Bitter-Suite Symphony: Suite PreCure Review
Synopsis: the magical musical world of Major Land is threatened by Mephisto, the ruler of Minor Land, when he steals the Legendary Score containing the Melody of Happiness. Before he gets a chance to transform it into the Melody of Sorrow, Major Land’s queen, Aphrodite, scatters the score’s notes and sends them to Kanon Town, back on Earth. She sends the melody’s songstress, Hummy, to Kanon Town to not only find the notes, but the Legendary PreCure as well.
Unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which I’ve described before as a series about magical girls, Suite PreCure is, for all its successes and failures, a magical girl show at heart. Just a mere mention of that, combined with the fact that it’s part of a storied Pretty Cure franchise, is more than enough to convince most fans of the genre to give it a shot. Suite PreCure is a unique musical spin on the Pretty Cure magical girl concept, and incorporates musical motifs, both visually and thematically, in the most straightforward, yet effective way. Despite its great soundtrack and somewhat likeable characters, the show in itself is as average as it gets for PreCure.
The musical aspect of Suite is its greatest strength. Everything from the theme to the setting of Kanon Town and Major Land, takes some sort of visual or audio cue from the whole idea of music. The main conflict, for instance, while as basic as good versus evil can get, uses a straightforward connection to music; good is associated with the major scale, while evil is associated with the minor scale. It’s remarkably simple, but when layered with further nuances such as the series’ macguffin, the Legendary Score, can be manipulated to create either the melody of happiness or sadness, which are both compositionally similar, except for the scale in which it is played. The variance is remarkably simple, yet fascinatingly crafted.
Tied closely to the motif of music is the main cast of the legendary PreCure, which consists of Hibiki Hojo (Cure Melody), Kanade Minamino (Cure Rhythm), Ellen (Cure Beat), and Ako Shirabe (Cure Muse). The series starts off only revealing the first two PreCure, Cures Melody and Rhythm, and gradually introduces the other two later on in the story. Hibiki and Kanade’s relationship with each other is a lot closer than other recent series such as HeartCatch and Fresh, as indicated by their polar opposites as well as their identities as Cure Rhythm and Cure Melody. The ties to musical naming are closely related and well-executed; as rhythm and melody are the two main components of music itself, Hibiki and Kanade’s friendship is the driving force behind their powers as precure.
There’s a bit of a problem with cast dynamics when the other cure join in, however, since the duality of melody and rhythm is somewhat lost along the way. There’s nothing wrong in defining characters mainly by their relationship with each other instead of individually, but with the addition of the other cures prevent this idea of partner-based PreCure power (a concept that is more prominent in earlier iterations of the franchise) from becoming more important than it ended up being. Nonetheless, the other two main characters, Ellen and Ako, both have their own individual backstories, as well as their own strong personalities, that they are individually more interesting than either of the two main Cures. Ellen’s addition to the Cure cast takes on the same dynamic as other past cures who joined their respective casts under similar circumstances, but in Ellen’s case, her newfound role in the group as Cure Beat helps energize the cast going forward; her Cure name is aptly named as a result.
Ako is the youngest character in the Pretty Cure universe to become a PreCure. In the same vein that Yuri became the oldest Cure as Cure Moonlight in HeartCatch, Ako’s connection to the cure as Cure Muse runs throughout the show, but never solidifies until toward the end, when the trio finally needs her. She is distant, and has her own tragic backstory much like Yuri, but unlike her HeartCatch counterpart, Muse doesn’t fit as well with the other Cure due to the age difference; as a result, it’s much harder to be a junior member than it is to be a senior, like Moonlight.
Character dynamics issues aside, the plot is straightforward, with the formulaic monster-of-the-week approach that all Pretty Cure series take. It’s a difficult slog for people who aren’t part of the fandom, as they will definitely drop the show out of frustration surprisingly early on in the series. Even for PreCure fans, there’s a sense of being spoiled by the greatness that was Heartcatch that leaves the approach that Suite takes with its writing as something to be desired.
Individual stories don’t have as much emotional pull, the animation isn’t as fluid as its predecessor, and the villains that are introduced aren’t threatening at the least; in particular, the goofy henchmen group known as Trio the Minor, are not only overbearingly incompetent, but are also wildly annoying with their constant out-of-tune musical flourishing of dialogue, which seems to happen every third or fourth line. Mainly, the show has a serious problem with overusing the heel-face-turn trope, making the actual defection of some of the antagonists have a lot less impact than it should have.
As a result of this series-long struggle to maintain some sort of standard of excellence as a PreCure show, the final climax is not as impactful as other iterations of the franchise, not just HeartCatch. The Cures’ eleventh hour superpower in the final episodes didn’t feel like a real bump in power level, since the associated transformation sequences and designs didn’t feel like a radical step from the norm. It certainly didn’t live up to the action sequences that preceded it, which were very well-done compared to everything else leading up to the final arc of the show. At the end of the day, I’m a bit disappointed that the show couldn’t live up to its premise, yet still disappointed that it had to end at all.
Despite all of the show’s shortcomings, Suite PreCure rides on its greatest strength throughout the entire series: its soundtrack. As a show that is primarily tied to music, it only makes sense that the soundtrack needs to be a reflection of its importance. As such, Yasuharu Takanashi’s compositions in Suite are his best since Fairy Tail and Mononoke, and are easily the best in any PreCure show to date. He takes the hot-bloodedness that is trademark of traditional PreCure music, and infuses it with orchestral sounds, creating a symphonic rock collection that simply has no rival, even compared to mainstream bands in the genre.
Yasuharu’s greatest piece in the show is easily the music for the PreCure’s transformation, Let’s Play! PreCure Modulation!. Transformation is empowerment, and the arrangement is powered by choir shots and flourishing bass. The energy comes from the shredding of electric guitar, driving the rest of the orchestration. When the string melody kicks in, woodwind instruments playfully mingle for a pleasant, exciting sound. The final fanfare blares out gloriously with the girls announcing their entrance as Suite PreCure. Let’s Play is the best transformation music written in years, if not of all time.
Suite PreCure has the unfortunate distinction as the show that failed to live up to the accolades that were garnered by HeartCatch PreCure. HeartCatch, in all of its accomplishments, is a remarkably tough act to follow, and Suite PreCure held its own with its unique musical theme and fantastic soundtrack. Despite its straightforward approach to weekly episodes, it rides on its strengths throughout its entire run, making it a show that is not only watchable in its own right, but highly enjoyable to those who appreciate music in general. Suite PreCure is a mixed bag, but there’s enough good in there to overlook the bad, especially if you’re a fan of the series. It’s definitely worth watching, and especially worth listening to.