Updated from a while ago, and until the series ends, which hopefully will be never.
You read the title. You clicked on it. And you’re ready to argue why a season you liked should be higher or more likely, a season you hated should be lower than the bottom, but it’s my list and my opinion. So let’s get started.
14. Happiness Charge Pretty Cure!
Now first of all, I’m one of the guys who doesn’t really dislike any season of Precure in particular. I enjoy every one on at least some level. But that said, this is easily the least interesting one to me. Even the characters I like, like Cure Princess, Cure Honey, or Seiji fulfill archetypes that are done better in other seasons. Plot points are almost never given time to develop fully as they are shoved aside to give more time to a boring, pointless and frankly more than a little creepy romance arc that affirms once again Precure’s shaky track record when it comes to romantic relationships. Add to all that a pretty despicable mentor character and an annoyingly angsty final villain, and we have a pretty weak season. But at least we had laser beam eyes. Those never fail to raise a show’s quality.
13. Doki Doki! Pretty Cure
This was the point where, in my opinion, Pretty Cure in general kind of jumped the shark. Not that I dislike it now (let’s face it, that would never happen in a million years), but the spark isn’t as strong as it used to be. It’s kind of a shame. On paper, Doki Doki’s story is easily one of the most complex, thought-provoking, and emotional plots ever conceived for the franchise. Heck, it wouldn’t feel too out of place in a more adult-oriented anime. But unfortunately, its ambition caused more harm than good, as the writing ended up focusing more on trying to have shocking twists and turns than just telling a good story, resulting in inane plot decisions that really hold the season back from its potential. Wasted potential would go on to become a recurring theme after this season, unfortunately. And of course there’s Mana Aida, aka Cure Heart, one of the most annoying pink Cures ever, who’s never allowed to be wrong about anything, or to not be hero-worshiped by everyone in the room. While far from the only season to suffer from this, Doki Doki probably under-utilized its non-Pink cast the most.
But in spite of all that negativity, when the rest of the cast IS actually allowed to shine, they all have some pretty great episodes. Hell, I’m probably the biggest Cure Rosetta fanboy around. Even Cure Ace grew on me after a while, in spite of her notoriously botched introduction. And the story is still excellent, even if its execution is rocky. Doki Doki Precure had its flaws to be sure, but there’s a lot to like about it, too.
12. Mahou Tsukai Pretty Cure!
For what it was, this season was enjoyable. I like to think of it as two shows. One being a nice fun little tribute to the early days of the franchise, and the other being an ostensibly epic story about far-reaching epic magical battles. I’m quite fond of the former show; the other, not so much. Virtually all of my problems with the series can be summed up in one word; Ha-chan, also known as Cure Felice. Mana Aida may have been a spotlight hog, but even she cannot approach the sheer levels of Mary Sue that is Ha. She’s always presented as cute, even when she pretty blatantly disregards what her friends and superiors say, and acts selfishly or like a spoiled brat. But she has a wide smile, so it’s all good, I guess? A lot of fans like to complain about the villains, too, and to be fair they are pretty bland, but then again the villains in the first two seasons were pretty dull, too, so I guess this is a case of the show taking a little TOO much inspiration from its predecessor.
But still, I liked the series overall, for three reasons especially. Those three reasons being Jun, Kay, and Emily, three of my favorite supporting characters in the franchise. I could go on forever about how much I adore those three, but the rest of the supporting cast is pretty decent, too. And as for the two main Cures, while Mirai (Cure Miracle) had to grow on me a little, Riko (Cure Magical) is honestly one of my favorites. And I really did love the worldbuilding of the Magical World, which got much more of it than the other worlds of most seasons. Mahou Tsukai can be tons of fun, but it’s really kind of a drag when it tries to be more serious.
11. KiraKira☆Pretty Cure A La Mode
A series that’s about 5-10 good seasons being released in small increments in regular 10+ episode intervals; once you’ve caught on to the show’s pattern, there’s very few surprises left in store. It seems as though every time something happens, it has to affect every single one of the characters in the same sequence, in the same way. It does indeed lead to slightly different results for each character, and they are still well done, but it’s really hard not to feel like the show is just constantly remaking itself. As such, the show is often good, but rarely great. The best way to experience this season is to seek out a characte you like, and watch all of her focus episodes back to back, because though the individual parts have plenty of merits, they decidedly do NOT add up to a satisfying whole.
10. Smile Pretty Cure!
Smile is arguably the most divisive season of Precure ever. Some fans love it. Others hate it. I rarely ever hear a more moderate opinion. And I’m not about to buck that trend, either, because I am pretty firmly in the former camp; I absolutely adore Smile Precure, and I love the Glitter Force dub, too. That said, I know exactly why the people who hate the season do, and I believe their reasons are quite justified. After all, the paper-thin story is pretty nonsensical, the villains are about as threatening as a wet dishrag, and the writing isn’t always the most stellar. But in the end, I just don’t give a damn. The show itself doesn’t even really give one, either. Its like this season was the dumping ground for all the ideas that were too crazy, too silly, or just plain unworkable from the previous seasons, which sounds like an insult, but really I mean that in the most flattering way possible. I guess I would call this series a guilty pleasure, but that would imply I actually felt guilt about having enjoyed it, which I absolutely do not. I may love the shit out of Smile Precure, but I cannot in good conscience rank it any higher than I have here.
9. Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GoGo!
Good season, not so good sequel to Yes! Precure 5. That’s the gist of it. There’s nothing much that’s fundamentally wrong with GoGo, and in fact in terms of visuals and other technical details it is superior to its predecessor. Syrup and Milky Rose are fine additions to the roster of characters. The story is solid enough. And Bunbee is arguably even more of an adorably incompetent villain than he was the year before. Maybe it’s just because it had the misfortune of being sandwiched in between two more memorable seasons. Maybe it’s because 97 episodes following the same five girls would inevitably lead to burnout. Or maybe it’s because solid character relationships established from the previous season are basically ignored here. But either way, in my opinion this season was a sure sign that new blood was needed to keep the franchise afloat after five years of the same production staff.
8. Fresh Pretty Cure!
This was my first season of Precure, so naturally I hold it in pretty high regard. I could talk about pet wigs, lost mothers, or donut salesmen all day, but why bother with holding the punches? Cure Passion is the dominant force of the season; no matter how good or bad the rest of the series is, it will always be the one that had the Cure Passion heel-face-turn arc, one of the best stories in the history of Pretty Cure. The buildup, the emotion, and the payoff are all so top notch, the rest of the season almost doesn’t have to be good. Of course, the rest of the season is good anyway, even if nothing can quite live up to the tragic but ultimately triumphant story of Setsuna Higashi. Despite the nostalgia I have for this season, the reason it isn’t ranked higher is because while the most of the season is great, some of it isn’t. And the stuff that isn’t great REALLY ISN’T!
7. Suite Pretty Cure!
One of the more underrated seasons. This one is even more of a visual delight than Heartcatch (in my opinion, of course), and has a killer soundtrack, too. But what matters most is story and characters, and this season delivered on those fronts as well. The two leads, Hibiki and Kanade have wonderful chemistry together, and make for highly entertaining hijinks in the earlier episodes. Ellen is one of my all time favorites, who pretty much nails the adorkable outsider on the head, possibly even better than Setsuna. And Cure Muse is both hilarious and tragic, often at the exact same time, a trait which seems to run in her family (but that would be getting into spoilers). And then there’s Hummy and Waon… The main criticism I have of the show is that its rough pacing can make it feel like 3 shows haphazardly slapped into one than one coherent story, but at least those 3 shows are all great in their own ways. But the one thing that puts this season above others for me is the culture of Kanon Town. I love how everyone there is obsessed with music. This kind of strong identification with something goes a long way in making the town seem more alive to me. No matter how different the citizens of Kanon Town are, they all have that one unbreakable connection, which is just beautiful.
6. Futari wa Pretty Cure
The season that started it all! What was originally supposed to be a short 26-episode one-shot grew largely through sheer word of mouth to become the longest-running magical girl franchise of all time. Looking back, the plots could get quite repetitive, and frankly the story itself is as bare bones as it gets. But Nagisa and Honoka are an unstoppable duo, both in terms of fighting as Cure Black and Cure White, as well as having moments of sheer adorable between them every other week. Of course, having Daisuke “Dragon Ball” Nishio as series director didn’t hurt, either. The inaugural season of Pretty Cure has its rough patches, but it also has a lot of heart and basic charm that many later seasons don’t have.
5. Go! Princess Pretty Cure
So Precure’s recent track record hadn’t been great. The previous two seasons tried to focus too much on crowd-pleasing and being different that they lost sight of the stories, resulting in big messes. However, GoPri was the sorely needed antidote to ensure fans that Precure is still capable of producing great stuff. It may not really have done anything particularly new to the franchise, but it did do everything exceptionally well. The main characters had relatable problems, things didn’t always go smoothly with them, and the main villains actually came off as threatening a good chunk of the time. Although perhaps the show takes a few liberties with how fast Haruka gains skills, the fact that it actually bothers to show Haruka continually working hard to improve herself makes the messages about following your dreams much more powerful. And then there’s Yui Nanase, possibly the greatest character in the history of fiction. Again, I could go on forever about her, but I’m actually trying to keep this post at a reasonable length. The major sore spot though is the under-utilization of the sixth ranger Precure of the season, Towa (aka Cure Scarlet) and her brother, mentor archetype Prince Kanata. In the end, I can’t think of much those two did to contribute to a season that already had three great leads beyond Scarlet gracing toy shelves with another Figuart. But considering how well everything else is done, that’s a fairly minor complaint.
4. Heartcatch Pretty Cure!
The de facto fan favorite season, and yeah, it’s damn good, even if it’s not quite my favorite. Although the characters and story are very solid, Heartcatch’s true strength lies in its style. Cure Sunshine and Cure Moonlight are among my favorite Cures, not for any particularly deep reason; I just think they’re really damn cool. Opposite to Doki Doki, the story is nothing special, but the epic way everything is presented makes you really care about what’s happening. This season is very much a feast for the eyes. A lot of the storytelling is more visual in nature than in most seasons, which I always appreciate.
3. Yes! Pretty Cure 5
And now the Washio era fanboy in me is unleashed full force. This was the first season to ditch the two-girl-duo formula in favor of an ensemble Sentai cast, and did so with good humor, witty writing, and possibly the most solidly likable cast of characters in the franchise. Technically, YPC5 has a lot going against it; it’s pretty blatant about the thin nature of its plot (arguably more so than Smile), it’s pretty visibly cheaper looking than its predecessors, and the toy marketing started to get more aggressive here. Doesn’t matter, because I could watch these five girls and their mascots sitting in a room for hours just talking to each other and I would probably be entertained, to me the ultimate test of a great cast. This is probably the only season in which the action scenes pretty much completely take a back seat to the dialogue scenes for me.
2. Futari wa Pretty Cure Max Heart
The sequel series to the original Futari wa Pretty Cure, which added Hikari Kujou, aka Shiny Luminous, into the mix, which story-wise had a tremendous impact on the storytelling of the season which would otherwise have been an unnecessary extension of the first season. Honestly, quite a lot of one’s opinion of Max Heart depends on one’s view of Hikari, and given Max Heart is my second favorite season of Precure, it figures that I adore her. She’s not as nuanced as some later sixth ranger characters, but her presence contributes a lot to adding more weight to Nagisa and Honoka’s actions. When they defeated Zakenna week after week it not longer just felt like a requisite action ordained by the episode structure. It felt like they were helping Shiny Luminous understand who she is, and what she stands for. The few scenes in which Hikari meets the strange little boy hanging out in the villains’ lair are some of the most moving in the franchise; not a single word is uttered between them, but the full impact of the circumstances of their existence is communicated through their confused expressions. I talked a lot about Hikari, but of course Nagisa and Honoka are as charming and likable as ever. And they actually aged up into their senior year of middle school, too, meaning Nagisa especially has to deal with more responsibility in her daily life as she kicks ass every week. All this builds up to one of the most epic finales in all of Pretty Cure. Max Heart is certainly not for everyone, but then again I’m not everyone. No season has moved me more, except for one…
1. Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star
Holy shit. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more emotional experience with any other show. What did this season do right? The better question is, what didn’t it do right? The main characters are charming and have flawless chemistry. The villains have varied personalities and motives, and the final one is a lovably devious evil bastard. The supporting cast does a phenomenal job of enriching the world that the Cures occupy. And the action is very solid, in spite of the handicap of concerned parents asking Toei to tone down the violence. Most people like to point to the story arc of the Kiryuu sisters, Michiru and Kaoru, as the highlight of the season, but in my opinion calling that arc a highlight is doing everything else a disservice. This was the season in which I wished the characters were real people. I wanted to hang out with them, to share worries with them, to stare out at the sea with them. I don’t know what it is, but the seaside town setting makes everything that was already great about the season even better. The sea and the big tree in the woods are practically main characters themselves. When this season first aired, it was not very successful, as fans were still getting used to the idea of Nagisa and Honoka passing the torch to a new team of Cures. A decade later, and there’s now a small cult of fans who push Splash Star as the best season of Pretty Cure ever. I am proud to count myself as part of this cult.