You better not give Judge Joel Pearce another volume of this anime series before he cries again. "Pre-tear"...before he cries...get it? Sigh.
The fate of the world hangs in the balance!
In my review of Prétear: Volume 3, I was pleased by the creative twists and turns that helped this series rise above the usual "teenage girl with mystical powers" genre. Unfortunately, this final volume doesn't feel quite as fresh. That said, it is a suitable end for the series.
These three episodes focus on the final battle between the Leafe Knights and the Princess of Disaster. This battle is a physical one, but it is also psychological, as each of the characters searches for a place of respect and love. That quest for love is the biggest problem with the Leafe Knights. There are times when they use their great powers to fight evil, but most of the time they seem to just stand back as the lead characters try to work out their relationship issues. The Leafe Knights pass up so many opportunities to fight Fenrir that it becomes almost comical.
In a series like Prétear, the last few episodes need to accelerate into the final conflict and keep the viewers on the edges of their seats. So much anticipation has been built up, and so much time has been invested in the characters, that an unsatisfactory payoff can pretty much ruin the whole series. These final episodes of Prétear are somewhat disappointing, but they at least manage to deal with the issues that were raised earlier in the series.
As was the case in the third volume, the conflict that Himeno and the Leafe Knights face is primarily psychological. The basic plot structure could have remained even if the mystical powers were removed, and the series would have worked as a comedy/drama with teens exploring the hope—and likely disappointment—of falling in love. The mystical powers are physical manifestations of things that everyone has experienced—love, loss, and despair—but since these are such common experiences, we don't need a metaphor to understand them.
The love these characters feel for each other is what dooms and saves all of them. While this conflict is heightened by all the magic energy, transformations, and demon larvae, the love stories would have been more touching without all that stuff. Still, the creators of the series avoid the trap of setting up complex characters only to have them beat the snot out of each other in the last few episodes. The desire of these characters for love and acceptance is what fuels this final conflict, and the results are touching and meaningful, even if they are drawn out for about half an episode too long. The quest for love remains important right up to the very end, at which point it all falls apart in a horrible moment of weakness.
It's hard to whine about the end of a show without giving it away. What I will say is that Prétear has a very disappointing climax. The outcome of the final battle is not determined by the power of the love that was so important to the creators of the show, nor does it come from the efforts of the Leafe Knights, who are the ones responsible for protecting the world. Instead, the situations get worse and worse until all hope is lost, at which point something miraculous happens and all is well. Ugh. Had this battle ended in a more satisfying way, I think I would have been more pleased with the series on a whole, but it's impossible to ignore this large a mistake at such a critical moment.
The animation on this volume seems slightly improved. The characters and backgrounds have more detail and fewer convergence problems. The animation also becomes much darker in the middle of Episode 11, replacing the pastels with a richer, deeper palette that better suits the tone of the conflict.
The video and audio transfers are on par with the previous volume.
The main special feature on the disc is another part of the "behind the animation" featurettes. In my review of the third volume of the series, I complained that this featurette had nothing to do with the animation at all. Since then, it was pointed out to me that "behind the animation" could easily refer to the people whose voices are behind the physical animation of the show, not an analysis of the animation itself. This is a completely valid point, but the featurette still sucks. Is it nice to see the people who did the voice work? Sure. Is it interesting to hear what it was like on the set? Yep. Do I need to know where the actress who played Fenrir went on vacation recently? Not so much.
Also included on the disc are the Japanese trailers for the soundtrack CD (no thanks) and the DVD, as well as several trailers for other anime series from ADV Films. Also included are the clean opening and closing animations, in case you missed them on the other three volumes. There are also a few minutes of rough character sketches.
Fans of the Prétear will probably be pleased with this final volume. While the ending is somewhat disappointing and dull at times, it does not destroy this generic but pleasant show.
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