My Greatest Strength is my “Weakness,” Heartcatch Precure and Self-Acceptance

You don’t need your shy and introverted self anymore?

“That’s not true. For me to truly be myself, I will need a bit of my shy and introverted self. That’s why I love my shy and introverted self.”

– a conversation between Tsubomi Hanasaki (Cure Blossom) and her alter ego, Heartcatch Precure, Episode 38

How much do you really know about yourself? Besides the basics: height, weight, the fact that you are addicted to coffee and irrationally afraid of tornadoes, it’s frightening to delve into your own mind. In spite of the fact that you, above all, are expected to know the motivations behind your own actions, you may find that the person you’ve come to know and understand the least is yourself.

Perhaps this is why we are endlessly presented with the idea that in order to grow, one must “know thyself.” This idea is expanded on, and exploited, by many mediums, anime being no exclusion. Most recently, the anime adaptation of Persona 4 touches on Jungian psychology; the idea that we project personas, or idealized versions of ourselves, when interacting socially, along with battling a shadow self, where all of our negative or social unacceptable thoughts are collected. Our true self is a meeting in the middle, or a combination of the two.

What Heartcatch Precure offers is Persona 4 lite, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful, or intelligent.

“I can’t be helped! A shadow that makes up everything negative about me is still me!

I don’t hate you, you know. I love everything about myself.”

-Erika Kurumi, Heartcatch Precure, Episode 37

In Episodes 37 and 38, our heroines, the four Precure, must do battle with their shadow selves in order to gain the power needed to defeat their greatest enemy. The setup is fairly standard as the girls are confronted by their shadows (in separate arenas, of course, no Precure fighting combos allowed) each of whom express the fears and doubts of their owners. In succinct and emotional fashion, they allow for each of the Precure to confront their innermost socially unacceptable thoughts, not by beating them (as many other series would have done) but by accepting their existence.

The first Precure to accept her shadow self is Cure Marine or Erika Kurumi, continuing to reflect her overall strength of character. Erika is the first person to have her heart flower stolen in Heartcatch‘s first episode, leaving only the desires of her shadow self to run rampant as a desertarian. The same fears we hear from her shadow self in Episode One are repeated again in Episode 37, only now, when Erika is confronted with them, she can easily accept them as part of her overall self and move on, not through change but acceptance. Fellow Precures Sunshine and Moonlight quickly follow suit, acknowledging their darker thoughts on their respective pasts in order to leverage them as strengths for their futures.

These battles cleverly act as a microcosm for Heartcatch Precure as a whole, bookending key thematic elements presented in every standalone episode and bringing them to an emotional climax prior to the series’s final story arc. Each episode deals with a person who is struggling with their own darker thoughts; a girl who becomes frustrated with playing a motherly role to her younger sister, the boy who thinks his parents care more about the ramen shop than him, even Erika’s own sister, Momoka, who becomes tired of being idolized as a model and wants people to approach her as a friend. While many of these situations could have been resolved more easily by simply speaking one’s mind, Heartcatch does a solid (not overly melodramatic) job of showing why sometimes, due to the personas that we present to others, speaking one’s mind can be scary and difficult. The villains of Heartcatch Precure (the desert trio of Sasorina, Kumojacky, and Cobraja along with their leader Professor Sabaaku) represent what could happen if one is completely taken over by their shadow self.

Which brings us back to the challenge that the Precure faced: accepting their shadow selves. You may have noticed that only three out of the four were mentioned as having passing the test, which leads us to our final main heroine, Cure Blossom, or Tsubomi Hanasaki. From the first episode, Tsubomi is introduced to us as someone who is shy, introverted, and most importantly, someone who wants to change herself. Throughout the series, this idea that Tsubomi wants to become more outgoing and less shy is reiterated constantly. It climaxes in Episode 38, where she continues to do battle with her shadow self long after the others have passed their tests. Continuing to insist to her shadow that she has changed, Tsubomi fights a losing battle, culminating in her shadow telling her to give up her fight.

It is here where the viewer sees how wonderfully Tsubomi has changed, not by drastically altering her personality, but by altering her attitude towards it. Going forward to meet her shadow, she explains that had wanted to change because she had hated the fact that she was introverted and shy. She goes on to say that because of her friends she has been able to be strong when she has needed to be. Embracing her shadow, she admits her love for her shy and introverted self because it is also a part of who she is.

Recommended Reading: Overcooled wrote a nice little article about Persona 4 and the psychology of Carl Jung. Definitely check it out.

This TED talk given by Susan Cain was brought to my attention a bit later on the power of introverts. Indirectly related but very interesting.


Filed under Editorials, Heartcatch Precure

7 responses to “My Greatest Strength is my “Weakness,” Heartcatch Precure and Self-Acceptance

  1. krizzlybear

    The picture is pretty damn great. Keep it up with your efforts in further developing your abilities as an artist. I could never fathom myself having such a drive to improve like most aspiring visual artists do. It’s a process that I could never comprehend or relate to, but can easily appreciate. I like the thought that you put into your compositions.

    What I truly love about heartcatch is that those faults presented within each individual’s cry for help, the Desert Apostles try to twist those faults into something far more sinister than what they actually are. In the case of these shadow-selves, the shadows that linger are there because the questions that were supposedly answered back then were not fully fleshed out in detail until it was required the most.

    The fact that these shadows remain is a strong testament to questioning the whole ideology of precure as a whole. When flowers are reclaimed by the precure, they’re still prone to wilting, and by letting those negative feelings linger, even on the most subtle and subconscious levels, it restricts people from accessing their greatest potential. I think Heartcatch really executed this idea well, not just by having those girls go through such a test, but also by granting them the greatest reward for passing it. Their resulting finishing move is one of the most spectacular pieces of stock footage in any show.

    • Thank you for your kind words on the drawing. I have a lot of room for improvement; however, that only means that there’s nowhere to go but up! I’m not sure if most visual artists are always aspiring to improve but for me personally, I want to be the best in everything I do. (Yeah, yeah, I know that’s impossible. So what?) It’s surprising that you chose to remark on the composition, since that’s the thing I am the least proficient in (see: I’m terrible at composing scenes). Glad to know that this one works.

      You make a great point about the Desert Apostles and how they tend to make the characters’ innermost dark thoughts a far larger deal than they actually are because, hey, we all do that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve agonized over saying something, or letting my “bad” feelings be known only to have someone say, “Well, yeah, but it’s not *that* big a deal.” Things always seem scarier and of grander scope within our own twisted minds. ^ ^ The shadows will always linger because they are a part of us as well.

      I’d love to see a comparison post to Yes Precure‘s take on this, since I haven’t seen it. *Hint, hint*

      • krizzlybear

        TL;DR both shows bring their own thematic takes on the subject to make it their own. Heartcatch emphasizes feelings, whereas Yes 5 emphasizes friendship, but that idea is certainly in the pipeline.

  2. jreding

    Tsubomi facing her shadow self imo was the highlight of a show which was awesome in every respect and far exceeded the usual shoujou fare. Therefore thank you, ajthefourth, for this excellent analysis of this scene which brought back some good memories!

    What Tsubomi is going through is imo one of the hardest parts of growing up, one I myself (being considerably older than Tsubomi ;-) am actually still working on: Accepting your limits. This is particularly hard for Tsubomi as she is quite a perfectionist and tries to become as close as she can to what she considers the ideal girl. Maybe b/c her parents left her for a prolonged time at her grandmother when she was younger? Now she experiences that despite all efforts and successes as a Precure her shadow self is still there. Not only does she have to accept the fact that she won’t get rid of it but more so – she needs to embrace it. This kind of trial would be hard even for many adults in our modern, streamlined and perfectionist society.

    Tsubomi was also the girl who was always considerate and caring for others whereas Erika, as I remember, starts their friendship with snatching the tastiest pieces from Tsubomi’s bento. Even Tsubomi’s dream of becoming a florist involves basically caring for others, the customers as well as the flowers. Therefore I felt sad that she had to endure the hardest trial of all Precure and I was moved quite a bit when she literally came to terms with herself.

    • Firstly, no problem! I’m glad you liked it. ^ ^

      Secondly, accepting our shadow selves, as it were, is something that most people I know struggle with well into adulthood. It’s something I still struggle with to this day. If I had to play armchair psychiatrist for a moment, I’d have to agree that Tsubomi’s attempts to strive for perfection, and her continuing to draw inwardly into herself (until she meets Erika) definitely stem from a combination of A: her parents leaving her so often as a child, and B: her parents devoting their lives to her in the later part of her elementary school career.

      In my opinion, the most important thing for Tsubomi was to realize that shyness and introversion aren’t bad qualities. As you said, Tsubomi is an incredibly caring person, you might just have to look a bit harder to see how because she’s not going to voice her feelings as much as someone like Erika. Inadvertently, this makes it so that when Tsubomi does speak up, her words become incredibly powerful.

      Thanks so much for the comment.

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