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I wasn’t sure at first that we needed the Splash Star duo in this sequel. Yes, they shared a movie, but with Yes! Precure 5 already being a six-woman team (not counting Coco, Natts, and Syrup), it didn’t feel strictly necessary. But now that Saki and Mai have had their fuller introduction to the greater story, I can see what the purpose was. Because of the differences in their original series, the women of Pretty Cure Splash Star bring a separate facet of adulthood to the table, namely romance that wasn’t present in their original series. Because Yes 5 and Go Go had at least three tacitly implied romances (although the Coco and Nozomi relationship was a little more than that, uncomfortable as it was that he was her teacher), we’re already invested in how those turned out in the future. Saki and Mai, however, allow for romance to be explored from a different angle – namely, whether or not that’s what they want out of life.
It can certainly be a fraught topic as you grow up. If you’re not interested in romance and sex at the same time as your agemates, you can be made to feel “broken,” and while that’s not specifically Mai’s issue here, she’s dealing with a similar situation: she has a boyfriend, but she’s no longer invested in the relationship, and outside circumstances are making her question whether she even wants to be romantically involved or eventually get married at all. With Saki’s engagement to her now fiancé and a coworker of her age about to depart on maternity leave, Mai is feeling like she maybe missed the boat – but that maybe it’s not one she wanted to board in the first place. Although not a lot of time is spent discussing it in the episode, Mai’s discomfort with her situation is obvious throughout. When the other ladies are going gaga over Saki’s engagement ring, she’s just sort of sitting there with an awkward smile on her face, and when she gets the breakup text from her boyfriend, she’s fighting with herself over her answer. She knows what she wants to say, but society has primed her to think that doing so is somehow “wrong.” Women are supposed to want to get married and have babies, so why isn’t that something she’s ready to do?
As with most of the other adult topics the women are struggling with, it’s handled fairly well. Saki points out to Mai that what she wants is time to be herself, and that’s okay – no one’s choice is objectively better than another’s. Getting married is what Saki wants to do, but that doesn’t mean that Mai needs to want it, too. Even Nozomi’s decision not to see Coco in person until she’s in a place where she’s ready is fine, despite Kurumi being amusedly frustrated with it. We all get to make our own decisions and do what’s right for us. It’s an approach that’s mildly mirrored in the fact that Karen doesn’t drink, which seems to make a few of the others a little uncomfortable as they come up with explanations for it (she might be on call!) when really, it’s just a choice that Karen made that’s right for her. As Saki points out to Mai, there’s no other explanation needed.
This episode does a good job of showing us how everyone’s circumstances are different. The contrast between Mai’s workplace and Kurumi’s is striking; Mai is valued and if she’s not exactly using her art school education, she’s at least not being bullied in the same way Kurumi is, with busywork heaped on her to make her feel less than. We could read the male employee’s statement about how the others need to pick up the slack for the woman going on maternity leave as an unreasonable request, but no one takes it that way, indicating a very different workplace culture. Mai is shown as the first of the working women who doesn’t struggle with her boss/principal/supervisor, which is interesting. Mai’s troubles are confined to her personal life because what she’s dealing with are ingrained social expectations.
It’s a good introduction to the return of the guys from Yes 5 and Go Go. Nozomi’s reveal this week that she’s been in contact with Coco and Syrup right along is a good one, and it certainly helps to explain why she’s still so nostalgic for middle school – it was the last time she saw Coco, and she misses him. He and Natts at least will be returning in human form next week (and I was much more invested in Natts/Komachi as a romance, so here’s hoping), which stands to shake things up even more. With our sort-of-pal Bunbee back as well – and still able to transform – the group should be formulating a plan and learning more about the villains. I’m looking forward to it, and not just because human Natts and Coco means no horrible squeaky voices.