With Suite PreCure but a distant memory, Smile PreCure finally arrived much to my own personal hype regarding the show and its interestingly assembled cast (MarinaInoue and Hisako Kanemoto in particular). The first episode aired to much of my own rejoicing, and possibly others as well; it lived up to all of the hype with a very strong beginning, which provided a wealth of interesting possibilities to explore throughout the show’s run.
On her way to school, Miyuki Hoshizora meets a mysterious and cute little creature named Candy, who is looking for the PreCure. Candy disappears, leaving Miyuki with a book that carries a strange magical aura. Miyuki’s self-introduction at school is thwarted by her own nerves, but her classmate Akane Hino steps in and jokes around with her and the rest of her class, letting her calm down and introduce herself properly. After school, Miyuki tries looking for Candy again, and accidentally discovers a portal network between bookshelves in the process. She finds Candy, who is chased by an evil henchman named Wolfrun, and comes to Candy’s rescue. Miyuki awakens as the legendary PreCure, Cure Happy.
As an introductory episode, Smile PreCure was very effective at starting out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, as shown through the episode’s spotlight character and main protagonist, Miyuki Hoshizora. Unlike previous PreCure leaders, Cure Happy is exactly like her name describes. She’s an eternal optimist, and full of hope. She’s written like this in such a way that the only fault that I can give her is that her voice actor, Misato Fukuen, tends to overact in a number of scenes, but it’s something that I can live with for a PreCure series.
It’s a nice change of pace compared to Fresh’s Love Momozomo, who is without any particular standout qualities, or Heartcatch’s Tsubomi Hanasaki, whose shyness holds her back as a character (and letting Erika Kurumi take all of the spotlight in the process). One of Misato’s more notable roles include Yin from Darker than Black, an emotionless doll-like character, which makes the seiyuu’s role as Miyuki a nearly polar-opposite character.
As the main character, Miyuki’s interest in books and fairytales is reflective of the series’ motif. While Heartcatch and Suite had flowers and music respectively, Smile takes on a storybook approach, not only with the PreCure philosophy of defending the world’s happy endings, but also with regards to visual cues as well. In the opening theme sequence, Miyuki’s fascination with fairy tales is depicted through a sequence of Cinderella scenes featuring her as the princess.
Books also have a particular visual (and potentially story-wise as well) role in Smile. There’s a wonderful scene in the school library where Miyuki is looking for Candy, but accidentally opens a portal into what will probably be the PreCure’s quest hub for the series. The portal reacts only to Miyuki, who carries the book that Candy left behind in the cold opening. Intrigued by the way the books glow and react to her, she unknowingly moves them across the shelf in a particular order, like a secret lock sequence, and the way the bookshelf reacts to her series of book movements is like that of opening a magical vault; a pitch black void with only the singular glow of a book sliding to the proper spot, and locking into place with a resounding click that echoes through to the audience’s ears. It’s that kind of attention to detail that really impresses me for a show like PreCure.
The portal system is just one of many different examples that indicate the high quality of Smile’s production. Animation is superb and fluid throughout. Right from the very start, we see the entire group soar through a dark background, leaving a beautiful trail of colour, as they land and make their trademark entry announcement. Dazzling the Stage, Galactic Pretty Boy! Smile PreCure!
The series’ new cast of villains is also varied as well, taking cues from the fairy tale angle. The first henchman that makes his appearance is the big bad wolf character, Wolfrun. It’s a logical choice, which will surely get an illogically negative response to furry-haters. Let me get this off my chest: Wolfrun is NOT a furry-only character. People with the fur fetish are furries, and for the most part, are nice, respectful people who keep their fetishes to themselves. Their fondness for animal anthropomorphism is no different or unique from an outsider’s perspective than my own fondness for anime.
It would be quite a shame that a character like Wolfrun would be dismissed simply based on demographic appeal rather than other legitimate reasons, like flat characterization, which is actually a valid argument in this case. While he isn’t a unique personality like Sasorina was in Heartcatch, this is still only a first episode, and maybe we’ll learn a bit more about him through his interaction with the rest of the quirky miniboss squad, which consists of an ogre-demon, a creepy puppet, and a jester as the dragon character. It’s a kind of neat array of villains that I haven’t seen since the Dark Masters in Digimon (with Puppetmon and Piedmon among them).
The franchise’s hot-blooded background music, now a staple of the series thanks to Yasuharu Takanashi, makes a bold return with Miyuki’s transformation, though I did notice that they recycled a track from Fresh PreCure during Miyuki’s introduction to her class. It’s funny that I mention the quality of music here as part of the show’s commitment to reasonably good production, since Smile will probably have a hard time following Suite’s excellently arranged soundtrack, and will probably fail to live up to it but still have a good showing, just like how Suite failed to live up to Heartcatch as a PreCure but was still a decent show in general.
Music aside, everything that you come to expect from a PreCure show makes their signature return in this iteration. Cure Happy’s transformation is appropriately short and sweet, taking the transformation time of the other Cures into consideration. Happy’s finishing move, PreCure Happy Shower, is a beam attack with stock animation that puts Goku and Ryu to shame.
The opening sequence also suggests that the PreCure team has a suite of elemental powers, with Cure Happy as the purifier/healer of light; Cure Sunny as the hot-blooded fire-user; Cure March as the courageous
airbender wind manipulator; Cure Beauty with her elegant and artistic mastery of water and ice; Cure Peace with her clumsily effective electric prowress.
It makes for some interesting comparisons to Sailor Moon, which also features the same types of elemental powers. Already, I can see some differences between the two, mostly between Peace and Jupiter; even the hotbloodedness of Cure Sunny and Sailor Mars seems to have some variation between the two on the surface, and I can’t wait to see how Akane is portrayed throughout the show.
That said, this will be the first PreCure series since Yes! Pretty Cure 5 that takes the sentai-squad approach to its cast. I’ll be taking a close look at the cast dynamics throughout the show, as well as the development of each of the five central characters. Despite being a Miyuki-centric episode, Akane (Cure Sunny) plays a major role during Miyuki’s self-introduction. She is highly likeable due to her in-your-face clowning (and Kansai-ben to boot), but is nicely grounded by Reika and Nao (Beauty and March). Even though I’m a bit put off by the over-the-top shyness of Kise (Cure Peace), which surprisingly makes Tsubomi’s shyness pale in comparison, I’m intrigued by her potential as a character; inside that oft-wilting shell, there lies a passionate artist and mangaka, which hopefully will be brought out later. I have high hopes for the character that I like the least.
Overall, the first episode was pretty much everything I had expected to see from the first episode of Smile PreCure. I am really excited to blog this show for the duration of the year, eliminating any particular problems with deciding what to blog about each season. There’s a lot of characters in this series, which makes for a potentially decent amount of material to talk about. I’ve probably said a lot already in this post, since there’s so much to cover right off the bat, but I’ll eventually talk about it. I hope that PreCure fans will enjoy this show just as much as I do.
PreCure Power Rankings: Episode 1
At the end of every post, I’ll rank my favourite characters based on their appearance in the episode. It won’t necessarily reflect my overall ranking of each character, as each episode will spotlight different characters.
1. Akane/Cure Sunny – Her depiction as a loud and proud Osakan is straightforward and effective. The way she was written to say Merci Beaucoup when exchanging props with her classmates was a very nice touch. Her hot-blooded nature fits the philosophy of PreCure, which makes her a potential dark horse fan-favourite.
2. Miyuki/Cure Happy – Naturally at number two because she’s the first to get the spotlight episode. I love her cheery disposition and positive outlook, especially after she managed to gather the confidence to make a proper self-introduction. A bit too much overacting cost her a number 1 spot in her own episode, though.
3. Nao/Cure March – Marina Inoue has limited lines in this episode, but she made every single one count, especially when she reacts to Akane’s introduction of her as a gangster boss character. The tone she has when she asks, “Banchou?” is hilarious.
4. Kise/Cure Peace – As I mentioned before, I’m a bit put off by crybabies, but her line, “I’ve only cried 3 times so far!” combined with the look she gave while saying it, was a nice way of having her make fun of herself. It’s kinda cute.
5. Reika/Cure Beauty – Even though I like Beauty’s character design more than Peace’s, she hardly had any presence due to having nearly the least lines in the episode. I can see the potential in an ojou-sama character, though. Ice powers are an ice touch, as well.