If you’re a Precure fan in the US, articles on the series can be hard to find, and the few that appear often dismiss it as a toy-selling vehicle. Funny that you never hear that about Pokemon! Luckily I can paste プリキュア in a search and find great articles in the Japanese press!
I’ve found some interviews with Washio Takahashi, the creator of Pretty Cure. Usually you see Precure credited to Izumi Todo, which is just a pseudonym for anyone working at Toei Animation. But Takahashi-san’s the guy, and he’s been a guiding spirit for the series ever since. He’s an executive officer at Toei now.
When he interviewed with Toei, he confessed that he didn’t know much about anime, but they wanted someone with a different perspective. Before that he was a news reporter and produced local documentaries, and was looking for a mid-career change. He wanted to create something that would be seen by more people.
Quotes from There is no difference between men and women: the secret beliefs of the creator of Pretty Cure (Feb 28th, 2018):
When my company asked me to do an anime for girls, I thought, “”That’s impossible. I don’t even understand how girls feel.” But I had no choice but to take on the challenge.
The concept written in the proposal was “”Even girls want to be wild!” Up until then, I thought that most of the anime aimed at girls were about magic, and there wasn’t much action. “It’s definitely cool, though. Okay, let’s make it into a reality,” he said. This is how “Pretty Cure”, where ordinary girls transform and fight enemies, was born.
Many anime fans assume that Precure was inspired by Sailor Moon, but it has very different DNA. Takahashi’s said that his inspirations were the movies Dirty Harry, 48 Hrs, and Rumor Detectives: Tommy and Matsu. His model for Precure teams came from a show about Japanese motorcycle gangs!
When I thought of the project, I thought, “Small children are the same whether they are boys or girls.” Parents teach children to act like girls and boys, and they gradually become differentiated. When I was little, I used to play with the girl who lived next door. The two of us also pretended to be adults. That’s why I was confident that girls would also love transformations….
I never included any talk about the differences between men and women. I also ask them to stop saying things like “”Because I’m a girl” or ““Because I’m a boy.” I was making it with the feeling that it doesn’t matter. There are no scenes where parents say, “That child is good at this.” Children hate being compared the most. This was the first anime for me that took so much care….
Male characters do not participate in PreCure battles. A handsome boy also appears, but he is a powerless figure. I wanted to show that the girls are the main characters and that they can overcome things on their own. I thought that no matter how big we are faced with something, the most important thing is to have the will to solve it ourselves.
I created Precure because I thought it was best for girls to be brave and stand on their own feet. When you’re a child, you don’t have to understand the meaning. I hope that the girl who watched it on TV grows up and when she looks back on it, she realizes, “This is what I meant.”
It’s still a harsh society for women. Even if I look at the #MeToo movement in Hollywood , I think things are tough in the workplace. If fantasy worlds like anime where the protagonist is a woman who doesn’t rely on men become commonplace, I think the real world will change as well. I hope so.
All that seems remarkable from a Japanese guy, especially in 2004! I’ve read that many Japanese women didn’t like the trope that a woman needs to be stupid, ditzy, or cowardly to be attractive (think of the roles Marilyn Monroe and other women of that era were given), so the early episodes of Sailor Moon weren’t popular with them.
Quotes from: “I want to protect the place of minorities” The origins of Pretty Cure’s first producer Takahashi Washio, who overturned the “common sense” of anime for girls. (October 27, 2019)
When I was a child, I was physically weak and slow. My female classmates were actually more active. That’s why I felt uncomfortable when adults told me things like “Because I’m a girl, I should be quiet” and “Boys shouldn’t cry.”
I wasn’t sure that my idea would be accepted, but by being honest with my feelings, I ended up gaining the support of the children.
The most important thing about “Futari wa PreCure” is that the two main characters are independent beings . Two people with completely different personalities recognize each other and develop a bond as they fight as Pretty Cure.
Although it is an “action movie,” it is different from works for boys that use force to defeat enemies and climb the stairs to become the strongest…
In “PreCure 5,” there was an episode in which the character Urara Kasugano (Cure Lemonade) was forced into a situation where she had to face an enemy alone, and her friends rushed to help her in a desperate situation.
I asked the production team, “It’s no good to have Urara running towards them as if she was expecting help. Please make sure that the picture shows her friends running towards her first.” Each one faces forward without running away, and at the same time supports each other. That kind of relationship is the origin of PreCure’s friendship.
Fighting is not “to win”
–You mentioned being different from each other and being independent as the “core” of PreCure, and it’s true that each member of the PreCure team has their own individuality. I feel that even before the word “diversity” was widely used in society, we were embodying its potential.
Of course, when I was in charge of projects such as “PreCure 5,” I wasn’t directly aware of the theme of “diversity.” However, looking back, I realize that I was sending out a message that is relevant to today.
I think we have a consistent stance of not “fighting to defeat the enemy,” but “standing up to protect our daily lives, where we belong.”…
I didn’t want to determine the hierarchy of abilities or the correctness of values based on “wins and losses.” This was in mind from the initial concept stage. Settlement based on one yardstick means looking at things in a ““one-dimensional” manner. Conversely, it leads to the denial of diversity.
When I was in high school, I joined the track and field club because I wanted to get rid of my complex that I was slow at running. You would think that the world of track and field is a one-dimensional world of “”win and lose.” But the reality is different. Even if you lose the race, it’s fine as long as you run your personal best. I think it’s good if you can feel your own growth without having to knock people down or push them away. Because that’s where the effort comes into play.
Around the same time, I was reading a lot of reportage by journalists who had experienced the Vietnam War, such as Katsuichi Honda’s “”The Logic of the Killed,” and Koichi Kondo’s ““Wife and Daughter from Saigon.” I think there are too. It was full of things that I didn’t know at the time, and I was shocked by how it felt to look at the world from a “less powerful” perspective. It is the opinions and values of minorities that are hidden in the shadow of the overwhelming majority that are important …
There are children who have unique personalities that cannot be measured by test scores, or who have things they are good at or like outside of school, and I think it would be good to have a place where such diversity can be accepted.
It would be best if this was fulfilled in reality, but as the creator of the work PreCure, I would like to convey the message that abilities are not a hierarchy but a difference, and that everyone should be respected . I would like to continue to spread the word.
In fact, there are many characters in the middle of the PreCure team who don’t have any special skills…
–While it is assumed that diverse values should be respected, there has been a trend in recent years in which this has led to intense criticism of content. Isn’t it difficult for you as a creator?
How much of the complexity of reality should be incorporated into fiction? Furthermore, what should we convey to the children and to what extent? Where is the line of communication?
These are all issues that always bother me, but what is most important is the independence and sense of responsibility on the part of the creator. There is no 100% correct answer. However, I would like to continue to maintain the attitude of delivering my work after thinking it through.
I think all this puts the whole run of Precure in context. It’s remarkable that he could guide all these unconventional ideas through the corporate maze, year after year.
Precure is definitely the most popular magical girl series in Japan. Do you think these ideas have filtered their way into other series?
Here are the original articles: