What’s it about? Yui loves food: she helps out in her family’s diner, enjoys living in her city’s delicious restaurant district, and cherishes the memories of her grandmother who was always ready with a meal to cheer her up. When mysterious, magical figures appear in town and start stealing away the deliciousness of local meals, she simply must intervene! For her courage and dedication to food and flavor, she is chosen to become a legendary Pretty Cure.
It’s PreCure season once again, the most magical time of year! It’s always fun seeing what they do with the formula and the new theme, adding new ingredients and flavors to their tried-and-tested recipe. To a certain extent, what can I say? It’s PreCure. It’s adorable. It’s charming. It’s some colorful easy fun for tired adults and energetic children alike. But hang tight, reader, because there are a couple of aspects to this series that I want to talk about in more detail.
The first is the foremost: the food theme. This premiere opens in the restaurant district, setting the scene with panning shots over happy crowds filling streets lined with vendors. While it’s not the most beautiful food animation in the biz, this episode still instilled a craving for ebi tempura udon that I know I won’t be able to shake. There’s plenty of yummy-looking shots of Japanese cuisine staples, but there seems to be a variety of international stores and eateries too, which could be setting up worldwide food tour across the series and a celebration of dishes from different cultures. It could be a fun bit of edutainment and inspire young viewers to be curious about other, maybe unfamiliar foodstuffs!
My personal hunger for noodles aside, I really enjoy this framing. Our heroine, Yui, is introduced playing soccer and then chowing down on onigiri, loudly declaring her love for each filling and flavor. “Food brings smiles!” is her catchphrase, which it turns out she picked up from her beloved grandmother. Maybe this doesn’t seem like much of a big deal, but considering the ways diet culture and body image have such an iron grip on the lives of young girls (well, everyone of every gender, let’s be real, but there’s a particular vice-grip association between thinness and “girlhood”) it was honestly super refreshing to see a main, meant-to-be-beloved anime heroine munching happily away and talking about how much she loves food.
Aside from Yui’s annoying childhood friend calling her a “glutton” once, there’s no negativity surrounding food and eating. As Mercedez recently pointed out, this message is a really important one to broadcast—again, especially to young viewers who are vulnerable to mass-media images of “the ideal body” which will already be floating around them in the form of ads and other TV shows. Delicious Party Pretty Cure says, through the voice of its protagonist and through its very own magic system, “hey, food is good! Eating is good! Make sure you eat lots!”
It’s a rule of the magical girl genre that you can’t fight crime if you ain’t cute, and Delicious Party adds in that you can’t fight evil on an empty stomach. Yui eats sparkling pink riceballs during her transformation sequence, which fills her with energy and lets her power up to her full potential. I know I’d probably get indigestion from doing all that running, jumping, and monster-punching if I’d just eaten a pile of rice, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief because this little story device is so cute and so unexpectedly nice.
Of course, the main characters all seem to have the exact same body type and silhouette, so we might be looking at the helpful but also not-so-helpful messaging that eating lots is great… as long as you stay skinny. It’s too soon to say what this show will do on a broader theme of food-related body positivity, but it’s something to keep in mind alongside this initial praise. Everyone deserves to eat food that they love and get that precious, literally magical happiness from a good meal.
The other interesting, relevant thing to flag is the magical envoy from the CooKingdom who helps Yui get her powers, an androgynous figure named Rosemary (or Mari-chan). Mari has a fairly masculine build—tall, defined muscles, flat chest—but has beautiful long eyelashes, makeup, violet hair, and dare I say somewhat of a campy attitude.
Maybe Mari’s meant to be a flamboyant feminine man, maybe Mari’s meant to be a magical gender-ambiguous mentor. Either way, I kind of love them, wary as I am about the show throwing them into cartoony effeminate stereotypes. You want the mentor to be a little bit hopeless so the heroine can step up to the task and come into her own, but you also don’t want your very queer-coded character to be the hapless butt of jokes. As above, we’ll have to see, but I’m tentatively interested and thus far pleasantly surprised. Queer folks have always been right at home in the magical girl genre, so it would be kind of fun to see Mari stick around as a funky GNC mentor figure to the Cures.
Delicious Party Pretty Cure seems, as always, like heaps of fun for all ages, with the added bonus of being very food positive and anti-diet (though how that ties into broader concepts of body positivity remains to be seen). If you already watch the new series each year, well, you don’t need me to tell you to check it out! If you’re looking for a charming jumping-in point to the ever-expanding franchise, it’s never too late to start. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go order some udon for my own magical lunchtime transformation.