WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 17 of Tropical-Rouge! Precure, "Mermaid's Miracle Transform! Cure La Mer!" now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Fans of the Pretty Cure franchise are no stranger to mid-season Cures -- but a few things make the titular Cure La Mer of Tropical-Rouge! Precure's 17th episode stand out from her contemporaries. Not only is Laura a protagonist who's been a consistent part of the cast, but even without being a legendary warrior, she's already filled a vital role on the team in reclaiming stolen motivation.
But more than simply changing her name and giving her super strength, Laura's first transformation into Cure La Mer seems to have changed her species -- permanently.
Part of the conflict for many early episodes of Tropical-Rouge! Precure has been trying to keep the series' resident mermaid a secret from society, culminating in Laura's desire to become human. After getting an offer from the Witch of Delays to make her human in exchange for no longer opposing the Witch, Laura wastes no time -- in rejecting it outright, even as she admits for the first time that it is what she wants. Despite the strength of her desire, it's clear her bond with the other girls is what drives her. To that end, to accept the Witch's offer would mean betraying them, as well as herself. After all, what point is there in being human if she can't spend time with her human friends?
With this choice out of the way, Episode 17 is free to spend more time on Laura's escape and the Cures' waylaid rescue attempt. When Dr. Numeri and Chiron-ge each summon a Zenzen Yarane-da to attack a passing ship, the Cures go up in the hopes of finding Laura, but the combination of two Yarane-das and Chiron-ge himself getting involved proves troublesome.
Meanwhile, Laura's inevitable escape attempt is only partially successful. While she manages to reclaim the Aqua Pot on her way out, an attack from Butler causes an underwater rockslide, knocking the mermaid out. The audience is forced to watch as she sinks slowly to the bottom of a ravine, the falling debris masking her presence.
Laura wakes up back in the Grand Ocean, where the Queen reveals that Kururun saved her, and says she's done a good job -- so good in fact, that she no longer needs to return to the human world. But Laura knows that's not true, and while she tries to justify it by saying they're "no good" without her, she wants (and needs) to be with her human friends. She's going back, no matter what.
The Queen approves, giving her what appears to be an ancient Pact encased in stone and says she'll know what it is when the time comes. It comes quickly, when Laura finds Cure Summer and Chiron-ge fighting underwater --just as Summer de-transforms back into Manatsu. Enraged by her friends' pain and determined to protect them, the stone cracks, revealing the Mermaid Aqua Pact. At the beginning of Laura's transformation, however, something unexpected happens. The power of the Pretty Cure transforms her into a human, legs and all, in addition to a headband. This suggests that the change is permanent, as the rest of the sequence is clearly intended to be stock footage reused throughout the rest of Tropical-Rouge! Precure.
Cure La Mer's design is highly reminiscent of Laura's mermaid look. Her hair follows the same colorization as her original natural colors: pink on top, then turning blue like her tail before finally transitioning back to pink like her fins. Similarly, her skirt's back portion is significantly longer than the front, simulating her tail.
With five of them now, the Zenzen Yarane-da are little match for the Cures, and Laura shows off her own finishing attack, "Pretty Cure Twister La Mer Stream." But while Laura becoming a Pretty Cure was development enough, the status quo hasn't finished shifting yet. When the girls get to shore, they realize to their shock that Laura's transformation into human form wasn't for use only as Cure La Mer.
Not only does this humanization fulfill Laura's wish, but it permanently changes Tropical-Rouge! Precure. Laura no longer needs to hide or remain a secret, and officially moves in with Manatsu and her mother. The preview for Episode 18 even shows Laura adapting to her new human life, where she begins to wear a headband just like the one seen in her transformation sequence.
While the loss of her tail may be exactly what Laura wanted, it offers a plethora of storytelling opportunities as she adapts and realizes some of the downsides to having legs -- like not being able to breathe underwater. Likewise, the character dynamics will change as the Cures get to interact with Laura on a significantly more casual level. The most interesting part will be seeing how her goals change, given that it's a little difficult to become the mermaid queen while being human. But regardless of how Laura changes, we're certain that Tropical-Rouge! Precure isn't done with her yet.