Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I thought we’d stop back in with the heroes of Hugtto! Precure, which my autocorrect will probably never stop replacing with “procure” every time I type it. Boo to autocorrect, but hurray for Precure, which never fails to conjure a tear and a smile. Our last episode fell more towards the tearful end of the spectrum, as Hana at last confronted the girl who inspired her pre-series transformation. Hana’s defense of Eri back in middle school led to her total ostracization, forcing her to rebuild herself as a new and resolutely chipper Hana for high school. But when faced with the girl who forced that change, Hana reverted to her old fears, worrying that even her courage was a burden to Eri.
Fortunately, the Hana we know is a far cry from the Hana of middle school – and perhaps even more importantly, she now has an unwavering support group of friends to stick by her. Just as Hana has so often demonstrated the power of a friend cheering you on, so was she invigorated by the words of her own friends, to the point where she actually rekindled her friendship with Eri. As it turns out, the feelings we anxiously assign to others are often just projections of our own fears; both Eri and Hana truly wanted to reconnect, and simply needed a slight push to get there.
Meanwhile, it seems like the forces of Criasu Corp are cannibalizing themselves faster than ever. Funny thing, that; when your organization is designed as a zero-sum corporate bloodbath, it’s kind of difficult to maintain a willing labor force. With our heroes on the ascent and Criasu on the backfoot, let’s see what new schemes our villains concoct in a fresh episode of Precure!
We open on a banner celebrating Homare’s third straight figure skating victory. Will our team ever stop winning
Her friends’ praise accompanies a pan across several stills from her performance. They picked one hell of an animation-unfriendly passion for Homare, so the use of stills is no surprise
Hana holds up a megaphone for a mock interview, and Homare is briefly embarrassed before offering a series of serious and considered responses. A nice flourish of characterization, as it’s very like Homare to take even a mock interview seriously
Is Homare… falling for Harry? Her interview responses were accompanied by shots centered on Harry, offering a subtle implication of “my ambitions are inspired by him,” and now she’s getting all flustered when he offers her a desert
And right on cue, we check in with Harry’s friend Bishin, who’s wondering why Harry still won’t return to them. I was hoping we’d see them again soon, and this makes it likely we’re in for a referendum on Harry’s relationship with the Precures
I’m frankly having a difficult time quantifying the moral calculus of a relationship between a high schooler and a hamster, but they’ve already settled comfortably into their roles as group co-parents, so I suppose they have my blessing
Dr. Traum has cooked up a visor that “converts a person’s deepest thoughts into a virtual world to explore.” This episode is going to be so much fun
“Is It Magic? Homare is a Mermaid Princess!” What is even going on in this episode
“I want to add at least one quad before the next meet!” Holy shit, I knew Homare was good, but I didn’t know she was landing quads good. She says she’s not ready for international competition, but apparently that’s just her humility talking
So she’ll be performing a skating routine with a Little Mermaid theme, a classic combination. So are they going to lean into Harry and Homare’s relationship as mapping to that of the mermaid and prince?
Aaand then the prince’s face morphs into Harry’s literally a moment later. So yes, we are indeed doing this
Now this is unusual – just then, Bishin appears outdoors with an Oshimaeda, cleanly rejecting Hugtto’s general episodic structure. I suppose the meat of this episode will be taking place inside that visor-world – and I also appreciate that given Bishin’s closer relationship with a member of our cast, we’re offering them a full episode’s worth of interaction with the team, rather than just the usual capstone battle
I remember friends who were already into Precure commenting on the era when Precures weren’t allowed to use physical attacks, and feel thankful that apparently Toei reversed that policy, allowing Hana to just walk up and beat the shit out of bad guys
The Oshimaeda divides into glittering pink cubes, which then fly at Harry. Some quality hamster action poses here as he deftly avoids the projectiles
Homare rushing to the aid of this pudgy little hamster really emphasizes the reality of what we’re doing here
As a result, the two of them are trapped together when the Oshimaeda reassembles
When Homare wakes up, she had indeed transformed into a mermaid princess
Lots of lovely new backgrounds for this undersea world, though they’re unfortunately somewhat distorted by the blur effect being used to signify water’s distortion
And right on cue, Prince Harry tumbles beneath the waves
The show’s overall color palette has shifted for this dream sequence – it actually seems to be echoing Homare’s own signature colors, with a greater focus on yellows overall, balanced by the blues of the sea
Harry doesn’t seem to recognize Homare
And oh wow, this establishing shot of Harry’s castle. Hugtto’s textured, watercolor-esque backgrounds are always one of the show’s finest features, but this sequence is something else entirely, embracing the fantastical opportunities of children’s book illustration to serve up ornate and richly colored new worlds. Every element of this background seems creative and inviting – I love how considered the overall kingdom design is, with cozy villages leading up to the central castle, and architectural flourishes like the tiny cliffside tower beckoning the viewer to explore this world
Homare’s undersea home is just as detailed and inviting. The background artists really outdid themselves this episode!
Homare’s mermaid buddies rightfully razz her for her crush on Harry. Embarrassed Homare is extremely good content
She transforms into a human and is discovered by Harry, right as Bishin arrives. Man, I don’t want my crush’s former friends spying on my romantic fantasies!
Harry’s castle features a painting that seems to be riffing on Magritte’s The Son of Man, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom
Harry attempts to fit Homare into a variety of dresses, before acknowledging the obvious and admitting that yellow is indeed her color
Oh my god. The Oshimaeda fires beams to keep away the remaining Precures, but he’s apparently locked into fairy tale mode at the moment, and only succeeds in costuming the Precures as a variety of fairy tale legends. Precure’s art team just decided to go off this episode, huh?
The grand ballroom continues this world’s overall Homare theming, steeped in yellow and featuring stars all around the ceiling
As they dance, Homare remembers all the special moments they’ve shared in the past. The two of them have indeed gotten closer than anyone else except Lulu and Emiru, and also both possess a maturity and self-assurance that their companions lack. They are the ones who’ve had to be strong for their friends, and thus have naturally come to rely on each other as the only two carrying that burden
Wild shoujo sparkles and roses in the background as Homare draws closer to Harry. Fairy tales aren’t the only tradition we’re drawing from here!
“You know how the story of The Little Mermaid ends, right?” Yep, the Hans Christian Andersen ending is significantly more intense than the Disney version, involving the mermaid dissolving into sea foam and being reborn as an air spirit. Not exactly the conclusion Homare was hoping for
“Harry was so perfect for the prince’s role, he forgot all about you.” Jeez, this is brutal! Homare and Harry’s maturity relative to the rest of the cast means we get to enjoy a genuine romantic drama here, as opposed the more adolescence-focused conflicts of the other cast members
And Homare is dragged underwater by her despair, with her mermaid handlers urging her to abandon her feelings while her body dissolves into static. I’m guessing this episode inspired a good handful of nightmares when it first aired
Deep underwater, Homare is saved by Hana’s signature weapon, as her voice breaks through and urges Homare to fight on
Terrific cuts of animation as Homare summons her ice skates and faces off with Bishin. Goddamn is this a generous episode!
But in the end, it seems Harry’s heart still belongs to another, and Homare accepts her feelings will remain unrequited
Aw man, so does this mean Harry has some other lady love from back in his own world!? And just when you bastards had totally sold me on this absurd Harry/Homare romance! Well, it at least seems Homare is taking her rejection with more grace than I am, and not letting it dampen her drive for figure skating glory. Plus, dear lord what an impressive episode this was on basically every aesthetic front, featuring a staggering array of beautiful storybook backgrounds, fun new costumes for basically everyone, and even some vivid fight choreography at the end there. I’m generally in favor of all characters falling in love at basically all times, but if Precure won’t give me the bizarre hamster/heroine romance it’s been baiting, I can at least take solace in the end of that thread being illustrated with such visual splendor. Fair enough, Pretty Cure.
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