Anyone who has watched more than one iteration of the Pretty Cure franchise knows that there are many similarities from season to season. Consistent themes, structural repetitions, that sort of thing. When a franchise has a new entry every year for 13 years, it might not even be unfair to feel like you’ve seen it all before. However every Precure series brings something new, often in form of a new take on an old series staple. Last year’s series, Mahoutsukai Precure (aka MahoGirls), was in many ways the most unusual take on the franchise in a decade.
Lets talk about episode 49.
MahoGirls is superficially a fairly standard Precure series. Ordinary girls get magical powers to defeat enemies who threaten a magical world. However MahoGirls has some deviations from this that are notable. First of all, it’s primarily a duo show. For the first half, there are only two Precure; Asahina Mirai, Cure Miracle and Izayoi Riko, Cure Magical. This is the first Precure series to start with a duo since Suite Precure in 2011, and the first one to have less than four total Cures since 2006’s Futari wa Precure Splash Star.
MahoGirls revolves around Mirai and Riko as a duo more than most previous series. While Mirai gets top billing as the series “Pink Cure”, they are really both co-protagonists. In the past, Precure has struggled with adding new Cures to duos this tight. In Suite, Hibiki became the main protagonist, with Kanade fading a bit in prominence. Splash Star kept it as a duo the entire time (Kaoru and Michiru not withstanding), while the addition of Shiny Luminous is widely cited as one of the reasons Max Heart is considered a severe step down from the original Futari wa Precure.
Fans, of course, have been pairing various Precure characters romantically as long as the franchise has existed. Over time, the series have, if not quite pandered to that, generally not gone out of their way to shoot them down. Male romance interests have largely vanished from the series, and fan favorite pairings have gotten some play in official art. MahoGirls takes this a bit further than previous series. Mirai and Riko are very, very easy to read as a romantic couple. This only gets easier when they find themselves acting as the parents of a small fairy child. This fairy, Haa-chan, eventually grows to be full-sized (well, middle-schooler sized) and becomes the third Cure, Cure Felice. Haa’s relationship with Mirai and Riko, her viewing them explicitly as her “moms” makes her integration as the third Cure seamless. The relationships between the three Cures are perhaps the deepest that have been established in any Precure. They go beyond “just friends”.
At the end of the series, the villains are defeated. The villains in MahoGirls are inconsequential. They could have been anything. They have no real bearing on the show other than being needed to “be” a Precure series. The villain, Deusmast, had combined the “Mundane” world Mirai was from with the “Magical” world Riko was from, to sow chaos in the universe. In the end, of course, the Precure win. However the world’s must be separated. Mirai returns to the Mundane World, Riko returns to the Magical World and Haa, Haa becomes a goddess, of sorts. Overseeing the separation and restoration of the worlds.
And then Mirai is alone.
No other Precure has been left alone before. At the end of other series, the fairies leave, though not always. Sometimes one of the Cures is from the other world, and she leaves as well. Setsuna in Fresh, Towa in Go Princess. But there were always other Cures. They may not be Cures anymore, but they still had the memories, the knowledge of what they had accomplished. They had the friendships forged in battle.
Mirai? Mirai was alone.
When the worlds separated, everyone and everything associated with her time as a Precure vanished. All she had left was memories, and an old stuffed teddy bear. No one remembered when the world’s merged. It’s not even clear if people remembered Riko and Haa. She could never talk about what happened, who would believe her? She’s just a 13-year-old girl with some imaginary friends. She had fought to save the world. To save her friends and family and everyone else. In return she lost the two people she cared for most of all.
For years Mirai was alone.
She grew up, of course. Graduated from Middle School and then from High School. She still had her friends, she hung out. She went to college. She became an adult. One evening she has a talk with her grandmother, who tells her the story of how she gave Mirai Mofurun, shortly after she was born. Mirai’s grandmother tells her, at the end, “When our feelings are connected, we can make miracles”. That night, Mirai lies in bed, as she has countless times before, remembering. Outside she sees the moon, just past full. The izayoi moon. The moon Riko named herself after.
Mirai walks down the path where she first met Riko, all those years ago. She talks to the air, talking about how she’s doing, what she does. All the things she wishes to talk about. She cries. At the end of the path she finds a tree, and a stick, that resembles her wand. She calls out the incantation, but the magic doesn’t work. She remembers her grandma’s words and calls out again and again. She wants to see her again. She wants to see Riko again. She wants nothing more in the world then to be with Riko and Haa forever.
Tears in her eyes, she repeats, over and over and over. Until the miracle finally occurs, and Mirai is no longer alone.
Most Precure series don’t have the lead suffer alone after the victory for years, but most also never show the friends who leave for the other world returning. We never see if Setsuna returns to be with Love, or if Towa returns to Kirara. But we can assume that they all grew up fairly happy and content. We see Mirai grow up, we see how she’s outwardly cheerful, but a spark she had before is lost, gone with Riko and Haa. We see just how much they meant to her. How much more than “just friends” they were.
This was a daring ending for a Precure series. Things aren’t always perfect and wonderful at the end (see Tsukikage Yuri from Heartcatch Precure), but none have had something this bleak for over half an episode after the villain was defeated. It was a strong, daring move, and one that could have fallen flat. MahoGirls is not perfect, but what it excelled at was the relationship between Mirai and Riko, as well as their relationship with Haa. That was the cornerstone of the show, and the one this ending was built on. Without the previous 48 episodes, without every moment of these girls together, Mirai may have truly been left alone.