This week’s episode saw the introduction of a new Akanbe, a new PreCure finishing move, and a little bit of spotlight shared between Reika and Candy. It was also the first episode in this year’s continuity that chronologically leads directly into the next episode. All that aside, however, I found this week’s installment of Smile PreCure quite disappointing in several regards. It’s mostly due to the absence of the antics that fans are used to seeing, which makes me wonder if this show is capable of being serious when it wants to be, and not come off as overly corny. It’ll have to try a few times throughout the show’s run to get it right.
The girls begin to make preparations to go on a class field trip toKyotoandOsaka. Candy is excited to join, but is told to stay home, much to her disappointment. She confides in her Pop in a conversation via the Cure Décor. When the girls continue to prepare for the class trip, Candy accidentally spills coffee on the guidebooks that they were assembling, further increasing tension between her and the other girls. She runs away and is sought after by Reika, who has a heart-to-heart talk with her. Afterward, Candy separates from the group, but is captured by Wolfrun who traps her inside a cage. Wolfrun appears in front of the girls, casts Bad End on nearby townsfolk, and summons a new blue-nosed Akanbe that is invulnerable to the girls’ finishing moves on it. They get trapped by the Akanbe’s bubble attacks, and Reika is forced to fight for her survival. Candy escapes her cage and meets with the cornered PreCure, who defend her from Wolfrun’s verbal attack. Candy’s feelings bring out a new power that allows the PreCure to escape from their bubble traps and use a new finishing move called Rainbow Healing to defeat the blue Akanbe.
As eventful as the above synopsis may be, there are a few nitpicks that I want to discuss.
1. Rainbow Healing is a pedestrian powerup as far as Pretty Cure goes.
Leading up to this episode, I was reasonably hyped up for the appearance of the new precure group finishing move. The name of the finishing move, now known as Rainbow Healing, was known in fandom circles for a while due to advertising leaks, but it was only now that the audience was able to see it. Personally, it was a bit anticlimactic. The animation sequence of the powerup had some interesting elements to it, like the gesture of the girls to raise their free hand in the air, harkening back to the original Futari wa Pretty Cure team finishing move, Pretty Cure Marble Screw. Other than that, however, it was a bit weak compared to the group’s individual finishers. Not enough flashy effects, hardly any explosion, just a bright rainbow light that engulfs dissolves the Akanbe.
It doesn’t bother me too much, though, since this is just the first team finishing move that the girls have acquired. There’s still plenty of time and episodes for the girls to obtain necessary power-ups to defeat the steadily growing evil, as well as the appearance of Pierrot. For now, I’ll shrug whenever the precure use this move in their arsenal, but will wait eagerly for the upgraded version. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more girly explosions, right?
2. Reika got shafted big time with regards to spotlight episodes.
A few weeks back, when leaked Smile episode titles were all we had, it was wildly speculated that there would be an imbalance of character exposure with a bias towards Miyuki, Akane, and Yayoi. This was due to the fact that the Rainbow Healing episode was assumed to be a general episode, and that the PreCure shrinking episode be the same as well. The previews at the end of Yayoi’s episode assured fans that Nao would get her spotlight, which led to assumptions that the Rainbow Healing episode would likely be Reika’s. It was an interesting plan by Toei to kill two birds with one stone, especially in Reika’s case.
However, Reika got shafted pretty hard, as the focus was on Candy this week, as it was during Miyuki’s switcheroo episode. The difference between the two, however, is that Miyuki is the leader of the group and will naturally get her lines in. Reika, being the 5th member of the group, is likely to be overlooked in cast balance, and it really showed this week. We didn’t learn too much about her in this episode, though she had her moments, especially in the screenshot above, when she clearly struggled to wrangle the class back into order. It was an interesting display of Reika’s tendencies to defer attention away from herself, despite taking on a large load of responsibility. This is further shown in her role as Cure Beauty during the Akanbe fights, which I will bring up in a later point in this post.
3. Candy’s drama was a bit of a drag on the episode, though it could have been much worse.
I’m actually quite glad that I like Candy as much as I do, as far as PreCure mascots go. Her verbal tic isn’t quite as annoying as Hummy’s in Suite PreCure, and the timbre of her voice isn’t as grating as the earlier iterations of mascots in the franchise. Candy does have a serious emotional side, as shown in her episode with Pop, but that development was more natural because of the way her relationship with her brother was shown in the episode.
Likewise, Candy’s drama with Miyuki was more acceptable because of the relationship dynamic that she has with Miyuki, on account of actually living with her. It was interesting that Smile attempted to show Candy’s relationship with the girls as a group, which didn’t have much to work with. It reminded me of Milk from Yes! Pretty Cure 5, whose relationship with the girls was rocky simply due to her own lack of likeability. Candy is much less annoying, which made her connection episode a bit less agonizing to watch. I did like the moment where the Smile PreCure girls defended Candy from Wolfrun’s verbal attack, which indicated what Candy means to each of the girls individually. It could have been done better, but there wasn’t really any other opportunity to do so other than during the Akanbe fight and right before the new finishing move happened.
4. Cure Beauty is the most competent fighter in Smile PreCure.
I only took notice this week, during Reika’s own spotlight episode, that Cure Beauty was my favourite PreCure in the series in regards to her fighting ability. She’s been actively involved in a number of Akanbe fights so far, and has had the most presence in battle despite only joining in episode 5. She saved March’s behind in March’s own episode last week, combined Beauty Blizzard with Sunny Fire to free Sunny from her syrupy snare in the episode prior, and even had the best fighting chance against the playground-themed Akanbe in the switcheroo episode before Cure Candy showed up. Quietly but surely, Cure Beauty has shown that she has been one of the more integral members of Smile PreCure, at least as far as combat is concerned.
And despite her quiet nature in civilian form, I can appreciate Reika’s quiet strength that seems to be kept in check. As the brains of the group, it makes sense for her to keep her emotions and opinions to herself. It allows her to let loose when she becomes Cure Beauty. This is a similar parallel to Cure Aqua in Yes 5, who got a lot of perks in combat, including an Aqua sword as well. In an episode featuring Karen (Cure Aqua) and her relationship to horses, she even battled on horseback and jousted with her Aqua sword against the monster-of-the-week. Now that is pretty damn badass. I expect no less from Cure Beauty this time around.
5. Joker’s presence in the show is unsettling in a very good way.
In a timely manner, Joker finally makes another appearance in this week’s episode, and this time he has a new addition to the developing lensman arms race between the Bad End kingdom and legendary PreCure warriors. This is a very common trope in Pretty Cure, as the week-to-week formula of bad guy getting vanquished by the same finishing moves does get a bit stale. The deciding factor in not making this recurring element too tired is to make sure that the upgrades on both ends are sufficiently interesting. Rainbow Healing was a bit of a letdown as an answer to the new Akanbe, which clearly showed its invulnerability (in a rather straightforward and boring way, to be fair).
However, Joker himself is the wild card in all of this. He is yet to show his hand in regards to the actual plans surrounding the Bad End kingdom’s attempt to revive Pierrot. Pierrot himself is ominously waiting in the distance, with hype building week by week, but Joker’s abilities and powers are relatively unknown, which makes his eventual foray into combat all the more exciting to look out for. He strikes a really great balance of craftiness and a flaming fabulousness not seen since Moerumba from Pretty Cure Splash Star, who is flaming in every single meaning of the word. His presence in the group ensures that the dynamics of Bad End kingdom doesn’t stray too far into wacky-yet-incompetent territory.
PreCure Power Rankings, episode 12
1. Reika/Cure Beauty – She made the most of having to share her own episode with Candy. Boo, Candy!
2. Miyuki/Cure Happy – She’s really lucky that she’s the leader, otherwise she’d be invisible.
3. Akane/Cure Sunny – 3rd by default, but really, outside of Reika and Miyuki, the others were quite absent this week.
4. Nao/Cure March – I blame Candy for the girls’ lack of screen-time.
5. Yayoi/Cure Peace – It seems that whenever I lose at Jan-ken-pon, Yayoi always places low on the rankings. It can’t be helped, kuru.