I give one of the least liked Pretty Cure series...an 87/100!
Don't you just hate it when fans of a franchise pour lots of hate on a show that in reality really doesn't deserve it, and for the stupidest reasons? Suite doesn't exactly have the best pedigree in the Pretty Cure franchise for a lot of really stupid reasons, the two most blatant are the fact that it came right after the most beloved Pretty Cure season, Heartcatch (which I admit is my all time favorite) and the fact that because of the March 11 earthquake in Japan in 2011, the producers were forced to change a lot of things to make it lighter and softer for kids who may have been traumatized by the event. I didn't watch Suite during its run due to other obligations, but I think I'm glad I waited this long to watch it, because if I did watch it during its run, I probably would have joined the "Suite isn't as good as Heartcatch so let's hate on it" bandwagon. But just because one series isn't as good as another, it doesn't mean it's straight up bad, nor does it mean it doesn't have just as much good qualities that make it a great show in its own right. Suite isn't Heartcatch, but it doesn't need to be, as there's lots of good things about Suite that people really need to understand and acknowledge. Instead of focusing on the bad, we need to at least acknowledge the good things it has. Besides, how is it different from every other Pretty Cure series to warrant so much hate?
The story begins in a beautiful, musical world called Major Land, and the queen and her loyal subjects are about to hold a concert until a crazy man named Mephisto appears, steals the Melody of Happiness, and changes it to the Melody of Sorrow so he can make everybody sad. Aphrodite, fearing the worst, scatters all the notes onto Earth so he doesn't fulfill his goal, but as a precaution, she sends a cat, Hummy, and her friends, the Fairy Tones, to find warriors called the Pretty Cure, who might be able to defeat Mephisto and his goons and put the Melody of Happiness back together. But the thing is, the Pretty Cure turn out to be two girls named Hibiki and Kanade who used to be childhood friends, but due to a silly and avoidable misunderstanding, they do nothing but fight like cats and dogs. But when circumstances threaten everything they know and love, they're going to have to patch things up and put their grievances aside for the greater good.
Yeah, Suite Pretty Cure is basically the Sailor Moon SuperS of the Pretty Cure franchise, both for reasonable and unreasonable reasons. Some of the more reasonable reasons are that Hibiki and Kanade's catfights are caused by rather silly reasons and can easily be solved just by clearing things up and talking to each other. Normally, I tend to hate stuff like this, but Suite actually acknowledges that conflicts only get bigger if people just talk to each other and try to understand each other instead of jumping to conclusions and not listening (one of my favorite episodes, episode 6, is big on dropping this anvil), so I give it a pass. Plus, I like that it shows that friendships aren't always rock solid. Lots of friends get into fights over stupid reasons, and don't even talk to each other unless prompted. I found Suite's portrayal to be very true to life, and it just makes you feel warm and fuzzy when they fight and then grow closer and stronger than ever. Another reason people don't like it is that people expected it to be like Heartcatch: both light hearted and extremely dark, without pulling any punches. I loved Heartcatch for daring to go against common cliches corrupting kids' shows (in Japan, anyway. I wish it'd come to the US but God knows people might butcher it up the wazoo!), but Suite is generally rather light hearted and the stakes aren't as high as before. This disappointed a lot of people. I personally didn't mind the light hearted tone and less focus on dark themes, but it's not like the undertones are completely gone. Fun fact: the creators originally wanted to make it a lot like Heartcatch in terms of it being more serious and realistic in its conflicts, but the earthquake made the creators change the story a lot to make it what it is now. While it'd be interesting to know how Suite was going to turn out had it not been toned down, it's still a great show in its own right. Plus, really, wouldn't you rather have something like this to show your kids than, oh, I don't know, My Little Pony: Newborn Cuties?! Or Bratz?! Or all of those Barbie movies?! Or a huge majority of the gross-out comedy shows Cartoon Network keeps churning out like Clarence and Regular Show and Uncle Grandpa?!
Okay, now onto the good stuff: one thing I absolutely adore about this show is the setting, both on Earth and outside it. I LOVE the whole design and concept of Major Land. It's so wonderfully bizarre. I love the way the buildings are designed, the living instruments, their civilization, the citizens being both human and animal people (kind of like Escaflowne's word, Gaia, where it had both humans, half animal people, and straight up animal people), etc. Sure, it should have been developed a bit more, but I just love it! I also love the town Hibiki and Kanade live in, Kanon Town. It's basically a whole town that appreciates music to the point where they have piano sidewalks that make noise and have a cute little toy band playing on the clock tower. Those are really neat ideas! Plus, there isn't one scene in the whole series where someone isn't playing some kind of instrument. That shows that series about music don't always have to be about singers or pop stars.
Speaking of music, considering it's the show's motif, of course the soundtrack is all kinds of good. Instead of being peppy J-pop like most girls' kids shows are, it's a lot more rock and orchestra influenced. Plus it helps that the soundtrack was made by the guy who worked on Heartcatch's OST, which is always a plus. It always managed to set the mood and bring out the best in a scene. One little detail I really liked is the eye catch music. You know how eye catch music is only used for the eye catch and nothing else? Well, Suite actually expands on it and makes it into an actual piece of background music that's actually very well used! Kudos to you, Suite! However, I've heard that in recent times, the Pretty Cure series has developed a reputation for reusing music pieces from various series for unknown reasons. With Doki Doki and Happiness Charge, I've found that this is unfortunately true, and yes, it can be very jarring to hear something from another series in the current one. I actually heard pieces from Heartcatch play during Suite, but they're mostly BGMs that are used during quiet moments, not battles, which is fine with me. Plus, they weren't used too often, whereas in Happiness Charge Precure it keeps reusing battle pieces from Doki Doki for fifteen straight episodes, which I found very jarring and really needs to stop. NOW.
The animation in itself might lack the life, fluidity, and movement that Heartcatch had, but visually it's quite pleasing. The colors are extremely bright and stimulating to the senses, the CG for the transformation sequences is surprisingly good, the characters have some decent designs, and while the fights aren't as well animated as Heartcatch, they do their job when needed, especially during the hand to hand combat. But I have to admit, the facial hair on some of the villains looks extremely silly. God, they look like they came out of an eighties cartoon! Their beards and mustaches look strange!
The characters, while not the best thing about the show, are reasonably developed and fleshed out, especially Hibiki and Kanade considering how rocky their relationship is at the start. They do start off as familiar stereotypes, but they definitely grow into their own characters once the second half of the series comes around. While there are people who find their silly arguments over avoidable misunderstandings to be annoying and jarring, let's think about it for a moment: what person in real life DOESN'T get into a fight with someone over an avoidable misunderstanding? Not only that, it's always sweet to see them make up and grow closer than ever, prioritizing their friendship over silly misunderstandings. Plus some new characters add to their development even more. I particularly like one character whom everybody seems to hate for some reason. One character I'm not too fond of is Hummy. She is so ridiculously optimistic, dense, naive, and stupid it's not even funny! In one episode, she gets completely tricked by her ex-friend TWICE and not once does she get angry nor does she learn her lesson, and nobody calls her out on it! True, it gets lampshaded later on, but I'd be a bit more satisfied if the Pretty Cure got angry at Hummy or told her she shouldn't trust anyone so easily, as it results in stuff important to the story getting taken.
Now, time to address the many flaws of this series, and, I admit, there are a lot. There are even some that I agree with. One thing people don't like about Suite is its story. It's mostly about retrieving musical notes and defeating a guy who just wants to make everyone sad. I agree, there isn't much conflict in that. But someone on a Pretty Cure Livejournal community made a very interesting argument about said weak conflict: what if the villains make people sad so as to make it easier for them to take over the world? It's easier to mess with people who are sad and miserable than with people with aspirations, hopes, and dreams. In fact, this is what got me to check out Suite in the first place! Anyway, onto more flaws: the villain and his mooks aren't very threatening. They're just a bunch of goofy people who want to make everyone sad. But this doesn't last for long. Also, there are some things that bugged me more so than this. Suite has a really bad habit of introducing some things, then just completely giving them the shaft in favor of other things, and almost NEVER brings them up again until much later. For example, the Pretty Cure have a really good attack requiring them to get along called Passionato Harmony, but they completely do away with it in favor of magical sticks that they can use on their own, and they use those A LOT. They act like Passionato Harmony never existed, and they don't use it again until episode 28! They also don't explain some things, like why a character who was originally a cat isn't able to turn back to her cat form anymore. Also...what's with anime classmates loving a new transfer student just because they introduce themselves? Without giving away spoilers, a character transfers to Hibiki and Kanade's school and makes a complete fool of herself in front of a bunch of kids and they suddenly like her. This is exacerbated by the fact that she collapses and has to be taken to the nurse's office, and pretty much EVERYONE visits her out of concern. Uh...stuff like that does NOT happen in real life. If I came to a new school and said, "I'm looking forward to being friends with you all!" they'd laugh at me and tease me about it for the rest of my life! And I REALLY don't think an entire classroom would bother to visit a sick classmate just because. People just don't do that. I'm seeing this A LOT in anime. Is it some kind of wish fulfillment fantasy or do they do it to be polite? Regardless, that's not how school works. In another anime I saw called Sakamichi no Apollon, the main character transfers to a new school but is disliked and not thought much of. I actually liked that they took that approach, because reactions like that actually do happen in real life. I dunno, the way it was handled in Suite and a bunch of other anime just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Sorry. Had to address that elephant in the room. Anyway, another reason the series gets flack is because apparently the moral of the series is "happy music is good, sad music is bad," but I don't think it meant to come off that way. I took it as "don't use music as a means to cause pain or hurt people. All genres of music are meant to be appreciated." All flaws aside, I really don't understand why shows like this don't get shown in the US. I mean, seriously, this show would be absolutely the perfect thing to air on a channel like The Hub or Cartoon Network to attract a young female audience! It shows strong female characters who don't always get along but are still able to be friends, one character who is royalty yet defies every single princess stereotype known to man, and a relatively decent conflict as opposed to no conflict at all. Countries like America don't believe that cartoons for girls can ever be good for stupid reasons (which is thankfully starting to change thanks to the success of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), but Japan believes the opposite: shows for girls can be just as good and high quality as shows for boys or even shows for adults! They actually get it! We need to follow their example! America seems to believe girl shows always have to be about spoiled brats having tea, giggling over nothing, and gossiping, and lots of overly perfect role models who are absolutely great at everything as that's how they get by in life, but girls don't like that stuff anymore! Girls like stories with actual conflict, well developed characters who have flaws and imperfections, and overcoming adversaries and learning about trust, friendship, and teamwork! That's what made My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic such a big hit in America, and I think anime like this, if not butchered, edited, or bowdlerized up the wazoo, can achieve the exact same success if treated right! Japan gets it! Why shouldn't we?
It's not the best series in the franchise in the eyes of others, but for what it is, it's definitely one of my personal favorites, along with Heartcatch and Splash Star. Seriously, people! Stop bashing it for what it isn't, but appreciate and love it for what it is! It's not perfect, but no anime or media form ever is!