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Base entry for the Pretty Cure franchise.
Like Digimon, this is a Cash Cow Franchise metaseries created Anime First by Toei Animation and spanning many an Alternate Continuity. Each series revolves around a certain number of girls being chosen to Save Both Worlds (in this case, Earth and the world of the fluffy talking mascots) from those that would spread misery and ruin.
The series distinguishes itself from other Magical Girl series in the high amount of physical fighting and Post Modernism included, and through the dynamic of having two central main characters who can only transform and use their most powerful abilities in tandem; although, this element has been phased out as the yen poured in. The series focuses heavily on The Power of Friendship and the Character Development between the lead characters.
The first series was Futari wa Pretty Cure ("The Two of Us Are Pretty Cure"), a show where a Red Oni, Blue Oni duo of Japanese schoolgirls- Nagisa Misumi and Honoka Yukishiro- are forced to work together to fight the invading inhabitants of the Dusk Zone, retrieve all seven Prism Stones and free the Queen of Light. As Cure Black and Cure White respectively, they set the standard for many of the show's recurring tropes. The show is also notable for its Seinen elements, including an abundance of action-packed physical combat (directed by the guy who did Dragonball Z!) and blatant yuri subtext between Nagisa and Honoka.
The show did so well that it got a direct sequel as Futari Wa Pretty Cure MaX Heart. The Evil King of the Dusk Zone revives again and the Queen of Light is forced to split herself into pieces, one of which manifests as a young girl called Hikari. Cure Black and White are given a power-up and sent out to retrieve all the pieces of the Queen with the help of Hikari, who can transform into Third Ranger and Support Party Member Shiny Luminous.
Futari Wa Pretty Cure Splash*Star is the first to be set in an Alternate Continuity. At first the show was an awkward Expy of the original series, with not-Nagisa Saki Hyuuga (Cure Bloom) and non-Honoka Mai Mishou (Cure Egret) fighting to free the seven World Fountains from the control of the evil Dark Fall. In addition, Moral Guardians had forced many of the Seinen elements unique to Pretty Cure to be downsized, resulting in battles that focused less on hard-hitting fisticuffs and more on non-contact magical attacks. However, once past that initial awkward phase the series grew into its own identity, adding two Dark Magical Girls as rivals and establishing Saki and Mai as their own characters.
Yes! Pretty Cure 5 caused an uproar by diverging from the previous Pretty Cure formula in favour of a more standard Magical Girl show with a Sailor Moon-esque team of five equals. Idiot Hero Nozomi Yumehara (Cure Dream) and her four team-mates have to catch fifty-five fairy critters with their extremely cool and affordable watches before the evil Nightmare Corporation does. Yes! did start one new trend for the franchise: including the phrase "Pretty Cure" in every attack name and transformation phrase.
Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go!Go! (the 5 is still pronounced "faibu", slightly obscuring the Incredibly Lame Pun) continues the story of Nozomi and her friends, only this time they are trying to save the four rulers of Magical Land from an evil museum called Eternal with the help of a flying mailman penguin named Syrup. They also pick up a mysterious Sixth Ranger called "Milky Rose", whose true identity is... shocking, really.
The sixth series, Fresh Pretty Cure, switches to the adventures of Love Momozono (Cure Peach) and her two friends (Cure Berry and Cure Pine) as they fight against the sinister agents of Labyrinth over a mysterious MacGuffin called Infinity. There's plenty of dancing, Mid Season Upgrades that arrive way too early and a pretty epic character arc that results in the birth of the fourth Pretty Cure, Cure Passion.
Heartcatch Pretty Cure focuses on flower-loving introvert Tsubomi Hanasaki and fashion-loving Genki Girl Erika Kurumi, who transform into Cure Blossom and Cure Marine (respectively) to fight the evil Desertrians and their quest to steal the "Heart Flowers" of innocent people and turn the world into a desert. Highlights include character designs by Ojamajo Doremi illustrator Yoshihiko Umakoshi, and a heart-wrenching series-long subplot about a fallen Pretty Cure called Cure Moonlight.
Suite Pretty Cure brings the Wonder Twin Powers back again with Tomboy and Girly Girl Hibiki Houjou and Kanade Minamino as Cure Melody and Cure Rhythm (respectively). The two fight against the villains of Minor Land, who seek to sing the Melody of Sorrow and plunge the world into despair. Helping them out is Third Ranger Cure Beat, a mysterious masked Aloof Ally called Cure Muse, and a ridiculous Lensman Arms Race of Mid Season Upgrades.
Smile Pretty Cure, the latest Pretty Cure series, goes back to having a core team of five. The theme of the show is fairy tales, as the Smile team work with the storybook critters of Märchenland against the baddies of the Bad End Kingdom, who seek to awaken their lord Pierrot and bring the "Worst Ending" to the world.
There is also a series of Pretty Cure All Stars movies, teaming up characters from all series, as well as a short film and a video game that do the same. Together, these make up the Crossover Compilation.
Furthermore, most seasons have at least one movie that makes no canonical sense (most of the time) but can't be thrown out because of something really awesome happening in it.
The Franchise seems to have very good relations with Tokusatsu : it's produced by Toei, which also produces Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, and the three franchises are aired back to back in the appropriately named Super Hero Time block. The Pretty Cure and Super Sentai movies have been played as double bills, and Nagisa and Honoka teamed up with Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger characters in an audio drama, and later with Mahou Sentai Magiranger. Gundam has a less than amiable relation with Pretty Cure as those who had a role in Gundam went on to play villains for Pretty Cure.
This franchise has a character sheet.
There is also a manga for each series, going into depth in various ignored aspects, like Rin's crush on Nuts and Saki's little sister's life.
The franchise is also known as Precure. While this is technically a more accurate transliteration of the title logo (which reads "purikyua") and appears in URLs and such, said logo also explicitly spells out the title as "PRETTY CURE" (except in the case of the third cast, which has no caption, and the fifth, which... says "PRECURE"), as does much of the  merchandise. The pronunciations purikyua and puritii kyua are used interchangeably, both in theme songs ("1, 2, 3, 4, Purikyua 5! Puritii, kyu, kyu, kyu, kyua...") and in-universe (including one odd instance of a character hearing the name for the first time as purikyua and immediately questioning "Puritiikyua?"). There are two ways to deal with this: one is to directly translate, taking "Precure" as a commonly used short form and "Pretty Cure" as their less-used full title, and the other, used by both fansubs and the first season's official subs, is to use "Pretty Cure" for both. TV Tropes (Wiki) does the latter for reasons completely unrelated to "Pretty Cure" making a good Wiki Word.
And in case you're wondering: yes, the title is a pun. "Purikura", short for "Print Club", is the name given to those photo booths in Japan that print out stickers with your photo on them. (This is never brought up in the show, save for the Elder of the first continuity constantly calling Pretty Cure "Purikura", nor does it have any significance.)
For individual series examples, go to their pages. More than one installment of this franchise provides examples of:
- Action Girl: All of them, save for support fighter Hikari/Shiny Luminous. You wouldn't expect a magical girl franchise to be so full of movement and fighting.
- An Asskicking Christmas: The Christmas episode, more often than not, overlaps with the final battle.
- Becoming the Mask: If you masquerade as a student at the school your enemies go to like Kiriya or the Kiryuu twins did, or as a friend to someone who's supposed to be your enemy like Setsuna did, you've completed your first step toward a full-blown Heel Face Turn.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Ever since Yes! Pretty Cure 5 the movies always have to include flashlight-esque items called the Miracle Lights, used to bring the Eleventh-Hour Superpower.
- The Cameo: Mayu Kudou, singer of several Pretty Cure themes from Yes! Pretty Cure 5 to Suite Pretty Cure, has cameoed twice. Once in Yes! Pretty Cure 5 with the ending singer Kanako Miyamoto, and again in Heartcatch Pretty Cure with the opening singer Aya Ikeda. Oddly enough, both animated versions of Mayu look completely different from each other (the different art styles not helping matters).
- Cash Cow Franchise:The series has earned Toei Animation excesses of 10 billion yen annually, with the only exception being 2006.
- Cute Bruiser: Most everyone.
- Dancing Theme: Every season has one Ending Theme with dancing; from 2009 onward, both ending themes per series have featured CGI dancing (choreographed by Ken Maeda, no less).
- And the CGI just keeps getting better with each series. Compare "You Make Me Happy" and "Yay! Yay! Yay!".
- Hair Decorations: All over the place. In fact, the only Cure in the franchise to have completely unadorned hair in Pretty Cure form is Cure Black (though Nagisa does wear a cute little heart bead when she plays lacrosse).
- Evolving Credits: Very common for the franchise as a whole.
- Excited Episode Title: every series uses these to various extents and always contain rather large spoilers, Heartcatch Precure being the most Shonen like abuses this with 90% of the episodes being this.
- Fleeting Demographic: Young girls, though fortunately they aren't the only demographic.
- Frills of Justice: The outfit of every single Precure
- Good Old Fisticuffs: A lot of action series could learn a thing or two from how these girls dish it out.
- Gratuitous English: Every Cure name, every transformation phrase and every Finishing Move.
- Of course, there are exceptions like Cure Rouge, which is French for "red" and some attacks have little Gratuitous Other Language like "Lucky Clover Grand Finale" in Fresh and every single attack from Heartcatch with any variation of the Italian words "forte" or "fortissimo" (Suite has a few as well, since a lot of the musical terms featured in the attack names are Italian).
- Heel Face Turn: At least one per continuity: Kiriya in Futari wa Pretty Cure, Michiru and Kaoru in Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star, Bunbee in Yes! Pretty Cure 5, Setsuna, Westar and Souler in Fresh Pretty Cure, all of the Desert Apostles in Heartcatch Pretty Cure, and Ellen and Trio the Minor in Suite Pretty Cure. The list goes on.
- In a Single Bound: One too many Cures have this ability. In fact, there is one famous scene from the original Futari wa Pretty Cure opening (and copied a lot in the Pretty Cure All Stars movies) which involves Black and White leaping away from an explosion.
- Magical Girl: The theme of the entire franchise.
- Made of Iron: A side effect of being a Cure.
- Magic Skirt: Most of the time, in particular Fresh and Suite.
- Merchandise-Driven: How much varies from season to season, but it's usually obvious that at least one magical trinket per season was designed to be a toy first and an implement of magical ass-kicking second. The cell phone Transformation Trinkets are a relatively common example.
- Mini-Dress of Power: Basically all.
- Modesty Shorts: When there isn't a Magic Skirt involved there's this.
- Monster of the Week: Often gigantic, so even when they're blatantly silly, there can be some sweet moves involved in taking them down.
- Multiple Demographic Appeal: The franchise is aimed at girls 4-12 and men 16-35. Not just through Moe Moe, but also Hot-Blooded battles. The mix can be jarring but awesome.
- New Transfer Student: Several Cures start out as this. In chronological order: Hikari, Michiru and Kaoru (even if they're not actually Cures), Urara and Kurumi, Setsuna, Tsubomi, Ellen, and Miyuki.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: As of 2008, the older Cures have been subjected to this. It's been years since Max Heart's end, but Nagisa, Honoka and Hikari don't look a day older than they were back then.
- Odd Couple: For two-person teams; when the teams widened and there was only one main character instead of two, just about every combination was an Odd Friendship
- Pink Means Feminine: In fact, every team has a member in pink, and more often than not she's the leader, similar to Super Sentai with red.
- Rapunzel Hair: Whether in civilian form or not, many Cures have this.
- Red Headed Heroine: Also one per continuity: Nagisa/Cure Black, Saki/Cure Bloom and Michiru, Rin/Cure Rouge, Inori/Cure Pine, Tsubomi/Cure Blossom, Hibiki/Cure Melody and Ako/Cure Muse, and Akane/Cure Sunny. Of course, the level of redness depends on the viewer.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: The various mascots. Most play a much bigger role in the series with Wonder Twin Powers (namely the first three, Heartcatch and Suite.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Right before the final fight
- The Power of Friendship: Unlike most series in the genre, where it's second to The Power of Love, friendship is the most important thing in Pretty Cure. Every episode focuses on the relationships between the girls, and no romantic subplot is ever completely resolved, whether between the Cures themselves or with a third party; Nozomi/Coco is the one exception, and even they are allowed far less PDA than other magical girl leads, only getting to kiss offscreen and in a movie. Most speeches are of the friendship variety, and the Cures' powers literally run on friendship -- even the ones who can transform separately are stronger together, and, as seen in the case of Karen, powers can fail completely if they don't open up and act sincerely towards their True Companions.
- Save Both Worlds: The fairy's world and the human world.
- Spiritual Successor: the franchise on the whole is this to Sailor Moon.
- Strictly Formula: Not just individual episodes, but the series themselves, something that became particularly jarring from 2009 to 2011, which always had four-girl teams and a cheat code item appear at a late point to give the girls a new attack or set of costumes.
- In all series, seasons, holidays, and school events (culture festival, sports meet, etc.) roughly line up with the real world according to episode airdates. This requires a little chronological fudging, as Pretty Cure series run from February to January but reflect the April to March Japanese school year.
- Notable is that around episodes 20-24 (usually 23) something plot-related always happens, usually the appearance of a Sixth Ranger or the Mid-Season Upgrade.
- Certain plots also may happen once per season, such as two of the Cures having a disagreedment and nearly triggering the team's break-up.
- An episode in the late 30s will feature one member of the team getting a real or imagined opportunity in acting/modeling/music/etc., with implications that they'll leave the area and cease all Magical Girl activities. Never actually happens.
- Most of the villains will make a Heel Face Turn by the end of the show by either purification (Desert Apostles, Noise), turning traitor (Westar and Souler), or flat out becoming a Pretty Cure themselves during the turnpoint of the season (Setsuna and Ellen).
- It also seems that, from Fresh onwards, the first villain in the group to appear is the one who does a Heel Face Turn first. Ellen and Setsuna become Cures, while Sasorina gets purified first out of Heartcatch's villains. Because of this, fans are already guessing that out of Smile's villains Wolfrun be turned good first, but this may change as the story goes on.
- Thigh-High Boots: Every series has at least one Cure wearing them, with the exception of the the first two continuities, which instead used leg warmers for a similar effect.
- Trailers Always Spoil: New cure? It's in the next episode preview. New power? In the preview.
- Transformation Is a Free Action: Justified in-universe, where the transformation takes place inside a barrier or appears as a bright flash of light to observers.
- Transformation Trinket: Every single season has one.
- Unflinching Walk: The finisher attacks.
- Wonder Twin Powers: The first three seasons and Suite; also Heartcatch to a lesser extent.
- ↑ truly astonishing amount of