As devoted followers of magical girls are aware, transformation is an internal process. That has been especially evident in Soaring Sky! The characters of Pretty Cure: they carry their transformation wands inside of them. The connections between each power and the Cures’ individual aspirations—for example, Sora wants to be a hero, Tsubasa wants to fly—are even more fascinating. Cure Butterfly, the eagerly anticipated mature Cure, appears on the scene with abilities derived from a distinct form of protection than Cure Sky’s: Ageha is a college student majoring in Early Childhood Education, and her protective instincts contribute to Cure Butterfly’s abilities. Cure Butterfly is defensive; like Cures Coral and Spicy before her, she builds shields to protect her brethren, but Cure Sky is mostly attacking.
Cure Butterfly’s protective abilities, however, go beyond that. Ageha, who was once Mashiro’s nanny and is older than the other Cures on her team, has a protective side that Cure Coral and Cure Spicy lack. As a teacher-in-training, Ageha views herself as a protector who stands between kids and the outside world, providing a secure environment for learning. She uses her barrier in the shape of a butterfly to keep everyone safe and make the fight easier, but she doesn’t let that perspective stand in the way of anyone’s fight. She may also assist her allies in their job thanks to her special ability, a magic paint palette, which precisely enhances their various talents and gives them a fighting edge. Even if she isn’t teaching directly, it’s clear from her playbook that it influences her choices.
Cure Butterfly’s debut holds scholarly significance due to its ability to transform aspects of the genre in its entirety. Though Ageha is only eighteen years old, Arina Tanemura’s Idol Dreams manga may have given us a magical woman before Soaring Sky! Pretty Cure (and Chikage is thirty-one, so much older than Ageha), this series is a more traditional telling of the magical girl story, so Ageha’s presence in the cast is especially significant. Ageha becoming Cure Butterfly is a reference to the Pretty Cure franchise’s elder fan base, just as Tsubasa’s transformation into Cure Wing demonstrates that boys can be kinder superheroes. Adult viewers of children’s media have always received a little side eye (and anyone who collects dolls has probably received some pain). Nevertheless, the truth is that if something resonates with you, it doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are. Anyone who is willing to connect with magical girl stories can benefit much from them, and Cure Butterfly affirms that it’s acceptable to enjoy them even if you’re not an eight-year-old girl. She discusses the fragile adult culture, which holds that you must “act your age” according to what society thinks is suitable. This is just as significant as Cure Wing or Sora’s spiritual crisis.
Being able to go back and forth between Skyland and Sorashido City gives Sora (and, to a lesser extent, Tsubasa) the opportunity to consider why they set out on their individual adventures. Sora wanted to be like Captain Shalala of the Azure Guard before arriving in Sorashido City, and she can start down that path by returning to Skyland in episodes fourteen and fifteen. It’s interesting to note that Sora’s brief service in the Azure Guard isn’t necessarily influenced by her job as a Pretty Cure. Her obsession with Shalala does, however, cause friction between her and another new member. This serves as some foreshadowing for episodes twenty-two and twenty-three, in which Sora experiences a crisis of confidence in herself after learning that Battamonda is abusing a wounded Shalala. Her faith in the other Cures’ skills remains unwavering, but she begins to doubt her own efficacy as Cure Sky after witnessing her hero in such a helpless state. She can no longer access her strength since, as I’ve explained, it originates from within. Even if she isn’t the first magical girl to have this kind of setback, the way it is depicted makes it noteworthy, mostly because it emphasizes how unimportant it is that she find the fortitude to believe in herself, regardless of how much her friends believe in her.
Although Mashiro has a less prominent role in the tale than her friends, these episodes position her to be Ellee’s greatest interpreter going forward. Mashiro, who is the most reserved member of the group overall, frequently lets herself disappear into the background. It seems that, with her parents gone and her grandmother living far away, she depends on Sora for support as well as friendship. Mashiro is devastated when Sora effectively stops being a Cure and returns to Skyland, claiming it’s permanent. This emotion resurfaces when Ellee is reunited with her parents. Several remarks are made along the lines of “families should be together,” and although Mashiro plays things low-key, it’s obvious that they really got to her. It would have been easy to have Mashiro mostly disappear into the background as the quiet one in the group, but instead, we get to see her thoughts expressed on her face rather than through her actions, which is another fantastic quality of this series. She simply doesn’t talk about the things she feels strongly, which may be incredibly reassuring to people who prefer not to express their feelings out loud.
I regret to inform you that, while this series of episodes introduces a new closing theme, it falls short of the previous one. It’s evident in the picture as much as the music; while the song is pleasant, it’s not much more than that, and the dance feels far less engaging than in the last one. The artwork gains a noticeable green thread from it, which could mean that a fifth Cure is on the way. Is Ellee the person in question? It is a real possibility now that we know what happened in episode twenty-four.
Even though Soaring Sky! Pretty Cure has a few clearly off-model episodes, it nevertheless runs strong. The option to switch between the two worlds of Ageha/Cure Butterfly adds a little bit that hasn’t been added to prior (legally released) series. Ageha/Cure Butterfly is a good addition to the squad. Above all, this is a pleasure to watch every week because of the superb thematic work exploring what it means to be a hero.