Popular children’s anime Pretty Cure (nicknamed Precure) has become a staple of the magical girl genre, but its latest episode may be a small sign of a new era. The show, which has over a 15-year run, follows a group of girls who transform into superpowered “magical girl” personas called Pretty Cures to defeat the baddies.
In an article published by The Asahi Shimbun on Dec. 3, the author details a surprising twist in Precure’s latest episode, where the Pretty Cures’ male classmate Anri Wakamiya overcame gender boundaries and transformed into a magical girl himself.
This is not the first time Anri has challenged gender norms in the Pretty Cure series. The blonde half-French, half-Japanese character sometimes wears dresses to school, deciding in one episode that it’s a waste of time trying to explain himself to the classmates who make fun of him.
— プププ プリキュア (@love_prelive) June 10, 2018
When he’s feeling down on himself for being like a princess in distress after getting captured by a monster, his Pretty Cure friends cheer him up by saying, “It’s okay! Boys can be princesses, too!” In a genre where gender norms are often strictly regulated, Anri’s dresses and transformation are a refreshing twist that shows diversity in a positive light.
— 【大いなる】キュアしろたん【希望の力】 (@cure_shirotann3) June 12, 2018
The Pretty Cures’ supportive encouragement of Anri was repeated again during his transformation when they cheer him on by saying, “You can do anything! You can be anything!”
Ryusuke Hikawa, an animation researcher and Meiji University graduate school professor, also praised the series in The Asahi Shimbun newspaper article, saying that it “naturally conveyed an affirmative message that men also can become Precure, being conscious of the current social atmosphere and raising the importance of gender equality.” He continued, “I think it gave kids the opportunity to think about the importance of diversity.”
How did people react?
Reactions to the latest male addition to the Pretty Cures have been mixed, with some people on internet message boards in Japanese claiming that a male magical girl is “just disgusting” or that it “ruins the concept of Pretty Cure,” while others have been supportive and even wondering if we might see female iterations of male-dominated series such as Kamen Rider.
Twitter user @kuramoto0101 congratulates the newest Pretty Cure member, saying “Anri became a Pretty Cure! Yay!” and posting adorable fan art of the character’s alter-ego, “Cure Infinity.”
— くらもと (@kuramoto0101) December 1, 2018
Upon hearing the news about the latest addition to the Pretty Cures, mother of two and LGBT ally @meg1228tora wrote on Twitter that with the Heisei Era in Japan coming to an end next year, she hopes that in the new era her two boys can confidently say what they like and be with who they like, and that same-sex marriage will be recognized and gender issues will be more deeply understood.
— めぐ@冬コミ土曜東ヒ26b (@meg1228tora) December 2, 2018
Another Twitter user @yukisouma-hal reflected on the new Pretty Cure member saying, “In this time when anyone can be a Pretty Cure, you’ve got to just be yourself.”
— 草摩由希😇 12/14-16BDE (@yukisouma_hal) December 3, 2018
The LGBTQ+ educational Twitter account @Palette_lgbtq utilized the mainstream interest in gender roles brought on by this new development to create a short educational manga about the subject, in which they praise Precure’s inclusion of a male in their superpowered lineup.
— Palette (パレット) (@Palette_lgbtq) December 4, 2018
LGBTQ+ representation in Japan
In the West where LGBTQ+ representation has come a long way in the past few years, some might wonder if simply adding a male Pretty Cure was enough.
But when GaijinPot reached out to Yuto, a Japanese member of the transgender community, he told us that if he had seen something like this — a character transcending gender roles and getting support from his peers — in his youth, it would have given him some encouragement to be his authentic self at a younger age.
With the new era soon approaching in Japan, we may be seeing more examples of LGBTQ+ and more diversity in anime and especially children’s media.