Pretear ~ everyone was born to live, to live and become happy

February 21, 2012

Himeno Awayuki fights to save the world as the Prétear, a warrior of elemental magic.

I’m not quite sure why I queued up Prétear, except that it is directed and written by Juunichi Sato, who has done a lot of great work. It is a “reverse” harem, magical girl show that originally aired in 2001. Essentially a girl gains elemental powers by holding hands with bishounen (beautiful boys), and uses that power to save the world.

I was surprised to find that Prétear is actually a pretty compelling story. Underneath the fantastical plot of elemental knights, demon larvae, and the Princess of Disaster, there is a very human story about disappointment, loneliness, and the responsibility that people have to look out for others who have fallen by the wayside. I think Prétear works particularly well at this because it doesn’t drag on aimlessly; at only 13 episodes it gets to the point, tells its story, and then ends.

In addition to discussing the merits of this series, the terminology nerd in me also rails against popular usage of the phrase “reverse harem”.

Demon larvae hatch and absorb the life essence of the world (called leafe) to feed the Princess of Destruction. Standing against the Princess of Destruction and her minions are the Leafe Knights and the Prétear.

It is tempting, in the post-Madoka world to compare Prétear to Puella Magi Madoka Magica (hereafter, PMMM). Without being too spoilery, we could say that both stories involve a girl making a contract to become a mahou shoujo (magical girl) to fight against powerful beings bent on destroying the world. This ultimately leads to a colossal battle that threatens everyone, including family members, and the main character must make the ultimate sacrifice to lift the burden of fate off of the shoulders of the world. Obviously these are still very different shows, but I think it is interesting to consider that PMMM‘s “deconstruction” of the genre wasn’t quite as drastic as it is sometimes described to be.

Several of the Leafe Knights (in their civilian attire). They come in all shapes and sizes.

I’m going to put on my terminology nerd cap for a moment. When I say this is a “reverse” harem, I am using this phrase as it is commonly used. In a harem, the main character is surrounded by (real or potential) love interests. People often use “reverse” harem to mean the main character is a female who is surrounded by pretty boys, since a regular harem is assumed to be one male surrounded by comely females. I actually don’t like this use of the phrase “reverse harem”; to me this is just a harem, whereas a better use of “reverse harem” would be a story in which the main character (of whatever gender) is one of the harem. A good example of this is Ghost Hunt, where the main character, Mai, is one of several characters in Kazuya Shibuya’s harem. Clearly the story of a character picking from amongst multiple potential romantic interests is different from the story of a character competing amongst multiple romantic rivals, and yet we have two terms for the former and no term for the latter. The terminology nerd does not approve, but recognizes that popular usage is unlikely to be changed.

Himeno's father is an artist, so the normal rules don't apply to him.

The artwork and animation in Prétear are both solid, if nothing special. They look like shoujo designs from the 90s. Nevertheless I would not say this is where Prétear’s true strength lies.

The part of the show that I really liked is the deeper story about the mistakes we can make in relationships, including families, and our responsibility to look out for others who are suffering. This story was delivered in a very reasonable 13 episodes. It didn’t drag out the early section into a monster of the week format. Fairly quickly our magical girl is up to speed, and discovers the dangerous secret about becoming a prétear that sets up the confrontations that build into the final battle. The ending itself, while not the best I have ever seen was certainly adequate for the story. I guess I should warn that the final three episodes get pretty emotional.

No need to buy something; the real magic happens by reaching out and taking someone's hand.

Another strong point of this series, for me was that it avoids the crass commercialism that so many run straight towards. Frequently Magical Girl shows conspicuously include props that can be sold to the young audience as products (such as a magical compact / locket / cellphone that is used in transforming into a magical girl). In Précure transformation is done by holding hands with one of the magical knights (bishounen), each of whom has a different elemental affiliation, which causes our hero to transform into different outfits and acquire different powers.

Don't be afraid. Take a chance!

If you are a fan of Magical Girl shows, and aren’t offended by so-called “reverse” harems, Prétear is well worth watching. If you have never seen a Magical Girl show, or are looking for one to show someone else what the genre is about, I think this is a good one, because the story actually wraps up in 13 episodes, unlike some classics that go on forever. If you hate Magical Girl shows, or “reverse” harems, and are wondering if you really should watch this show anyway, because it has a famous director, take it easy, dude; anime should be fun, not a chore.

To sum up, I enjoyed watching Prétear and you can too.

2 Responses to “Pretear ~ everyone was born to live, to live and become happy”

  1. David A. Young Says:

    Hmmm…not a show that was even on my radar, but you made it sound interesting. I think I’ll put it in the queue. Thanks.

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