Hugtto! Precure – Episode 17

1 month ago 12

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. We’ve been enjoying an absurd slate of top-tier Precure episodes lately, and today I’m eager to get back to the story. Both the Lulu-Emiru episode and the subsequent Junna-Aki followup stand among the greatest of Hugtto’s accomplishments, featuring remarkably expressive animation, dynamic storyboards, and some of the most endearing, impactful writing of the series so far. The unique back-and-forth of Lulu and Emiru’s unsteady friendship, the vivid cinematography of Junna and Aki’s falling out, the absurd highlights of both episode’s concluding battles; Hugtto’s been an embarrassment of riches lately, and I’m happy to fully understand why my friends love this show so much.

With all that said, my understanding from fans of the show is that things are going to settle back down a bit now, as the production only has so many all-star storyboarders and key animators. Fortunately, even if we’re not in for another aesthetic spectacle on the level of the last two, this episode has something else in its favor: an urgent cascade of narrative continuity. Both Lulu’s cover and true feelings have been exposed, and if Hana and her friends are going to help her, they might have to go on the offensive against Criasu Corp for the very first time. Let’s continue the story of their charming robot friend, as we ramble through one more episode of Hugtto Precure!

Episode 17

You know things are serious when we skip the Hana-led cold open; instead, we open on a pan up Criasu Corp, carrying us right back into the ongoing drama

Pupple’s status report offers a tidy opportunity to summarize the ongoing drama. And frankly, divorcing Lulu’s collapse from the original sound design makes it seem even more eerie, as the life extinguishes from her body and she falls without a sound

Really strong character art for Pupple and her superior here. The uneven linework of their faces, the dramatic use of shadow on Pupple, the distinctive expressions – it seems like the episode’s animation director Ken Ueno did a particularly strong job

Even some delicate finger animation. This is a surprisingly generous scene, considering it’s largely exposition

Now they’re “deleting her extraneous data.” Watching her day with Emiru fade to white is a real knife in the heart

“Perhaps we should swap her program for a battle protocol.” Welp, I can see where this is going. Time for some Symphogear-style communication through fists!

“The Noise of Sadness… Goodbye, Lulu.” YOU STOP THAT SHIT, EPISODE TITLE

Our trio want to rush off to save Lulu, but Harry recognizes that she was a spy

“She didn’t deceive us, and that’s final!” Oh Hana. The striking expressions continue through this scene; the lines of their face feel a little more crisp and realistic than usual, and this shot aiming up at their argument neatly plays up the contrast in their facial structures, which mirror their roles in this argument. Harry is essentially arguing chin-first, which creates a subtle but tangible undertone of aggression

Fortunately, Hugtan is here to insist that everyone play nice. Her vocabulary is expanding just fast enough to hold this team together

A whole lot of delicate hands in this episode, too. Just really strong, detailed character art in general

Harry seems suspiciously defensive regarding how much he knows about Criasu Corp

Lulu’s future is an “errorless, correct world,” where people seem to live in content but motionless stasis. A fair contrast to Hana and the show’s “you can do or become anything” ethos

Aw shit, Lulu’s already broken out in her mech suit

“You’ll take care of this, Pupple. You initiated her adjustments, after all.” Criasu Corp is making a consistent point of emphasizing the diffusion of responsibility across a corporate bureaucracy – with both the first antagonist and now these two, the emphasis is frequently on “how can I avoid getting blamed for failure.” They have no positive motivation – their ultimate ideal is perpetual stasis, so all they’re really trying to do is avoid getting in trouble, not genuinely shine

Oh my god, Harry is carting Hugtan around in a tiny carriage behind him. Why would they do this. It’s so inefficient, it’s so adorable

I appreciate that Lulu’s robot maintains her distinct hairstyle

Just realized the climbing wall at this park is the same one from the Homare figure skating episode a while back. Nice bit of visual continuity there

This battle is certainly more restrained than the last two episodes, and mostly conveyed through a series of panning stills. That’s not too big a deal for a fight like this, though – the battle itself has little dramatic significance, it’s just the preamble to them attempting to emotionally reconnect with Lulu. Anime production is a system of tradeoffs, and knowing which scenes need fluidity to convey their emotional intent (like those vivid cuts of Lulu collapsing in a heap) is a crucial directorial skill

Pupple immediately reveals that she’s stolen Lulu’s memories

Pupple deleted “everything except their battle data.” There’s an opening there, then – originally, Lulu was never able to parse why Hana was a Precure, because her physical stats were so mediocre. Pupple has deleted Lulu’s happy memories of Hana, and with them her ability to stop underestimating her – if Hana makes another emotional entreaty to Lulu, Lulu will have no data on how to handle it

Yep. She’s already dismissing Yell’s abilities

Now THERE’s a gorgeous cut. Lulu chases them around the park with a laser, sending dust rocketing into the air all around them. Terrific sense of speed in this cut, and I love how they have the Precure flash by the screen at the end, creating a sense of depth and again emphasizing just how quickly this is all occurring

Oh shit, Emiru spots the battle in the distance! Is Emiru going to be the one to reawaken Lulu’s sense of self? COULD THE WORLD REALLY BE THAT GENEROUS!?!

Lulu seeks “more data,” but can’t help but intertwine that with remembering how she got to know them

Oh my god, it’s so good. Lulu struggles under the weight of recollection as Emiru rushes towards the park, unwittingly on the way to strike the final blow

Lulu’s arc is such a wonderful twist on this show’s core themes. Obviously “you can be anything you want to be” has special resonance for an android fighting against their programming, but I appreciate how her story is not about her career path or larger aspirations – it’s about choosing her values, and choosing who she embraces as her family. Hana’s encouragement and faith in her has allowed Lulu to imagine a vastly different version of herself. She does not need to live by the static certainty that is the ultimate ideal of her past; she can grow, and choose her own ideals

She’s back, but it looks like they may have built in some automatic kill switch in the case she changed sides again. EMIRU DO YOUR THING

The closer she comes to embracing her feelings, the more it hurts

“I told you to stay back!” “There’s no way!” Even with Lulu’s returned memories, she’s still underestimating Hana’s strength. You’re part of her family now Lulu, there’s no way she won’t support you!

Homare’s ability carries Hana into Lulu’s tornado, resulting in a scene that visually mirrors the first time Hana’s concern actually reached Lulu, down to the billowing flowers and saturated lighting

Lulu blames herself, and throws all of the ways she wronged Hana in her face. She wants to be condemned for what she did

“Why do you keep trying to forgive me?” Goddamn this episode is good

Yeah, it’s much easier for Lulu to just hold onto the certainty of her still, static world. Taking responsibility for your own destiny is frightening, and acknowledging your unhappiness is painful. But Hana’s not gonna let her get away with it!

And at last, Lulu lets it all go, and breaks down in sobs. Living is painful, but it’s worth it

Aaaaah, what a good “tadaima” ending. THIS CAST IS SO GOOD

And Done

Yesssss, that was such a satisfying episode! I can see why it isn’t bundled together with the last two, as it can’t really match their directorial and animation highlights, but in terms of character work, this was a terrific resolution to Lulu’s story. A good third of this series so far has been dedicated to her slow, delicate journey from complete servitude, to bawling on the ground because she’s so overwhelmed with love for her friends. This episode served as a perfect capstone to that journey, pulling both the visual and narrative threads of Lulu’s arc together, and climaxing with a moment of sincere vulnerability that embodied everything this show stands for. My only quasi-complaint is that Emiru wasn’t involved in Lulu’s conversion, but there’s plenty of time to bring her in next episode!

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