Tag Archives: Happiness Charge Precure

Happiness Charge Precure: A Lesson in Analyzing Media

I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed with Happiness Charge Precure.  I have just finished episode 7.  I am using the series as part of my Japanese studies, which means that I need to take a lot more time with each episode than I otherwise might.  I really had high hopes for the series, particularly as the last four series, Heartcatch, Suite, Smile, and DokiDoki just kept getting better and better!

On the other hand, I think that this series might be instructive for our readers to understand how we analyze media here at Musume Senshi.  We have been so enthusiastic in our praise of Precure, it might be helpful to discuss one of the series that we are not as impressed by in order to show our readers what we are looking for in media.  In that spirit, below is my analysis of Happiness Charge Precure after watching the first seven episodes:

Metaphysical “Rightness”

Before I begin this section, please note, that if we were discussing any Western media, this question would not even arise.  Here at Senshi, we can not recommend any Western media produced later than the 1960’s, except perhaps some of the movies produced by Disney.  Sadly, we can not even recommend the more recent Disney movies, which have slid into the cynicism of the post-Modern West.  Yet, even the best Western shows produced prior to the 1960’s are still rationalist in their outlook, and therefore, do not have much in the way of richness of metaphysical truth.  So, the fact that I can even discuss whether Happiness Charge Precure is metaphysically “right” speaks to the high quality of the larger series.

After watching episode 7, I admit I am not sure how this series will fare.  So far, I do not really see where the series is going with respect to metaphysical truth.  In contrast, in the four previous series, the metaphysical themes were present from the very beginning.   Cure Dolly discusses this at length in her article, Happiness Charge Precure Review – is it as good as the others.

It is possible that the theme will be develop over time, and that it is more actually more subtle than the previous seasons.  As of episode 7, it seems like the story may be developing into the traditional tale of the Wagamama (“selfish, spoiled”) Princess, which could be quite deep and could explain the surface visual attractiveness of the Side of Evil.

Going outside in pajamas is DAME!
Going outside in pajamas is DAME!

Innocence

For the most part, this series still promotes innocence, I think, and values such as friendship and harmony.  On the other hand, there are a few trouble spots, which may or may not be minor depending on how the series develops.  The theme of clothing and of the importance of clothing is of particular interest to us here at Senshi.   Hime-chan’s instruction of Megumi-chan regarding clothing is quite important.  Some examples have been Hime-chan’s statement in episode 3 that wearing pajamas outside was “dame.”  I found that particularly good and important as, where I live, I often see people wearing clothing that looks like pajamas.  I also liked when Hime-chan explained to Megumi-chan that wearing a jersey to the party made the party less special in episode 7.

vlcsnap-2014-04-05-15h26m08s110Of greater interest are the “magic clothes” that transform the girls into particular Functions, such as Policemaid or Nurse.   Aside from being a lot of fun, this really illustrates the importance of dress and clothing.  See The Philosophy of Dress.

At the same time, there are some dubious clothing choices even with the “magic clothes.”  In all of the various Precure series, the clothing of the girls has been one of the weakest elements in the series.  While, here on Senshi, we have overlooked this flaw because of the overall goodness of the show, this weakness becomes a larger problem when clothing is one of the main themes of the series.

vlcsnap-2014-04-05-15h36m37s67
A step up from pajamas….I suppose…

Poisonous Elements

Another important part of any media analysis on Senshi is the determination of whether there are any poisonous elements to be cautious of or to be avoided completely.  So far, in the case of Happiness Charge Precure, there is nothing so poisonous as to avoid watching the show entirely, but, I think that there are a few points to be careful of.

vlcsnap-2014-04-05-15h29m30s177The biggest concern in this direction is the visual attractiveness of the Phantom Empire and the effects of the Saiaku.  There could be a good reason for this, which we may discover later, but, I think that this is still quite tricky.  In all of the previous series I have seen Good and Evil are quite clear.  Evil LOOKS like Evil!  This is very important.  Here on Senshi, we do not believe in “moral ambiguity.”  Good is Good, and Evil is Evil.  Axial Beings may experience difficult temptations…but Good and Evil is clear.  See DokiDoki Finale:  Love is Not a Crime and DokiDoki Precure 46: The Fundamental Questions of Existence.  It is possible that the visual attractiveness of Evil in Happiness Charge Precure is truly an illusion, and that its ugliness will be revealed later, but this is a real concern.

vlcsnap-2014-03-11-12h19m50s127Another concern is one of Cure Lovely’s attacks, which is a dance using deracinated clothing and music.  While all of the Precure series have had some questionable clothing and music choices, it becomes a much more serious matter when they are part of a purification attack against Evil.   Also, even though I very much LOVE Cure Princess’ Macadamia Hulu Dance, where the Evil Minions are brought into harmony and dance along, generally when Evil is brought into harmony, it becomes Good.  In this case, the harmony is a mere distraction to help defeat the Evil Minions with another attack.

Despite these criticisms, Happiness Charge is still a fun show, and as of yet, the problems are not so great as to suggest that the show be avoided.  On the other hand, it seemed good and important to explain what we look for in the media we suggest and recommend here on Musume Senshi.

Happiness Charge Precure Review – is it as good as the others?

Unless you have been living in the so-called “real world” for the past year you are probably aware that we at Musume Senshi are rather fond of Precure.

Day-clothes or Detective-wear Kawaii is IMPORTANT
Day-clothes or Detective-wear — Kawaii is IMPORTANT

Our stalwart staff (transformational staff of henshin, of course) have penned (gosh I hate that word “penned” – why did I use it?) lots of articles about the different Precure series.

So naturally we were excited at the advent of a new series. Particularly as the series seem to have been getting better and better as they go on, culminating (so far) in the wonderful Doki Doki. As you will also know, we view these series from a point of view that appears to be entirely lost on most Western fans – their underlying philosophy, which is at once very Japanese and also akin to the traditional metaphysical ways of thought that are largely lost to the West If you aren’t familiar with our approach, try a sample here.

So how does Happiness Charge stack up so far? Please be aware that I am just giving my Dolly impressions, but my first impressions are that it is a little lacking.

Please don’t misunderstand me. It is a fun anime and I love it so far, but compared to the openings of Smile, Doki Doki, Suite and Heartcatch it seems to lack the metaphysical depth that they had. In a way it feels like a bit of a regression to the earlier series. They were good, of course, but one of the miracles of this series is that as it has gone on it has seemed to grow more confident in presenting non-Westernized Japanese values and the traditional spiritual view of life. Since this is against the supposed tide of Japanese “modernization” (or post-modernization) it is particularly heartening.

To begin at the most fundamental point, there is the question of what are the Precure fighting for (and therefore against)? In the first Episode of Smile, speeches were made (and Magical Girl Anime has always been a speech-making art-form) outlining important themes. Wolfrun laid out the case against ganbari. Miyuki and Candy laid out the case for it. Later in the series, this theme is explored in considerable depth and subtlety.

In Heartcatch, the connection of the individual heart to the Universal Heart (the Buddha-heart if one wishes to put it in Buddhist terms) is stated from the beginning. In Suite the theme of harmony vs discord is made clear from the first episode – and remember that 和 wa, harmony is fundamental to Japanese thought – so much so that 和 wa is also used to mean “Japanese” in many contexts. It is also a fundamental concept in all traditional metaphysical thought – “the Music of the Spheres” whose harmony governs all things: celestial bodies, nature, and all aspects of human life.

We have the theme in Smile and Doki Doki of the Sacred Queen or Princess, representing pure goodness, who is imprisoned and must be re-awakened, together with the Pure Evil who is also imprisoned and whom the Dark Forces seek to awaken.

What about Happiness Charge? My most immediate concern is in the nature of evil. Rather than a fundamental evil we seem to have a trivial evil. It is not trivial in its effects – in fact, unlike the previous series, evil is taking over this world at an alarming pace. The sense of urgency is greater – but in this it seems closer to Western drama. It is the outward and material threat of the evil that is stressed rather than its fundamental philosophical wrongness.

The Minor Kingdom in Suite stood for discord against the Universal Harmony. The Desert Apostles in Heartcatch stood for the withering of the heart-tree – the universal good that is reflected in every human heart. The Jikochuu in Doki Doki stood for Jikochuu – self-centeredness (the precise meaning of 自己中 – jikochuu – self-center) of the kind mentioned in the Feminine Scriptures:

“When each spoke assays to be the center, the wheel cannot turn”

Such Jikochuu is the opposite of social 和 wa or harmony as well as of Buddhist compassion.

The evil of Happiness Charge seems essentially trivial. A spoiled queen who does not especially believe in selfishness as a principle but just happens to be personally selfish.

The trappings of evil are actually quite pretty. The queen’s palace is kawaii. The fate of the Blue Sky Kingdom does not appear (thus far) especially ugly, and the カビ kabi, “mold or mildew” with which this world is being infected is actually rather pretty.

There is a selfishness vs love/ganbari theme, and it is played out at this stage between Cure Princess and Cure Lovely. One immediately attractive aspect of the series is that Megumi, while unselfish and noble, wears modern casual clothes while Hime, while selfish and cowardly wears beautiful clothes. In a Western show the “moral” would be that if you mean well it doesn’t matter how you dress. Here it is clear that dressing beautifully is very important, and this is something Megumi has to learn (and wants to learn) from Hime.

There is actually a brief exchange of ideological speeches with the villain on the theme of selfishness in the first episode, when the yet-powerless Megumi stands up to Namakeruda:

自分の身を守るそれがかしこい生き方ですぞ。

Protecting yourself – that is the sensible way to live.

Megumi replies:

自分だけよければいいなんてわたしはイヤだ
みんなで幸せになる それが幸せ!

“So long as oneself is all right that’s fine” – I hate that (way of thinking).
Everyone becoming happy – that is (true) happiness.

It is (of course) at this exact moment that she becomes a Precure.

"So long as oneself is all right that's fine" - I HATE that
“So long as oneself is all right that’s fine” – I HATE that

The prettiness of evil does seem very reminiscent of the Ball of Neglect and interestingly the current villain’s name is based on the same word used for the Ball. ナマケルダ Namekeruda is clearly based on 怠け nameke, “to slacken, idle or neglect one’s work”. While the Ball of Neglect is actually the 怠け玉 Namakedama or namake-sphere.

The Ball of Neglect represented a very subtle presentation of the fundamental philosophy of Precure, in which evil was presented in a highly attractive way that the girls had to see through. It presented a very old philosophical riddle that in the West has been posed as “Is it better to be Socrates unhappy or a pig happy?”

Perhaps Happiness Charge is moving in the direction of a depth of traditional thought even greater than the other recent series. However, taking the first two episodes overall, and while I love them as mere fun stories. I am not so far optimistic.

I really hope I am wrong.