What’s it about? The wicked Witch of Delays and her minions have laid waste to the mermaid kingdom beneath the sea, and now have their sights set on conquering the human world. Laura is sent to the surface by the mermaid queen, on a mission to find the legendary Pretty Cures—magical warriors with the strength and shining spirit needed to defeat evil! When she meets an energetic girl named Manatsu, she’s initially not impressed… but Manatsu might just be the motivated, big-hearted hero she’s looking for.
Usually, we don’t cover children’s programming here at AniFem, but the euphoria of Precure being legally available—and simulcast no less!—and the sheer vibrant joy of this premiere is just too great to ignore.
Tropical Rouge is the latest in a long line of Precure series, and in this first episode it’s plain to see the tried-and-trusted formula clicking into place and why that formula works so well. It’s engaging and earnest children’s TV: the pacing is just brisk enough to keep things rolling along for younger viewers without zooming through anything important, the characters are archetypal in a way that makes them feel familiar and instantly loveable rather than cliché, and the balance of humor and action is near perfect.
There are plenty of slapstick shenanigans in the early parts of the episode, chiefly featuring Manatsu, but they don’t detract from the stakes in the actual fight scene at the climax. Manatsu is a glorious goofus, but in a way that makes her endearing. She’s that brilliant combination of “big heart, single braincell” that makes for a wonderful protagonist in a magical, larger-than-life series like this. And she makes a hilarious contrast to the elegant, pragmatic, and haughty mermaid Laura—who, by her own admission, is only helping save humanity to get in good with the mermaid queen and wiggle her way closer to the throne.
Yes, Precure is a series in the To Sell Toys genre, and you can already see a catalogue of merchandise unfurling every time the characters produce a magical item. But just because a show is made To Sell Toys, doesn’t mean it can’t also be well-constructed and meaningful as a story in its own right.
And, may I say as a budding connoisseur of transformation toys (my partner collects them, and our living room is dotted with everything from magic parasols to violins to music boxes) the gimmick of these is pretty cute. The transformation item is a compact, allowing the Pretty Cure to doll up her cheeks, eyes, and lips in the most magical way possible. It’s certainly not mahou shoujo rocket science, but I can picture the target audience having fun playing this out.
Of course, there’s a complex conversation to be had about the ethics of selling makeup to middle schoolers (or even younger kids, for that matter). It remains to be seen what the series will do with its beauty theme, but as of this first episode I’m cautiously optimistic. Through the voice of Manatsu, it presents makeup not as something that will “make you beautiful” or “improve your look” but as something that increases your confidence and gives you strength.
This does (lip)gloss over the pervasive nastiness of the beauty industry by wrapping a literal need for makeup up in its own form of girl power, but it’s at least a more positive message to deliver the gimmick. The interplay of empowerment and the traditional expectations of femininity that have historically been part of the magical girl genre are certainly still present here, and the degree to which that makes you wrinkle your nose may hamper your enjoyment.
It’s complicated. It’s capitalism. It’s a topic beyond the scope of a simple premiere review, unfortunately, but as always we welcome pitches on related subjects.
And while we’re discussing the ideologies interwoven into children’s media, I can’t say I approve of the casual lipstick-sharing between Manatsu and Laura. It seems like a great way to teach small children to swap mouth-germs, which seems like a particularly boggling oversight in our current times!
Those lingering issues of Real World Industry aside, Tropical Rouge starts strong and it looks like there’s going to be a lot to enjoy about it for viewers of all ages. We’ve only met two of the main characters in the roster—one Cure and one mermaid—but the chemistry between them is already delightful. I’m rooting for Manatsu to become the unlikely hero the world needs, and I’m excited to see more interplay between Laura’s selfish, queenly motivations and her growing friendship with “Heart Full, Head Empty” Manatsu.
It also looks really good: lots of vibrant scenery, stretchy and expressive animation, and a pastel-and-neon aesthetic that I’m really enjoying, especially since it’s a slight departure from the usual character design conventions. With their varying themes and palettes and character casts, I believe that there’s a Precure series out there for everyone—give this a watch and see if it might be the one for you.