I don't think Pretear ever had much of a chance. The manga is pretty, but largely incomprehensible, and its story was changed drastically for the anime (for the better). The art is about what you'd expect from anime made cheap in 2001: inelegant and choppy, often slipshod, with a muddy, uninspired color palette. There are some nice-looking bits, but overall it's not much to look at.

Himeno, our titular Pretear, gains her Magical Girl powers by "preting" with the Leafe Knights-- basically merging their souls with hers temporarily. Each of the knights give her a different kind of power that also manifests as a different cute costume. This is turned into a bizarre sex metaphor, inserting mercifully brief but palpable discomfort into every episode.

I can go on. The monster designs are uninspired, the fight scenes lack tension or interest, most of the Knights are tragically under-developed, and it does occasionally descend into embarrassing melodrama.

BUT: here is why I like Pretear.

Magical Girl shows are usually, at their core, about Feelings™. Pretear is about the importance of context re: feelings. It's about the flawed and clumsy ways we express ourselves when we've been hurt or are holding in something we're too afraid to say aloud.

Pretear understands and confronts loneliness and the feeling of being out of place in a way I rarely see. It calls into question the way we make assumptions about other people we perceive as successful and "having it all together.". It shows the ugly thoughts that come with pain and isolation. It shows us how even kind words, in the wrong context, can sometimes be hurtful. It examines and meaningfully addresses intent versus outcome when interacting with other people. And it doesn't just do it through making its typical perky magical girl heroine be sad about her heavy, secret burden; it shows us this through a regular human character.

That's something else I really liked about Pretear. It gets its non-superpowered characters involved, in significant ways, even as the magical events ramp up. It isn't just about the special magical people saving the world. It goes into what that means for the regular people, the ones with no powers, the ones that would normally be rescue bait at the very most. Mahou Shoujo has a tendency to minimize the roles of characters who aren't in the know about the magic goings-on. It's sort of a Proto-Madoka in that it bucks those conventions and gives Himeno's non-magical family a lot of attention and importance.

Pretear allows its characters to be messy and still affirm that they are worthy of love and happiness.

Also, it's cute, and even on a re-watch as an adult I found myself laughing at the anime slapstick comedy, as hackneyed as it was. Something about it is just inherently likeable, in that Sailor Moon way, where it doesn't matter how corny it is. (Incidentally, Sailor Moon fans will see a lot of little tonal echoes and inspiration in this one, which is fun.)

While it is definitely flawed, I definitely recommend giving this one a look if you're a fan of mahou shoujo.

70 /100
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