Fairytales are often interesting stories that take us away from the stresses of real life and immerse us in the realms of insatiable romances, sweep us into lavish countries, or give a seemingly normal person powers that make them larger than life.
One thing that I fully admit is that I do enjoy these stories, even variations of similar stories and themes, as long as they have heart and characters I can relate to. Pretear is a series that takes a clever twist on many fairy tales from Cinderella to Snow White, and portrays it in a way that gives it a magical girl spin. Himeno, a jovial girl who resides with her father, finds herself thrust into a new family and standard of high class living when her father remarries - with two new stepsisters who seem to either make her life completely difficult (but in humorous ways: if you watch Mayune, she's relatively harmless), or one who gives her the cold shoulder. Himeno's life changes when she comes across the Leafe Knights, who tell her that she's to fulfill a destiny as the Pretear, one who eradicates the evil demons that come with the red snow sent by the Princess of Disaster (or the Princess of Calamity in the Japanese original). Himeno doesn't quite fill the shoes at first, but she comes to love and associate with the knights in the adventures and battles they face. It's a series which starts with well done situational humor and lighthearted characteristics, but following the fifth episode progresses into a darker tale with heavier undertones.
Pretear's downfalls are its tendencies to fall in traditional mahou shoujo cliches. That means the monster of the day formula and summoning spells, three way love triangles, transformation scenes, and bishounen (which isn't a bad thing if you love bishounen ^^) in every corner, as well as situations that drive Himeno (and the people of her affections) apart in cliched formats that may meet the viewer with frustration if looking for a series that stands apart from tradition. Often it tends to overemphasize the themes of "never give up" that have predominated in series like this beforehand-a la Wedding Peach, Sailor Moon, etc.
One aspect I would argue in Pretear's defense is that it does have quite a few interesting twists in both character revelations and identities, you truly don't find the element of betrayal or the villainess until well into the series. Yet the reasoning behind the twists are relatively simple and underdeveloped. Another stronger is the situational humor, which is arguably what I liked the most about the series. Himeno is a hilarious leading female to start until she falls into the "clingy" stature that tends to predominate in this genre's schematic, but could say that she's a sweet character nonetheless. I also liked the situational humor that her fellow Leafe Knights and the side characters provided before the series shifts focus to develop a darker atmosphere. I find with those who love this series, if you want a traditional mahou shoujo series and favor series of this type, Pretear should not strike you in an ill fashion at all. Matter in point, I actually did like Pretear, though I watched it quite a while after the series was first released and I recognized that it wasn't my favorite shoujo series compared to those that were released in former and latter years.
The ending of the series disappointed in its rushed format. I think the parallel with some of the fairy tales, particularly with the ending could have had slightly more weight if the progression was not as limited, yet the reactions of the characters made it seem more genuine for a series of this type than it otherwise would.
I believe that if you're not expecting too much from this series, you could very well enjoy its parallels to popular fairy tales; I counted about 5 or 6 different stories it lifted, yet I felt it could have been even better if it took liberties to incorporate more of that distinction and less in the cliche realm. It's a decent series, and I would recommend it to shoujo fans who want something that has interesting parallels, but doesn't stray too far from the standard shoujo series formula.
The animation and character desgn in Pretear reminds me quite a bit of character designs from Magic Knight Rayearth, except better coloring and more modern animation sequences, something I could note as nicely adapted for a shoujo series. One could also note the special effects that enhance the atmosphere of the series, including the shading of the darker events. It's what I could call a series that excelled among its time, and continues to maintain standard with contemporary series, but doesn't quite go beyond in its presentation. Cel production, backdrops, and even the transformation sequences are fine, though the latter does become repetitive, and one could note that cels are reused.
There were parts that were done that I did find to be a great addition, including the use of purple butterflies associated with the evil Pretear.
I did like the nice J-Pop and instrumental themes featured in this series, quite well done on most areas. "White Destiny" is actually one of my favorite opening sequences and songs by Yoko Ishida, beautiful vocals and themes that fit the series well. The ending theme didn't quite stand out to me all that much, but if you're a shoujo fan, you may find the sequence quite fun and cute (especially considering the Leafe Knights are portrayed like little mischevious angels).
Voice acting in both the English (licensed by ADV) and the Japanese versions of the series were well done for the most part. I thought Himeno's VA added slightly more humor and convincing stature to her role than the English VA, yet all of the Leafe Knights were well suited in both renditions.
If you like Pretear, it will undoubtedly be for the characters since they give an element of enjoyment - a factor that kept me watching from beginning to end. Himeno, Hayate, and Sasame are the main 3 that the series follows, yet collectively with Go, Kei, Mannen and Haijime when Himeno becomes the Pretear. The focus does shift to the situational family life that Himeno has aside from her duties, which she keeps secret from her family in some humorous situations. This is definitely a series for the shoujo crowd that will have one watching the series think it's very cute and funny. The side characters including Himeno's father and stepmother, stepsisters, have their own endearing flare when it comes to humor, quite different from those who might have read the manga, and as the series takes a darker turn, there's potential to feel for the main characters, yet i found that it pales because of the prominent cliches in points.
Himeno starts as a bold, energetic and vivacious heroine that I would have loved even more if she didn't fall into the typical reactions of magical girl heroines, particularly in the darker setup of the second half of this 13 episode series. Hayate reminded me of what I liked about Tamahome at first in Fushigi Yuugi-quick tongued and humorous, but with a mysterious past that's further explored as the series comes to pass, yet his character does tend to fall into similar cliches. The same is shown with the other main lead of the Leafe Knights, Sasame, the seemingly intelligent and friendly aide to Himeno who gives her advice when times get tough. The remainder of the Leafe Knights tend to take more of a backseat and establish the cute bishounen aspect of the series.
The side characters are interesting to watch when in humorous adaptations of their respective fairy tale counterparts, yet unfortunately find not much development. Chiawata, the quiet stepsister whom at first gives Himeno a cold shoulder, is a sweet girl under the surface, but her backstory seems overblown in some measures, not having quite the weight that it could have had if she were a more developed character.
Overall, Pretear is a series I would recommend more to crowds who enjoy traditional magical girl stories with a slight twist in not only the thematic, but also the overall progression with enjoyable characters.
Awayuki Himeno is a normal schoolgirl who is in a bind: her father’s remarriage yielded two new cruel stepsisters, and to top it off, she meets seven men who call themselves Liefe Knights. They reveal to her that she's a Pretear, someone who can lend powers to them when their powers aren’t enough to defeat the evil creatures called mayouchuu. Now, she has to fight the ambitious Fenrir, whose only purpose is to leech the life force from all living beings. Can Himeno save the world and find a way to deal with her growing feelings for one of the Liefe Knights?
I tend to be a fan of slice of life, dramatic and romantic series, but my palette is open to different series of a plethora of genres. I love watching series that engage my senses and imagination, and as a writer, I always appreciate a good story with a great cast of characters. I love when people give feedback on my reviews, because it helps me see things in a different lens, so I encourage you to converse with me if you have any questions, commentary or just want to chat about a series. ^_^