Pretty Cure Splash Star is the third entry of Toei’s Pretty Cure franchise, and the first one to introduce an entirely new continuity. This season aired in 2006, starting on February 5th. It continued through until January 28, 2007.
The director of Splash Star was Toshiaki Komura, and of course, Toei Animation was the studio that produced it.
Pretty Cure Splash Star focuses on two main characters: Saki Hyuuga and Mai Mishou. The pair meet each other at the Sky Tree, and shortly thereafter encounter two spirits from the Land of Fountains. Flappy and Choppy reveal that evil forces by the name of Dark Fall intend to destroy the Land of Fountains, and grant Saki and Mai the power to transform into the legendary warriors Pretty Cure.
Transforming into Cure Bloom and Cure Egret respectively, Saki and Mai fight to keep their home, the Land of Greenery, safe, as well as to reclaim the lost Fountains.If the idea of two girls teaming up to fight the forces of evil sounds familiar to you, that is because that is exactly what happens in the first two seasons of Pretty Cure. For its first cour or so, Splash Star feels a lot like a rehash of the first two seasons of the franchise.
It is almost like Toei were a little hesitant to take this relatively new (at the time) franchise in a different direction, leading to some pretty rough first impressions.
Of course, this flaw is something that will only really be apparent to anyone who has seen the original Pretty Cure or Max Heart beforehand. Since Splash Star is its own continuity, it is easy enough to just jump straight in without worrying about what came before.
Whilst the show may struggle for a unique identity at first, it certainly comes into its own with the introduction of a certain pair of sisters.
Michiru and Kaoru Kiryuu are one of the elements that helps to elevate Splash Star beyond its initial status of “Max Heart rehash”. The show wastes no time in revealing that they are warriors from Dark Fall, though it takes Saki and Mai a little longer to discover that tidbit.
That doesn’t put a halt to Saki and Mai befriending the Kiryuu sisters, though. Seemingly emotionless, Michiru and Kaoru come to discover all sorts of things about themselves and the Land of Greenery.
Michiru and Kaoru are a fantastic addition to the cast of Splash Star, setting the groundwork for certain characters in later entries of the franchise. The likes of Eas, Regina and Twilight owe a lot to Michiru and Kaoru.With only two main characters (something that would go on to become a rarity in the entire PreCure franchise), Splash Star is able to find time to devote episodes to the supporting cast.
These tend to be hit and miss. Kenta Hoshino, for example, wants to be a comedian, but his jokes are awful. His wordplay also does not translate well from Japanese, even if the subtitles do explain it. The whole point is that his jokes are bad, but that whole thing gets tiresome really quickly.
Saki is on the softball team at her school, leading to a couple of episodes focusing on that. These are on the “hit” side, particularly when an important game comes up.
Besides Saki and Mai’s friends, there are also their families. Splash Star seems pretty keen to push Saki having a crush on Mai’s older brother Kazuya, which ultimately goes nowhere. Of course, this is Pretty Cure, so Saki has much better chemistry and more intimate moments with Mai than anyone else.Whilst perhaps not quite as prevalent the likes of EmiRuru or HikaLala from more recent seasons of Pretty Cure, Saki and Mai have a bond that can easily be interpreted as something that goes beyond friendship.
There is a lot of hand holding going on between the two; in fact, that is even the main focus of the first ending theme for the show. Their power as PreCure also fluctuates based on their feelings for each other, and they tend to show some really impressive abilities.
Sometimes, this even extends to Michiru and Kaoru, too. They wind up with some pretty strong feelings towards Saki and Mai, as well.Splash Star might just also have something for the onee-loli crowd, too, courtesy of Saki’s younger sister Minori. She really takes to Kaoru, and that whole thing proves to be super sweet.
Enjoy Michiru and Kaoru’s appearances whilst you can, because they get almost nothing but disrespect once Splash Star finishes. They are vital to the plot of the show, yet they barely get anything beyond cameo appearances in the crossover films. Hugtto! shows them a little more respect, but even then, it is still just a cameo they get there.
You can’t have a season of PreCure without villains to fight, and Splash Star has the forces of Dark Fall, led by Akudaikaan. Whereas later seasons of PreCure would introduce their enemy generals as a group, Splash Star has most of them appear one after the other.
The exceptions to that rule are Michiru and Kaoru, of course, and Akudaikaan and Goyan. Effectively once an episode, we see Goyan discussing Dark Fall’s progress against Pretty Cure with Akudaikaan.
There is a plot point concerning Akudaikaan and Goyan that does leave one questioning certain things, but its probably best not to think too hard about it. It doesn’t really detract from the grand scheme of things, and what happens after that particular reveal is spectacular enough to render it insignificant.
Arguably the most memorable Dark Fall general is Kintoleski, who appears quite late into the season. He is devoted to training and simply wants to have a fair fight against Pretty Cure. He even goes so far as to offer advice to Saki, Mai and their acquaintances when he is not carrying out his duty as a member of Dark Fall.
Out of the other villains, Moerumba with his gratuitous Spanish also leaves a fairly strong impression.The combat in Splash Star has been toned down somewhat in comparison to Max Heart. It doesn’t quite get as bad as KiraKira ☆ a la Mode, but do expect to see plenty of sparkly effects and non-contact attacks. At least early on – fights become more physical as the season draws to its end, culminating in an utterly spectacular final battle. That is one instance where Splash Star just channels Dragon Ball Z.
Despite toning down the earlier fights, Splash Star still manages to be one of the darker entries of the PreCure franchise. Again, elements that would not be out of place in Dragon Ball Z.
A lot of Splash Star‘s DNA runs through later entries of the franchise, particularly Maho Girls PreCure!. Both that and Splash Star start out with a pair of girls who form an intimate bond with a lot of hand holding, and both give them multiple forms to utilise as Pretty Cure.
Whilst Mirai and Riko retain their identities as Cure Miracle and Cure Magical regardless of what jewel based form they are in, Saki and Mai have the honour of being the only girls in the franchise who can transform into two different Cures each: Saki transforms into Cure Bloom or Cure Bright, and Mai transforms into Cure Egret or Cure Windy.
Without fairy mascots, there wouldn’t be any transformations in the first place. Saki and Mai meeting Flappy and Choppy is what kicks all of this off, and later on Moop and Foop are introduced. As far as mascot characters go, they are less annoying than certain ones from Max Heart, but they are also not the best that the franchise has to offer.
There’s the occasional sequence where Flappy and Choppy demand to be fed, and those feel a lot like they are just there to pad out the episode’s run time. It may not come up too often, but Flappy and Choppy (and later Moop and Foop) being fed never really has any major consequences on whatever episode it happens in.
They serve their purpose well enough, as long as you can put up with their verbal tics.
Splash Star‘s soundtrack has a bit of a Super Mario World approach to it – or a “theme-and-variations soundtrack”, if you prefer. The show’s spectacular opening theme “Leave it to Us Splash Star” gets reprised as an instrumental track throughout the season. Whilst the actual opening theme is upbeat and fun, the slower instrumental version works surprisingly well.
The second ending theme “Ganbalance de Dance” also gets a similar treatment, but even its slower instrumental theme still feels a little too jaunty for the sadder moments.
The soundtrack is more than just variations of a theme, though, and it does a pretty good job at conveying all sorts of moods.
It may take some time to settle into its own identity, but once it does, Pretty Cure Splash Star offers one of the better entries in the entire franchise. It does have some elements that just aren’t all that great, but its best parts easily outshine those and make it well worth experiencing.
Once it settles into its own identity, Pretty Cure Splash Star is an absolute joy to watch. Also, a very important entry, as Kaoru and Michiru set the precedent for dark magical girls in the franchise.
Those who come into Splash Star directly from Max Heart will need to be a little patient with it at first, but doing so pays off incredibly well in the end.
It is also worth noting that those who enjoyed Maho Girls PreCure! might get a little bit more out of Splash Star, as it set the precedent for a few key elements used there.