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This Week in Anime
What's So Great About Tropical-Rouge! Precure?

by Jean-Karlo Lemus & Monique Thomas,

For the first time, Crunchyroll is simulcasting a Precure series from the beginning! The much-loved magical girl series' latest iteration is Tropical-Rouge! Precure and it just so happens to be Nicky's first foray into all things Pretty and Cure. Does the summer-themed show hit the mark?

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Nicky, there are two things I like that not a lot of people know: cute pink stuff, and the tropics. Spring is hitting, but this "70° F" stuff isn't cutting it for me. I need something pretty, something warm to cure my cold soul...
Most of us might still be in quarantine but today we're gonna put on our best face before hittin' the sands with Tropical-Rouge! Precure!

it's a special occasion too! While we covered Precure in the past, this is the first time a Precure series has been fully simulcasted in the U.S.! Why don't we take a splash and dive right in?
Diving indeed—so, as it turns out, a mermaid named Laura is tasked by a Mermaid Queen to seek out four girls to be the Legendary Pretty Cures! The evil Witch of Delays has ruined the Mermaid realm, so help from the outside will have to do.

Meanwhile, middleschooler Manatsu is transferring from her tropical island home to a school in the city, where her mother works at an aquarium. She's a peppy girl, and I appreciate that her main desire is to enjoy her school life as best she can.
Manatsu definitely only has one setting, and it's High Energy! She's fun to watch if a bit of a typical air-headed protagonist. I enjoy her few eccentricities, such as finding Giant Isopods cute. (She's right!)
Truly a young woman of taste. Anyway, Manatsu eventually bumps into Laura, and it's here where Laura really shines. Far from being a wise and patient guide to the world of magic (like Sailor Moon's Luna), Laura is a firebrand that would give Kero a run for his money: instead of saving her homeland, her main reason for finding the Pretty Cures is so she can score points with her queen and possibly become queen herself!
Laura is one of the more standout characters. She's much better than a typical fluffy mascot (and cuter tbh). Her stubborn personality gives the other PreCures something to bounce off of quite well, too. Also, for a mermaid that's supposed to be on a "secret mission", she's actually pretty bad at hiding herself, creating lots of extra headaches for the girls.

Which goes into the "gimmick." See, for those of you who are new to Pretty Cure, there are so many entries to the series that each of them has to revolve around some sort of gimmick to make themselves stand out. Tropical-Rouge's two keywords are "Make-up" and "Mermaids". Using the lipstick originally gifted to her by her mom, our main character is able to transform from a girl with only one brain cell to a full-fledged sparkling fighter!
Nicky touched upon something else that really is Precure's secret to success: what with the gimmicks and teamwork, Precure is femme-coded Power Rangers. Precure traditionally airs right after Toei's Super Hero Time Sunday morning block, which features the powerhouses that are Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. Pretty Cure takes the Sentai-inspired formula that Sailor Moon adopted—the color-coded heroines bonding together into a team to fight evil—and doubles down with the magic ingredient that is full-contact fighting, then colored it bright pink because hey, girls wanna break some faces in too.

And it's worked phenomenally for them! Precure has been a powerhouse of a franchise since 2004, and they've broken all kinds of barriers. Where Super Sentai and Kamen Rider doggedly refuse to cast female leads (all you pedants about to type "ShinkenRed" can kindly sit down, you know they did her dirty), Precure has gone so far as to even allow boys to be Pretty Cures!

Of course, it takes more than just one person to make a successful (and profitable) team of superheroines—and Laura has four of those little magic compacts that play sounds and light up that you can find in toy stores right now—so the hunt is on for Manatsu to find a few other girls to join her, 'cuz goodness knows Laura isn't making any headway.

Gee, I wonder who they could be? Maybe it's the one with the unnaturally bright colored hair, a different scarf, and has "anime character" written all over her? /s

Currently there are only six episodes out right now so most of what we'll be talking about is introducing the main cast!
So, first up is Miss Super-Fashionable-And-Cute herself, Sango. Her mother owns a cosmetics shop. She's a sweet girl, but also cows easily under peer pressure. Ironically, as Cure Coral she's the team tank, capable of blocking anything by just crossing her fingers.
Unlike Manatsu, Sango is more shy and easy-going. She has good taste and generally tries to get along with folks, but in her episode proper she worries that the things that are good about her are also things that make her stick out like a sore thumb. While Manatsu is fully confident in her own qualities, Sango initially tries to force herself to go along with the group until she embraces that her flavor is her own.
Following Sango is Minori. She loves writing and reading, but lost a bit of her spirit after her story about mermaids got rejected from the school paper. As Cure Papaya, she can shoot eye-beams! 'Cuz that tracks about as well as anything else in these shows! Also, she does this goofy dance and face when she's firing her lasers. Makes me laugh every time!

I was kinda surprised when she took off her glasses to put on make-up and transform. I tried putting on make-up without my glasses a few times but it is very difficult with how bad my astigmatism is. I guess being a magical girl comes with the perk of some new 20/20 vision (or contacts?) Though, glasses can be cute too!
Well, there's the reason why she dangles her papaya earrings in front of her eyes to shoot eye beams, I guess. And then last but not least, we have Asuka! Channeling Sailor Jupiter's energy but hard, she's the tough upper-classman with a heart of gold. She's sporty, she's rough-and-tumble, and she joins the team as Cure Flamingo.
Out of all the introductory episodes, I think I definitely enjoyed Asuka's the most, simply because she's the coolest and most badass. Right from the get-go she's able to throw down with a bunch of ruffians all by herself.
She's also the one with the most potential for character growth. Sango and Minori could learn to be a bit more assertive, sure, but Asuka has unfinished business with the class rep, who in the early episodes serves as an obstacle to Manatsu's school fun.
It's also fun to see how she shoots down Laura's proposals, even after she joins the group officially.

Even agreeing to being the club prez despite her initial objections just so Laura wouldn't try to claim herself the title.
And to tie it all off—Asuka loves Animal Crossing!

A girl after my own heart. Also, the best victory animation!
And... that's all she wrote! Tropical Rouge Precure has only really been airing for six weeks (Healin' Good Precure's run ran a little late due to COVID), so about all we've gotten is a rundown for the main cast. I feel like the class rep Yuriko might turn out to be the fifth Cure for the show, but it's just too soon to tell.
We can still judge some other qualities of the show. This is actually my first Precure, to be honest, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Like a lot of kids franchises, the quality can really vary from series to series. You never know if they can really stand out beyond the standard Sunday morning fare.
As someone who is somewhat versed in Precure, Tropical Rouge! is pretty but otherwise a little simple. For example, if we haven't touched upon the villains, it's because there's just not much going on with them. Precure usually has a colorful band of villains to fall in love with (assuming you understand their job is to get bopped every week), but the Witch of Delays and her crew are just kinda... dull? Like, Healin' Good gave us folks like Shidoine, who was an overworked, single 30-something virus-woman who had a crush on her boss, and the ever-beloved Heartcatch Precure! had the Desertrians and their constant entertaining squabbles. Chongire the Crab, Numeri the Slug, and Elda the Shrimp are just... lazy. That's their shtick. They go around draining the motivation from citizens, and when their monster-of-the-week gets bopped the Witch of Delays grumbles, then rolls over in her chaise lounge and mutters she'll take care of it "tomorrow".
I enjoy elements of their schtick, like how their monster-summoning just APES Pokémon, including a dark pokeball and everything! Their designs aren't bad. The lady who is a doctor and also a sea-slug could be pretty cool, but we get to see very little of them and their only deal is that they're just doing their jobs. Likewise, while I enjoy the characters, I find most of the episode plots and the lessons within them to be lacking nuance. Still, they're competent enough, and it's never boring. I enjoyed both Sango and Minori's episodes of finding confidence, but they aren't particularly new lessons for the territory. The villains have such a boring gimmick, but it isn't as if there's a big thematic statement being made other than make-up is supposed to bring out inner confidence and motivation. This is where the show comes off most like product placement.
It's definitely cute that motivation is the focus for the bad guys this time around, but it also feels really hollow when previous villains, say, wanted to infect the world with nasty diseases or personally preyed upon people's innermost worries to drain their soul-flowers. It feels like they only had half of the idea in the boardroom. The Witch of Delays herself just isn't very interesting—if she's so lazy, how did she take over the Mermaid world?

My crush on Carmen Sandiego and Inuyasha's Kagura notwithstanding, I'm not the type to go out of his way to claim how villains are the real protagonists of a show in a shallow attempt at hiding my thirst for a pasty, long-haired guy in leather pants, but a good superhero show needs a decent villain to really work. And your bad guys don't have to be baby-eaters, they just need to be a threat. Lazy folks draining people's motivation is just kinda... look, man, lemme get you a hot dog. You got something you wanna talk about? I got time.
Tim Curry didn't become Tim Curry by being subtle, is all I'm saying. Do your stretches, tune up that vocoder, and shout your hatred of the meat-things until they find your dental records all over the recording booth!
There's occasionally an interesting monster of the week or two, like the ones being turned from everyday objects, but they also don't really seem to pose much of a challenge. Honestly, the episodes focus more on the girls' feelings. It's a bit low stakes. My favorite is still this statue though.
My theory is, after last year's Healin' Good unwittingly used viruses as the villainous theme right before COVID-19 hit, Toei sucked air through their teeth and decided to be as safe as possible with the next show. After all, what are the odds we have to deal with a plague of fish?
However, I will say that the girls' designs and their transformations are top-notch. That's gonna be the whole bread and butter of a magical girl series. Toei has gotten very good with their CG department in the past couple of years, but there's enough effects animation to provide an additional flair. This even extends to the idol-style dance ED.
I also wanna give the designs credit for the girls having their own unique look! You'd think a magical girl team would have a more uniform design, but all of the girls have completely different outfits and silhouettes. It works really well, even if I'm not entirely sold on Cure Summer's pink-on-blond hair.
The animation outside of the action isn't bad either. It's not full of sakuga but we occasionally get some really good faces and, being a kids' show, it's not afraid to actually look cartoon-y. Manatsu and Laura definitely have some of my favorites.

Ya gotta have your Glass Mask references in your magical girl shows!
It's not making me belly-laugh in the same way as Sleepy Princess but it's flavored enough to be just enjoyable. However, I think most adults not already sold on the Precure formula would probably feel like skipping it, because it's very much what it is: a competent kids show. Nothing more or nothing less.
If someone were to ask me which Precure to start out with, Tropical Rouge! probably wouldn't be my first suggestion. I'd definitely point them in the direction of Heartcatch Precure! or Hugtto! Precure. Tropical Rouge! otherwise is just fine. The production values are there, but it doesn't feel like it has much staying power. And that's okay! Much like with Super Sentai or Kamen Rider, some iterations of the show can be a little weaker than others and you might not be as into it. But every year's Super Sentai or Kamen Rider is someone's first, and in the same way plenty of folks would take a bullet for Kamen Rider Ghost or swear by the Zyuohgers, I'm sure Cure Flamingo and the Tropical Rouge crew can find some loving fans.
Yeah, just because this one isn't my favorite doesn't mean we shouldn't keep pushing the Precure wagon! We have too few licensed and even less localized (see: dubbed) in order for the series to be accessible to their young girl audience. I personally encountered lots of anime fans who wouldn't be who they were today without Sailor Moon or other animated role models to lead the way, and future generations of anime fans deserve the same.

I may seem a little harsh but that's only because I know that there's plenty of spectacular ones out there that are even more ambitious and deserve to see the light of day on legal streaming! Let's all work together to make sure we get to see that.
At their best, the Precure shows are fun, heart-felt shows about being true to yourself and letting yourself pursue your heart's desire even in the face of insecurities or fears. You can see plenty of that in Tropical Rouge, and at the very least the sight of all the bright, pretty colors feels good and fun. This is a show that just begs to be enjoyed. And if this is your favorite Precure, I will defend you for it—same as I would for folks whose favorite Rider is Wizard.
Well I would deffo appreciate if more Precure series had mascot characters like Laura.

The cast is all pretty solidly likable, but Laura is truly a pearl.
She's already become a meme! I now look forward to Monopoly Mermaid Mondays as much as I do Yakuza Fridays!
Anyways, I give Tropical-Rouge! Precure a "Not Bad" !!

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