the success of Sailor Moon, Toei Animation Studio realized magical girl shows were a great way to keep the cash coming and attract a market of young girls. And so, in 2004, the first Precure series came out. Back then it was still spelled “Pretty Cure” but at least by the time Fresh Precure rolled around, it had been shortened to “Precure”.
Precure has not stopped producing since the first 49-episode series in 2004. As soon as one series ends, the next series starts airing. So the franchise has been ongoing since 2004 right up until the present.
Currently there are ten Precure series: Futari Wa Pretty Cure, Futari’s direct sequel Futari wa Pretty Cure: Max Heart, Pretty Cure Splash Star, Yes! Precure 5, Yes’s direct sequel Yes! Precure 5 GoGo, Fresh Precure!, Heartcatch Precure!, Suite Precure, Smile Precure! and Dokidoki! Precure which is currently airing.
With exceptions of the two direct sequels, each Precure Series/Season is set in a seperate universe with different characters. So one can pretty much start with any season without watching any seasons before it- excepting the two sequels- and it will be a self-contained series. There are five AllStars movies where all the series cross over for a self contained adventure, but that’s about it for inter-continuity. Each separate season ranges from 47-50 episodes generally.
All the seasons follow the basic magical girl plotline- An ordinary girl or duo of girls encounters a cute fairy who informs them the world is in danger and that they are the chosen warriors. They are granted powers to fight the otherworldly threat, defeating monsters and collecting magical objects throughout the episodes. Often, a team of girls will be formed by the end of the season, with about four or five magical girls working together.
The magical girl genre is my favorite anime genre because it’s honestly one of the most feminist genres that exists. It’s about young women growing up and being heroes, drawing power from their bonds with other women and instead of being ashamed of femininity, they wield it as power. And the magical girl genre at its roots is supposed to be for an audience of young girls, to empower and entertain THEM. I don’t really approve of the trend of magical girl shows “for men”. There’s already everything else in the word for men, they don’t need to co-opt this genre.
Precure is fortunately still here to uphold all of those themes 100%. This is a show for young girls about girls being heroes. That doesn’t mean anything bad. It’s action packed, full of awesome punch-heavy fight scenes, loveable characters and the power of friendship. It can get dark and the stakes can be high, but it always keeps up the themes of optimism and overcoming pain to be stronger, and the girls aren’t punished for being powerful. It’s unashamedly girly and unashamedly cute, but you don’t mess with these girls.
There is generally zero fanservice too. The transformation sequences don’t show any nudity or sexualization-in fact, the girls often get to wear pretty gowns as they transform, the girls generally either have shorts under their skirts or incomprehensibly solid ruffles (I guess they’d be ruffled bloomers?) so no panty shots and there’s no male gaze. Most of the time the girls actually look 14.
What’s more, with the exception of Yes! (I believe), there’s not much in the way of romance. A lot of the girls have crushes on boys, but they’re generally not very important to the plot and only mentioned a couple of time- often times there’s no love interest in the picture at all. Guys are generally there to be flawlessly saved and protected by the girls. Either that or they’re blobby mascots. The bonds between the girls are the main focus and the show is usually too concerned with power of girl friendship to seriously work any heterosexual romance in as a theme.
The girls are often very dedicated to their jobs as heroes, and get a lot stronger and learn more as they go on. Often, they have their own individual dreams and goals they pursue with driven passion, and that develops too.
Precure also often touches on the theme of redemption. The heroes save other women with the power of love and convince them to find a better path and discover their own identities. I love a good redemption arc, especially when it’s all about women helping each other escape from despair and escape from being shackled to dominating forces, and some of the arcs in Precure are very moving and well done (well, mostly one. We’ll get to that).
Not everything is flawless though. There are no canon queer characters, all the girls are thin and there’s not much disability representation besides some sickly side characters and only one series I know of has a recurring darker-skinned character.
Despite that, the strength of Precure is its loveable, often well-done characters and relationships, the awesome ladies kicking ass and good showcasing of female friendship and teamwork- not to mention colorful designs and cool fights. It’s a very positive kids show. It may not be “edgy” and don’t expect the plot to blow you away with complexity- but if you like fun stuff, humor, action, sparkly girly power and good characters who often grow quite a bit, this series is for you.
However, some series are better than others, and all of them have their strength and weaknesses. So I’m going to outline them for you! However, fair warning, I haven’t watched all of them. I don’t really have a desire to watch them either, so instead for those I’ll just give a brief description and/or direct you to liveblogs.
Now, your Precure guide! Spoiler alert: Fresh is the best, Heartcatch and Smile are really good, Suite is pretty good and seriously, you should start with Fresh if you want to be hooked. Heartcatch is also a good choice to reel you in. Anything produced before Fresh is likely not as good, except for maybe Splash Star, I don’t know because I haven’t see it.
This is an INTENSE BASIC REVIEW of every Precure that exists right now! Dang. I really need to watch Fresh! It looks so wonderful! <3<3
Anyone looking for an awesome feminist anime list to watch? This lady right up there gives her reviews on really great anime.