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 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).
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
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.