Hugtto! Precure – Episode 22

1 month ago 17

Hello all, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m happy to announce we’re returning to Hugtto! Precure, though frankly, I’m a little intimidated by the kind of episode we’ve presumably got coming. Apparently the franchise is celebrating its ten year anniversary, which in practical terms means the original Pretty Cure have just popped out of the sky, ready to celebrate their formidable legacy. Unfortunately, I haven’t actually watched any of that legacy, so I’d ask you all to please bear with me, as I’ll likely be out of my depth for any major callbacks to earlier seasons. That said, given this franchise’s general focus on accessibility, I’m sure there’ll be plenty to enjoy even for the more recent Cureheads in the audience. Let’s check in with the Precures of Old, and learn what wisdom we can glean from their vast Precure knowledge!

Episode 22

Emiru and Lulu handle the introduction this time, and are doing very well until Emiru watches her guitar get destroyed a second time. Nice, playful use of this segment’s authorial separation from the actual drama, as if they’re commenting on a rerun of their own life story

It’s interesting to see that the initial Precure costumes are a lot more similar to each other than the current incarnations. I presume as a brand like this gains momentum, it becomes less essential to maintain a clear look that defines it among its competitors

Hair personality distribution still seems clear, though: we’ve got the orange-haired sporty one, and presumably the reserved or academic blue-haired one

Oh my god, Emiru is still just totally preoccupied with getting a melody sword. She is so good

They are strongly playing into how Hana and the original orange-haired Precure basically have the exact same sense of manic, oblivious energy. I guess all Precure teams need a wildly dubious leader

“A Song of Love For Two! Twin Love Guitar!” Even in the midst of its anniversary special, Hugtto can’t help but fawn over Lulu and Emiru. Are they and the original Precure going to go on a guitar-based double date?

Yeah, we check back in with the original two briefly, but then it’s right back to Emiru’s broken guitar

Lulu’s concern for Emiru actually creates a bit of conflict all on its own; she’s concerned that Emiru is disregarding the guitar, because she cannot pick up on the subtle clues indicating that Emiru is lying for her own sake. Natural emergent drama, building from the inherent friction of Lulu’s limited experience with human emotions, and Emiru’s inability to articulate how she truly feels

After Emiru storms out, the others explain her behavior to Lulu. I appreciate all their support in helping this friendship along

Oh my god, Hugtan’s little “yosh, yosh” for Emiru. What a good baby

The original Precure each offer Emiru and Lulu a variation on the same advice: be honest with the people you love. Sometimes you’ll fight, but that’s okay; that’s part of a truly close relationship

I appreciate that rather than taking over the program and focusing on nostalgia, the two original Precure are instead being used to facilitate Hugtto’s own priorities

Also nice that Emiru expresses her feelings in this simple, approachable way, by stapling this bracelet together. While a grand gesture would be nice, a choice like this tells the audience that simply giving a gift to express your feelings is the important thing, not the grandiosity of that present

…and of course, the moment I type that, we see Lulu is building a goddamn guitar with her bare hands

Driven to the brink of despair, Popple announces that “I still have that person.” She cracks the door on a room lit by soft, majestic sunlight, with a billowing bed canopy completing the ethereal image. This imagery clearly echoes the times that mystery man has appeared – and on cue, his profile appears through the curtain, only to be replaced by a massive crane

The figure on the bed tells the story of the Crane Wife, a crane that became a woman, married a poor man, and was forced by him to weave beautiful garments. But when Popple pulls back the curtain, it’s her successor sitting on the bed. The implication seems to be that Popple has been replaced, even by the one man she thought she could rely on – that she was only ever a tool, and now her usefulness has run out. Alternately, the mystery man himself could be the crane, a false idol they’re pinning all their hopes on

Ooh, lovely seaside establishing shot here

“When you don’t understand me, it makes me feel awful!” Emiru actually appreciates Lulu’s straightforward nature, as it compliments her generally rigid sense of the world – but when it comes to her own feelings, she’s incapable of expressing herself clearly, and feels isolated by Lulu’s inability to parse her intent. You could call that hypocrisy, but it’s more like humanity; none of us are perfect avatars of our ideals, and all of us struggle with the inflexibility and selfishness of our feelings

“I can replace a guitar. But how could I ever replace you?” FIRE lines by Emiru

Alright, now we get the callbacks, as this event apparently mirrored a conflict between the original Precure

Their unconditional love is cruelly contrasted against Popple’s feelings, as she walks towards the rooftop, hoping all along the way that he’ll call to her and tell her to come back

And so, in despair, Popple follows the path of the first villain, and turns herself into a monster. Once again, I thoroughly appreciate the sadness of this series’ villains; with the villain framed as corporate indifference, it’s easy to see how they are victims as well

Oh my god, with five transformations now there is so much bank footage. Just like two straight minutes of transformations and title announcements

But at last, they’re able to conclude on a five-member pose. IT WAS ALL WORTH IT

Hugtto immediately apologizes for all that bank footage with a glorious sequence of Precure attacks, as the camera spins along with Popple’s movement, emphasizing the sense of the Precure as a swarm of enemies that are constantly disorienting her

Popple’s attacks are also lovingly executed. Some great effects animation here, with strong smoke cuts, though the post-processing feels perhaps a tad overbearing

Holy shit, the animation of the originals, though! First of all, the smoke animation for Cure Black’s landing here is just preposterously fluid, and creates an absurd sense of theater as the two announce themselves. But more importantly, it seems like the two of them are actually animated in a different style from the others, fitting with their distinct character designs. A stronger focus on the eye and lighting highlights, with a pose-to-pose style of movement, and color work that makes them almost look like classic cel animation

Meanwhile, their fighting style reflects a decade of parental complaints presumably moving the Precure away from more direct combat. Black and White fight like demons, kicking and punching the shit out of this monster. These cuts of battle animation could have come from a DBZ highlight reel, and I love the frantic pacing and close-up intensity of Black and Popple repeatedly slugging each other

GodDAMN. Incredible mix of smear-heavy distortion and impactful body choreography here, providing the dramatic benefits of both impressionistic and realistic fight animation

I also like the clear professionalism of the original two – their experience is reflected in their incredible synergy, with no hesitation or wasted movements

Lulu recognizes Popple as her former supervisor breaks down in tears

“Her cries of grief resonate deep inside me. Please let me go to her!” As Emiru learns to be more honest about her feelings, so is Lulu learning to understand the feelings of others without requiring an explanation. A neat bow on this episode’s emotional conflict

Popple’s interior world is a sterile grey, with no scenery, only her in tears on the floor. As ever, Hugtto’s ultimate fear is stasis – that you will languish forever in one place, never growing or changing

Popple doesn’t want their support, and lashes out as they tell her she still has a future. How could they understand her?

“You love someone so much that your pain is this agonizing! There is no lie in that!” Aww, this is so, so good. Having grown so much in such a short time, Lulu is now able to provide the role that Hana provided for her, and assure Popple that her feelings are real and valid

“If you can just hold that love in your heart, one day it will reach someone.” Framing Precure’s usual declarations around an adult character like Popple just makes them hit all that much harder. Her love has been in vain for a long, long time

I’m so glad Popple got her redemption moment. She’s been one of my favorite characters in this show, and clearly not someone who’s personally attached to the Criasu Corp mission. Like many people, she was just lonely enough to embrace whatever love or purpose she could find

And now we even get a goddamn guitar duet with the two of them. This episode is extremely generous!

At last, Hugtan activates her Baby Powers, sending the original Precure home

Hugtan admits she just brought them here because she loves crossover episodes. “Pwekya! Pwa!”

And Done

Ahahaha, sure, just hand us even more delightful Lulu-Emiru episodes. In spite of the original Precures’ presence here, I apparently had little reason to worry about following the drama; this was still the Hugtto we all know so well, complete with its clear bias towards the Emiru-Lulu pair. Their conflict here felt natural and well-executed, but to be honest, I was most touched by Popple’s material. She’s always possessed a hint of desperation in her behavior, and watching her self-destruct as she realized she wasn’t truly loved was a genuinely painful experience. She’s felt sympathetic enough that I was really hoping she’d get some kind of happy ending, and our twin guitarists offered her a poignant redemption, ending on the hopeful but weary “perhaps, one more try.” A terrific sendoff for one of Hugtto’s most compelling characters!

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.

Read Entire Article