Ink and Paint: Not Hearing It, Echo

We interrupt Final Fantasy Month for an absolutely vital Precure rant.

First, I'll be honest - I have seen about 55 minutes of New Stage, and it was in the raw, so I can only guess at the deeper story points from context.  But what I've seen hasn't impressed me.  The biggest complaint I've heard from everyone else is that the older Cures get very little screen time and not a lot of dialogue.  That I expect - the older casts get less & less to do as the All-Star movie series, and with the franchise running for a decade, it'd be hard to justify giving everyone a plot line in a single movie.  I was disappointed that there was no dazzling new form for everyone, nor a group attack, nor that we had to spend more time with my least-favorite season above all the rest (that would be Suite, a.k.a. Hibiki the Loudmouth and Three Other Girls).  But that was not my biggest bother.

No, that would be the face fault that is the introduction of the new movie-only Precure, Cure Echo.

Yes, most of the movie is built around Ayumi/Echo being awkward at a new school and befriending what turns out to be the monster.  But there was so much made of her debut as Cure Echo in the build-up and being slapped right in the middle of any & all merch, that what we got was a ridiculous let-down.  Out of this entire clip, her transformation takes up a fifth of that time; she has no real attack other than this transformation, and most of it seems to be the leaders from Smile & Suite telling her that they're glad she transformed.  But here's the problem:

  • That transformation pales in comparison to every single Precure transformation.  She comes out with her full dress & accessories, no real "tranformation" occurring.  Even the "fwings" for her jewelry serve to point out it exists, not create it like with the others.  This is easily the laziest transformation I've seen in a magical girl series other than the early Starlights transformations that were devoid of motion in Sailor Moon Sailor Stars.  If Toei had to trim time/budget anywhere, this would be the last place they should've done it.
  • She has no attack.  She doesn't even try to fight anything or serve as a support/barrier player like Shiny Luminous.
  • She doesn't allow the other Cures to power up or do a big group attack.  Miyuki is the only one who gets to kill Fusion.  It would've been more moving if Echo had to do it, but all she does is cry, appear as a Precure, and cry some more.
  • Before this, she doesn't interact a lot with the Cures or bond with them.  Like others have pointed out, her background is identical to Miyuki's - she's the awkward new girl at her school & is having trouble reaching out to make friends.  Maybe some of the time wasted on showing her & Fu-chan bonding (which would've worked in a montage) could've been used to give her more of a connection to the known heroines.
So we had all this build-up to an amazing new character who does absolutely nothing other than find the monster.

Some have argued that this is just her introduction, so that Cure Echo can be built up more in later New Stage movies.  That's a weak argument for a couple reasons.  First, story-wise, the ending makes it clear that Ayumi is moving on with her life; she's making friends at school now and doesn't seem to even hint at the possibility that she might in passing be concerned in any way that she turned into a superhero who did nothing recently.  Second, if you're gonna introduce a new character to your movie series, you need to give them something to do other than exist; even though Black Widow didn't get a lot of screen time in Iron Man 2, she still got a fight scene to show off what she was capable of doing so we could look forward to seeing more of her in The Avengers.  What we saw of Echo wasn't exciting enough to want to revisit her and see if she'll actually have a decent transformation or if she's capable of fighting.  If anything, this hollow debut has killed any interest that we did have in the beginning.

If Echo turns up in Smile or is the star of the next series, then I'll be pleasantly surprised.  However, as she is, she's barely a notch above Tsubomi & Erika's friend who imagined himself as Cure Fire; at least Ban was amusing.  I wish Toei had given this movie more money for the actual film & thus maybe more time to develop its story & new character instead of funnelling all of the cash to the marketing.  Unless they really work to redeem the character & make her valuable, Cure Echo might be the Pretty Cure of Hype Backlash.

EDIT 1/27/2013: I have finally gotten a chance to see New Stage subbed in its entirety, so I have some additional thoughts.  First, I understand entirely why people were upset that the Cures from the first three series were reduced to cameos, but I still understand why Toei did that; the movie felt ultimately like a Suite/Smile crossover until the end, which allowed for greater character focus.  I can happily say that this movie was the only time I didn't feel like smacking Hibiki.  Second, I have some amended thoughts on Cure Echo.  Again, I understand what Toei was going for, using Ayumi as a living embodiment of the "any girl with a kind, brave heart can be a Pretty Cure" theme that ran through the movie.  But I still feel disappointed that the new girl really didn't get a proper transformation or any sort of action.  Ayumi could've spoken to Fu-chan without transforming except for the need to reinforce the "this could be you" theme.  And Ayumi herself is pretty likable, so it's actually even more disappointing that the character is being put on the shelf without realizing her full potential.  There's no sign of her appearing in New Stage 2 (the "everyman" role in that one appears to be a mascot-like critter), so she still feels like the Pretty Cure of Wasted Potential.  It was a good movie but even after getting to know & like her, I'm still disappointed with Echo.

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