I’m glad Halloween is starting to gain traction in Japan because it allows me to go trick-or-treating again. But in my case, it’s trick-or-dating.
In recent years Japan has started to celebrate Halloween, not the traditional Halloween derived from Christianity, but the highly marketed version that took hold in the United States in the twentieth century. In Japan, 2015 seemed to be a tipping point for the holiday, though. What I mean by this is since about 2005, though it was slowly seeping into the culture prior to then, Japanese adults have taken a liking to dressing up in costumes and handing out treats. While I think part of this has to do with the anime and manga cosplay, or costume play, community in Japan, I feel it’s more of a way for a new generation of parents to spend time with their children. Though some xenophobic and Japanese nationalists might find this appalling, I’m not really opposed to this phenomenon as the sharing of cultures ultimately makes for a better global community. However, I can’t help but feel the way Halloween is celebrated in Japan is still in its beginning phases. The 2015 Pretty Cure film, Eiga Go! Princess Pretty Cure Go! Go!! Gōka Sanbon Date!!! (映画Go!プリンセスプリキュア Go! Go!!豪華3本立て!!) was a wonderful example of how Halloween culture in Japan is still in its infancy. Beyond that, however, the film was, as always, exceptionally fun. This came from how there were two short films included with the feature presentation, making this a rather unique entry in the Pretty Cure film franchise. The idea that material possessions aren’t necessarily what we should treasure was also reinforced in the film for children and as such, there were a few touching moments scattered throughout it.
As in the United States, Japan has turned October into one giant celebration of Halloween. Again, the focus is not on honoring the dead—Japan has Obon for that—but the heavily marketed manner that took hold in the United States. This includes costumes, trick-or-treating, pumpkin everything, though carving pumpkins hasn’t taken hold in Japan yet, and the Halloween ephemera of black cats, witches, and the like. It’s a very different experience than in the United States, but even there, we can find regional variations in how people celebrate Halloween. That being the case, anime and manga series have also begun to adopt stories revolving around the holiday. While some of them try to incorporate traditional and modern Japanese sensibilities into their stories, many only seem to use the surface elements of the holiday.
While this was certainly the case for Eiga Go! Princess Pretty Cure Go! Go!! Gōka Sanbon Date!!! I can’t help but feel it was somehow appropriate for the material in the feature presentation and the two shorts. Since the airing of Fresh Pretty Cure, the standalone Pretty Cure films have been released in October and it’s a miracle no one on the production teams of any of the films thought to use Halloween as backdrop for them. Just looking at the three stories used in this film, they all had some relation to the holiday. For instance, in the first short we saw a group of ghosts playing the traditional mirror routine on the heroine, Cure Flora, wherein she stood in front of a frame while the ghosts mimicked her movements. On the surface, the scene didn’t have much to do with Halloween, other than the ghosts, but it was the ending that gave it the Halloween feel. The feature presentation was similar in that while it had little to do with Halloween per se, it maintained the seasonal tone by placing the story in the Pumpkin Kingdom. Granted, I felt as though the production team missed a wonderful chance to dig into the more thematic elements of Halloween in the feature, but the setting alone was satisfying. However, I’ll expand on that later. The final short was far more in line with what one might think of in regards to the holiday insofar as the setting was a rather surreal city and had villains themed around pumpkins. But even in this case, there were some missed opportunities on the part of the production team.
What exactly, then, were the aspects the production team failed to capitalize on? The first actually had little to do with the narrative of the feature or shorts, but the release date of the film. Consider, most Halloween themed films are released around mid-September to the final week of October. This allows the audience to enter the holiday spirit well in advance of the holiday and enjoy the seasonal mood until October 31st. Granted, some of the films released in late October run into November, but those films tend to be in theaters for only a few weeks. Eiga Go! Princess Pretty Cure Go! Go!! Gōka Sanbon Date!!!, though, was released on Halloween. While this may have been great for publicity, once we entered November the novelty of the film quickly wore off—I honestly don’t want to watch a Halloween themed film as the Thanksgiving season is in full swing. Thus, I felt that if the production team wanted to make the most of the Halloween season in the film, it would have been better to release it in mid-October. At least then it would have felt far more appropriate for the season.
However, the release date is a mere trifle when compared to the narrative elements that could have further propelled the tone of the film. Looking at the feature presentation first, the autumn aura permeated the narrative, especially with the story built around the princess competition held by the Pumpkin Kingdom. Though the princess competition was thematically appropriate for this iteration of Pretty Cure, with the amount of Halloween ephemera seen in the film, a costume party would have fit the tone the production team was aiming for much better. This wouldn’t have required too many alterations to the core narrative and it would have allowed Japanese children to experience a fraction of the fun of Halloween under the supervision of their parents. It was the second short, though, where I felt the creative team missed its chance to bring the holiday spirit to the forefront of the narrative. Yes, the setting and villains were seasonally appropriate, but the antagonist’s name, Night Pumpkin, didn’t quite resonate with me. I say this because when looking at his design it was reminiscent of the Headless Horseman from Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and as such I thought a name like “Jack O’Lantern,” as clichéd as it may be, would have invoked the season far more. Granted, as much as I would have welcomed these changes, the film was still a great autumn piece.
Of course, just because I had some issues with the film doesn’t mean there weren’t some fascinating aspects to Eiga Go! Princess Pretty Cure Go! Go!! Gōka Sanbon Date!!!. The most unique of these related to how there were three films, albeit two were shorts, rolled into one. When I first heard the Go! Princess Pretty Cure film would do this, I had my doubts as I had become accustomed Pretty Cure films with a single narrative. In all honesty, though, it felt like a throwback to Japanese animated films from the 1990s. For those who are not familiar with the practices of that era, certain production companies would roll different anime franchises into a longer multi-feature film. Granted, each individual film was much shorter than a single feature length film, but the fact a moviegoer could watch at most three films for the price of one was fantastic. In a similar way, younger audience members for this film being able to enjoy three vastly different stories was gratifying, especially because the storytelling and animation methods were unique for each short and feature.
For example, the two shorts were both animated with CGI, but their styles were distinct from each other. The first short relied heavily on the chibi, or super-deformed, artistic style while the second was comparable to that of the ending credits of the TV series. The feature, in contrast, used traditional animation. This shift in animation styles actually fit the narrative of each story as well because the way Cure Flora moved and expressed herself in the first short wouldn’t have worked for the second short and vice versa, especially when taking into account how the first short was minimalist in the presentation of its narrative where the second was a fully formed story. As such, younger audience members were allowed the chance to engage with different artistic styles and storytelling techniques without being overwhelmed or challenged too much.
I also can’t ignore how the writing staff included a central message to reinforce cultural mores for the children in the feature presentation. It’s a common occurrence for this film franchise, and in the past some of the ideas informing a given film have included failing faster and compensating for an injury. However, in Eiga Go! Princess Pretty Cure Go! Go!! Gōka Sanbon Date!!! it revolved around how material possessions aren’t necessarily the things we should treasure the most. While it only really appeared briefly near the end of the second act and a bit in the third, it was the presentation that was noteworthy. This was done using the royal family of the Pumpkin Kingdom where they displayed a gamut of emotions in just a few scenes. For instance, as the film was transitioning between the second and third act, Cure Flora presented the king and queen of the Pumpkin Kingdom with a large bowl of pudding and explained how she had fond memories of her parents and that particular recipe. The emotions it invoked and the imagery used was a great juxtaposition to the villain, Warp, and his materialism. In fact, you could liken Warp to the Marvel Comics character The Collector, Taneleer Tivan. Thus, when the two ideas were placed in juxtaposition to each other, materialism versus love of family, friends, and the like, we saw how the latter was emphasized as righteous whereas the former was villainous. Again, this lesson in morality didn’t take center stage too often, but there was enough to reinforce the idea for the children in the viewing audience.
As an autumn and Halloween themed film, Eiga Go! Princess Pretty Cure Go! Go!! Gōka Sanbon Date!!! could have been far better. There were aspects to the release date as well as the narrative that could have brought the Halloween spirit out more. But, there was enough to make the film enjoyable. The unique use of three stories also made the film stand out from its counterparts as we received three different stories revolving around this iteration of Pretty Cure with diverse animation styles. If this is the direction Toei Animation, the studio that produces the Pretty Cure franchise, takes, the Pretty Cure film franchise we will most likely see more interesting ideas incorporated into them. Of course, there was the standard social lesson embedded into the narrative, but it was far less prevalent than other films in the franchise. While I can’t say materialism is evil, the idea that overconsumption is less moral than enjoying what we have in terms of our memories and experiences isn’t a poor message. Perhaps Eiga Go! Princess Pretty Cure Go! Go!! Gōka Sanbon Date!!! isn’t the best children’s Halloween film—I don’t think any film or TV special will top It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown—but it certainly was an enjoyable family film. In fact, maybe it will become a staple of Halloween specials in Japan.
Title: Eiga Go! Princess Pretty Cure Go! Go!! Gōka Sanbon Date!! (映画Go!プリンセスプリキュア Go! Go!!豪華3本立て!!!)
Under: Toei Animation
Official Site: http://www.precure-movie.com/
More Info: https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/映画_Go!プリンセスプリキュア_Go!Go!!豪華3本立て!!!