De-Characterizing: Cure Marine
Oh Cure Marine, where do I even start?
I mean seriously, as much as I love the character of Kurumi Erika (whose Figuarts are graciously watching over my other Figuarts in some sort of Figuart conundrum), I have never really felt compelled to study her characters since there really isn´t a lot to talk about. I mean yes, she is a fun, endearing character that has a lot of personality, but from a character perspective she is also extremely simple and straightforward, there is no real depth to her actions beyond her doing whatever she feels like doing and in a series where character drama is the norm, she remains almost free of character conflicts.
But here´s the trick, even if her character does not possess a lot of depth by itself, the way she integrates into the show its quite fascinating; she often acts as a catalyst for the world around her, usually spear heading into the main conflicts in way that a lesser show would require some sort of “plot” to achieve. The truth is, Erika as a character does help define the world around her, and you could even say that her personality and antics do end up defining a lot of the show itself, in spite of the fact that she is not the main protagonist. Even when the focus is not on her (which is most of the time) her presence can be felt, and when you get down to it her actions ultimately have a greater effect on the people around her than you would realize. I often joke about this but it is true, Marine´s personality resonates deeply within the show to the point that her influence really comes to define HeartCatch, she is like a constant that shapes the world, a presence keeps everything together and pushes the show forward like some sort of… Force, a Marine Force.
But that´s enough rambling, let us stare into the rabbit hole known as Kurumi Erika and hope to return alive.
The first thing people bring up when talking about Marine is the way she basically deconstructs one of the main pillars of the Magical Girl Genre; instead of having a Genki Girl as a protagonist and a Smart no-nonsense Girl as her companion, HeartCatch subverts this trope by having Tsubomi, our introverted protagonist, and Erika, the poster child for why you shouldn´t give children caffeine and sugar for breakfast.
While that description is certainly accurate, it really does not makes justice to the characters; the Tsubomi/Erika duo was a fantastic play on the formula that was the foundation the franchise, but unlike all the Nagisa´s and Love´s of past seasons, Erika is not just a simple minded girl who has a seemingly unlimited amount of energy that science has yet to tap into. In truth, Erika has more in common with characters like Miki, Karen and even Honoka than you would realize. To put it bluntly, Kurumi Erika might be a Genius.
A lot of people besides me have come to the conclusion that Erika is the kind of person that, if she wanted to, could conquer the world. When you really get down to it there doesn´t seem to be a particular field where Erika doesn´t possess some level of skill; she is good at Math and other studies, she has a good physical condition and I am pretty sure there is nothing that she cannot craft with those hands of her. Really, the only things that seems to limit her skill at any given field is her interest in such area, if she doesn´t finds it to be interesting then she basically becomes the bluest sloth to ever drag itself on the surface of the earth, at least until she finds something that catches her interest, at which point I pity the soul that tries to get in her way.
I know this might seems like it comes from nowhere, but do you know who she reminds me of? Sherlock Holmes. I know this is a small tangent but hear me out.
If you actually read the original novels, you will realize that the world´s greatest detective is often described as a mess of a person; he is eccentric to say the least, he becomes bored by his peers, he takes very little care of his persona and indulges himself in any kind of self destructive behavior that would distract him from his tedious existence. But the moment he finds a mystery that interests him, he dedicates all of his knowledge and resources to solve it, to the point that he would master any skill necessary in order to achieve his ambition.
The point I am trying to get here is that we have two characters who are seemingly good-for-nothing sloths bored with their own existence, but the moment they find something they deem fascinating, they become possessed by and unlimited Drive, at which point there simply is nothing they cannot do.
This is what I mean when I say that Erika is a genius; she does not seem to be the master of any given field, she is disorganized, gets distracted easily and does not exceed at any particular activity, but the moment she finds something that stimulates her mind, like fashion or meeting a new person (more on this later), she attains an unlimited determination and it really does seem that nothing can´t stop her. Simply put, once she finds something worth her interest, she becomes the master of her trade.
This, I believe, is the most fundamental truth about Kurumi Erika and one of the reasons why so many people relate to her; she appears to be a lazy childish goofball (like the fandom OH SNAP), but in truth she is probably the most capable person in any given situation as long as she is doing something that she likes. This is a common trait among the so called genius, being able to focus completely in a single task, but it can also be a flaw of character, and in the case of Erika all her real shortcomings do derive from this nature.
You see, the main problem of Erika as a person is that even if she is a charming/capable person, her very nature always puts her on a different level to the people around her, you could say that she is an outcast since there really is no force in the universe that can keep up with her, and even though she always boasts about her greatness, the truth is that she doesn´t have confidence in herself, not because she doesn´t believe in her skills, after all there really is nothing she can´t do, but because she really hasn´t found a path to follow in life. I guess you could say that all she ever wanted is to use her power to find happiness with everyone, she just wanted a place to belong, and in spite of all her skills she simply didn´t knew how to do that.
Until she meet Tsubomi and became a Precure, that is.
Something I touched upon a little bit back when I wrote about Tsubomi/Blossom was the way the idea of 'Change' was handled in this series. Basically the entire cast of the show carries the aspect of 'Change' in their development, all of our main heroes and the secondary cast need to accept some aspect of themselves in order to become full persons, which constitutes the main backbone of their character development.
This was particularly true for the Characters of Tsubomi, Itsuki and Moonlight, but Erika had a very unique approach to this idea, you could even say that she is the anti-thesis of this whole 'Change' concept the series had going on.
You see, of the main characters Erika is the most extroverted, she is not shy about the things she likes/hates/thinks/hallucinates about and it is pretty clear that she really do loves everything about herself. This immediately creates a contrast with the other characters that had to do plenty of soul searching in order to learn to love even the darkest corners of their souls, something that was presented perfectly in the 'Shadow Cures' episodes. But Erika never had a problem with this, from the get go she accepted everything about herself and was even quite honest about it, going back to the Shadow Cures, she almost immediately accepted her Shadow Marine persona while more mature characters like Itsuki and Yuri struggled to do the same, in spite of the fact that “Pretty Cure Bonds” was playing on the background.
This goes back to what I said about Erika not being a particularly deep character, when you get down to it her character has practically no development, and that is not because the show didn´t gave it to her but because she simply didn´t need it. From episode one Erika knew who she was and who she wanted to be, you could even say that she was a more complete person than her companions (she even boasts about it in one episode), but if that´s the case then what was the point of her character?
Let´s go back to the beginning of the series for a moment, remember how in the first few episodes the show established that Erika was in fact jealous of her sister Momoka? The reason given for this is that Momoka is a super popular Model, something that Erika resents because she also loves fashion very much and would love to be a famous model who gets paid to wear cute clothes, the fact that Momoka was scooped when she was Erika´s age did not help. While this might sound like your usual 14 year old banter (Note: I have never met a 14 year old) when you put it in the context of someone like Erika it is quite telling.
As I said before, Erika is a really capable person and even a born leader, she has all these great skills but she has no way of using this power for the benefit of others. Again, think back to the first episode, once she meet Tsubomi the first thing she tried was to help her with her desire to 'change' by putting her incredible fashion sense to good use, something that kind of backfired in the Desertrian sense of the word, but the important thing here is that she tried to use her power to help someone else in the hopes that said person would accept her.
That is what her character arc is all about, Erika has no problem accepting herself, but how can she make the world accept her as well? Due to her extremely outward personality people are always wary of her (again, think of Tsubomi), and as sad as it is, her attitude does tend to push people away, not because she is unlikeable but because she is a handful of a girl. She wants to be popular like her sister, she looks up to her and see how people admire her and praise her so she naturally wants that, not because she is selfish but because at the end she just wants people to accept her as well.
This is basically the main focus of her development (if you can call it that); through the fashion club she meet people who share her passion and that accepted her because of her good qualities, and as a Precure she essentially found one thing that she can do for everyone that only she could do, basically being a Cure gave her a place to belong to.
Now that I mention it, one of the most endearing traits of her character is just how much she loves being a Precure; it is established from the beginning that she pretty much revels in being a Cure and through the entire series you can see how much she enjoys what she does. I like to focus on this aspect of her character because Precure as a franchise is a post-modern take on the Magical Girl genre, and what this means for Erika is that she knows she is basically a Superhero (this is actually a running gag of the franchise), she knows she is cool and she likes wearing a pretty dress, so being a Precure is something she loves almost as much as she loves fashion. Being able to use this power for the sake of others is more important to her than you would think.
This aspect of her is perfectly showcased during the final arc when she faces Kumojacky, the strongest of the Desert apostles, on her own. In said Battle, he relishes in his own power and enjoys having someone as strong as Marine to fight with, but the blue Cure promptly questions his motives, remarking how pointless it is to have such power if you are not going to use it for the sake of others. This actually works as a deconstruction of Marine´s motivations; she always had great skill and power, but it wasn´t until she became a Cure and formed the Fashion club that she could use them for the sake of others, giving a purpose to her existence. It is after the realization that she wants to use her power for the sake of others that Marine´s Character Arc comes to a close, defeating Kumojacky in the process. Why isn´t that every single character arc in the franchise ends with the Cures beating the crap out of someone is beyond me.
So basically, Erika is a character who rather than growing into accepting herself, she needs to find a way for the world to accept her just the way she is, her place in the world so to speak. Admittedly, this is not a particularly complex character arc, but this growth, if you can call it that, is not outlined by experiences in the show, but by the way she interacts with the people she meets, especially her friends (and especially Tsubomi).
And what do you know, I do have a section to talk about exactly that.
As I have been saying (because apparently I do nothing but to repeat myself), the most interesting aspect of Kurumi Erika is not her growth as a character, but the effect she has in the people around her; her extremely straight forward way of thinking, as blunt as it might be, is usually correct. You could even say that she is wiser than she looks and this always has an effect in the people she meets, though it is not always a positive one; sometimes her way of helping people does nothing but to aggravate the problem, in spite of the fact that she usually does exactly what it needs to be done and her intentions are good.
Going back to the beginning of the series again, did you notice how Erika basically had no friends? She didn´t seem to mind but that doesn´t change the fact that before Tsubomi came along she didn´t had any close friendships, and bear in mind that unlike Tsubomi who was a transfer student, Erika was on her second year of middle school. Now, the people around her did not seem to resent her in any way and she was certainly not shy about approaching them, but it all ties back to her personality; Erika is hyperactive, loud and its always sticking her nose in everyone´s business, so while people do not hate her they do seem to be intimidated by her personality. They even warn Tsubomi about this, so even if Erika is fundamentally a good person, she is still a handful of a girl that people would rather avoid in the name of peace and sanity.
So again, this ties back to her desires, people have a hard time accepting her as she is so she naturally wants to fit in, she wants to find someone who would not judge her and be willing to put up with her. Granted, that sounds a bit selfish but this is something she is aware of and is even willing to deal with it if someone were to give her a chance.
Back when I analyzed the character of Tsubomi, I did rambled a little about how her friendship with Erika did not make a lot of sense. Sure, they did developed an endearing friendship, but that does not changes the fact that Tsubomi had very little reason to befriend Erika to begin with, beyond the fact that Erika basically harassed her into it. While I do stand by that, I have to admit that their friendship does make a lot more sense when you see it from the perspective of Erika.
At first Erika was all over Tsubomi because it meant meeting a new person, someone who might accept her just as she is, but Erika being Erika ended up overdoing it and she deeply regretted it afterwards. After becoming a Desertrian, something that caused her to blurt out her feeling to Tsubomi, the pink haired girl decided to give another chance to the Blue hurricane having understood how she really felt, something that she was really grateful for.
From that point onwards, their friendship does follow a rather interesting evolution; as loud as she was, Tsubomi did looked up to Erika since, again, she was an incredibly capable person, both as a fashion designer and as a Precure. And as counter intuitive as this sounds, Erika admired Tsubomi just as much, mainly because Erika could see that in spite of her introverted nature, Tsubomi was a person with a strong heart who could truly accomplish wonders, and as such Erika took a protective role over her friend, always supporting her, looking after her and believing in Tsubomi even when she didn´t believed in herself.
Probably one of my favorite Erika/Tsubomi moments happens during the Shadow Cures Trial; Erika passed her own trial with very little effort, but Tsubomi took way longer than everyone else because she had some character building to deal with. Once Yuri and Itsuki completed their trials, Erika could not help but to worry about Tsubomi who had yet to finish, and in what it seemed like an out of character moment, Erika goes so far as to call Tsubomi a weak and insecure person who is in no way capable of passing the test without them. This might seem like a cruel thing to say, but the truth is that this was Erika´s way of saying 'I don´t want Tsubomi to face this alone'; it is undeniable that Erika did had faith in Tsubomi and she did believed that she would pass this trial, but all this time she had been Tsubomi´s support and Erika feared that Tsubomi would either fail without her or even worst, succeed and prove that she no longer needed Erika by her side. As I said, Erika took it upon herself to support Tsubomi, and in some level she though that once Tsubomi didn´t need her, she would have no reason to be her friend, but once Tsubomi passed her trial she dispelled all these fears and reassured her that she was indeed her best friend, and nothing would ever change that.
This, I believe, is the reason as to why Erika cares so much about Tsubomi; she was the first person to truly accept her for who she was instead of running away, and in time this allowed people to accept Erika as well. Maybe she wasn´t as popular as Momo-nee, but she had essentially found her place in the world, which was standing right next to Tsubomi.
Man, that was neat, I could even end it there, but there are still have two more characters to talk about!
You see, one thing that it is very important when trying to understand the Characters of Tsubomi and Erika, is that they have a mirroring relationship with the characters Yuri Tsukikage and Kurumi Momoka, two persons whom they really admired for being a great Cure and a Famous Model respectively. The show makes no secret that these two characters are the role models for the main trio, and in the case of Erika this actually evolves in a way that is quite unique to her.
Yuri´s relationship with Erika was a bit complicated, at first Erika did looked up to her, she wanted to become a strong Cure just like Moonlight, but unlike Tsubomi who idolized Yuri, Erika wanted to be as good as her and not like her, she wanted to be a great Precure under her own terms, and that meant protecting everyone alongside her friends, an idea that Yuri didn´t seem to get behind (because reasons) and that just didn´t sit well with Erika.
This attitude of her did caused her to clash with Yuri, but that was mostly because she didn´t took kindly to having someone looking down on her, or even worse, looking down on Tsubomi. This really does shows Erika´s nature, rather than trying to earn Moonlight´s approval, she wanted to prove that she didn´t need said approval, she wanted to show Moonlight that their friendship could really overcome the Dessert apostles, and at the end she did managed to get those feelings across along with everyone else, but that is a story for another day.
Now, when it comes with Erika´s relationship with Momoka, I really do think that people tend to understate the importance of Erika´s sister in her life. I mean sure, they bickered like any other siblings, but it’s not like Erika genuinely hated her; she really did loved her, even though she would never admit it, and Momoka clearly cared about her as well, being always willing to help her and even providing guidance when her little sister needed it .You could even argue that Erika admired Momoka more than anyone else, but Momoka´s popularity as a Model served as a constant reminder of all of her short comings.
Again, it ties back to Erika´s constant search for a place to belong, she didn´t lacked confidence but she still craved to be accepted for who she was, and seeing how her sister was admired and welcomed by everyone did caused feelings of jealousy to emerge. Even though Erika had a short temper when it came to her sister, it was clear the she admired her work and wanted to follow on her footsteps, which frustrated to no end since from her perspective at least, there was no reason why she couldn´t be a model like Momoka, who started modeling when she had her age. However, as the series went on and Erika´s social circle grew and hear efforts as a Cure started to bear fruit, she realized that she had found her place in the world, a path that only she could follow and belonged to only herself, so it came a time when she no longer needed to idolize her sister, realizing that she could follow her own path as a fashion designer and allowing her to finally accept her feelings for her (as a sister. Get your head out of the gutter, geez).
Admittedly, the relationship between these two was not exactly at the foreground, the show could have certainly used more episodes with Momoka
Thinking about it, maybe the reason why Erika didn´t get along with Yuri and Momoka at first was because they are kind of tall and she is like, super tiny. Yeah, it was probably that.
Erika is one hell of a fighter, and let it be known that I do not use the word ‘hell’ lightly.
Ever since she became a Cure, Erika was clearly the strongest of the pair, which comes as no surprise since Blossom struggled with the very concept of punch, but regardless, Erika always had the upper hand in most battles, being able to take on a Desertrian on her own but refrained herself from doing so since fighting alongside Tsubomi was kind important for her. But even when Sunshine and Moonlight joined the fray she still remained as a force to be reckoned since, if we look at it from a fighting perspective, Marine was a better fighter than those two.
Maybe Itsuki was a trained martial artist, but that doesn´t necessarily translates as skill on the battlefield; she was certainly more skilled than Marine, but she lacked the Blue Cure´s reflexes and sheer energy, and unlike Sunshine who relied on technique, Marine always adapted to her enemy, often targeting weak spots and finding the best way to crash into her enemies (seriously). Note that I am not saying that Sunshine was weak, because she wasn´t, but in a real battle Marine´s style tended to be more effective since she adapted her strategy while Sunshine relied on the same techniques. Maybe Sunshine had the advantage of training and overall strength, but there was simply no way that she could keep up with someone like Marine in a real Battle.
As for Moonlight, well, everyone knows she is one of the strongest Precure ever, she is physically strong, she has a great technique, and she fights using her brain, something that puts her leagues above the other three. That said, I firmly believe that Marine could easily surpass Moonlight, after all the one thing that separates Yuri from the rest is all the experience she has battling the desert apostles, so if they were to fight on an even ground experience wise, I do think that Marine would have the advantage.
Look at it this way, maybe Erika doesn´t have Yuri´s skills to analyze the enemy, but she is a very quick thinker and she can easily make decisions during the middle battle if needed. Yuri is also very skilled, but her style is clearly something that she developed through experience, and learning from her experiences is something that people like Erika are very good at. This is one of those aspects where people tend to underestimate Erika, maybe she doesn´t look like the brightest person around, but when she became a Cure she didn´t take long to get a hang of how to use her powers, before you knew it she was doing energy attacks and dive bombs while blossom was still having confidence issues.
So really, even if Cure Moonlight is clearly a superior warrior, Erika has all she needs to surpass her and I have no doubts that if Cures didn´t get frozen in time once their series ended, Erika would grow on to be one of the strongest warriors in the franchise.
Besides, you don´t know how amusing I find the fact that the power house of the show is also the resident fashionista. That´s
Precure for you.
The Final Thoughts . . .
You know what is the one thing I love the most about Kurumi Erika? It’s the way how she pretty much owns every frame she is in; it does not matter who is in the scene or whether or not the events around her concern her, you can always see her in the background fooling around or doing something that can only be described as “Erika-like”. This might sound like something simple, but it gives her character a lot of personality and it does help to make the world of HeartCatch more believable instead of just a bunch of animate frames. You can see her being Erika even when her presence is minimal and this goes a long way into establishing her as a real character, or even as a real person; She is Kurumi Erika, and whether you like it or not, she will always be Kurumi Erika, incomparable, unrelenting, and unstoppable.
Also, she´s got like a bajillion faces.
So what do you think? Is Erika unstoppable? Are the people who find her annoying wrong and should be purged from society? did i really forgot to talk about Itsuki? The answers to these questions and more next time when i... no wait, my next aritcle has absolutely nothing to do with this one, oh well.
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