my friend amanda wrote in a post about the importance and greatness of failure, and how tragically rare it is to see them depicted in media. as she very accurately put it, failure means you tried — you put effort in, you have gained experience, you now have the knowledge that will help you better yourself for the next time. and that should be something to be proud of, not ashamed! especially in media aimed at kids, it’s important to portray the difficulties they will face throughout life, as well as the fact that they will not always be able to perfectly overcome them right away. not everything is going to come easy. and that’s okay. children — and people of all ages, really — need to know that.
so of course i immediately thought about pretty cure.
the franchise, more than anything, celebrates effort. putting your heart into things is what matters. it’s okay not to be the best at them. it’s okay to do things at your own pace, and get better bit by bit. and it’s okay to admit there are some things you just plain can’t do yet.
here are some of my favorite examples from the different seasons!
1. miyuki and mother’s day. all the girls are using their respective talents to make something for their mothers (though also notable is that akane tries her hand at something she doesn’t have a whole lot of talent or experience in, just because she thinks her mom would appreciate it, even if it’s not perfectly made) — but miyuki has no stand-out talent she can name. and so, she decides to help her mother out around the house as much as she can. unfortunately, helping out around the house is not something she has done much before, and it ends up in pretty much complete disaster.
to make up for it, she attempts to make her a necklace, but it comes out rather clumsily made — even so, she rejects the suggestion to use magic to make it prettier, because ‘then it won’t be handmade’. the feelings for her mom she put into it are more important than making it look pretty.
in the end, she feels terrible for her inability to do anything good for her mother, but her mom? her mom’s grateful. because she’s seen how hard her daughter tried for her sake, and her feelings and effort are more important than the dishes she broke trying to wash them, or the coffee she ruined by putting in salt instead of sugar. oh, and she loves the necklace, too. (this is very closely mirrored in yes, as well.)
2. nao and the relay race. the school sports event is coming up, and nao signs up herself and all her friends to do the relay race. most of the episode is dedicated to yayoi’s conflict over it — she knows it’s important to nao they all do this together, but she’s no good at sports, and scared of letting everyone down. but thanks to her friends, she comes to realize it doesn’t matter how good she is at it — what’s important is the experience, going through with it as a team, with each girl doing her best. yayoi practices hard with everyone, and though she hardly becomes a star athlete overnight, she manages to pull her weight in the race.
nao, the fastest racer, is the one to do the final stretch, and she’s able to place them in the lead — until the very last moment, where she trips and falls over, causing them to lose the race. and she is SO UPSET because she feels she put everybody’s efforts to waste, even though she was the one who insisted they do it in the first place… but nobody’s angry with her. nobody’s disappointed in her. instead, they’re glad. they are crying tears of joy. because in the first place they all set out to do it together, and they accomplished that perfectly. it was never about winning or losing at all. and just look at all her friends hugging her and bawling and telling her how great she is with all her other classmates joining in in excitement and pride. gosh.
3. bukki and chiffon’s illness. in the early part of the series, the girls all get their powerups by bonding with chiffon, the magic fairy mascot, in a way that involves facing a personal challenge head-on. love has to learn some responsibility where her carefree scatterbrainedness causes chiffon to run out of special magic fairy food; miki has to learn to prioritize compassion and caring over businessmindedness and personal interest. bukki, on the other hand, is faced with something different, heavier: chiffon falls ill, and bukki, the aspiring vet, is the only one left to try and take care of her.
and she tries. she tries so hard. she stays up all night, slaving over medical textbooks, desperately searching for the cause of chiffon’s suffering. and ultimately, she can’t find it. the only thing she has to offer her is unyielding love and support, along with sincere regret for her lack of ability.
and you know what? she gets her powerup anyway. because she is a fourteen year old whose only experience comes from watching her parents, of course she’s not going to be able to pull off a vet’s job. you can’t expect that from her. it’s bukki’s love and concern for chiffon, and her complete dedication to trying to help her, that earns her her powerup. because that’s what’s important. because no matter how strongly you care, that isn’t going to make you capable of accomplishing the impossible — and that’s okay. nobody’s expecting you to. the fact that you care is more than enough.
(and for the record, chiffon ends up okay. turns out it’s constipation, which, by the way, bukki handles like a stone-cold pro.)
4. nozomi and studying. nozomi is not good at studying. it’s not because she’s lazy — she just doesn’t have the talent for it. her friends initially mistake it for laziness, make fun of her for it, and try to force her to study against her will, and nozomi gets hurt and runs away. the show makes it very clear that that is NOT the way to treat someone who has a hard time studying, and that it’s wrong to assume the only reason you could be bad at something is because you didn’t try hard enough. nozomi is never going to be a straight-a student; she has a lot of great points, and studying is simply not one of them. that’s okay.
though, nozomi has, over the years, more or less given up on studying completely. by retreating into the mindset that it’s too hard and she can’t do it, she fell into an endless series of failing grades. and while nozomi’s not great at studying, she can do better than that. and with her friends supporting and encouraging her the right way, she tries to put in effort into her studies again, and does improve. it’s a slow process, and again, it’s never going to be something she’s perfect at — but each and every bit of progress she makes is celebrated.
when she gets her first passing grade by an entire point, she’s congratulated for it, because even if by other people’s standards it might not look like a good grade, to her, it’s a major, significant improvement. and near the end of the series, she gets a 72, which is a huge deal, and not just to her — look at how happy and proud coco (who is also her homeroom teacher) is!
5. hibiki, kanade and second place. an entire episode of suite is dedicated to hibiki and kanade participating in contests in their respective fields of interest — piano playing for hibiki, and cake baking for kanade. this is a very big deal to them. it is a step towards realizing their dreams! and to hibiki in particular, it’s also a source of no small amount of anxiety; her father, a world-famous conductor, is one of the judges. she trusts him to be objective, of course — the problem is that she looks up to him and values his opinion so much that she just knows she’ll be too nervous to play the way she should. she struggles with it for a long time, before finally deciding to enter the contest anyway. both she and kanade give it their all, and in the end? win second place.
and fucking look at their faces. they are over the moon! no, they are not the absolute best. but they are good, and they got recognized for it, and they used their talents to make people happy. that’s all they need. this happens on numerous occasions in the franchise — when komachi sends in her story for a contest, and when yayoi sends in her manga for one, neither win, but receive an honorable mention. and when they say it, there’s no disappointment in their voices. they’re happy their hard work got this recognition! they don’t expect their first attempt at a complete work to be a flawless masterpiece, but to them, it’s confirmation that they DO have the talent and potential, and that from here, they can only grow and get even better.
seriously, i feel every person owes it to themselves to watch at least one season of precure at some point in their lives. it’s okay if you’ve missed your chance of watching it as a child — even as an adult, i’m constantly amazed by and grateful for all the really wonderful messages it sends. i really can’t think of many shows like it.