KiraKira Precure a la Musings – Part 1
With me trying my best to catch up on KiraKira Precure a la Mode before the release of Hugtto Precure, I wanted to write a bit about it along the way. I watched the first cour before I went on my over half a year long break from the show, so now I figured I’d do a 3-part series of short posts, where I write down my feelings on how things are progressing after each cour.
So part 1 is going to be about episodes 13-25, part 2 will be episodes 26-37, and part 3 will be the rest: episodes 38-50. Warning: Will contain spoilers, though I’ll try to keep them light.
Last time I wrote about this show was back in my Spring mid-season post, meaning the middle of May. The sum up my thoughts as I just re-read them: A good show that feels like it’s missing something that holds it back from being a great show, and that keeps it lagging behind Go Princess and Maho Girls. That’s a decent summation of my thoughts on the first cour. Have my feelings changed after the second cour? Well…
Before we get onto that, I do want to briefly mention my history with the Precure franchise. I got in late. The first series I watched was Go Princess, then Maho Girls, and then KiraKira. So all of my basis of comparison is the two shows that preceded this one.
I thought Go Princess was really good. It had a mostly interesting cast of antagonists (Close was the weakest of them in terms of being an interesting character), our Princesses were inspiring and fun, the supporting cast was good, and most importantly it had Puff, who is still my favourite Precure mascot. You came really close, Mofurun, but you couldn’t quite unseat the Puff.
Maho Girls was genuinely great. I think focusing on a duo who can’t even transform without each other was a great call, and it was nice to see them not only grow as friends, but also as a couple. They adopted a little daughter, who grew up to become the third Cure because of magic shenanigans. And while she didn’t unseat Puff, Mofurun is still a lovely, and dangerously adorable mascot.
So how is KiraKira doing so far? Well… it’s complicated. I definitely feel like it has improved since the first cour, but a lot of the same problems remain, even if they’re less pronounced.
The show has a great main cast. I want to state that right away. Ichika might be the weakest link in the chain, but even she is unlikely to break that easily. Himari could also use more exploration and development, but both of them have some genuinely great moments. The reason I point out Ichika first is that she is generally the Main main character. There’s more focus on her. So it’s more noticeable that she falls a little short of the others.
Still, if we grade Aoi, Yukari, and Akira as Great, I’d say Ichika and Himari still qualify as Pretty Great, so they’re not too far behind. For the newly added Ciel I haven’t quite made up my mind which tier she falls into yet, but things are looking good so far.
And the henshins for Aoi, Yukari, Akira, and even Ciel are all great, somewhat overshadowing the last two unfortunately. The only Precure henshin I like more is Mirai and Riko’s Ruby henshin, which is admittedly quite a high bar. Diamond, Sapphire, and Topaz probably all fall just short of best ones the KiraKira girls have.
KiraKira’s real problem is that everything outside of the main cast typically ranges from average, to simply good. A lot of it is just fine. Which isn’t really a great support structure for our five heroes to work with.
One of the first things I noticed early on is that Pekorin is not a good mascot character. It’s not just that she’s the worst main mascot I’ve seen so far, it’s also that she falls so far below that she probably can’t even see Puff or Mofurun. Heck, I think I’d even rate her below Aroma. … okay, maybe not that far, but those two are in clear viewing distance of each other. I wonder if the show is on some level aware of it, because it feels like Pekorin gets less screentime than Puff and Mofurun got.
There’s really not a lot going on in terms of other supporting cast, either. Maybe with such a large main cast they feel less of a need for a solid supporting cast, but after both Go Princess and Maho Girls had supporting cast that were interesting, recurring, often present, and even did stuff, it feels a little disappointing that there doesn’t even seem to be anyone who could be built up into such a role here. Any recurring characters always feel very minor and one-note.
Then the villains… that seems like it might be looking up now, but for the most of the second cour our only antagonist is Julio. And he is not a very good antagonist. Before the reveal of who he really is, I would have rated his level of interesting as being below Close. And even now that I know, it doesn’t really make me look much more favourably upon his performance as an antagonist. It rather makes me more sad for the poor execution, as it could have given the reveal more weight if done better. If he returns later, as I suspect he might, I think they may do a better job with him then.
New on the scene we have Bibury, who cleared the low bar of being better than Julio, and actually grew on me fairly fast. Very recently there has also been Grave and Elisio, who seem like right bastards, and hopefully will be entertaining. So things could be looking up here. We’ve also gotten to see the Archvillain: Noir. Too early to make a judgement on him yet, but I didn’t immediately hate him as a character, so that’s something.
All that aside, I suppose my main problem is the execution of the episodes themselves. I might not have not noticed or harped upon all these matters so much if I always had fun watching. I would say it has improved since the first cour, but that is still KiraKira‘s biggest recurring problem.
Most episodes are structured the same way: The first half is set-up, and the second half is development and payoff. Seems like a solid enough playbook. But so many times the first half is so very uninteresting to watch, to the point where I would rather skip it. This isn’t every episode. On average maybe every other, or every third. But sometimes they happen two or three in a row, which is when I really feel it.
I get the point of it. It’s set-up. Showing us the premise of the episode, the stakes, and what the problem is. The second half of the episode wouldn’t work without it, and so far there’s not been a single second half that’s been bad. No matter how much I dislike the first half of an episode, it always gets better in the second half. There’s been some really good payoffs that wouldn’t have worked without the setup. I just wish the setup had been done so well that I actually wanted to watch it every time.
In a sense I’m glad I watched episode 25 before writing this, because episodes 21-24 are all good throughout. To the point where I thought they had figured their shit out, and the bad first halves were a thing of the past. Episode 25 showed up to tell me that they aren’t done with those yet. I really wish I could just skip to midway mark when I run into these episodes, but I know there’s stuff in there I need to know to understand what happens in the second half. And the ending of episode 25 was great, as expected.
I like having Akira and Yukari as a no-subtext couple. I know there are people who still deny it, but even at the halfway point it’s blindingly obvious for anyone willing to see. I’ve heard they don’t exactly tone it down later on.
I’m disappointed that they dropped the special powers stuff from the early episodes. Like Ichika’s extreme jumping, Himari’s extreme speed, and Aoi’s extreme strength. Those were nice unique touches, and along with the personalised finishers they used before getting the Candy Rods it lent a flavour to the show that neither of the two shows before it had. While they still have different attacks, the idea of their unique powers seems to have been dropped entirely.
That’s it for now. I still think it’s good, and I still want to finish it, but I liked Go Princess and Maho Girls better at the same point in those series. Maybe I’m more interested in princesses and magic than I am in sweets.