With a revival of the Sailor Moon franchise and Cardcaptor Sakura being back on the radar, the hunger for another great next magical girl show is now! If you enjoyed either of those shows you might be left wondering where to go next. Shows like Madoka Magica are far darker and exist to be an examination of the genre as opposed to an exemplar. At the same time, the Pretty Rhythm series might be simultaneously too focused on the idol aspect while also skewing too young for most fans. There is a whole wealth of older magical girls shows but many of them are not translated, extremely hard to find, or might be a bit too dated for some.
Well, then look no further than Go! Princess PreCure which pretty much does everything right and then some.
Amongst the plastic toy advertising and dance endings of the PreCure franchise, there has always been stories of girls being the heroes. The franchise has its ups and downs. Heartcatch Precure! gets near universal praise, whereas Suite Precure is a distinctly flawed show. But when the franchise is firing on all cylinders, it often embodies the best of what the genre has to offer. Filled with strong role models fighting evil, chasing their dreams, and forging their own destinies, PreCure as a whole is the best of magical girls.
Go! Princess PreCure adds admirably to that legacy. And because of the nature of the PreCure franchise, one need not have seen any other series to enjoy the current one.
Much like the lauded HeartCatch!, Go! Princess does a consistent job of storytelling with its greater setting in mind both inside and outside the magical battling parts of the show. Our heroes Haruka, Minami, and Kirara all have life goals and aspirations that they make their ways toward. We see them grow in their pursuits of princessy-ness (look, Haruka is trying to become a princess, just roll with it), business, and modeling as well as towards bettering themselves as people.
Side characters fare nearly as well. Haruka’s roomate Yui’s dream of becoming a picture book creator has been highlighted on more than one occasion. Their dorm mother knows way more than she lets on about goings-on. And many a character who shows up to be attacked my monsters of the week aren’t confined to a single episode either.
The Hope Kingdom where our villains pour forth from has similarly thoughtful connections. Haruka meets prince Kanata as a child and he gives her a charm while encouraging her to not give up on her dreams. We then start the series meeting older, disposed prince Kanata who has had his kingdom taken over by evil organization Dys Dark and Queen Dyspear. Later we learn of the disappearance of Kanata’s sister, and even later Kanata seems lost as well. Even the PreCure as an organization have history in the world (again, an idea introduced in HeartCatch) implying this battle is one that has been fought before.
(Deal with it.)
Well-animated and Well-choreographed Fights
Battling monsters of the week is a staple for the magical girl genre. Depending on the production team, some PreCure shows have more or less physicality to their fighting. The fight scenes were actually one of the things that made the initial PreCure series so well-liked.
Now, Go! Princess doesn’t pull out all the stops every week. But there are more than enough knock-down-drag-out fights throughout the run to take note of. There is weight to the punches, kicks, and magical attacks when they decide to make things serious. When the stakes are high and they are fighting one of the heads of Dys Dark, they kick some serious ass.
A Love of Donuts
Eating food has become a bit of its own notable part of the franchise starting with Yes! PreCure 5. While Karou and Fresh Pretty Cure! introduced an obsession with dounts. Go! Princess remembers these important additions to the franchise.
In Go! Princess, the girls love donuts so much that when a new member joins the team, the rest of the group take her to eat her first donut. It is pretty dramatic (she leaves without eating her donut, guys!). Donuts pretty much figure into any celebration or bonding time.
Plus, there is an episode in which Kirara goes on a news program to discuss new donut flavors which devolves into is a donut idol dress-up contest.
Homages to 70’s Shojo
From its love of European boarding schools and elaborate school balls to sparkly flourishes and flower motifs, Go! Princess takes many a visual cue from shojo’s past. (We are saying visual since so far there has been a lack of sexual innuendo, drug use, or suicide.)
And of course, what else was heavily influenced by shojo titles from the 70’s? That’s right, Revolutionary Girl Utena, so Go! Princess even has more than a little of that thrown in as well. Haruka’s first meeting with Kanata has quite a few similarities. Kanata himself bares a striking resemblance to someone.
(Is that you Dios?!)
And yet none of these nods take precedence over simply telling a good story. They aren’t relevant to anything, but as an anime fan they are a nice bonus.
Dog Maid and Bird Butler
Mascots are a staple of the PreCure franchise and those mascots range from “THE MOST GRATING CREATURES ON EARTH” to “Cute and mildly entertaining.”
(We’re siblings. Don’t over think it.)
Go! Princess’s Pafu and Aroma have remained delightful with their heart-shaped irises. Since princesses need attendants, they are a maid and butler in training naturally. There is actually decent follow-through on these stories as Pafu and Aroma find their courage.
And trust us, you’ll be looking forward to what weird “hair” (it is her dog ears) style they come up with for Pafu each episode.
Great heroes are often only as compelling as their antagonists are effective. Go! Princess starts with three chief lieutenants of the evil empire: Close starts off as the first major opponent with his punk rock style, Lock the youngest but with schemes running inside machinations, and Shut who is the closest to a comic villain but even then his story has a bit of depth to it.
Just as the Cures become more of an effective team, Queen Dyspear’s daughter Twilight ups the ante. Without giving away too many spoilers, her story is as powerful as her powers.
All of these villains are not simply defeated and then moved on from. Each seemingly has a role to play in the proceedings as we dig further into what happened to the Hope Kingdom. And even more recently, seeds have been planted for more of a long game than we usually see.
The biggest mystery is still Queen Dyspear. So far she has been a monolithic force of evil, but there have also been hints that there might be more to her. It will be interesting to see if she just stays a generic force of darkness or if they flesh her out as more than just a scary anime version of Maleficent.
While Sailor Moon is the mother and grand matriarch of the fighting magical girl genre, PreCure has taken the formula that Naoko Takeuchi developed and has refined it over the years to make the series into one of Toei’s most profitable franchises. Go! Princess PreCure takes the best of what magical girl shows have to offer, borrows liberally from some of the best shojo series, and then adds its own modern twist. This show feels like a wonderful pastiche of classic shows while still managing to be fresh and original.
Now if Go! Princess PreCure can stick the landing, we might have a contender as best PreCure series ever!