Ask John: Is Pretty Cure the Next Sailor Moon?

Question:
Is Pretty Cure the next Sailor Moon series?

Answer:
In Japan, the Pretty Cure franchise is now airing its fourth television series. There are three feature length Pretty Cure motion pictures, and a fourth currently in production. The current Yes! Precure 5 television series is consistently one of the ten most watched anime programs in Japan. I think that Ojamajo Doremi has been the most successful magical girl anime in Japan since Sailor Moon (actually, there’s more existing Doremi anime than Sailor Moon anime), but Pretty Cure is definitely the most successful fighting magical girl anime to debut in Japan since Sailor Moon. So for the Japanese market, Pretty Cure has unquestionably become the “next Sailor Moon.”

A few years ago I did think that Pretty Cure had the potential to become “the next Sailor Moon” for America. Pretty Cure has the right combination of characteristics that could possibly make it a success in America, if it had adequate, mainstream American exposure, and if there is still a possibility for a shoujo anime to become a major hit in America. The possibility for either of those events, though, does not seem especially strong right now.

The original Pretty Cure and Pretty Cure Max Heart series were directed by Daisuke Nishio, the director behind most of the Dragon Ball Z anime. That influence brought a unique flavor to the show. Unlike conventional magical girl anime that involve preadolescent girls using magic wands or magic spells to battle evil monsters and villains, Cure Black and Cure White, the heroines of Pretty Cure, relied on straightforward punches and kicks and their magically enhanced super strength to literally beat up monsters before finishing them off with a magic attack. That unusual style of “girl power” allows Pretty Cure to appeal to both female and male viewers in a way that typical magical girl anime doesn’t. Furthermore, the first two seasons of Pretty Cure illustrated co-star Nagisa’s crush on her classmate Shoujo Fujimura, and frequently hinted at a developing lesbian affection between the two female stars. These two romantic angles make Pretty Cure interesting for girls and boys. Finally, Pretty Cure has interesting characters that grow and mature through the series, giving viewers characters to relate to and sympathize with.

Unlike Wedding Peach, which is a relatively bland rehash of Sailor Moon that never got significant mainstream exposure in America, or Tokyo Mew Mew, which did get mainstream American television broadcast but alienated American anime fan community, and doesn’t have the originality and narrative strength of Pretty Cure, I think that Pretty Cure could catch on and become popular with American anime fans and mainstream American viewers if it was exposed to mainstream American viewers. But that may be a doubtful occurrence.

Pretty Cure was licensed for American release by 4Kids Entertainment, but 4Kids has virtually entirely withdrawn from anime distribution. At this point in time, I don’t know when or if any of the Pretty Cure anime will ever see American release. 4Kids’ license for One Piece was transferred to FUNimation, so there is a possibility of the license for Pretty Cure shifting to another distributor. But the potential success of Pretty Cure in America is heavily dependant upon American television broadcast, and the show’s potential for television broadcast is tied to whichever distributor handles the show.

Finally, whether or not Pretty Cure has the potential to match the American success of Sailor Moon is affected by the question of whether any shoujo anime can become a major hit in America. No shoujo anime has been a major success in America since Fruits Basket, and no transforming magical girl anime has been a break-through hit in America since Sailor Moon. Wedding Peach, Tokyo Mew Mew, Corrector Yui, Ojamajo Doremi, Princess Tutu, Pretty Sammy, St. Tail, and Nurse Witch Komugi-chan have all failed to capture significant American success. One has to wonder if it’s possible for any magical girl anime to recreate the success that Sailor Moon had in America (and even Sailor Moon’s American success was more cult success than mainstream success). I think that Pretty Cure has more potential to be a hit in America than any other currently unlicensed shoujo anime, but for Pretty Cure to become another Sailor Moon in America, it will have to get similar mainstream exposure, and it will have to get major mainstream support from viewers. At the present time, there’s no sign that Pretty Cure will ever get major American mainstream exposure, and there’s little evidence that American viewers are eager to watch a new magical girl anime.

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