As Doki Doki Precure nears its conclusion, the series is dealing with questions not only concerning the more mysterious characters but also the fundamental questions of human existence. It always has been, of course, but now its deeper levels are becoming more explicit.
Spoiler alert: This article contains BIG spoilers for Doki Doki Precure.
Is Cure Ace the Princess. Could it be Regina? As some suspected, it is both. And what about the mysterious baby, Ai-chan? Well, she is the Princess too!
In this episode we learn exactly what happened in the Trump Kingdom to bring about the present situation. At the beginning of this story, Princess Marie Ange is born and her mother dies at the same time. The King is both happy and distraught. The Princess grows up happy and healthy but when she reaches “the full stature of maidenhood” succumbs to a mysterious disease.
Nothing is said about this disease, but visually we are shown that it was a drop of the living black Darkness that dwells in the bowels of the palace. Why should it be there? It makes sense when we understand that a house or a palace is traditionally a microcosm of the world, and also of the individual soul. In this world of imperfection and conflict, darkness always lurks and challenges us at various points. As the disease grips her at her writing desk, the ink-bottle is overturned and black ink spreads symbolically over the desk’s surface.
The King is told that the mysterious disease is beyond the limits of medicine and becomes both desperate and angry, raging against Heaven.
O God, weren’t you satisfied with just my wife, that you snatch away my daughter too?
I won’t allow such a thing!
He is told that there is only one method of saving his daughter’s life, and that is to use one of the three Sacred Treasures: the Eternal Golden Crown which confers all knowledge. However, the Golden Crown has been used by the Legendary Precure Warriors to seal away the Darkness. Taking it would unleash darkness on the now peaceful and happy Trump kingdom.
The king goes to the chamber where the crown seals the darkness, and has a soliloquy in which he weighs the two evils – the death of his beloved daughter, the light-bestowing Princess and the unleashing of darkness.
After an inward struggle, the candles are symbolically extinguished by a draft and the King’s heart succumbs to the stain of selfishness. He cries:
If only Ange is saved, what happens to the world doesn’t matter!
He breaks the seal, takes the Eternal Golden Crown and the Princess becomes well again. But the terrible darkness rises up from its place of captivity and overwhelms the King.
As it engulfs him, the darkness cries:
For the sake of saving your dearly beloved daughter you break a taboo that leads the world to ruin. This is the ultimate selfishness. A wretch like you is perfectly suited to be my vessel.
From this moment the King is possessed. He is transformed into a monstrous being a hundred times the size of a man: King Jikochuu (selfishness).
The Princess, using another of the Three Sacred Treasures – the Miracle Dragon Glaive defeats King Jikochuu and encases him in stone. However, it is too late to save the Trump Kingdom which has already been overrun by the unleashed Forces of Darkness. The Princess is taunted by Bel for not finishing off the King. He accuses her of selfishness, leaving the entire Kingdom in the grip of darkness because she will not kill her father.
Bel is the Dark King’s general, and his aim is to unleash the full darkness of the Princess in order to turn her into a jikochuu.
The Princess, like the King before her, struggles between love and duty, and sees her heart begin to be darkened with selfishness. She breaks her heart in two and sends the two halves forth to battle it out, asking forgiveness for her weakness in not making a decision.
The dark half becomes Regina, who gravitates to King Jikochuu, and the light half becomes Madoka Aguri, (Cure Ace) who is “adopted” by a highly-traditional elderly Japanese lady.
Meanwhile the Princess reverts to an egg, and is reborn as the baby Ai-chan.
At the end of the Episode, King Jikochu is released (in the present) from his stone imprisonment. The girls speak of somehow re-integrating Regina and Aguri, but Regina speaks of her father’s love in sacrificing everything to save her and says she will always fight for him. King Jikochuu invades the human world and Regina, armed with the Miracle Dragon Glaive, accompanies him.
The other girls transform into their Precure forms, resolving to stop them.
I apologize for retelling the story at length, but the details are important. This story has two main themes – the struggle between love and duty (a classic theme of tales throughout the world before duty was deemed unimportant) and the battle between light and darkness.
Now the conflict between love and duty is particularly complex here because duty is another form of love. Throughout the series, the opposite of Jikochuu (selfishness) has been Ai (love). Cure Ace herself is called “Ai no kirifuda” (love’s trump card). So we are seeing individual love posed against the love of the world. The love of the world is expressed often in Japanese Anime and usually in very similar words. The Anpanman song speaks of Anpanman’s mission as being みんなの夢まもるため for the sake of protecting everyone’s dreams. Cure Ace speaks of protecting everyone’s smiles. The King says of the baby Princess as shining light like the sun:
Granting the hopes and wishes of the people.
The problem here is that everyone has some darkness in her (we are all selfish to a certain degree, unless we are Enlightened Beings) and the dark can be very cunning at manipulating people – it can use love against love.
As we saw the very sickness which started this chain of events was caused by a small, escaped part of the Darkness. By threatening the Princess’s life, that one escaped piece of darkness was able to trick the King into releasing the whole army of darkness, and becoming himself the vessel for its leader.
Just as the good in us is ultimately one with the True Good, so the evil or selfishness in us is ultimatley part of the very Darkness. Not only the world, but each soul, is a battleground in the war between Light and Darkness.
While our individual personalities are important and the choices we make are of utmost importance, this amazing show is not ultimately about individuals and “character development” but about something much deeper, that in traditional thought is the real meaning of individual life and character.
Some people have supposed that the conflict between Light and Dark in Doki Doki Precure is simplistic, but I think we can see from the story above that it is very far from simplistic. The King’s dilemma was very real, as was the Princess’s. Their choices were by no means simple ones. The King made the wrong one and was consumed by Jikochuu. The Princess refused to decide at all and separated herself into two parts. Those two parts exist in all of us, called the False Self and the True Self.
Mana loves Regina but in the end is forced to fight her to protect the world. Cure Ace believes she must destroy Regina and King Jikochuu in order to restore the Trump Kingdom. Yet, in the end, all souls must return to the Light, in the words of Kannon-sama’s vow, “Even to the last blade of grass”.
How will all this resolve itself? We will see very soon. But we have the rare (certainly by Western standards virtually non-existent) privilege of seeing a story that deals not just with the superficialities of human life but with the fundamental questions of our existence.