Hugtto! Precure – Episode 16

3 weeks ago 8

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m delighted to be returning to the always-charming and frequently visually dazzling Hugtto! Precure – in fact, I’m even more excited than usual, given just how good Hugtto’s previous episode was. That episode saw Emiru returning in a blaze of glory, teaming up with Lulu to teach her about music and friendship and stuff. Emiru rocketed to the top of my favorite characters within her very first opponent, and pairing her with the ostensibly emotionless Lulu was an inspired choice, as Lulu was able to learn from Emiru’s passion and sensitivity, while Emiru gained a bit of necessary self-confidence from Lulu’s support.

Along with last episode’s rich character chemistry and consistently excellent humor, it was also one of the show’s most visually impressive episodes so far, with Emiru in particular being brought to life through plentiful character acting and goofy expression work. But most importantly, while I was busy raving about last episode on twitter, I received a number of responses telling me to keep on watching through the next episode, since they’re apparently a matching, equally accomplished set of episodes. The wait from there to the point where I actually had the next episode funded was agony, but it’s over now, and we’re all set to dive back into Precure. Let’s see what the sequel to Emiru & Lulu’s Big Day has in store!

Episode 16

A pleasure as always, Hana

Starting off with plenty more energetic low-frame cuts and dynamic camerawork, as the girls’ trip to school is interrupted by a girl flying past on rollerskates, pleading for someone to stop her. This certainly sounds like a job for safety queen Emiru

Lots of high-contrast shots too. Almost fully shaded characters against a glaring white background creates a strong sense of contrast and impact, but that effect diminishes quickly if it’s overused

Aaand apparently one of these girls wants to be Homare’s disciple. The camera cut from Homare’s reaction to a mid-distance shot adds a nice sense of deadpan to this punchline

“Charm the World? Master Homare, So Tough!” Oh my god. So this whole episode will basically be spent teasing Homare for her badass, untouchable aura? Excellent

“This Month’s Hug-It Woman: Kagayaki Homare-san.” Maybe going a bit too far with the hug theming here. I imagine someone would complain if a magazine regularly chose random women for readers to hug in the street

The two new girls have a pretty natural boke-tsukkomi routine, playing off the inherent contrast of the chipper, overenthusiastic girl (complete with messy hair and cardigan tied around her waist) and the proper, rules-oriented girl (complete with carefully done uniform and opaque glasses). I love intelligent character design

I’m also happy just to meet more students at their school. Fleshing out their school’s population is one of the easiest ways to add a sense of solidity to their world, facilitating both an inviting, fully realized atmosphere, as well as a sense of consequences and “something to fight for.” The fully explored classes of Ojamajo Doremi are one of that show’s greatest strengths

Oh no, the genki girl trips and Homare immediately saves her in a dashing, romantic catch. Homare, stop being this effortlessly cool!

Junna is the straight-laced girl, but I don’t think we’ve heard the other’s name

Incredible Junna faces as she retells Homare’s terrifying legacy

The animators clearly had a lot of fun with these two

More wonderfully fluid character acting as the gang head to gym class. I love when they embrace the noodle-limbs of this show’s design, and really let the characters melt in pace with their emotions

So Aki’s the other girl

God, the character acting is so good in this episode! Even at a great distance, there’s so much personality in Junna preparing to catch the ball

And then the actual throw sees Aki pitching it with fiery intensity; more great animation, and ending in a shot that smartly divides the frame into three separate layers via the players, while letting each of them indulge in a different style of amusing hyper-deformed stylization

A pair of shots, first establishing and then right on Homare’s eye, emphasize how she’s lost in thought on the rooftop, setting up a contrast with Aki’s unwanted interruption

Talking about Junna creates a visual space between them emphasized by the layouts, as Aki leans back and Homare disappears from the frame. Then the classic closeup on Aki’s mouth, as she admits her dependence on Junna while the camera hides her eyes

Oh my god, Pupple, the club hostess villain, has now found herself a school uniform. Lulu’s right, Pupple, this shit isn’t gonna work

Lulu’s desire to remain in Hana’s world is symbolized through the fading sunlight, approaching her shoes as she argues with Pupple. This episode is really just operating on another level visually, from its storyboarding to its incredible character animation

More stunning layouts for the moment they leave school, with shots presented so as to emphasize the narrow confines of Junna’s world, and how isolated she feels now that Aki is fighting with her. When Homare comes up to her, she is aligned with the shimmering light of the sun – but Aki protests, and Junna can’t defend herself. This slow, defiant turn back down to her desk is heartbreaking

More excellent animated noodle-people as Hana and Saaya run home in the rain

The way their clothes fall over their limbs is so good! So loose, and yet simultaneously so convincing. Apparently Kodai Watanabe handled both storyboards and AD duties on this episode, so I guess I’ve got a new artist to keep track of

Hana notices the mysterious man from several episodes ago, standing out in a field of azaleas

Junna and Aki end up brought together by the rain, but their argument continues, and they’re still isolated in the frame. The storyboarding work being done here wouldn’t feel out of place in something like Sound! Euphonium; this episode is just operating at an extremely accomplished level in terms of its unity of aesthetic and emotional intent. There’s a reason I tend to get worked up about KyoAni productions; their works generally possess an intelligence and specificity of visual storytelling that is rarely matched within TV productions

More dynamic layouts using distance in the frame in an interesting way, as Homare falls down the slide, and the camera pans up to Lulu at the top. Once again, the thematic intent is elegant and clear – Homare, lost and confused, looks up to the confident yet strangely menacing Lulu

Oh no, Lulu’s stealing their Precure accessories. Don’t do it, Lulu!

In this episode, the Negative Wave comes as the tragic conclusion to a conflict brewing all episode long, as both Junna and Aki are consumed by their resentment. Even in terms of its narrative structure, this episode is weaving both the ongoing conflict with Lulu and the necessity of an episode-ending battle into its central episodic conflict, making for a graceful overarching dramatic structure

And to impress the genuinely horrifying nature of these monsters upon us, the post-ad break scene begins from the perspective of a boy in his car’s backseat, staring up at the impossible monster looming over the bridge. I love how the car alarm goes off in response to the creature’s step, a mundane detail that really helps make this sequence feel realistic and alarming

The use of lighting to illustrate conflict reaches a new peak in this final act, as Lulu hides beneath the bridge, unable to face the sun with her friends

As has essentially become the default assumption for this episode, both the layouts and animation of the battle with this monster are fantastic. There’s an almost violent looseness and fluidity to the movements of both the Cures and the monster, with sparse frames illustrating rough flashes of dramatic movement – as the creature uses its pigtails to attack, we get maybe three to five frames of them surging forward, breaking and reforming their shape

Excellent use of soft focus to emphasize the impact of attacks, too. This really does feel like a KyoAni episode, huh?

Homare’s look of genuine helplessness as she asks Harry what to do is heartbreaking

But Lulu gives her the trinket back! WE’RE ON

Oh my god, these cuts of Homare surfing along a star are so good. What an absurd bounty this episode is

Aw jeez, the reconciliation between Aki and Junna is so nice. It’s quite perceptive of Junna to realize that by “protecting” Aki from her own energetic instincts, she might actually have been holding Aki back from the person she wants to be

And in the aftermath, Lulu takes a blow intended for Hana. SAVE YOUR ROBOT SISTER, HANA!

And Done

Ah jeez, what an ending! What an EPISODE! What an absurdly well-boarded, beautifully animated, perfectly scripted, and just altogether exceptional episode that was! This was not just one of Hugtto’s obvious standouts so far, but an episode that could stand toe-to-toe with the highlights of most anime out there. I think the remarkable layouts, capable of imbuing this story with an incredible sense of both intimate poignancy and larger-than-life thematic resonance, were my own favorite part, but this episode offered so much beyond that, succeeding in every way while still embodying the essence of Precure. What a feast this was, and a remarkable testament to the talent of Kodai Watanabe, as well as the rest of the animators on board. I hope to see his name again soon!

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