I give the second Pretty Cure series...an 85/100!
My first Pretty Cure series was Heartcatch Precure. I did see the first episode of the first series, Futari wa Pretty Cure way long ago, but I never went beyond it, partly because of other things, and partly because one mascot's voice was so grating and annoying I just couldn't stand it. But after I finished Heartcatch Precure thanks to a fellow blogger's praising it up the wazoo, I later watched the first 5 episodes of Smile, but I had to put it on hold due to other real life obligations. Then I found Splash Star on TVTropes and apparently people used to outright hate it back when it aired but now its held with higher regard. Out of curiosity and boredom after watching too much Pokemon and Sword Art Online, I decided to check it out. As of now, it is the second Pretty Cure series I have ever watched all the way through, and my second favorite, for very good reasons. This is a very good series, and it really needs to be seen by American little girls.
Like the first series, it starts off with two girls who are very different from each other: the cheerful and sporty Saki Hyuuga, and the soft-spoken and artistic Mai Mishou. They actually met once when they were younger, but they separated since then, only reuniting once they enter middle school. But their reunion is quite a strange one: two fairies appear from a big tree in the neighborhood, Flappi and Choppi, claiming to be from a place called The Land of Fountains, which had been taken over by the evil organization called Dark Fall. The fairies give Saki and Mai giant cell phones which transform them into the warriors named Pretty Cure, Saki as Cure Bloom, and Mai as Cure Egret (for those wondering, the word egret is a medieval term used to describe white birds, usually herons, with long, graceful plumes during breeding season. Mai's powers are based on the wind and the sky, so it makes sense). Together, they have to defeat Dark Fall and restore the Land of Fountains back to its original state. But they also have to protect their own world, as Dark Fall won't spare it either, especially since they're also trying to find the elusive Fountain of the Sun, the only fountain they haven't destroyed or claimed yet.
The animation...isn't really much to write home about. There is a lot of movement during the fight scenes, which is good considering the hard hitting attacks Pretty Cure is known for requires a lot of movement, but at times the characters look a bit off model, especially during later episodes. But they're minor, so they don't hurt the show entirely. One reason for this may be that Splash Star made a lot less money on its debut than the original series, probably because people were turned off by the character designs and premise looking way too similar to the original Pretty Cure series before it. No one really knows why Toei made Saki and Mai look so similar to Nagisa and Honoka of the original series, and the most common theory is that they were afraid of potential backlash from the audience that liked Nagisa and Honoka, fearing cries of "Replacement Scrappy!" But whatever the reason, that's still no reason to put off this show or dismiss it as a rip-off of the original series. Again, I haven't seen the first series and its sequel, Max Heart, so I can't properly judge it.
The music, while admittedly not as good or dynamic as later seasons, still manages to be really solid. The music manages to capture the mood, atmosphere, and intents of all of its scenes really well, and nothing feels out of place, unlike some anime (Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, anyone?). I particularly liked the music that played when the Pretty Cures, in their new forms, unleash their final attacks on the monsters of the week, and I consider those pieces to be the high point of the entire OST. Also, the opening is extremely dynamic and catchy. It'll never leave your brain! I certainly liked it, and I don't see why American audiences wouldn't like it either.
The Pretty Cure series is very reliant on character development. Some series do it well, and some...don't. Splash Star does it well. While Saki and Mai may look like rip-offs of Nagisa and Honoka, they're actually very different characters. Saki is cheerful, energetic, and friendly, but can be a little reckless and stubborn at times, Mai is sweet, soft spoken, slightly indecisive, and a little shy, but is very insightful. I personally liked seeing them interact and get along and influence each other throughout the series. Most anime tend to just give a character one trait and that's it. You don't see that in Splash Star. The main characters actually have hobbies and interests. Saki likes sports, but she also likes working in her parents' bakery, and she even tries her hand at drawing, even though she isn't very good. Mai likes drawing, but is also interested in astronomy. They have interesting lives! The other characters, like their family members and classmates, also have a strong presence, and don't just show up for one episode and then be gone forever. They all influence the main characters' growth in some way. I will admit though, I didn't like Michiru and Kaoru much. I always thought they were creepy until the very end of the series.
Unfortunately, however, while the main characters are very well developed, I'm sad to say this isn't the case for the villains. While I appreciate them being intimidating and having some personality, in the end they're still typical, cliche, generic, power hungry villains who want to destroy the world for dumb reasons. Plus I felt there were a bit too many of them. I would have liked to see them be fleshed out some more. Yes, I know, it's a kids show, but that's still no excuse to not develop your villains. Sometimes kids like interesting villains who don't want to destroy the world. But one thing that really makes me respect this series is how realistically it handles its character conflicts. In one episode, Kenta spills a drink on Mai's brother's book, and Saki is extremely angry at him. But both of them know it's an accident, actually apologize to each other right after, and try to find a way to fix it. There's no overblown misunderstanding, no melodrama, no shouting "this has nothing to do with you!", etc. God, I've waited so long for a series to actually make characters understand each other's intentions, actually talk to each other, and be proactive in trying to solve them in the most down to earth way possible! I'm so sick and tired of anime making characters act really stupid and refusing to talk to each other for the sake of drama and padding things out for a really long time just for the sake of spicing things up when all it does is drag it down! Thank you, Splash Star!
Splash Star may not be the best series in the franchise (for me, that honor goes to Heartcatch), but it definitely has a special place in my heart. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch Suite, because I'm enjoying it immensely! And seriously, why can't shows like this be faithfully dubbed in English for American TV? Little girls would love this kind of stuff!