Shirabe Ako and the Eye of the BeholderNovember 9, 2011
Pretty Cure is in a strange place where they have a glass. 50 percent of the glass has liquid and the other 50 percent does not. The question is do you see that glass as half full or half empty. Depending on your view of anime, magical girls shows, and fandom it tends to shade your view of the series and its fandom. Everyone agrees that the fandom of Pretty Cure is made of mostly of two categories of fans. There are the young girls who the show is ostensibly aimed at and the older male fans. Depending on your disposition who you think the majority of the fandom is, who the show caters to, and how much it curries the favor of either segment of the fandom depends on if you see that glass as half empty or half filled. I think recent spoiler filled issues in Suite Precure bring that reaction to the forefront. How you interpret recent changes on the show is very influenced on how you see the series before you even view a single episode.
In episode 35 of Suite Precure it is revealed that Shirabe Ako is in fact the mysterious Cure Muse. There had been much speculation over her identity with several characters being red herrings for her identity. But Shirabe Ako being Cure Muse sets a precedent. She is now the youngest Cure in the whole series. Like anything else involving Pretty Cure it is very easy to see this an innocent choice or as a perverted and cynical maneuver. If you think that Pretty Cure is mostly for little girls than it can be seen as an attempt to appeal to a younger crowd in their target demographic. Pretty Cure has been on the air since 2004 so many of it initial fans have grown up during that period. You could see Cure Muse as an attempt to appeal to a younger set of girls. Shirabe Ako is the most experienced of the girls with her magical abilities and is often the most mature. She could be seen as an elementary school girl who is cool and mature enough to hang out with older popular girls which is a common fantasy among younger girls. But you have a jaded look at the series you see her as just another attempt to draw in lolicon perverts. Instead of just giving their audience junior high school girls to lust over they have now have moved on to giving them elementary school to ogle.
I am not going to claim that I definitively know who is correct. I will point to the the amount of money that Pretty Cure generates every year and state you don’t make that sort of money appealing only to otaku. There has to be broader and stronger fan base to pull in that amount of moolah. I’m not saying that the creepy fans don’t exists. Cruising any fan art site looking for Pretty Cure pictures will teach you that there is a part of the fandom that views the cast in a very sexual manner. How much the creators pander to this older demographic is up for debate unless someone has leaked documents or an interview with someone from Toei. But I feel that often much of your disposition on this matter comes from the prejudices and perceptions you have before hand. If you think everything like Yotsuba&! is secretly just for perverts you will have the worst possible interpretation. If you want to believe that the lolicon influence is nowhere as bad as paranoid fans make it out to be you will probably lean towards a more moderate opinion. But I think the most fascinating part is that both interpretations can exist so easily side by side from each other.