Photo/IllutrationA boy named Anri Wakamiya transforms into the “Pretty Cure” (“Precure”) magical girl warrior named “Cure Infini” in the TV animation series aired on Dec. 2. (Provided by Asahi Broadcasting Group Holdings Corp.)

In striking a blow for gender equality, a boy character in the “Pretty Cure” (“Precure”) anime transformed into a girl warrior for the first time in the 15th year of the TV series on Dec. 2.

The transformation garnered public attention on the Internet, as it represents a major development in the anime series, which has always been sensitive to diversity and social change.

“It’s really amazing for an anime series to go beyond gender walls in a natural way,” one viewer tweeted right after the show's airing.

In the 42nd episode of the animation's 15th series on TV Asahi, called "Hugtto! Precure," a boy named Anri Wakamiya, who has a gender-neutral appearance, was featured.

Anri is forced to give up figure skating due to an injury, and an evil group plans to take advantage of his sadness to recruit him.

But Anri transforms into a Precure girl warrior named “Cure Infini” with the support of his friends. He regains hope, saying, “I can be anything.”

Ryusuke Hikawa, a researcher of animation and “tokusatsu” special effects and specially appointed professor of Meiji University’s graduate school, praised the boy's transformation.

“It naturally conveyed an affirmative message that men also can become Precure, being conscious of the current social atmosphere and raising the importance of gender equality.

“I think it gave kids the opportunity to think about the importance of diversity,” he added.

The "Precure" series, which started airing in 2004, became popular from the depiction of teenage girls who do battle by transforming into warriors, similar to the male-oriented Ultraman and Kamen Rider series.

In addition to their fight against evil forces, the series carefully details the schoolgirls' bonds with families and friends.

(This article was written by Yusuke Kato, Akiko Minato and Takahiro Kawamura.)