Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. It has been far too long since we last stopped in with Hana and the rest of the Hugtto crew, so today we’ll be remedying that post-haste, as we return to the charming world of Pretty Cure. The show’s last episode felt something like a post-act breather, as all the characters we’ve come to know joined together for a combined pool party and concert. It was a charming and low-stakes episode that nonetheless served as a key rite of passage for our team.
In keeping with Hugtto’s themes, that episode saw our leads taking tangible steps towards their futures, embracing adult responsibilities and taking charge within their community. The value of honest work, and the pride that comes from executing your craft, stand as core tenets of Hugtto’s philosophy. Having each struggled with doubts about their passions, our leads have learned to embrace their desires, whether those feelings lead them to figure skating or rock music or what have you.
Among all her friends, Hana remains the one without a clear professional trajectory. The very qualities that make her great at supporting others leave her personally unmoored; her talent is “supporting others in achieving their dreams,” and she’s at times wondered whether that’s really a talent at all. Her personality is a jumble of contradictions that make her perfectly suited to lead this narrative, and I’m eager to see how her journey continues. Let’s get right back to Hugtto Precure!
As always, it’s nice to start a show where the cast actually greet your arrival. It’s an extremely Hana-appropriate detail that she initially pushes too close to the camera in her excitement, and has to be pulled back by the rest of the team
We begin with an unusually extended cold open, as the former villains once again ask Emiru and Lulu to join their idol agency. “Former enemies turned friends” is pretty good, but “former enemies turned reluctant working stiffs in the background” is even better. There’s something about watching formerly nefarious evildoers man booths and stock shelves that just feels right; I suppose that’s the magic behind The Devil is a Part-Timer, and part of why Team Rocket are always so fun to hang out with
Homare’s getting her yukata fitted. Hell yeah, summer festival episode!
“Your mom’s gonna use that crane and put up tons of buildings!” I like that Homare’s mother is a construction worker, something considered a traditionally masculine occupation. Hugtto’s encouragement to follow your bliss is not confined by gender roles; whatever you want to be, you have the right to seek it
“There! You look even cuter now!” At the same time, her occupation does not define her; she’s equally capable of embracing traditionally feminine activities, and gushing over her daughter’s cuteness
We enjoy some lovely forest backgrounds as the gang gather for a shrine visit. Hugtto’s pencil and watercolor-reminiscent backgrounds are a perpetual delight; I love how the forms of the branches are only half-articulated by the linework, creating a sense of obscurement by the foliage, as well as the way the uneven color palette evokes light piercing through gaps in the canopy
Oh my god, Hugtan has a baby yukata that’s so big it basically turns her into an egg
Meanwhile, in a dark room somewhere, a sinister figure lurks!
It seems this figure’s name is Bishin, a yet-unknown member of Criasu Corp. I’m quite intrigued by this next crop of villains; there seems to be some genuine character drama brewing on this side, and some personal history between Kurai and his current associates
“The Summer Festival, the Fireworks, and Harry’s Secret.” Good. Harry’s been keeping secrets for too damn long at this point, and considering his original plan has already been adjusted to incorporate both Lulu and Emiru, it seems like it’s well past time to let the heroes know his intentions
And now Pupple is running a lottery booth at the festival. They have truly become a friendly Team Rocket, and I am so here for it
“I must have that high rank teddy bear!” Hana’s old man affectation is great. A convincingly strange habit for a convincingly weird kid
Hana’s classmate Hinase makes a bold move, winning her a stuffed teddy bear and telling her to “think of it as my feelings.”
Lulu and Saaya both bringing a scientist’s precision to the shooting gallery is an excellent gag. In ensemble stories like this, it’s always important to try and find the various smaller ways that different members of the group uniquely relate to each other. It’s easy for such groups to devolve into “our protagonist and their friends,” or into characters who are defined entirely by their core emotional arc. But in truth, everyone has a wide variety of quirks, and will frequently find unexpected points of connection with others. By celebrating these points of connection, Hugtto makes its characters feel that much more alive and engaged with each other’s lives. “Saaya and Lulu both get intense about carnival shooting galleries” emerges naturally from our understanding of their separate personalities, uniting them while also rewarding our knowledge of their characters
Oh my god, now they’re playing the Squid Game candy challenge and I’m getting horrible flashbacks
Speaking of Fuck Your Gender Norms, Harri and Emiru’s brother stop by, presumably on a date. Harri is absolutely killing it in a dress/yukata combo
Homare and Harry head up the shrine steps alone. The two of them also have a unique dynamic – when they’re alone, they converse almost like the group’s parents
Harry confesses that he’s an orphan, but had a gang of fellow hamsters in the future
In response, Homare reveals that her parents divorced when she was young. Her skating is to an extent wrapped up in her complex relationship with her parents – and now that she’s at school on a sports scholarship, she wants to put everyone’s minds at ease by succeeding professionally
Harry seems willing to reveal what he’s been hiding at last, but then Bishin arrives. The two already know each other – could Harry himself be a former defector from Criasu Corp? Perhaps this is a member of his band of friends from the future
Dr. Trauma has built his own summer festival at the Criasu Corp building, because Dr. Trauma is not a real doctor
Bishin’s design is gorgeous, frankly. Love how their wavy hair compliments and intersects with the sharp lines of their eyes, as well as the color pairing of their irises and eyeshadow
In spite of his earlier pledge to share his burdens with the group, Harry immediately exclaims that “this is my business,” and rushes to separate Bishin from the group. You gotta rely on your allies or they won’t rely on you, Harry!
I’m enjoying the unique sense of depth we get in these compositions, framed as they are from a hamster-eye perspective
“If you take them down, Criasu Corp might take you back, despite your betrayal.” Yeah, that’s what it is. Certainly explains Harry’s hesitance to talk about his past!
Both guesses are true – this was one of his friends, but then the group was scouted by Criasu Corp
This image of tiny hamster Harry strapped to an operating table is so much. I did not expect the hamster of all characters to have a background rich in tragedy and deceit
Bishin breaks Harry’s chain, unleashing his monstrous true form. So he doesn’t just have tacky taste, the chain is a limiter or something. I’m sorry I doubted your fashion instincts, Harry
The unabridged transformation sequence rotation now lasts for almost three minutes. At this rate, it would take roughly thirty Precure to make a season entirely composed of transformation sequences
“Of course you should be with us, on your side.” Bishin is clearly more desperate and lonely than genuinely villainous. I look forward to them joining the Team Rocket Squad
With the other Precure on the ropes, Homare squares off with Harry, and gives him a stern talking to about trusting his friends
“We promised! Let’s get through it together.” Genuine fragility in both her expression and Yui Ogura’s performance. This episode is paying off their unique bond in spectacular fashion
“I’m not giving up on you.” Bishin immediately slots into our library of sympathetic villains
There we go. I’ve been anticipating this episode for quite some time, as Harry’s reticence about his past has stood as one of Hugtto’s biggest mysteries. Learning that Harry was a former Criasu Corp employee made total sense – as we’ve already seen, most of their employees are driven more by desperation than conviction, lacking any support structure outside of the company’s favor. Between Harry, Lulu, and the other former employees, Hugtto is exploring some compelling territory regarding the inevitability and banality of corporate alienation. And at the same time, we got some excellent Homare material, as well as the introduction of an intriguing former associate for Harry to clash with. Quite the efficient episode!
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