Himeno is a typical 16 year old girl; apart from the fact that she now lives in a huge mansion with her new step mum and 2 step sisters after her father suddenly remarries. She’s an outcast in her home due to her energetic nature and at school for being part of a rich family. One day after school she bumps into Hayate, one of the seven Knights that have sworn to protect this world’s supply of Leafe, magical energy source that keeps all things alive. When the Princess of Disaster comes to Earth to destroy the world by sucking its Leafe supply, the knights must find a Pretear to defeat here, is Himeno up to the task?
It’s easy to assume that Pretear is very much like other magical girl series; you’ve got the ‘chosen one’ with the power to save the world, long transformation sequences, elaborate costumes, a potential love interest who she argues with a lot but secretly loves him, and the ‘power of love’ theme running through all 13 episodes. For the greater part of this series, Pretear is close to the well known clichéd formula, and it’s bland take on the well known magical girl elements coupled with average presentation does little to help it. However its redeeming features come from smaller elements of the series that keep it separate from the bottom of the anime pile, and give it more than enough reason for viewers to check it out if they have even the slight bit on interest in it. Positive aspects include our heroine, Himeno, who is Usagi from Sailor Moon and Excel Saga’s wacky female lead’s love child; complete with a hyper nature, good heart and short temper, but she also smart as she takes the initiative to ask for training of her new Pretear powers in episode 2, knowing full well she has little combat experience. Our 7 Leafe knights are all varying degrees of male stereotypes in anime ready to fall to their knees for Himeno, but they also have their separate lives; complete with jobs and secret identities to uphold. The Pretear has to battle giant, ugly monsters with her various magical powers, but combat takes place within a special shield that prevent outsiders from getting hurt or finding out the truth about what’s really going on. It’s these small shining moments of common sense and humanity that make sitting through the lame script and predictable plot worthwhile.
The director of Sailor Moon is behind Pretear but sadly a lot of the bigger magical girl staples aren’t up to scratch. Starting with the combat, they’re interesting in the first few episodes as Himeno uses the powers of all seven knights but apart from Hayate their powers are demonstrated minimally and underused; there was one attack where Himone ice skates and then pulls out a giant frozen spike to use as a cannon. It looks cool and well animated but we see it a grand total of once. The battles themselves go by quickly (sometimes shorter than the transformation sequence itself) and don’t show any particular choreography that you wouldn’t have seen before.
Another staple is the transformation sequence, which is as long as you’ve expected them to be and unique in its own right but it’s also a bit weird to watch. The sequence consists of Himone and the respective Knight being naked, hugging, then a glow and sparkles which forms Himone’s costume. Bear in mind that not all of the Knights are adult males, 3 of the Knights are minors so the thought of seeing our heroine being naked with someone no older than 10 years old is a bit strange. However the whole performance does bring out some funny lines in the script of the first disc.
Animation is standard; nothing spectacular with regular use of static images and minimal movements outside of battles but it’s enough to carry the 13 episode series. The character designs range from decent (Sasame’s bishounen style is easy on the eyes) to unattractive (what Himeno sees in Hayate I’ll never know) to downright weird (Kei is Mihoshi from Tenchi in drag).
On the audio side, the opening theme grows tiresome very quickly with it being used across all menus for the DVD’s, and the ending theme being just as sugar-coated and basic as they come. Incidental music is mostly generic and forgettable but voice acting is decent with experienced actors such as Spike Spencer and Luci Christian at the helm.
DVD extras include the staple clean opening and closing animations plus ADV previews and ‘Behind the Anime’ features with most of the voice cast.
Pretear’s unique look at the smaller aspects of the magical girl formula do make this series worth a look, but there’s not enough to warrant it as a ‘must have’. The larger chunks of this show is nothing you haven’t seen before if you’ve watch magical girl anime long enough, and nothing on the presentation front will win you over for a repeated experience. However, with ADV now folded, Pretear isn’t going to be available in online stores for much longer. If you’re interested and can pick it up cheaply, grab it now while you still can.