At long last, we have arrived at the final introductory episode of the series, and the last legendary lady, the bodacious bombshell Reika Aoki, is now a pretty cure. It was a very enjoyable episode with a bunch of what we have come to expect after 4 episodes: the same great character balance and dynamics, the same great overall animation quality (and the same random occurrences lacking said quality), and the same series introspection and humour. Smile has a lot going for it in the episodes going forward, but let’s take a look at what happened this week.
Miyuki sees Reika Aoki watering the school garden before class and sees her potential as the fifth precure. She brings the other three girls to Reika’s archery practice session and asks Reika to join the PreCure team. Reika politely declines, stating that she is too busy with student council to join. Because the student council president is sick, it is her duty to take on the workload for an upcoming storytelling event with another elementary school. Miyuki enlists herself and the others to help create a paper puppet show for the event, featuring Snow White as the story. The show gets off to a promising start, but is interrupted by Majorina of the Bad End kingdom. She summons a mirror-shaped Akanbe from one of the paper puppets that foils the PreCure’s attacks using a mirror clone ability. Reika awakens from the bad-end aura and becomes Cure Beauty, using her intelligence to defeat the doppelganger and his deceptive decoys.
Here are five thoughts on the fifth episode featuring the fifth fantastic female!
1. Reika has the beauty and the brains.
Given the role that the other cures have taken during their respective introductory episodes, Reika Aoi is left to fill the role of the Smart Guy in the five man band. Intelligence is the be-all and end-all for this role, which comes with a lot of personality pitfalls. Because being smart is the defining characteristic, it’s tough to add that extra spice to a character. Reika is an interesting character choice here, since she’s a more well-rounded type of genius than most shows tend to portray.
We see her with a myriad of responsibilities, from student council to archery, as well as her personal penchant for gardening at the beginning of the show. The other things she does in addition to being smart serves to heighten our impression of her intelligence in the context of being a student. She’s that girl in high school who does everything and still manages to graduate as the valedictorian, to some people’s annoyance.
However, Reika plays down all of these potentially annoying parts about her abilities in a humble yamato nadeshiko package, hime cut et al. She balances out her grace and beauty with power and influence as student council vice president, as well as her internal resolve to set things right for her newfound friends. I particularly loved how this played out in Reika’s episode with regards to the puppet show. She initially believes that she has to take all the responsibility, but is enamoured by the efforts that Miyuki and friends have put. Her awakening as Cure Beauty takes is done in the form of a harsh lecture from a person in a position of power. Her fascination with snow white makes her look frail, but she doesn’t take shit from anyone.
2. Majorina is a fairly straightforward villain, but brings a lot to the group.
The third villain of the show makes an appearance in this episode, and for the most part, Majorina plays the crone card in the most straightforward way. The magic pot, crystal ball, poison apple, and everything in between is put on display, and it does the job in portraying her as the sneaky type, in comparison to Red Oni’s brute strength on the other side of the spectrum, with Wolfrun falling somewhere in the middle.
Like Reika, who fills in the void to complete the balance of the five man band, Majorina serves the same purpose in this episode, completing the balance of the three bad guys. I finally see the big picture when it comes to the group, and I really do appreciate the dynamic of this group more than any other PreCure bad guy society to date. While I certainly like the Desert Messengers from Heartcatch more, I feel that I’m more appreciative of their individual personalities. As a group, they don’t appear to mesh as well together, since all three of Kumojacky, Cobraja, and Sasorina physically look like they fill the same role. You’d have to look closer at their abilities to notice the differences; Kumojacky relies on strength and power, Cobraja relies on skill and agility, and Sasorina uses wiles and deceit.
With Dark PreCure as Heartcatch’s henchman leader, I’m very intrigued with what Smile’s analog, Joker, gets to bring in regards to power and leadership.
3. I’m beginning to buy into the concept of Bad End.
In Heartcatch PreCure, heart flowers was the plot device used to not only bring out the monster of the week, but also to highlight the story happening within the episode. Each character with a wilting heart flower undergoes some sort of hardship, which is taken advantage of by the Desert Messengers, and defended by the PreCure. In Smile, the Bad End aura has similar potential with regards to bringing out conflict in the story. Where Heartcatch looks to solve a problem that already is in progress, Smile establishes a status quo “good end,” which seeks to be threatened by the bad.
What I’m talking about here is the ability for things that appear good to be stretched out to an extreme, which can lead to conflict. Leadership becomes dictatorship. Love becomes possessiveness. Anything that looks well will end up being wrong, and the potential for things to go wrong is what makes Bad End so appealing to me. The connection between fairy tales and control over fate has a lot of potential in this show, and I can’t wait to see how the writers use it on a week-by-week basis.
4. The full cast is finally together, and I love the whole more than the sum of the parts.
As much as I love these PreCure characters individually, they go very well together when they’re all in the same group. We’ll have to see next week to see how the group balance works out within an episode that doesn’t put one of the characters in the spotlight. With March joining the group, the transition from group of 3 to group of 4 seemed a bit less complete than it did when going from 2 to 3. That missing balance was completed with Reika, who looks to provide some semblance of level thinking in the group.
And as much as I love playing jan-ken-pon with Peace (she threw rock, predictably, but I still lost because I was overthinking it!) and seeing Sunny make snappy quips at every single oddity that happens in the show, brings the group back together to the sane middle. This final balance makes the individuality of a character like Happy’s much more tolerable to me. Now that all five are here, I’ve finally come to accept Happy’s personality, and it feels more natural to me. I can appreciate each character more now that they are all part of the complete group.
5. Smile has a lot of potential for precure nostalgia.
With this year’s installment of PreCure taking on a team approach, Toei Company made an excellent decision regarding the hiring of its series script writer, Shoji Yonemura. Shoji has writing experience in Tokusatsu, as well as writing for a number of Kamen Rider series, most notably Kamen Rider Kabuto, which was the franchise’s 35th anniversary series. Kabuto was well-known for its numerous allusions to previous shows inside and out of the Kamen Rider franchise, and is best known for its 35th Masked Rider Anniversary File, a segment of episodes looking back at previous iterations of the show.
As such, I can see a lot of the same things happening to Smile PreCure. PreCure fans have already tasted what it’s like to see franchises intermingle with each other in the Pretty Cure All-Stars DX movie trilogy, which seems to take place in an alternate continuity or canon. Smile has the potential to be the show that fondly looks back on other PreCure franchises within its own series continuity. With the storytelling motif, I’d love to see something like a storybook approach to Anniversary File, looking back on other PreCure shows without having to blend continuities together.
The payoff if done well will be of great benefit for the series and franchise as a whole. It would make Smile PreCure either an introductory series to watch (which, so far, is doing an excellent job) or the one to watch last after finishing all of the other precure series. Of all the series so far, Smile certainly fits the requirements for being such a show.
PreCure Power Rankings
1. Reika/Cure Beauty – Her character was executed perfectly this episode. I can’t wait to see more of her in a supporting role.
2. Akane/Cure Sunny – Sunny was up to her old tsukkomi routine, and aside from a few lines, delivered her lines very effectively.
3. Nao/Cure March – didn’t have too many lines, but her presence was definitely felt throughout.
4. Yayoi/Cure Peace – I lost at this week’s jan-ken-pon. Boo boo boo.
5. Miyuki/Cure Happy – Solid appearance this week, she makes everyone around her more awesome than they should be.
This week was really hard to rank. Overall, Nao is still my favourite character, but she wasn’t in the spotlight this week, so naturally, she was ranked lower. Just because Miyuki is ranked fifth, it doesn’t mean I dislike her. There just happened to be four other cures that I liked more than her.