On Precure and children’s cartoons

honoka

Years back, when I introduced myself to people, I would say that I love anime, but I prefer the adult stuff. Invariably, some smart guy would ask me if I’m into hentai (or ero anime, to be politically correct), and I’d add that when I say adult, I mean mature. More snickers follow. It’s kinda embarrassing.

Nowadays, I just say I’m into anime.

Lately I’ve been watching the first Pretty Cure show, which is an anime for kids. It’s got an unsophisticated format of wacky episodic hijinks with the occasional smattering of plot (as far as a long-form magical girl anime goes), but the writing and animation go beyond the call of the paycheck. For an anime that spawned an entire franchise, it has some genuinely emotional moments. It feels like the staff cares.

Why would I be watching a cartoon aimed primarily for little girls? That’s the million-dollar question. Friends ask me this all the time, and my answer is always: because it’s good. If something is good, it will find an audience, intended or not.

I’m the minority here. Of course people would ask funny questions. It got me thinking myself–why am I not watching stuff that’s more for my demographic? Surely there are a lot of shows for my age, right? Yeah, but the fact that I’m watching Pretty Cure and not other shows just speaks for its quality. I guess it’s simply because Pretty Cure offers something unique.

Sometimes the reality is such: I’m tired, and the world of adults is being a jerk to me, so why would I watch serious adult shows for serious adults? It is escapism, yes, but I’ve just gone to the world of rainbows and girly toys and insufferable mascots to revisit something in my life: my youth and the untainted ideals I used to have.

honestly_labeled_chocolate

When I was a kid, I wanted to watch the gory, bloody stuff that isn’t legally available for my age. Sometimes I do get to see them, and nobody bats an eyelash. How is this different or strange from me as an adult watching anime made for children? Pretty Cure is about two girls who are vastly different from each other and drawing strength from that fact. It’s also about the common decency in people, of not just standing there and let the bad guys win, because hell, it’s just wrong and we don’t let that sort of thing happen. Even if the magical girl gig is giving you pimples from the lack of sleep. My regular anime diet is the late-night otaku fare, and those have really weird lessons that I’d rather not parse, lest I get arrested.

There is a lesson I learned along the way, and it’s this: “adult” does not necessarily mean “mature”. The two are conflated too often with each other. Maybe a movie is rated for mature audiences only, because of profanity or sex or drugs, but there’s nothing remotely mature about the plot or the characters. Maybe a show is harped up to be deep and philosophical, but it ultimately has the eloquence of a high school student who’s misquoting Nietzsche. Ask yourself, how does a work of fiction hold up if you try to derive something meaningfully adult or mature from it?

This isn’t an attack on the darkness and cynicism that permeate adult-oriented entertainment. A lot of them are good, their reputation well-deserved. The problem is people’s attitudes toward them. Complexity is lauded in favor of simplicity; it’s strictly better. Realism is used as a measuring stick for everything. Cynicism is adulthood and vice versa. Stories are praised for being innovative, nevermind if their narratives fail to meet their own goals. Stories should be judge by themselves, by the goals they set for themselves, and if they meet them or not.

precure_sunset

To those who rag on others who are watching things too “kiddie” for their age: The people who want to be seen as adults are the ones who are childish. They’re caught up with appearances. Strip that away, and they have nothing.

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17 Responses to On Precure and children’s cartoons

  1. Digibro says:

    It’s amusing to see what reads like the average post on MLP come out of an anime fan hehe. Linked some of my MLP homies to it for fun~

  2. omo says:

    I think what you’ve written here goes into the heart of the matter on why I have problems reading 99% of Kill la Kill blogging. It’s like somehow that show is “okay” when every other show like it they would turn their noses at them. I mean, sure, it’s well-produced anime, but the subject matter and content isn’t so different than a lot of the usual late night affairs. When they try to praise Kill la Kill they ended up using exactly those sort of approaches you described here and I just… shake my head.

  3. froggykun says:

    Right on the money with this. Kids’ anime is severely underrated, especially by bloggers. I do get tired of seeing the same “mature” titles being lauded in this circle, even if I do know these titles have obvious merit. There’s something to be said for innocence and simplicity in storytelling, and I’m always up for a good children’s narrative.

    P.S. I don’t watch Precure (because I honestly wouldn’t know where to start with that franchise!) but I am watching Aikatsu, which I’ve heard is popular with the Precure-loving crowd. It’s a good show, with genuine heart.

  4. Murazrai says:

    I don’t watch PreCure because it is too massive for me to catch up, but I wholeheartedly agree with your post. In fact, lots of kids anime have more mature writing than most people would expect from. Then again, it is how we watch anime (and other mediums) that counts, not the literal contents.

  5. HUMPHERY says:

    I watched pretty cure in fact it was my first anime I watched from pretty cure to dokidoki pretty cure but I can’t say I liked it all that well… Oh do u know any good appropriate school life shonen anime. And do u think that detective conan is a kids anime?

    • schneider says:

      From what I’ve seen of Detective Conan, it’s a shounen work, but it’s pretty good if it can keep on going for hundreds of episodes. For an anime with lots of murders, it’s pretty bloodless.

      I don’t really watch shounen romances though, so I can’t recommend anything.

  6. Justin says:

    The first series I thought of was Psycho Pass. It had almost everything the – for lack of a better word – “mature” crowd wanted. It was a dark Sci-fi, cyberpunk setting, the characters were adults, violence/gore/rape, addresses serious themes. But I don’t think it was very good at anything it was trying to do – the characters are really standard and failed any interesting development in what I watched (11 and a half episodes), themes were shoehorned never implied, as a crime procedural it was weak, and I’ve seen easily more captivating and terrifying serial killers in other media. But it was still fairly lauded despite being rather mediocre if that at all.

    • schneider says:

      I thought Psycho Pass was incredibly average with tastelessness thrown in. Thankfully not a whole lot of people liked it. But yeah it’s representative of those adult shows I’m talking about.

      • Justin says:

        I think a good number of people liked it, at least in the anibloggerspehre. It regularly ended up in the top 5 of APR when it was airing.

      • lalunafelis says:

        Psycho Pass is written by Gen Urobuchi aka, the EDGY writer that the EDGY anime crowd practically worships right now. He’s one of those kids that think that nihilism and pointless character sadism is “true art”. Guy should learn a thing or two from Tomino on how to write a grimdark story.

  7. kudosforce says:

    Back when YTV used to air the first Pretty Cure series (remember that?), I watched it and liked what I could afford to see of it. It was like watching Sailor Moon, which is one of the series that introduced me to the medium in the first place. I might explore some more of PreCure someday.

    On the opposite side of demographics, boy-oriented robot shows also usually tend to be good when it comes to simplicity and sensibly-handled lessons, as in the case of the Eldoran and Brave series (well, at least some of the latter, as you know). Incidentally, Da Garn is getting SO CLOSE to being fully-subbed, though I hope Kilowog won’t get too distracted by games.

    That said, I agree with what you said. There’s no shame in that, really.

  8. rockmanshii says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more bro.
    I used to watch the first pretty cure when it was airing, It was around ten years ago so I was around 12, but I stopped watching it after a while for reasons I can’t remember. Maybe it had something to do with me wanting to watch more mature shows like Gundam Seed? Hahaha. Actually, remembering the me from back then who was quite the elitist, this isn’t too far off. I probably also thought stuff like “I’m not gonna watch a Sailor Moon ripoff”. I did keep watching kids shows like Rockman.Exe though. You can’t expect a 12 years old to make sense right!
    I’m still planning to finish it someday. Plus Dokidoki and Smile
    As a side note I actually liked Psycho Pass, it’s one of the best things Urobuchi did with Phantom in my opinion, it was way better than, say, Fate/Zero. Uuurgh Fate/Zero.

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