Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
by Amy McNulty,
Not five minutes into the last episode of Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, the viewers are hit with a twist. We're not given the epic Conquest Club/Battle Lovers smackdown promised at the end of the previous episode. Instead, both groups of magical boys are shocked to discover their entire adventure—possibly their entire lives, as evidenced by Atsushi and Kinshiro's childhood flashbacks being caught on film—were part of a galactic version of The Truman Show. As if that weren't shocking enough, they also have Yumoto's brother Goro to thank for the revelation, as his connection to the magical boy/monster routine is made clear.
While the "you've been on TV this whole time" reveal isn't the most original thing, it does work well here and serves as an effective catalyst to unite the Battle Lovers with the Conquest Club in a face off against the real villains: the show's unscrupulous producers, goldfish Hireashi and hedgehog Zundar. Like parody pros, the characters move smoothly from one magical girl final battle trope to the next, including:
• The villains' change of heart when they realize their "bosses" have been using them
• The more experienced magical soldier being corrupted by evil
• The childhood friends, one on the side of bad and one on the side of good, coming to each other's rescue and making up
• Siblings facing off against each other, as one struggles to free the other from mind control
• The big bad guys pulling out all the stops (by actually bringing a mecha into things)
• The former enemies uniting, but their attacks all fail at first
• The big power up! (Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! has the best English attack names: this time, it's "More Better" transformations and attacks.)
• The good guys win! (It helps that the galactic reality show got canceled.)
• The former enemies hang out and things go back to normal. (Of course, "normal" for this show is overanalyzing obscure topics in the public bath.)
The episode is packed to the brim with fast-paced action and hard-hitting revelations, but it never feels rushed. The true intentions of the Press Society are finally revealed, although it's never fully explained how they became involved in an intergalactic television broadcast. (Are they aliens as well or did Hireashi simply choose them to gather Intel?) It hits all the beats of a magical girl finale, while never forgetting to be tongue-in-cheek. (En rightfully points out that few people have the chance to utter, "What did you say?!" in real life, and yet he's compelled to say it twice as events unfold.) Even the ridiculous one-note shtick that grew wearisome in previous episodes plays perfectly here as each magical boy shouts out his reasons for fighting. Naturally, Ryuu's fighting for women and Io for money, but when the camera cuts to the underdeveloped Ibushi, he admits that he doesn't know what he's fighting for.
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! appeals to fans of magical girls, bishounen and well-executed parody, and if you're a fan of all three, you're sure to walk away happy. The characters aren't overly developed, but with few exceptions, the magical girl genre isn't known for producing fully fleshed-out protagonists anyway. While the show sometimes struggled to maintain the perfect balance between legitimate magical boy show and all-out parody, it ultimately provided enough laughs to compensate for its weaknesses.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.
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