Although its writing is decidedly better, Smile PreCure doesn’t have the technically impressive action sequences of the original Futari wa Pretty Cure. So this week’s Waifu Wednesday goes out to one of the original cures, Nagisa Misumi, also known as Cure Black. In addition to starring in the original series, she reappears in the sequel Pretty Cure Max Heart and in multiple movies.
Nagisa is a boisterous, slovenly and intellectually lazy tomboy. She’s good-natured but somewhat short-tempered.
Her familiar is Mepple, a plushie-looking creature who can transform into a cell phone (part of Pretty Cure’s shameless merchandising placement). Nagisa frequently gets frustrated with Mepple, which is understandable, because Mepple is hella annoying.
Nagisa is an avid player of lacrosse, an unusual choice for an anime sport. Her athletic and tomboyish ways have made her the school’s idol. Like all female athletes in cartoons but not in real life, she receives the unreserved adulation of the entire female student body; in a funny scene in the first episode, she is delighted to open her locker and find it full of love letters, but is then quickly disappointed to find that all the letters are from girls.
Her unrequited love interest is the captain of the boys’ soccer team, as the franchise by this point hadn’t entirely abandoned romantic subplots. Nothing much comes of it.
Friendship and teamwork are running themes in Pretty Cure. In the original, there were two cures, Cure Black and Cure White. Cure White is Honoka Yukishiro, a quiet, feminine, and intellectual girl who is more or less Nagisa’s exact opposite. While the original cures were a black and white pair, later iterations of the franchise would feature larger color-coded teams. Cure Black has the honor of being the only lead cure who isn’t pink.
Part of the original series’ gimmick is that the cures can only transform or use their magical finishing moves when they link hands. Cure White and Cure Black initially have two finishing moves, the Pretty Cure Marble Screw and the Pretty Cure Rainbow Therapy. The former is a devastating attack that can destroy monsters, and the latter is an exorcism spell to free living creatures from the influence of the possessive spirit Zakena. The cures get additional attacks as they power up.
Futari wa Pretty Cure featured some very impressive, lovingly animated martial arts sequences, typically one ever three episodes, which probably did a lot to garner attention and turn it into one of the most successful magical girl franchises. Nonetheless, it was not a well thought-out series. The villains were pushovers, and their attacks—always involving Zakena possessing some animal or inanimate object—were extremely repetitive. On top of that, the girls’ devastating magical attacks made the Kung fu-fighting superfluous.
In addition to great action sequences and fetching character designs, Futari wa Pretty Cure has one other thing going for it, the relationship between its two protagonists.
At least according to the Internet, the show’s writers were throwing in sly hints of shoujo-ai to appeal to the genre’s peripheral fanbase of developmentally arrested adult males. But if that’s the case, their muse outwitted them, because what they actually succeeded at depicting is the gradual development of an unlikely friendship deepening through adversity.
That being said, I think they missed a few opportunities. There’s one episode in which the cures are squabbling with each other, and they actually continue their argument uninterrupted while giving a monster a beat-down. It makes for some cheap laughs, but the episode would have worked better if the cures had discovered that they couldn’t use their powers until they’d healed their rift.