What’s it about? Hanadera Nodoka has just moved to a new town with her family, but on her first day she’s confronted with all kinds of strange sights: a monster in the park, three magical animals on a mission to heal the Earth, and a wand that transforms her into a super-powerful magical girl.
Yup, you’re reading that right, AniFam. We finally get to cover PreCure!
This magical girl franchise is practically an institution in Japan, with a new entry every year since 2004. Unfortunately, English-language fans have never really had a legal way to watch the series outside of Saban’s very ’90s-style localization, Glitter Force (which adapted Smile PreCure! and DokiDoki! PreCure).
All that changed a few weeks ago when Crunchyroll announced they’d licensed the franchise. They have so far released the original Pretty Cure and 2017’s Kira Kira Pretty Cure a la Mode, as well as the currently ongoing 2020 series we’re talking about today.
Whew. That’s a lot of backstory. While I’m not sure whether we’ll cover future licensed installments of the franchise—we generally don’t cover anime meant for children, but standalone entries in long-running beloved franchises are occasionally the exception—this first instance felt too momentous not to mark. As someone who’s only ever known PreCure by reputation and the occasional Twitter gif, I was extremely curious to see how the series plays for a newcomer who’s also thoroughly outside the target age range. And the answer is: pretty (heh) good, honestly.
There is a small hurdle of cynicism to overcome with the knowledge that PreCure is a robust merch factory. Every time a new mascot, wand, or lovely item came across the screen, all I could see was the implicit price tags and high likelihood that each of the items necessary to be Your Favorite Pretty Cure will absolutely be sold separately.
But having an aggressive and ruthless marketing arm doesn’t mean a series can’t be good on its own merits (just look at Sailor Moon, Pokemon, or a decent chunk of Disney). And beneath Healin’ Good‘s merchandise is a premiere with a heartfelt core.
Nodoka is an almost parodically altruistic protagonist, but the writing seeds in brief flashbacks that her rush to help others is due to feeling helpless from a serious illness in the past. With voice work from magical girl veteran Yuuki Aoi it’s hard not to buy in to Nodoka’s relentless enthusiasm. If I’m honest though, what really sold me is the episode’s emotional climax hinging on Nodoka’s refusal to run away from the sight of people suffering, a sentiment that hits even harder under all the unmasked authoritarian brutality of 2020.
There’s also a self-awareness to the first transformation and monster fight that doesn’t feel self-conscious, as Nodoka’s mascot-slash-partner Rabirin is there to handle the necessary exposition while Nodoka herself gets to embody the viewer by marveling at her newfound abilities.
It knows all but the youngest of new viewers has seen this type of introduction a hundred times before, but it imbues them with a giddiness that makes things like Nodoka suplexing the monster of the week into submission feel fresh. The transformation sequence itself is also pleasantly unleery, a thing I shouldn’t have to worry about but am nonetheless grateful for. And the doctor coat imagery of the costumes? Adorable.
The premiere is focused on introducing the premise, so we don’t get to spend much time with the supporting cast, but the glimpses we do see of Nodoka’s two future teammates is promising. Special mention must also go to bishounen baddie Daruizen, whose vaguely Marceline the Vampire Queen-esque appearance and dulcet tones courtesy of Tamura Mutsumi (of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! fame) was basically enough to hook me for another episode all on his own.
The overall “healing” theme of the season might bear keeping an eye on. The episode is awash with positive imagery about being active and the importance of protecting nature, but it’s too soon to tell whether things like Nodoka’s past illness or other similar plots might potentially slip into ableism despite their good intentions.
Fortunately, curious viewers can get a feel for themselves fairly quickly, as this premiere was uploaded on a delay and the current episode count is already up to 22. It’s definitely a show meant for kids, with fun but straightforward writing and a fairly simple conflict, but if you’re looking for some, dare I say, healing content during this exceptionally hellish year, this one might be worth trying out.