Scoreboard:

Scoreboard

B+
Story
90%
Characters
88%
Art
86%
Animation
80%
Sound
78%
Overall
85%
ProsCons
One of the best written of the PreCure series with very engaging characters and excellent world building, especially of the Magic Realm.The fact that it IS well written - people used to other series of the franchise could easily give up on the series and miss out as a result.

Review:

It was already a little less than one year ago that I watched the first episodes of Mahou tsukai PreCure and was absolutely delighted. To be honest I had already been rather predisposed towards some aspects of the series (particularly Yui Horie being the VA of one of the PreCure) but it was the world building first and foremost that took me by surprise, together with the series going down new paths and going outside of the normal patterns while retaining some of the broadest outlines of other works of the franchise. I stuck with the series very closely and continued to be amazed.

So after much mulling and discussion with other PreCure followers I finally decided to try my hand at the first series review on the site here (err, as far as I am aware of) of a PreCure series. So I hope you all will excuse me if I sound nervous, because in some ways I feel like I am trailblazing into new territory for the site here. Before launching into the review proper, I should make a note: I assembled the First Look post for the series back in February of last year I went into a fair amount of detail regarding the “Mahou Shoujo” genre in general and the PreCure franchise in particular. For those unfamiliar with the PreCure franchise I would definitely encourage them to read that post.

This review is definitely one that was tricky for me to know where to begin writing, partly because the PreCure franchise is so large and is such a lengthy, ongoing, successful franchise. It is quite big in Japan, but the argument could be made that it is a bit of a niche franchise, and that definitely holds true for those who follow and watch it outside of Japan proper. In some ways it is so large that I feel tricky in terms of grading the series, because to my mind I find myself comparing it BOTH to anime in general AND as it measures up to the other twelve seasons of different PreCure stories that came before it (each about a year in length, by the way – 48 episodes worth).

With all that in mind, though, let me just state outright at the beginning that overall for me Mahou tsukai is probably among the top three of the PreCure seasons that I enjoy (with the top seat probably going to HeartCatch PreCure). Yes, it was that good. But in other ways, it’s strengths were also it’s weaknesses. It had a very careful and even skillful manner of telling the story, but it was actually rather … subtle … and easy to misinterpret. When the “big reveal” came about (in episode 43 or so) I was … well … really surprised and even a little … blown away. It hit me so intensely that I literally went back to the beginning and steamrolled the entire series again up to that point. And boy – had I ever missed the forest for the trees!

When reviewing any series one of the most important areas to consider are the effectiveness of the main characters. If you don’t care two hoots about any of them or the manner of their presentation falls flat or fake or is a simple failure, why bother? Fortunately in this case the two main leads (Cure Miracle and Cure Magical) are both very, very engaging leads with very good VA work behind them and their character dynamic, growth, struggles, weaknesses, strengths and interaction are pretty much both consistent, convincing and even endearing. I found myself really enjoying their onscreen presence and following their adventures and battles. In some ways it could be argued that PreCure series that have their main initial focus in a duo have an extra bonus of trading off involved and detailed character interaction (and possibly humor as well) with a more focused gaze on the detailed development of the leads proper – both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses in my opinion, which largely means that the execution of the interactions becomes a very important factor.

And in that respect Miracle and Magical succeed wonderfully. When Haa is eventually introduced (using a method of presentation I do not really recall in any other PreCure series offhand) she becomes a curious addition. In some ways she very quickly is shown to be by far the most powerful of the now Trio of PreCures, but at the same time she is definitely (and curiously – no pun intended by the way) the less strong of them all in terms of personality strength. The thing is, though, that there is a very good reason for it in the overall framework of the series, and it never really feels “out of place” in a way. At most one feels a nagging “something” at the back of one’s mind that there is something else going on and that the viewers do not have a complete picture yet … a dim sensibility that proves true much later on.

After the main characters comes the world setting and building. And here … HERE is yet another area that Mahou tsukai just excels. What they did in this series really does not have a precedent elsewhere. Much of the initial story takes place in … another world. And it is not just some vague “other world” – it is surprisingly and extensively developed: towns, cultures and all variety of  magical beings – like mermaids, pegasi, intelligent sea creatures, fairies, normal plants and animals and magical plants and animals, etc., etc. The magical world is largely water based, it seems, and is dotted with islands – normal ones as well as islands floating in the air.

And there is also a clear sense of history and the past – some of the inhabitants have literally lived several millennia and are still perky and extraordinarily clear-thinking – and there are extensive records as well. That is not to say that other PreCure series have NOT had developed alternate worlds or the like … what is different here is the detail, the variety, and the degree to which traveling and exploring therein was considered normal (not to mention that one of the PreCure grew up there). And sure enough, all this later on proves to actually be very important and integral to the storyline.

Side by side with the world building was the sheer creativity and number of the characters … and the characters not only in the magical world, but also in the “mundane world”. Here we are not only talking about the “good guys”, or those close to or acquainted with the PreCure; we are also referring to the variety of the foes the PreCure encounter. Incidentally the VA work of the various other inhabitants of both worlds was also quite well done, I thought – this was one of the rare PreCure series where the “mascot” did not irritate me (don’t even get me started on the fairy mascot Candy from Smile PreCure -_- ).

In addition, for good measure we also have the main PreCure duo having five main transformations by the end of the series, each with their own strengths, as well as another set of special attacking or defending powers available to them. Once again the PreCure franchise is not a stranger to the PreCure having multiple abilities or the like, but in Mahou tsukai it all fit very well together, both in terms of there being a very clear and even historically precedented reference point in the setting (and the story) but also in my opinion in terms of (once again) simple execution overall. I never felt like any of their abilities “did not fit” or “stuck out like a sore thumb”. Once again here the creativity and execution just WORKED for me.

Finally there are the PreCure foes. There were two sets of them in this one, with the second “batch” being by far the more dangerous. For my personal taste I find myself enjoying PreCure series where the opponents are really, really dangerous; a classic example of this would be Pierrot (again, from Smile PreCure). In some ways I still think he is the “scariest” of any PreCure “final boss”, and the final fight with him (it?) was definitely “srsbzns” and really had me on the edge of my seat. But the “final boss” in Mahou tsukai definitely gives him a run for his money in terms of raw power. Talking about this aspect of the series is actually kinda of difficult to write about without spoiling things!

Hmm … well, all that being said this series is one of the few of the PreCure franchise (maybe the only one?) where … how shall I say this … the story itself gives opportunity to “fight raw power with equally raw power”, and does so quite early on, but in subtle and slow ways building up to that point? (Gah! So difficult! XD ) Accolades should also be given to the intricacy and detail of the two different groups that were the opponents of the PreCure in the sense of how intricately they related to each other, again, based on the details historical records and world building presented in a very effective and patient way. Yes – this “final boss” FELT like a real, serious and legitimate threat, and felt like it from the very moment it was first introduced.

The technical aspects of the series itself were at best only good in my opinion. While the story writing, world building and character development were definitely the biggest plusses of the series, the animation quality and the sound (by which I mean both the soundtrack/background music, the OPs and the EDs) were only somewhere between “pretty good” and “decent” to “only okay” at the lowest – particularly ED2 … so much of it felt like it did not fit with the rest of the series to me. The animation quality was actually not as bad as all that, but after the several example of downright amazing animation sequences in the previous PreCure series (Go! Princess PreCure) when Cure Flora was engaged in serious fisticuffs – she was a true bruiser/brickbat sort – I guess my expectations might have been a bit high. That being said, while the animation was pretty good on the whole, the art itself was quite nice much of the time, and effectively helped bring the unexpected creativity of the setting to life.

On the whole I have very little else to criticize regarding this series. I thought it was really, really well done. The writing was superb, the characters pulled you in, the world building was lavish and brightly creative, the scale of the conflict was equally downright pleasing. I hesitated a bit going back and forth between whether I should grade this series a B or a B+, but in the end when I thought more extensively about how I would grade my favorite series of this franchise and saw myself tending to somewhere between a B+ and A- … a B+ grading seemed the closer reflection of the degree to which I enjoyed the series as a whole. ^^

A fond farewell to one of the better PreCure ensembles I have come across. ^^

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About

Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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  • FlareKnight

    In the end a darn good show. Can’t say much from a limited point of view. But easily the best PreCure series I’ve seen period. Great job on the review for Mahou Tsukai.

    The story held up really well and it was an impressive job that Mahou Tsukai did at making all the pieces fit. Some things only truly made sense after time had passed and more information was brought to light. Things that were curious ended up being a really smart move. You can feel that they planned out the story and knew where everything was going.

    And it was nice just on the character side of it. It started out as a duo that eventually turned into a trio. But they made sure the main characters all felt part of the story. This wasn’t a show where the main character of that group simply outshined the others and got almost all of the character moments. Mirai as a character was crucial to the development of the others around her, but it was more of setting an example or being a spark. The story wasn’t all about her.

    And that’s good since it allowed a lot of character development for Riko especially. She got all sorts of chances to grow and mature. It wasn’t just a one character episode and she was done situation, but an overall story arc. It was just a likable group. Mirai was a really enjoyable character, Riko was enjoyable, and you can just add in the others. Heck even the mascot of the show was actually likable. Mofurun was a living stuffed animal, but had some good character moments and was never annoying. That’s pretty good.

    What this show really nailed was key emotional scenes. Because the characters were so good and because the story held up so well those moments truly shined. When they dropped those scenes it worked because the viewer cared.

    Visuals and animation were solid. They weren’t spectacular, but also they managed to avoid any serious low points.

    In the end Mahou Tsukai PreCure did a great job. A strong start, a good middle, and it managed to end on a very solid note. This group will be missed and will be hard to be the next show following up this one. Adios Mahou Tsukai, you did good. Easily an 8/10 or A- show for me. It has made for an interesting year no doubt.

  • Flower

    “What this show really nailed was key emotional scenes. Because the characters were so good and because the story held up so well those moments truly shined. When they dropped those scenes it worked because the viewer cared.”

    Well said … I also felt this – kudos to the excellent work on that front from the writers and studio.

    One thing I did fail to mention is how the final episode (#50) had a passing the baton moment between Cure Miracle and Cure Whip, who is the lead chara in the next PreCure season airing, known as “Kirakira a’ la Mode PreCure”. I have been amongst those following the preview airings and information announcements that have been trickled out and am … curious. At the moment and based solely on impressions there is something about the sum package of it all that reminds me of Smile PreCure … though it is hard to say exactly why that it so.

    Nothing to do but wait and see!

    Ah … if everything works out I will be doing a First Look post about Kirakira a la Mode as well…. ^^

  • gantarat

    i don’t how i feel about this series.
    I like magic theme,plot and character but story telling/progress on second half (after Yamoh got defeated) not quite good.
    most episode beside Cinderella story,get Alexandrite form or Orba villain episode.

    90 % is Girls filler story 10 % Fight Villain because their interrupt/break the girls do something on the episode (appear at the end episode)

    • Flower

      See … that was my first impression regarding the series too … but then the reveal in ep 43 made me see the narrative not only from Yamoh’s end and on in a completely different way, and when I rewatched the series in it’s entirety I saw that the content in ep 43 and the buildup to it had been present the entire time … almost from as far back as ep 4. Again, though, it is not very easy to see.

      Part of the problem, I think, has been the pattern of previous PreCure series, where there HAVE been “filler story” stories of some length. And I think that many PreCure readers may have “auto-defaulted” into assuming that that was in fact what was going on in the second half. To me it absolutely did not seem to be so, and, as mentioned in the review, I was quite surprised to be confronted with apparent filler having a much more involved storyline going on.

      Sorry if I am being a little vague here … trying to avoid spoiling the content for those who have not seen the series. ^^

      • gantarat

        Mother RaPaPa should get mention when Mirai go magic world first time and get full detail about her on later episode (around 30+)

        • Flower

          Ah … I see … you would have preferred a different method of presentation that spelled things out clearer, then?

  • Good job on the review. First of all, I like to comment that that beach episode is one of those I enjoyed… the jokes used there felt like I’m watching a comedy anime like Ika Musume. Glad you added a pic of it there.

    I like how you noticed that they took some time and effort in showing the magical realm in detail… I think we’ve pretty much explored it in the multiple episodes that they went there. In some precures, usually we just have earth and a dead world that needs to be saved. In Mahou Tsukai.. we have an alive magical world that’s fun to explore. A +1 for the story writers.

    • Flower

      I sometimes wonder if the excellent and detailed writing and presentation and world building in this series might not spoil me some … generally I enjoy most all the Precure series, but I also find in general when exposed to a really well done series that my standards rise. Of course that is fine and all, but I suppose the temptation for me is to too readily dismiss a series for “not being like ______”. And of course it cannot, it is not that series!

      Hopefully I will not fall into such a hiccup regarding the next Precure series! XD

  • Oh, and one more thing. I like how this season of precure has 50 episodes – it’s like having an OVA. Other precure series usually only have 48-49 eps. 🙂

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  • Megmica

    the thing I’d only appreciated on mahoutsukai precure is the concept of pseudo-family between three cures. Got some different approach or feeling than the other two cures like suite precure. And instead doing cure work for world peace, they just fighting over villains because the villains interrupted their fun time, at least on half season.

    aside those points, I don’t really like this season. It not goofy or funny like precure should do.

    • Flower

      Ah … understandable. If that sort of content is what one was looking or expecting or hoping for from a Precure series (and there certainly is plenty of content) then I can see where you are coming from – though when you say “on half season” does that mean you also dropped the series half way through? There certainly is more of that sort of content in the second half as compared to the first in my opinion.

      No worries though – everyone has different things and degrees that they enjoy. For myself I really enjoyed the much more “serious” approach Mahoutsukai (and arguably Go Princess before it) seemed to adopt.