Category Archives: Anime

The Ideal Princess

vlcsnap-2015-06-05-11h38m57s333 Episode 20 of Go! Princess Precure has recently aired, and the story is starting to unfold. In Episode 18, we met the author of the book that inspired Haruka-chan’s dream of becoming a princess. The protagonist of this book was the Princess of Flowers, who was loved by everyone. One day, a bird became jealous of her popularity and betrayed her to an evil magic user who held her prisoner. During her time of captivity, the princess never became angry or bitter, but instead remained sweet and kind. The bird regretted betraying the princess and helped her get free. The bird apologized to the princess, who forgave the bird, and they all became good friends.

vlcsnap-2015-06-05-11h50m46s364

Not only did this story inspire Haruka-chan’s dream, but it also inspired the dream of her roommate, Yui-chan, who wants to become an author of children’s books. We find out that the author of the story was inspired to create a character based on who she wanted her daughter to grow up to be.

vlcsnap-2015-06-25-20h04m09s952Aside from the Cure Princesses, there is another Princess on the side of evil, Princess Twilight. We discover, at the end of episode 20, that Princess Twilight is likely Princess Towa, the younger sister of Prince Kanata. There was a time when she shared the same dream as the Princess Precure, to become a Grand Princess. In order to become a Grand Princess, the girls must become 強い tsuyosi (“strong”), 優しい yasashii (“gentle”), and 美しい utsukushii (“beautiful”).

We discover that Princess Towa had been missing for some time, and that without her the Hope Kingdom became unable to resist Dyspear. When Prince Kanata and the Princess Precure find her in episode 20, she does not recognize Prince Kanata and she believes herself to be the daughter of Dyspear.

As Princess Twilight, she sees herself as the 唯一無二 yuiitsumuni (“one and only”) Princess and she describes herself as 気高い, kedakai (“noble”), 尊い toutoi (“precious, valuable”), and 麗しい  uruwashii (“beautiful”). It is interesting because these traits do not seem bad in and of themselves. Indeed, my Japanese is not at the level yet where I can understand the difference in meaning or nuance between the two words for beautiful, 美しい utsukushii and 麗しい uruwashii, except that 美しい utsukushii is a much more common word, from what I can tell. I learned 美しい utsukushii quite early on my studies, and hear and read it all of the time. I think that I learned 麗しい uruwashii from this series, and I do not know if I have seen it anywhere else as of yet.

vlcsnap-2015-06-25-20h47m24s755

Yet, judging from the other two ideals, that may very well be the important difference in the two words for beautiful. Strength and gentleness are used to support other people. Being noble and precious can be forms of setting oneself apart from others. Another clue is that she refers to herself as the “one and only” Princess.

It will be interesting to see what happens next. It is highly likely that Princess Twilight will return to her true self as Princess Towa. Aside from things of this nature being common in Precure, her apparent theme seems to be that of the butterfly, the symbol of transformation. It will also be interesting to discover the true nature of Dyspear. Is she truly Princess Towa’s mother and the Queen of Hope Kingdom under a spell of a larger force of Evil?

I am looking forward to the coming episodes!

The Philosophy of Go! Princess Precure

久しぶりプリキャア!お帰りなさい。(“It has been a long time, Precure! Welcome back.”)

I have just watched the second episode of Go! Princess Precure.  I have to say at the very first episode, it was love at first sight, and after the second episode, I am truly enamored with this series.  As a part of my Japanese studies, I made myself get through Happiness Charge Precure, and I worried whether there would ever be a good Precure again.  (I actually found myself bored through the Happiness Charge finale, and I could not wait until it was over).  I am overjoyed that Go! Princess Precure seems to be the Precure that I know and love!

What is not to love….the clothes, the music, the dancing, the aisatsu* (“gokigenyou”), the Princess theme, the transformation scenes….even without deep meaning, I would be in love with this Precure!

Yet, to top it off, Go! Princess Precure does seem to have a deeper meaning, which was set forth by the second episode.  Interestingly enough, this apparent meaning is quite directly related to the very purpose of this blog.

vlcsnap-2015-02-10-12h27m12s152In the very first scene, we see Haruka-chan (who will be the Pink Precure of this series) being ridiculed for her dream of becoming a Princess.  This blog was written for girls such as her, who dream of beauty and innocence, but who are ridiculed by the Western world.  In the next scene, she meets Kanata-sama, who tells her never to give up on her dream.

As Cure Dolly  has previously written, the topic of this series was clearly set forth in the first episode…dreams and despair.  This is not a new topic for Precure.  Dreams and despair were previously addressed in Yes! Precure 5.  Interestingly enough, the Blue Precure of Go! Princess Precure, Cure Mermaid, is similar in type and temperament to the Blue Precure of Yes! Precure 5, Cure Aqua.  While the Pink Precure always represents the ganbari (doing one’s best, never giving up) of her particular sentai, the Blue (or White) Precure always represents its kangae (thinking and careful consideration).  In some groups, this Cure is stronger than others, but for the two centered on dreams, the Blue Precure is particularly strong and solid (not to mention kakkoii), the seitokaichou (Student Council President) and an ojousama (upper class daughter).  Like Cure Aqua, Cure Mermaid is also practical and down to earth, in contrast to Smile Precure’s Cure Beauty, who is intelligent, but not always very practical (she thinks the summit of Mount Fuji would make a fine Secret Base).

vlcsnap-2015-02-10-12h33m32s125In Precure, the side of Evil always turns either precious objects or people into monsters.  With the exception of Futari wa Precure, it is either precious objects or people, not both.  In Go! Princess Precure, the Evil side again uses people.  One of the difficulties with Happiness Charge Precure is that it was very unclear as to how the Evil Side was able to corrupt people and turn them into Saiaku.  At one point, I believe that Cure Fortune made a reference to a fault or a failure on the part of the victim, but what that fault or failure was was never clear.  From all appearances, the Evil Side could turn a person into a Saiaku willy-nilly, whenever it wanted to.  In contrast, in the sounder Precure, there was a clear “hook” for the Evil Side to use.  In Heartcatch Precure, the victim’s Heart Flower had withered, and in DokiDoki Precure, a seed of Selfishness had already begun to sprout.

In Go! Princess Precure, the Evil Side uses the victim’s dream.  This is quite interesting really, as dreaming in and of itself does not seem to be a fault.  Yet, Evil can twist even the purest of our traits to its own ends, as we saw in DokiDoki Precure.  When our dreams become locked or thwarted, they can become the source of deep despair, leading us to become cynical and bitter, turning us into Zetsubou (Hopelessnesses).  While all of this makes sense to me in my heart, I am afraid it would take someone wiser and more Enlightened than me to explain it in words.

Like Suite Precure, in this series the theme is directly related to its topic.  In Suite Precure, the theme was music, and it was an exploration of wa (the deeper harmony of the Spheres, society, and human relations) and fuwa (disharmony, chaos, and discord).  In Princess Precure, the theme of the Princess is directly related to Dreams and Despair.  In fairy tales and in metaphysics, the Princess represents the Axial Being, or the one with the power to choose between Good and Evil.  There have been several Precures (and fairies) who were Princesses, and each one of them has been central to the battle between Good and Evil on a very personal level.  Even in Happiness Charge Precure, it was Cure Princess that opened the box, Axial, and released the Evil that was rampaging the Blue Sky Kingdom and the Earth.  (With all of its problems, Happiness Charge Precure was not completely devoid of metaphysical wisdom).

In the second episode, we learn that the girls must become true Princesses in order to restore Hope Kingdom.  They are also the ones with the power to unlock the dreams of the victims.  How do they become true Princesses?  They must grow in tsuyosa (strength), yasashisa (gentleness/kindness), and utsukushisa (beauty).**  They must work towards good and beauty and work to become their best selves.  By doing this, they can restore the Hope Kingdom and unlock people’s dreams.  How perfect for us here at Musume Senshi!

Of course, it is still quite early to see if Go! Princess Precure will be another one of the great Precure, but it is off to a very promising start, I think.

Tanoshimi shimasu (I am looking forward to it).

________________

*the closest English translation for aisatsu is “greetings,” but aisatsu are the proper set phrases one says at the proper time.

**on a personal note, it seems rather magical that these are the names of two of us here, myself, Cure Yasashiku, and Cure Utsukushiku.

Go! Princess Precure: First Impressions

go‐princess‐precure

The Triumphant Return of Precure?

Will Go! Princess Precure return the series to its astonishingly magnificent form? All of us here are really, really excited about the new Precure series.

We never made much secret of the fact that we weren’t too keen on Happiness Charge Precure. After a run of four of the most entertaining, warm‐hearted and metaphysically profound Magical Girl anime series ever made (Heartcatch to Doki Doki Precure), Happiness Charge dropped the ball.

It was nice enough. If it wasn’t being compared to such pure gold as the Great Four, we’d probably have quite liked it as a bit of lightweight entertainment. People who think that lightweight entertainment is all that Precure ever was did enjoy it, I believe. But Precure is a lot more than that.

Does Go! Princess Precure return the series to form? Might we soon be speaking of the Great Five instead of the Great Four? It’s a little early to say, but having seen the first episode (thank Meruhenland the Japanese subtitles came out immediately), the prognosis is pretty promising.

My first impression of Happiness Charge was chaos. I hoped it would improve over time and honestly I made several attempts to like it. But it remained chaotic and without real direction.

The first impression of Go! Princess Precure is one of order. In fact it is more immediately Ordered than any previous Precure, being set in a school a tiny bit reminiscent of Maria Sama ga MIteru. The standard aisatsu (greeting) is even gokigenyou, as in Marimite.

The moral lines are clear from the start. Hope vs Despair. After hearing the villain’s set‐piece on despair, Cure Flora gives a speech on the importance of hope and dreams. As we have discussed elsewhere, the Magical Girl genre is traditionally philosophical. The battles themselves are clashes of philosophy, true against false, and the great moments are heralded by speeches setting out the two sides. It is the superiority of the philosophy of good that leads to its victory.

The great theme of the show is dreams. Japanese yume, just like English “dream”, has three meanings.

1. The lunary visions we see while sleeping.

2. Something wonderful (“it was like a dream”).

3. A hope, wish or aspiration.

That these three are linked with the head‐meaning of a sleep‐vision is, I believe, fundamental to our human experience, which is why the three meanings are found linked across language families.

Vedic philosophy teaches that there are three states of being: the waking state, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. These are not just human states but cosmic actualities.

The waking state, of course, is what people are prone to think of as “reality”.

Dreams can be good or bad, but when used figuratively in human idioms the meaning is almost uniformly good. It is conceived, while not necessarily better than the waking state, as representing the best that the waking state can be. A very good waking experience is “like a dream”. A “dream” (in the sense of aspiration) is something one fervently wishes to achieve and make “real” (i.e., bring into the waking world).

Bad things also inhabit the dream‐world, but bad dreams tend to have a name of their own, other than just “dream”. English “nightmare”, Japanese akumu. As if the real dream world is the good one and the bad one some kind of aberration.

And naturally in this series that aberration is represented by the villains, while the Precure protect True Dream. How deep this will go is not yet clear, but already the ground is laid for something much deeper than Go! Princess Precure‘s precuredecessor (sorry!)

There are several very significant similarities in Go! Princess Precure to Heartcatch Precure, the first of the Great Four.

The zetsubou (despair) monsters are created by looking into a person’s heart and finding her dream and attempting to “close” it, just as Heartcatch they were made by finding her nayami (worry, unhappiness) inside her heart.

Doing the Cure Blossom Jump
Doing the Cure Blossom Jump

Importantly, this wasn’t just a theme. It was closely bound up with what made the series deeper than the ones that had gone before it.

The Precure henshin (transformation) uses perfume, as in Heartcatch, and Cure Flora’s very first experience of her new found power is jumping unbelievably high and getting (not surprisingly) scared by the height. This is a clear and direct reference to Cure Blossom’s first experience of her power in Heartcatch. It seems like a signal that we are moving back to the era that Heartcatch initiated.

If we are, I shall be so delighted to have my weekly serving of Truth, fun and pure magic back!

Doki doki!

Go! Princess Precure Language notes:

go‐princess‐precure‐kurozuSome of the names in Go! Princess Precure are interesting and I think do not come across in English.

In the first scene the heroine Haruka meets the Prince‐to‐her‐Princess, Kanata. Haruka means “far” while Kanata means “beyond”, or “the distance”. The two words are frequently found together as a pair in the expression haruka kanata (far in the distance). A couple from far, far away?

The first villain is クローズ Kurozu. The name is katakana for English “close”, and his phrase for transforming a person’s dream into a monster is クローズ ユア ドリーム!”Close your dream” (in katakana‐ized English). However, kuro also means “black” and this is certainly an intentional reference to the darkness of the character.

Sailor Moon Crystal: first impressions

You don’t need us to tell you that the airing of Sailor Moon Crystal is an historic event. The anime that began the Magical Girl Sentai Genre is getting a very interesting remake. We present a Senshi round-table of comments on the first episode sailor-moon-crystal

Cure Yasashiku

I really loved the animation in this new series.  It was so much brighter and cleaner than the original series.  Some of the scenes were simply breathtaking!

I thought that the introduction of each character framed with roses was really interesting, and it seemed reminiscent of a Greek chorus.  I was quite impressed by all of the rose imagery!  The rose is, of course, symbolic of the Sun and of the Heart.

It actually seems like this series may be more explicitly metaphysical than the first series was!  It is interesting that the Princess archetype is shown from the very beginning! It seems from the previews that Sailor Mercury will emerge in the next episode, so I wonder if this series will move a bit quicker though the main story.

Cure Tsukiakari

I very much enjoyed the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal.  Unfortunately, the opening theme song made me a little nervous that this new series would go in the direction of more recent Disney movies.  I first watched it with English subtitles on Hulu, and that translation was particularly difficult. The part that I found difficult was translated on HuluPlus as:

We have unshakable wills, we will fight on our own
Without leaving our destiny to the prince

Shiny Make-up, we are going to shine bright under the starry sky
We are not helpless girls who need men’s protection.  

The actual Japanese for this part is as follows:

嗚呼 女の子にも譲れぬ矜持がある
それは王子様に運命投げず
自らたたかう意志
Shiny Make up 輝くよ 星空を集めて
ただ護られるだけの か弱い存在じゃないわ

Below is my own humble attempt at translation (with the extensive assistance of Rikaichan):

Indeed, we girls are without surrendering our dignity,
Without casting away our destiny to that Ouji-sama (that prince)
Of course, we will fight of our own volition
Shiny Make up, fighting and gathering the starry sky
We are not frail weaklings whose only existence is of being protected.

I am sure that the more advanced Japanese scholars on this site can do a better job of translation; however, even with my feeble efforts, one can see how very different the tone of the Japanese is.

After reading the actual Japanese lyrics, my main worry has subsided.  That worry was that the series would lose the deep metaphysical wisdom that was present in the original series in favor of feminist rhetoric concerning the relationships between individual males and females.

In watching the episode, my worry was eased quite a bit, and the series has potential to be even more explicit about metaphysical truths than the first series. Despite my grumpiness about the theme song, I really did like the first episode, and I look forward to seeing more.

Cure Kiyoku

This is SO exciting, isn’t it?  I really enjoyed the first episode of the new Sailor Moon.  It was SO pretty!   I watched it with English subtitles and without subtitles.

My Japanese is not good enough to understand much without subtitles, and the English subtitles were chotto…. I hope that we will be able to find Japanese subtitles somewhere.  Wouldn’t that be exciting?  I actually never read the Sailor Moon manga.  Maybe I can find it in Japanese somewhere.

Cure Dolly

The Moon Rabbit
The Moon Rabbit

This looks like a bad year for Precure. First Happiness Charge, the weakest series since the franchise began and now Sailor Moon Crystal, a serious rival in the Magical Girl sentai field.

Sailor Moon was the first show to merge the Magical Girl genre with the Senshi genre, creating the Magical Girl Senshi – of which Pretty Cure is the latest and most successful example.

Sailor Moon Crystal is said to follow the manga much more closely than the original anime did, although the first episode is very similar to the original anime because the two did not start seriously diverging until the second episode.

I found myself noticing more things seeing it in Japanese. Things as simple as (I guess you all realized this already) Usagi-chan’s name is 月野 うさぎ Tsukino Usagi, which with those kanji for the surname means something like Moonfield Usagi. However it can easily be read as 月のウサギ tsuki no usagi = Moon-rabbit. Rabbits are very closely associated with the moon in Japan. In moon-viewing season the rabbit motif is everywhere, so this association must be immediate and obvious to a Japanese audience.

Odango
Odango

The actual idea behind the Moon Rabbit is that the markings on the moon show a rabbit pounding rice to make mochi. This kind of pounded rice (mochiko) is also used to make (o)dango the cute traditional candy-balls on skewers. And – Usagi-chan’s characteristic hairstyle, which is also used in her Sailor Moon and Princess Serenity identities is playfully termed odango throughout the series. In fact hairstyles of this general type are nowadays called odango styles, entirely because of Sailor Moon.

Neat, ne? As to the anime – I am loving it. The art-style seems to me reminiscent of mid-20th-century girls-book art and the animation is just wonderful. Really looking forward to the next episode.  

Cure Tadashiku

Honored Cure Tsukiakari, I really wouldn’t worry about Sailor moon taking the tangled and frozen path of recent Disney. This way of thinking really hardly exists in Japan and would definitely not make for a successful series.

Your rendering of the song (which is in song-speak rather than making exact logical sense) is closer than the Hulu one. 存在 by the way means “being” (concrete noun) rather than “existence” (abstract noun) here. It is the noun modified by か弱い, so I would say it means “we are not frail beings who are merely protected”.

These sentiments seem perfectly fine to me. I can see how they could feel a bit suspect in the light of a very particular Western tendency toward agressive anti-feminity. But that tendency, fortunately, really does not exist in the Japanese mainstream.

Honored Cure Yasashiku, introducing sailor Mercury in the second episode follows the manga. Yes it should be  somewhat faster-paced than the original anime as the manga told the story more concisely.

Honored Cure Kiyoku, good news! The Japanese subtitles are now available, and you can find them here. The art and animation really are gorgeous, aren’t they. While I doubt if we can expect any surprises, since the series appears to be going to follow the manga faithfully, this really is just delightful.

DokiDoki Precure Finale: Love is Not a Crime

As the reader may recall, in episode 46 of DokiDoki Precure, we discover how the King of Trump Kingdom became King Selfish, or King Jikochou.  He unleashed a Primordial Evil when he took the Sacred Crown sealing it to save his daughter’s life.  See DokiDoki Precure 46: The Fundamental Questions of Existence.

Even as it was happening, one can not help but feel for the King.  Of course, it was wrong to unleash the Primordial Evil, but faced with the prospect of the death of his daughter, it seems like a rather difficult and harsh choice.  As the Precure worked to free the King’s soul, Cure Heart gave a speech about the importance of family love, and how love for one’s own family was not selfishness.  After that speech, King Jikochou and Cure Sword have the following dialogue:

vlcsnap-2014-03-03-11h00m54s7“King Jikochou:  Family love.  Ha!  Don’t make me laugh.  You really think the citizens of Trump Kingdom will forgive me after I wrecked their Kingdom to save my daughter?

Cure Sword: Love is not a crime.  You’re the one at fault here for using their love.”

This seems to be a bit of a riddle.  Was not the King’s love for his daughter the reason that he unleashed Evil upon his own Kingdom?

I think that the answer to this riddle can be found in episode 47.  Regina-san, who was born from the corrupted part of Princess Marie Ange’s heart, led the Precure in explaining the answer.

vlcsnap-2014-03-07-18h47m34s235After receiving love from Cure Heart, Regina-san joins the fight with the Precure against King Jikochou.  King Jikochou asks her why she has turned and is now fighting against him.  Regina-san answers:

“Love had been in my heart from the beginning, Papa. Because I love you, Papa.  But…But…You know…I love Mana, too.  As much as you, Papa.  So much that I can’t choose between you!  I love Mana!”

The minions from the Selfish Kingdom wonder if this is selfishness on Regina-san’s part.  Regina-san questioned whether her feelings were wrong.  The Precure answered her as follows:

Cure Rosetta:  “I don’t think so.  I love Mana-chan, too.  Rikka-chan, Makato-chan, Aguri-chan, Regina-san.  I love them all!”

Cure Sword:  “Me too.  I only saw the Princess before, but now everyone here is precious to me.”

King Jikochou answered: “Silence!  Regina!  You only need to look at me!”

To which, Cure Diamond replied: “I understand how you feel.  Because I remember having those same feelings.  But compared to hogging the person you love all to yourself, to have the person you love help you to love yourself…Just like that, the ring of love expands.  Isn’t that kind of better?”

After this, Cure Ace was able to talk to her father as well:  “Please stop.  What connects us all is love.  My fate as a warrior of love was not to defeat you, but love you!  I’ve finally realized.  And now I can do it.  Do you know why?  Because you’re still my father!

vlcsnap-2014-03-07-20h16m23s214

At this point, the King saw his daughter in Cure Ace and began to become free of the Evil that had overtaken him.  It was his love for his daughter that saved him.

Why is this when the love for his daughter opened the door to Evil?

The answer to this is simple.  It was NOT the King’s love for his daughter that opened the door to Evil.  If you recall, in episode 46, the King said,

“If only Ange is saved, what happens to the world doesn’t matter!”

The answer is that he lost his love for the world.  He was told that the only way to save his daughter was to unleash Evil.  Was this true?  Maybe, but maybe not.  Evil is known for its trickery.  One of the ways Evil tricks us is by presenting us with false dilemmas.  The options in front of us seem to become limited, and we believe that we have no other choice but to follow the course of Evil.  In this case, the sickness that had overtaken the Princess seemed to have been from the Seed of the Evil itself, so it would seem likely that there would have been another way to save her.

But even if we are to take at face value that the King had no other choice, it was not love that prompted him to unleash the Evil.  When he tried to resist the Evil, he said,

“Ange won’t be happy if I bring forth Darkness to save her.”

Indeed, by opening the door to Evil, he not only brought forth the destruction of his own Kingdom, but he set the stage for his daughter to rip her own heart in two in torment.

It was not love for his daughter that caused him to unleash Evil, but Selfishness.  He was not doing what was best for his daughter.  He knew his daughter did not want to live at the expense of his Kingdom.  He did not want to experience the grief of possibly losing his daughter.  That is not the same thing as love.

vlcsnap-2014-03-07-19h40m28s167This is a bit tricky to see, because if the King did not love his daughter, he would not suffer grief at her loss.  Yet, love sometimes means to embrace suffering.  We see this in the pain that Regina-san suffers in her heart when she started to feel love throughout the series.  In his fear of feeling grief, the King lost his love for his Kingdom AND paradoxically enough, he lost his love for his daughter as well.  As he said before he gave in to Evil, “Ange’s death is the same as the end of the world.”  When he gave in to Evil, he lost sight of everyone else other than himself.  That is not love, but selfishness.

Throughout this series, DokiDoki Precure has explored many complicated matters surrounding things that look like love, but are not love.  Yet, in the end, we always find that these complexities are not really about love itself, but are really selfishness disguising itself as love.  As Cure Sword eloquently pointed out, love is not a crime.  Love is never a crime, and love is always the answer.  No matter how complicated the situation seems to be, it can always be resolved with love!  In the words of feminine Scripture, “Of all things, love is the simplest.”  I think that this is the overarching message of DokiDoki Precure.

With this article, I believe that my coverage of DokiDoki Precure is complete!  (Hee…although you never know, other authors may still have things to say about it!)  It really was quite a series, wasn’t it?  Thank you for following my articles and the articles of the other Senshi.

Cure Yasashiku signing out for now!

DokiDoki Precure Finale: Love, Selfishness, and Choice

Doki Doki Precure was quite an exciting series, and I thought that the finale was breathtaking.  For me, the scariest moment was when the Primordial Selfish was able to blacken and steal the Psyche of Cure Heart…at least momentarily.  Cure Heart had been so stalwart throughout the series, often being compared to the Happy Prince.  It was quite a surprise that the Primordial Selfish was able to corrupt even her.

vlcsnap-2014-02-11-13h45m58s218

One of the things that is so impressive about Precure is the way that metaphysical themes are woven deeply into the story, and how their finales weave these themes together.  I have read some reviews of DokiDoki Precure by Western commentators, which complained that the stories of the individual characters seemed to be disjointed and disconnected.  What these commentators failed to understand is that this story is not character driven, but is a story in the truest sense of the word, a tale that illustrates spiritual and metaphysical realities.  The individual characters represent ideas and themes.

The primary theme of Doki Doki Precure is Love and Selfishness.  Throughout the series, we are taught that, as Axial Beings, we have the choice between Love and Selfishness.  This theme was manifest at the very beginning of the series and has been present throughout.  See The Philosophy of Doki Doki Precure: An Overview.

Throughout the series, we were shown how the choice between Love and Selfishness is a continuous one, with day to day choices having broad ramifications to the world and to the battle between good and evil.  Here at Senshi, we have discussed this at length.

vlcsnap-2014-02-11-12h57m10s110I have seen many, but not all, of the Precure series all the way through their finales, and there is an interesting difference in DokiDoki Precure.  In every other finale I have seen, the world was destroyed by Evil before it was rescued.  Yet, in Doki Doki Precure, the world is in danger, but it was not destroyed!  Why is that?

We are told the answer to this in episode 47.  Trump Kingdom was destroyed because the citizens themselves chose Selfishness when they were in danger, and they became Selfishnesses themselves.  Yet, the citizens of this world did not.  People started to become selfish, but then they chose to help one another and show love for each other instead.  The world was not destroyed!  In episode 48, the world cheers the Precure on, shouting “Precure Ganbare!”  The Precure, Regina-san, and Ai-chan were able to save the King of Trump Kingdom, and the world was apparently saved from Darkness and Selfishness.

vlcsnap-2014-02-11-13h24m30s150There was quite a surprise at the end of episode 48, though.  Bel-san, one of the minions of the Selfish Kingdom, made the choice to take into his own body the small bit of Darkness that remained after the King of Trump Kingdom was saved.  When Bel-san made that choice, he awakened the Primordial Selfishness.  This Selfishness fully enveloped him, which set the stage for a surprise episode 49.

Cure Heart's Psyche beginning to return
Cure Heart’s Psyche beginning to return

It was during this battle that Cure Heart’s Psyche was taken.  A black spot formed, which the Primordial Selfishness caused to grow.  Cure Heart tried to resist, but she was unable to.  Then her Psyche was stolen.  It followed the same pattern as every other time a Psyche was  used to create a Selfishness.  That was not the end of the story, however.  Just when we thought all would be lost, Cure Heart’s Psyche was restored, and she returned to fight back even stronger than before.  She was able to receive strength from the other Cures and the power of the Sacred Treasures to transform into Parthenon Mode, and she defeated the Primordial Selfishness.

Why did all of this happen?  Why was Cure Heart overtaken, and why was she restored?

As the Primordial Selfishness was being defeated, he had the following dialogue with Cure Heart:

vlcsnap-2014-02-11-13h51m51s167“Primordial Selfnessness (“PS”):  As long as humans possess selfish, egotistical hearts, I will always return.  Always, I tell you.

Cure Heart (“CH”):  I know.  Even I have a selfish heart.

PS:  What?

CH:  I have had times where I have been jealous or just wanted to run away.  But I think that the pain and struggling that come with it can make people stronger.  And even if I lose sight of my love, I have my friends!  As long as I have friends by my side, I’ll always stand up and fight back!”

After this exchange, the Primordial Selfishness was defeated, and many fluttering hearts were returned to their places.  This world and the Trump Kingdom were fully restored.

vlcsnap-2014-02-23-10h48m34s156Yes, each and every one of us has a selfish heart that can be corrupted.  That is a part of our nature.  In Filianic thealogy, each of us as a False Self.  While that is true, we also have the choice to resist our False Selves, or our selfish hearts, and choose love.  So long as we choose Love, Selfishness will always be defeated!

I believe that this is the message of DokiDoki Precure!

See also:

Regina-san and Free Will

Enryo and Love

Precure All Stars:  The Greatest Story Ever Retold

Doki Doki Precure: Princess Marie Ange

Princess Marie AngeThe finale to DokiDoki Precure just aired last Saturday.  I was fortunate enough to have the experience of watching it while it was airing.  I am a beginning student of Japanese, so I was not able to understand much while watching in Japanese except for what I could glean from the visuals.  Still, it was quite exciting to watch while it was airing.  It was particularly fun to see the Japanese commercials.

Luckily, the English subtitles came out rather quickly this week, so I did not have long to wait before I learned how this story would end.

There is a lot to discuss now that the series is complete, more than can be discussed in just one article.   Here on Senshi, we have covered the ongoing series extensively, so it seems fit to explore some of the many topics of the series.

Princess Marie Ange, and her descendants, are central to the story that was told in Doki Doki Precure.  Princesses in stories can represent Archetypal Maids, and I think that in this story, Princess Marie Ange represents humanity as a whole.  In episode 46, we learn what happened to the Princess, and how she broke her heart in two as a result of the painful knowledge that her father had opened the door to Evil in order to save her life.  I refer the reader back to Cure Tadashiku’s article, Doki Doki Precure 46: The Fundamental Questions of Existence.

The Two Halves Must Fight

Half of the Princess’ heart became Regina-san, who fell by her father.  As we recall, her father was possessed by Evil and became King Selfish.  The other half of her heart fell in the arms of a traditional grandmother and became Aguri-chan/Cure Ace.  The Princess’ empty shell became the baby, Ai-chan.

Chibi Regina-san In episode 46, we are told that Aguri-chan and Regina-san are the Light and Shadow sides of the Princess.  Indeed the part of the Princess’ heart that had become Regina-san had become dark and corrupt.  Yet, Regina-san was able to be purified.

The topic of Light and Shadow Selves, or True and False Selves, is a recurring theme in Precure.  In Heartcatch Precure, Cure Moonlight’s Shadow Self or False Self is represented by Dark Precure.  Cure Moonlight also had a father who had been corrupted by Evil, and her father created Dark Precure specifically to be her enemy.  In Heartcatch Precure, to defeat Dark Precure, Cure Moonlight had to embrace her, and when she did, Dark Precure dissolved, and Cure Moonlight’s broken heartseed became whole.

Why did this not happen the same way in Doki Doki Precure?

I think that the reason for this is that Regina-san was not really the Princess’ False Self.  When the Princess split her heart in two, she said that one half was the love she had for her father and the other half was the love to protect everyone’s smiles.  She was under the mistaken belief that conflict between these halves was inevitable.  Yet, before the King became corrupt, these two sides were united, and her whole heart was pure.

Saving the KingOn the opening page of the Daughters of Shining Harmony, there is a discussion of love, or Amity.  The article can be found here.   This article explains that there are two types of Amity, Menamity and Mayamity.  Menamity, or Little Amity, is the love that binds all people together, or “the love to protect everyone’s smile.”  Mayamity, or Great Amity, is deep personal love which may exist between family and close friends.  In the West, there is sometimes the mistaken notion that these types of love are in conflict with one another, and that deep personal love excludes a more general love for others.

This is exactly the lie that Bel-san told the Princess, that her love for her father, and the love that he had for her, was selfish, and that it excluded the love for their people.  The King believed that lie when he sacrificed the peace and well-being of his Kingdom to save his daughter, and then the Princess believed that lie, which caused half of her own heart to become corrupt as well.  She could not choose between Mayamity and Menamity, so she split her heart in two, believing that these parts of her heart would have to fight each other.

As the story progresses through the finale, we learn that the Princess was wrong.  Her love for her father, embodied in Regina-san, and the love to protect everyone’s smiles, embodied in Aguri-chan, did not have to fight at all.  Indeed, it was when they united that they were able to free their father from King Selfish, which also saved the world.

Two Hearts Becoming Whole

In the end, Regina-san learns Menamity, and Aguri-chan learns Mayamity.  Both halves of the Princess’ heart become whole again.  Regina-san helps save the world, and Aguri-chan learns to make friends.  The love for one’s family and the love to protect everyone’s smiles are indeed both love and they are in harmony with one another.

New Precure All-Stars Trailer

After my wonderful experience with Precure All Stars New Stage 2, it is  wonderful to be able to announce that 3 is on its way and show you all this exciting trailer.

From the trailer we can see that the two fairies who featured so prominently in New Stage 2 are present in this one, as is Cure Ace who was absent from the earlier movie (only the original four Doki Dokis were in it).

You can see Aguri-chan at 0:41 and Cure Ace (making her A-sign) at 0:50  (extreme right, second row from the bottom).

Please look forward to it!

Precure All-Stars – the Greatest Story Ever Retold

I have just watched Precure All Stars New Stage Movie 2. I believe a lot of people may find the All-Stars movies (and perhaps Precure Movies in general, as opposed to the deeper television series) a little disappointing, and I can see why.

It does not go into the metaphysical depth of the series. It is set in a universe that is arguably “non-canonical”, in which all the different Precures from all series exist, and the plot could be called contrived and gratuitous. That is not to say that I was disappointed. Actually, I loved it. I was in tears for part of it and was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and nobility of the movie.

The “problems” of the movie, I believe, come largely from watching it in the wrong way. Let me give a brief rundown of what seems bad about the plot and why it actually isn’t:

The world-devouring villain
The world-devouring villain…

The main villain of the movie seems in a sense wholly gratuitous and disproportionate. It is not some demonic king, but a fairy in fairy-school who becomes dominated his own shadow-self (this isn’t actually a spoiler since you know that pretty much from the start. As the shadow-self becomes stronger, its power becomes immense and threatens all the precures – at first by cunning but ultimately by sheer power, which actually darkens the sky and blots out the sun.

At the end the shadow-self is reduced back to its own small and cute-ish proportions and disappears(spoiler hidden).

Was just this?
…was just this?

It seems unsatisfactory to the Western mind because it seems gratuitous. A cosmic-scale villain is conjured out of nowhere and then sent back to nowhere at the end. Just for the sake of the story, one could say. In fact I would say that but would add that it takes on a different coloring if we understand what stories really are and why humans need them.

The current Western approach to stories is parallel to their approach to the universe. They believe they (it) are there by a kind of accident and could just as easily have been something else. Stories, to the Western mind, are just about individuals and the accidents of earthly life.

Traditional stories are about the fundamental truths of existence. One of those is that the “villain” is not just an accident of plot or history. Ultimately there is only one Big Bad, and that is the Ultimate Darkness. The individual is a microcosm of the manifest world. The darkness in any one of us is ultimately THE darkness.

When we understand this we see that there is nothing gratuitous about that One Darkness being unleashed through a particular individual. In fact Doki Doki Precure with all its depth, tells, on one level, very much the same story. In Doki Doki the one who succumbs to THE darkness is a king. Royalty is often used in traditional tales as the symbol of the individual soul.

There is a terrible evil in the world and it is the duty of  all heroines (including ourselves) to fight it

The Heroines of LIght - "Are there really so many of us?"
The Heroines of Light – “Are there really so many of us?”

One of the things that I think troubles the Western mind about so many Precure at once (and the claim that they are non-canonical, though to my knowledge nothing in the “canonical” precure series says there aren‘t other Precures – they just aren’t featured) is that it makes them seem less “unique”.

“Are there really that many of us?” say the Doki Doki girls in awe. Of course there are. Each of us is unique but the Great Battle is potentially fought out in every soul. The evil of Doki Doki (King Jikochuu and his minions) is the same evil here – the depictions of sludgey darkness even look the same. It is the same as the Universal Disharmony of Suite Precure and the heart-destroying Desert Apostles of Heartcatch Precure. The theme of a terrible darkness unleashed by personal selfishness or pride or cruelty is found in many of the equally heart-stirring Anpanman movies (as opposed to the Television shows). The depiction of sludgey darkness is often the same.

In the end all true stories are branches of the same story. The true traditional storyteller is less concerned with telling an original story than with telling the Original Story.

But saying the “faults” of the plot are not faults hardly makes the experience better if we do not enjoy the show, one may say. And I agree. But I think if one sees stories for what they always were, and still are in many Japanese productions, those faults cease to matter to our hearts.

What does matter is whether the show stirs our hearts. And in my case at least, it does. The wonderful nobility of the precures. The kindness and gentleness coupled with the fierce determination to ganbaru and akeramenai – fight on despite everything and never give up –  is soul-thrilling.

The audience members are given Precure Lights to cheer on the heroines when the going gets really tough. The fairies all have their lights too, and the brave, massed cheers of “Precure ganbare!”  are stirring to the depths of the soul. I want to be in a theatre in Japan one day, waving my light and shouting “ganbare” – a word so deeply rooted in every single day of Japanese culture that it is hard to translate.

A lot of people will say they are too old for this. Maybe the cynical culture of the West has outgrown simple goodness. I would say that there is a word for the state of a culture that has outgrown goodness. That word is senility.

Doki Doki Precure 46 – The Fundamental Questions of Existence

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.

A drop of darkness (now by her knee) makes its way to the Princess's body
A drop of darkness (now by her knee) makes its way to the Princess’s body

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.

神よ… あなたは妻だけではあきたらずむすめまでもうばおうというのか?

そんなことは させぬ!

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:

アンさえ助かれば世界などどうなってもかまわない!

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:

最愛のむすめをすくうために禁忌をおかし世界を破滅へとみちびく…これぞ まさに究極の自己中。きさまこそわたしの器にふさわしい。

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 Princess breaks her own heart in two
The Princess breaks her own heart in two

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:

人々に夢や希望をあたえる.

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.