I had no intentions to view New Stage: Mirai no Tomodachi a second time, much less write up a review. But I took part in a recent discussion on the structure of theme, and which one was strongest in the line of Pretty Cure All Star movies. We were convinced that there was nothing as solid as the three New Stage versions, even though the plotlines were hardwired to the Precure formula for the movies at this time. The New Stage presentations were fixed on the ideal of tomodachi, the friend. All three gave glimpses of characters seeking and finding the devoted friend. The dysfunctional friendship of Ayumi and Foo-chan in the first. The concerns of En-En for his classmate Grell when the latter is threatened by Shadow, even though they don't seem to be on friendly terms ... that’s the second. And the final one which related the misadventures of the dream creature Yumeta as she learns about the value of real friends, not those trapped within her dream-realm by mother.
This movie features Suite Precure introducing Smile Precure by advancing a notion odd to the dictates of friendship. Miyuki deserts her friends in her search of the villainous Fusion ... and so does Hibiki. The leaders of the Suite and Smile teams run into Ayumi Sakagami who has her own share of woes. A recent transfer student, she is having trouble gaining friends. Well, she has one friend, a tiny creature named Foo who is a portion of the monster Fusion recently defeated by the combined teams of Precure (MaxHeart through Suite). The real problems begin when Foo tries to 'help' Ayumi from her stresses by 'resetting' her life. Resetting = deleting. And things like the vicious neighborhood dog, the mom Ayumi argued with, the school all vanish. Oh, did I mention that Ayumi said she hated Yokohama? Bad news all around.
The teams of Pretty Cure regather to battle the dark, gooey portions of Fusion which seem to absorb Precure powers and become all the stronger. Only Ayami can stop the destruction of the city by convincing Foo of her mistake of never being open and honest with her feelings. And with this courage to face herself and protect her friends ... she becomes Cure Echo. This was a unique solution to the problem never before tried by Toei Animation, the rapid creation of a singular Pretty Cure. But Ayumi had wished to be a Precure, and her zeal to protect the city she jeopardized by her frustration with her new, unfamiliar surroundings was the turning point in her life.
Cure Echo is a fascinating study, a true freelance precure not attached to any team. She only appears in the first and last New Stage movies. Pity. I would have expected that such a character could find more exposure, even in cameo appearances throughout the years. Not the case. These magic girls serve a short season and hands the reins to a new team. Only reunion movies are the means to reintroducing these legendary girl warriors of yore. Imagination stuns me as I contemplate the franchise going beyond twenty years towards thirty, when the creative powers of the animators at Toei Animation will be challenged to produce novel magic girl teams (Cure Pastrami-on-Rye leading Delicatessen Precure?).
In the end, it will be strong themes, imaginative storytelling, and vividly enthusiastic characters along with the pursuit of cutting-edge animation technique which will continue to drive the series. It will only be a matter of future history when anime fans will wonder at what time the Pretty Cure phenomenon lost its touch (if such is possible. Time will tell). But it wasn't in the time of the New Stage movie set. And I'm sure it won't have been its zenith.