Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Healin' Good Precure
The Earth is under a grave threat – monsters known as Byo-Gens are seeking to “undermine” its environmental stability. Normally these things are dealt with by the animals of Healing Garden, a magical realm populated by a race of Healing Animals led by Lady Teatine, but they are in bad shape themselves after fighting the Byo-Gens. Teatine sends three young Healing Animals to Earth to seek out the partners who will transform into the Pretty Cures and help them to defeat the Byo-Gens and heal the Earth. But Nodoka, Chiyu, and Hinata are just kids themselves, and while they all do their best and grow together, they may need a little more help – from the Pretty Cure of old!
While Healin' Good Precure is the third Pretty Cure series to become available in English, it is the first to stream as it aired in Japan, albeit starting after the first cour. (Tropical Rouge Precure, the next in the franchise, will change this by fully simulcasting.) It also had the misfortune to air during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that it had to take a season off, resulting in a series that is somewhat shorter than the norm. It's only by three-to-five episodes – most series in the franchise are 47 or 50 episodes long while Healin' Good is 45 – but there are definitely a few places where we can see that a bit more could have been done with characters or the plot. Despite that, Healin' Good Precure is a satisfying series that follows an interesting plot and characters, both sticking to and straying from the basic magical girl formula established by the classics in ways that really work.
The series follows the fight of three (later four) girls who transform with the help of the Healing Animals who have come to Earth to fight the Byo-Gen menace. Nodoka, the first of the group to gain her transformation, has just recovered from a mysterious illness that kept her hospitalized for most of her elementary school years. Now a middle schooler, she's excited to really live her life for the first time, and although she lacks the stamina of most girls her age, she's determined to do her best. Rabirin, the pink bunny who becomes her partner, is at first unhappy with her choice because of this – she knows that the fight will be difficult, and she's concerned that Nodoka won't be able to handle it. This, although disproven by Nodoka's determination, becomes something of a theme in the series, especially when we learn the root of Nodoka's illness and the repercussions.
Although Nodoka's particular issue is more thematically linked to the overall arcs of the show, all three of the main girls have distinct and developed personalities. Chiyu is the eldest daughter of a traditional hot springs inn, and she struggles with whether or not she wants to carry on the family tradition or pursue her athletic talents, while Hinata is the youngest child of a somewhat overwhelming family who has developed a bit of a reputation for frivolity and goofiness, which people forget doesn't mean that she still has problems. Each girl's Healing Animal companion compliments her talents and worries nicely (and really, Chiyu's Pegitan is the mascot character we anxious people deserve), but they're also distinct characters in their own right, not falling into the “worried helper” role of someone like Luna and Artemis or “cute with little purpose,” as we also sometimes see.
Where the show really succeeds, however, is in truly separating itself from the norms of magical girl series. (Please note that this discussion will contain spoilers for the second half of the show.) It has long been the norm for magical girls to determine that they absolutely have to save everyone, regardless of what role they have played in the story, and it hasn't been uncommon, particularly in the Pretty Cure franchise, for formerly villainous characters to be redeemed, especially if they can show evidence that they have learned how to love or at least care about others. This at first seems to be the trajectory that Healin' Good Precure is ready to head down as well – of the three main Byo-Gen minions that the girls fight, Daruizen is coded as the stealth romantic interest or hero of the piece. He's more traditionally attractive than the other male villain Guwaimaru and he has a clear interest in Nodoka, whether she's in her human or Cure Grace form. All of this starts to feel more than a little uncomfortable when we discover that the reason that Nodoka was ill for so long was because she had been implanted with the evil seed that would eventually become Daruizen – essentially he was her illness in a mirror of what will happen to the planet if the Pretty Cures don't succeed, but more ominously, he's the product of her unwilling gestation. When Daruizen figures this out, he attempts to implant another seed within her, something we see more graphically with Daruizen standing over a screaming Nodoka while he shoves a green crystal into her body. (Not, it should be noted, into her vagina, but the imagery is still stark enough that older or symbolically-minded viewers will understand what's going on.) Nodoka does recover from that without birthing another byo-gen, but she develops a definite fear of Daruizen, which comes to a head in the final few episodes of the show. At that point, King Byo-Gen, the Big Bad, is absorbing all of his minions in order to become more powerful, and Daruizen is afraid that he'll be next. He begs Nodoka to “let him hide in her body,” lest he die, framing it as if she somehow owes him her protection.
Even if we disregard the predatory aspects of their relationship, what's striking is that in most other magical girl stories, Cure Grace would feel obligated to save him. That's the magical girl creed, after all – she must save the world and everyone in it, even if it requires her to sacrifice herself. But here, Cures Fontaine and Sparkle, as well as the Healing Animals (and latecomer Cure Earth) all tell Cure Grace that she doesn't have to save Daruizen. Not if it comes at the expense of her own mental and physical health. Daruizen hasn't just worked to destroy the planet, he has specifically preyed on Nodoka herself, and that does not entitle him to anything. She doesn't have to save him. He doesn't need to be redeemed. Some villains simply do not deserve it.
That's a stark difference from other series even within the franchise, where the fact that Daruizen asked for saving or that the lone female villain Shindoi-ne absolutely shows herself capable of love would have indicated, if not necessitated, that they be purified into good people. Instead Healin' Good Precure takes the stance that the magical girl has some leeway as far as who she saves goes, and further that some ills cannot be healed. The latter ties into the medical theme of the series (the girls all don lab coats during their transformation, and their super-powered attack involves a syringe) because medical science does not currently have a cure for all diseases. If Daruizen didn't deserve saving, then Shindoi-ne fell under the heading of a condition that could not be cured, even with the powers of the Pretty Cures. That last is an oddly realistic note for an otherwise highly optimistic show, but perhaps the fact that it aired during a global pandemic contributed to it.
Artistically speaking, there are definitely a few episodes that show off-model characters and awkward movements (especially the final episode), but overall things look good. Each girl's design and transformation is tailored to her personality, and if Cure Sparkle's outfit looks awkward to move in, that's balanced out by Cure Earth's cute little bloomers under a skirt full enough not to impede her legs. (And her flat shoes. Those make so much more sense than the heels or platforms everyone else has.) The bright colors contrast very well with the rusty tones of a Byo-Gen-infected area, and the way that defeated monsters croon out “healin' good-bye” is entertaining every single time. The music doesn't particularly stand out, but it's still fun, and the insert songs are especially nice and much more ballad-like than the main themes.
Healin' Good Precure may be a little shorter than the norm, but its subversion of the basic ideas behind magical girl stories alleviates any issues the lack of five episodes may cause. It's a solid series with timely themes, good characters, and cute animals. Really, what more could we ask for?
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Daruizen/Nodoka storyline is interestingly and well handled, everyone has a distinct personality and look. Asumi visibly grows as a person. Nice use of color. Variety of family structures.
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