WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 18 of Tropical-Rouge! Precure, "I'll Walk! I'll Swim! Laura's First Day of School!" now streaming on Crunchyroll.
With its first major change to the status quo behind it, Tropical-Rouge! Precure uses its 18th episode as both a breather for the audience, as well as a return to form for the series' more typical antics.
But while Laura La Mer may have reached the peak of her character arc, the show isn't done having fun with her yet. It's going to great length to establish how, while her new human form may be suited for life on both land and sea, she personally is not.
Episode 18 opens with a familiar scene of Laura in the bathtub, her tail hanging out of the side -- surprising many viewers who had thought her transformation into a human in the last episode was permanent. Instead, Tropical-Rouge! Precure allows her to switch between her mermaid and human forms at will, which nullifies some of the potential character growth she'd been set up for -- namely grappling with the loss of her original species and her goal to become the Grand Ocean's Queen.
This lack of consequences also means that while Laura has grown, she hasn't exactly grown out of her arrogance, and this comes back to bite her multiple times in Episode 18. As a Queen-candidate, Laura is convinced she'll soon be ruling the school in terms of both popularity and grades. While she starts off strongly with a captivating interview -- and by exhibiting a great understanding of the natural world at or under sea level -- she quickly finds herself in over her head with her studies. Understandably, she has no clue what the names of the foreign mountains are, nor anything of Japanese culture and history. Likewise, while most foreigners struggle to sit properly for a tea ceremony, it may as well be a form of torture for Laura with her brand new legs.
Laura's ego refuses to back down in the face of adversity though, and she quickly shifts the blame to the school system dwelling on things she doesn't know about rather than things she does. While the others try to point out that learning new things is kind of the point of school, they're quickly interrupted by the captain of the swim team, who is very eager to recruit Laura after hearing her boast of her swimming abilities during her interview earlier.
Seeing it as an opportunity to redeem herself, Laura quickly agrees to try out, even purposely saying she may join the Swim Club instead of the Tropical Club just to get a rise out of Manatsu. While her big pool debut is delayed by an untimely Zenzen Yarane-da, Laura finally gets a shot to suit up in the school's uniform and takes a form-perfect dive -- only to discover she has no clue how to swim with legs.
Not only does this lead to the utter embarrassment of needing to be rescued, but Laura becomes so indignant that she tries to reveal her true form just to show she really is a good swimmer, failing only because Asuka and Manatsu literally hold her back. Once the Captain leaves, however, Laura reveals she has decided to join the Tropical Club after all, and even has a list of activities she'd like to do as its new unofficial leader. The others rightfully call her out on the fact she was intending to join all along, and Episode 18 ends with the girls' friendship front and center, playful teasing and all.
While Laura's ability to switch between forms is unexpected, it does allow Tropical-Rouge! Precure to have more freedom with its plots both above and below water, mirroring the very desire that brought Laura to her human form. Likewise, this adjustment period is the perfect opportunity to slow down a little and have some fun episodic plots before taking a deep dive into some of the other characters. While we hope this breather will also mean a little more focus for the rest of the cast, if Tropical-Rouge! Precure can keep up its unique slow-burn character growth, it may just end with some of the strongest characters in the Pretty Cure franchise so far.