Tropical Rouge! Precure (also known as Tropical Rouge! Pretty Cure) is the latest entry in the popular Pretty Cure magical girl franchise, and while every season brings something to the table, few have been planned during a pandemic that has changed the world itself. With its tropical summer theme and its hyper-cheerful heroine, I believe that one of the goals of the series is to bring some joy and positivity in the face of COVID-19.
The best children’s entertainment tries to respond to the needs of its young viewers. Ten years ago, a different tragedy struck Japan: the 3.11 Fukushima triple disaster. Back then, the next Pretty Cure to debut after that horrific event was Smile Precure!, a series big on hijinks and positivity. Similarly, the first Kamen Rider series after Fukushima was Kamen Rider Fourze, which was notably sillier than its predecessors. Kids at the time (and even adults) likely needed something comforting. But there’s a different set of challenges in 2021, and when looking at Tropical Rouge! Precure, it seems to be a response to the mental and emotional stress of the coronavirus.
The protagonist, Manatsu Natsuumi (whose name essentially means “Midsummer Summer Sea”), is by far the most boundlessly energetic lead character the Pretty Cure franchise has ever seen. Sure, that kind of gusto is a hallmark trait of most Pretty Cure heroines, but Manatsu is ridiculously genki to the point that watching her feels like running a marathon. Rather than that being a flaw, however, it might just be what the doctor ordered: someone who can put her all into conveying a motivation and optimism that is sorely lacking over the past year.
The villains also appear to speak to the problems of a pandemic. The enemy saps people’s “motivation power,” leaving them listless and lethargic. Their leader is the “Witch of Delays,” as if pointing to all the things that were forced into holding patterns or given up on due to COVID-19.
Then there’s the eponymous environment ofTropical Rouge! Precure, which seems geared towards providing viewers with outdoorsy relief from the current situation of staying home. While Japan’s COVID infection rate isn’t as bad as some parts of the world, it’s still an ongoing concern. International travel is restricted, so kids can live vicariously through Manatsu and the other characters as they explore the ocean and the sea, scratching that itch to go somewhere different without worrying about an invisible menace.Tropical Rouge! Precure has only just begun, but I think the focus on providing a bright and sunny world will only grow stronger over time. I hope that the series succeeds in giving the kids and adults watching the motivation and comfort to keep going strong every day.