Once upon a time, there was a kingdom of fairy tales called "Märchenland," where many fairy tale characters live together in joy. Suddenly, the evil emperor Pierrot made an invasion on Märchenland, sealing its Queen in the process. To revive the Queen, the symbol of happiness called Cure Decor, "the Queen's scattered power of light of happiness," is required. To collect the Cure Decor, a fairy named Candy searches for the Pretty Cures on Earth. There, Candy meets a girl, who decides to collect the Cure Decor. Now, will the world earn a "happy ending"?
Sugar, spice, and everything nice; these are words commonly associated with Toei’s Pretty Cure franchise. Though understandable, this franchise has garnered criticism for its stagnant plot formulas, characters, and juvenile themes. Unfolding in an identical manner to many traditional magical girl tales, Smile Precure perhaps gives the initial impression that it is just another fish lost in the sea of mass consumerism. However, with just a sprinkle of creativity dust, this installment proves that it is still possible (with no pun intended) to transform a standard formula into something possessing a certain charm of its own.
In what can only be considered a cliché by
now, the story unfolds in practically the same way as any other entry in the genre – Miyuki, a perpetually happy girl whose infectiously positive catchphrase, “Ultra Happy!”, could be marketed as a brand of anti-depressants, encounters a cute fairy from a magical land. Shortly thereafter, she is transformed by the forces of magic into Cure Happy to fight against the evil Bad Ends. Along the way, she is joined by four of her other classmates who also become Pretty Cure, sparking their ongoing fight against the Bad Ends for 48 consecutive weeks (excluding holidays of course, since even magical girls require their downtime).
So then what’s the catch exactly? Isn’t this just the same fish wearing a different frilly outfit?
Well here’s the punch line, there is no catch. Unlike some of the more recent attempts to break the mold of the genre, Smile remains firmly anchored in the roots of the monster of the week formula. However, this is not the be all, end all of its success as rather than attempt to tell a grandiose story, Smile does the exact opposite and spoofs many of the more serious tropes within the genre. For instance, some episodes outright parody the infamous transformation sequences, throwing mascots, infantile versions of the main cast, and stand-up comedians into the mix. Similarly, others rely on absurd set-ups to provide entertainment such as having the Cures swap bodies, shrink down to microscopic size, or drawn into a picture book. As such, it is the sheer amount of comic mischief that makes Smile truly enjoyable to watch.
Of course, Smile’s success doesn’t just stem from the fact that it contains a great deal of humour, but rather how seamlessly it integrates comic relief into its traditional plot formula. Since the monster of the week formula has undoubtedly become predictable to anyone above the age of ten, Smile helps keep things fresh by adding a few twists along the way. While every episode’s conflict still boils down to defeating whatever monster the Bad Ends can conjure up, it is generally the unusual methods the girls have to resort to that helps break the stagnancy. Whether this is accomplished by turning what is supposed to be the climactic battle of the week into a quiz show or game of whack-a-mole, there is simply no shortage of variety.
Adding to the hilarity is the fact that the characters just seem to be along for the ride, at times breaking both their expected roles and behaviours. While the Cures are supposed to be warriors of justice, more often than not one will see them happily enjoying the Bad Ends’ tricks, goofing around and doing everything except saving the world. It also helps that each girl has an upbeat personality, which causes their comical group dynamic to make quite the splash. On the other hand, the Bad Ends deserve a special mention for both their hysterical incompetence and ridiculous ploys. Although they still cackle in the wind while tying young damsels to railroad tracks, at times they behave more like rivals for the Cures, attempting to one-up them in stand-up comedy and student council elections. In essence, they play out like self-aware Saturday morning cartoon villains, and their amusing exchanges with the charming Cures results in a harmonious suite.
Unfortunately, while Smile has the sugar and spice, it doesn't always have the nice. Being a commercial work targeted at juvenile girls, the show still has to devote time to its core elements, which detracts from its charm due to how uneven they are. Since Smile is a more episodic season than its predecessors due to a general lack of plot and character progression, it causes the show to run into some noticeable drawbacks later on. For instance, while the episodes devoted to developing each of the girls are solid on a standalone basis, the show's format prevents their growth from being pronounced. This can make it seem as if these episodes are inconsequential in the long run, particularly when the next instance of character evolution occurs half a season later. Another aspect which may disappoint some audiences are the fight sequences, which tend to be uneventful aside from the Cures firing off their finishing nukes. Although this is remedied somewhat by the show opting towards more unorthodox battles, fans of the older seasons may find themselves craving some good old close-quarters combat.
Perhaps the worst offender of Smile’s unevenness is its finale, which sadly fails to encapsulate its true lighthearted spirit, instead using melodrama and overstated monologues to convey its main themes. Although this is an issue some of the other seasons have, it is to Smile’s unfortunate detriment because of its foundation. Most of the season is not character-centric, and so the girls have little life experience to support their tears and preaching besides the forces of evil doing their thing. As a result, Smile’s drama falls flat and the show ends on a rather sour note despite its uplifting ending, diluting its otherwise sweet taste.
In terms of aesthetics, Smile is generally a pleasant season to look at. Many of its character designs and backgrounds are brightly coloured and the animation quality remains good throughout. However, there is a general lack of stylistic visuals or fluid animation outside of the Cures’ finishing moves and transformation sequences, meaning that the season doesn’t really excel in this department either. On the other hand, the soundtrack is composed of upbeat, catchy tunes that are generally implemented nicely alongside the lighthearted moments. Before long, some audiences may even find themselves dancing alongside the Cures during the ending credits.
At the end of the day, Smile Precure will not have a profound effect on one’s perception of magical girl shows, nor will it revolutionize the genre. What it does provide though is a genuinely enjoyable experience through its hilarious scenarios and abundance of self-aware comic relief. Although the show's uneven format hampers some of the core elements, its overall lighthearted charm will certainly bring a smile to the faces of many audiences, both young and old.
Have you ever watched a show that is so clearly just trying to have as much fun as possible? That is for the most part so light and fluffy that it doesn’t have a care in the world? That’s the type of show Smile Precure is.
Miyuki Hoshizora and her friends Akane, Yayoi, Nao, and Reika have been enlisted as Pretty Cure to help Candy, the fairy from Marchenland, resurrect the Royal Queen who sacrificed herself to stop the evil Pierrot of the Bad End Kingdom from painting a bad end across the world. Pretty Cure must collect the various decor that hold the Queens
power, while the other villains of the Bad End Kingdom seek to gather Bad Energy from people to revive Pierrot. Always spouting her catchphrase of "Ultra happy", Miyuki takes on the challenge with glee.
Smile is a simple show. It does away with a lot of the typical character drama present in other seasons and is much more comedy focused with lots of silly fun and wacky hijinks, a lot of your enjoyment of the show is going to depend on what you personally find funny and entertaining. The characters themselves are rather simple even for Pretty Cure and their relationships and bonds with each other, while they grow stronger, don't ever really change or develop. However this isn't really as bad as you might think. The characters are still plenty fun, cute, and likable. They all have their own brand of silliness that fits in perfectly in Smile. And although simple they aren't completely flat, their characters still get fleshed out and expanded upon over the course of the season and there is more to them than just what you see in their introductory episodes. The characters development just isn't that big of a priority in Smile. This isn't inherently bad it just means the show has a different way of handling its characters and what it's trying to do with them.
However, despite the lower focus on the characters and their development Smile still has character arcs that cover the entire season and all build up to big individual culminations of the girls characters, and also about them finding out what is truly important to them. The arcs just aren’t as explored or visible as in other seasons and until the end of the show usually don't impact episodes outside of the arcs. There’s also a heavy theme of friendship in the series and each girl realizing what the others mean to them. As well as a theme of the girls protecting and reaching towards the future and saving it from the Bad End the villains want to bring about.
Surprisingly the character whose development is a big priority and focus in Smile is the fairy, Candy. Candy starts off as a pretty typical fairy for Pretty Cure, but somewhat more useless and cowardly. She even manages to be rather detrimental to the Cures on occasion and largely is a bother, and can frankly just be annoying. However, when Candy starts to change she never looks back. The story of Smile is just as much her journey as it is Pretty Cure's. She develops into a capable fairy who no longer cowers and instead of trying her best and making things worse, she tries her best and succeeds. She becomes a much more active helper to Pretty Cure and is more integral to the plot, while still getting real development, than most other fairies.
As for the main plot of Smile the show essentially treats it like a joke. The villains actions are so nonsensical and often so hilariously over the top and stupid that it often seems like Smile is a parody of the typical Pretty Cure plot. The show gets serious at important moments but most of the episodes are played for comedy and are often highly energetic and loads of fun. The problem is that Smile doesn't have much in the area of over-arching subplots. Individual episodes will tie into the main plot but will have nothing more going on in them other than whatever random thing is happening in the episode. Because of that Smile is even more episodic than the average season of Pretty Cure. These individual episodes could be good or great but getting long stretches of them all at once can make the show kind of drag.
Because so much of the show is unabashedly silly the more serious moments can occasionally clash with the otherwise light-hearted nature of the show. However, Smile is surprisingly good at pulling off these serious moments. When it wants to be sweet it can be sweet, when it wants to be sad it can be sad, when it wants to be awesome it can be awesome and it somehow manages to excel at these things despite first and foremost being a rather silly series. The show is able to draw up a surprising amount of emotion from the characters that allow these serious moments and episodes to always be done nicely.
And then we have the villains in the show. Wolfrun, Akaoni, and Majorina make up the Bad End trio, the flunkies of the Kingdom essentially. At first they start off as pretty dull but as they interact with Pretty Cure and each other more they become much more entertaining villains. They are often hilarious and have great chemistry with each other, some of the best episodes are ones that have all of them interacting with Pretty Cure and each other at once. Over the course of the series they also develop personal vendettas against Pretty Cure, some of the battles end up being much more personal and have great impact.
And then there’s Joker. Joker is Pierrot’s right hand man and the second in command of the Bad End Kingdom, and is a very entertaining and more interesting villain than the others in the show. Although he initially appears with a carefree attitude and generally acting like a weirdo he is in actuality a very sadistic and evil villain. Especially by Smiles standards. Just downright creepy at times and even cruel to his comrades, whenever Joker appears before the Cures it signals something much more serious and dangerous than normal is about to happen, and unlike the others he often partakes in psychological games with the Cures, attempting to break their will to fight and crush them mentally. By the end of Smile Joker had become one of the more disturbing villains in the franchise.
The monsters of the week in Smile are the Akanbe. Clown monsters, as is fitting of Pierrot himself being an evil monstrous clown. While their designs can be lacking and are often just blocky there are a fair amount of nonstandard Akanbe that have special forms or gimmicks that you wouldn't see among the monsters from other seasons. There are multiple different types of Akanbe depending on the color of their nose and they all have a different color scheme, clothing, and facial expression to further differentiate the types. The Akanbe are also made from the decor Pretty Cure needs, so they have to defeat them in order to revive the Queen.
When it comes to the fighting in Smile there's actually quite a lot to talk about. The quality of the action is all over the place and the style of fighting quite varied. There's not a lot of the typical straight forward action in Smile, especially earlier on, and while there is some very good fast-paced hard-hitting action it is few and far in between and usually saved for the more serious episodes. A lot of the action in Smile is focused on gimmicks. There are a lot of Akanbe made around a certain gimmick that will also occasionally tie into the episode in some way, whether it be a lesson or some sort of physical object that 's important to the episode. We have one Akanbe that quizzes the girls on school subjects and if they answer incorrectly they get trapped in a big red X. There are multiple fights like this throughout the season and even some episodes with no actual fighting to speak of and the girls will defeat the Akanbe through other means. The sheer variety of the fights is unlike any other season and keeps the battles from ever becoming stale but if you're looking for more of the straight forward action typical of other seasons you may be disappointed. It also takes Smile a little while to really get into its groove when it comes to the action so the fighting in the earlier episodes is pretty bland and more about being silly and comedic. The fights in Smile in general have a more comedic and silly tone to them, partially because the Akanbe are clowns after all, so aside from the more serious episodes don't expect much seriousness in the other fights. Pretty Cure also all have their own elemental powers that they become better at using over the course of the show, they start out unable to really use them aside from their finishing attack but soon can do such things as powering up their punches with fire and using ice to debilitate the enemy. They become more intelligent and crafty with their elemental powers in short time.
What's more to the fights is that decor are also occasionally used to help the girls out in them. Each decor has it's own ability, whether giving the girls wings for flight, or just giving Candy some food to chow down on. Later on the show actually manages to tie the use of decor in the fights into Candy's character development. She starts to actively participate in the fights by using the decor to help Pretty Cure whenever she can and the decor begin to get used in the fights much more frequently. It's all a part of Candy and Pretty Cure combining their powers, Candy isn't satisfied just powering up their attacks so she starts to help them out whenever possible.
In the beginning of the show the girls start off as horrible fighters. By far the most incompetent team of Pretty Cure ever assembled. Weak and unable to use their attack more than once without getting tired, and sometimes failing to even get the attack to work in the first place. But over the course of the first half of the show you see them improve tremendously, their teamwork gets better, they become stronger, they gain more stamina, and they learn how to fight for real and eventually become a real team that can truly stand up to their opponents.
The music is pretty good but not too spectacular for the franchise. The ending themes are very nice and have several different versions that focus on different characters.
There are also just a lot of nice little things about Smile. The different endings, the fact that you can play Rock, Paper, Scissors with Yayoi every time she transforms, just nice little things added into the show to make it a little more fun.
Smile has a fairytale theme to it but it doesn’t really give a whole lot of attention to it. There are lots of little references to various fairy tale's scattered throughout the show but the fairytale theme mostly just hangs in the background. There’s always some fairytale aspects present in the show, such as Wolfrun, Akaoni and Majorina all being fairytale characters/creatures as well as some other things but these are never really focused on or given any thought outside of “These are fairytale references.” Despite a lot of general references Smile rarely takes the opportunity to do anything special with the fairytale theme. And it’s a big disappointment for the show. In the end instead of being an ever present theme like music in Suite or flowers in Heartcatch fairytale's in Smile are more like a recurring motif that's very important to some characters and helps set up and tie certain points of the story together.
While Smile's plot is really simple and linear by the time the show is coming to a close there are a surprising amount of elements coming to a head all at once. There ends up being quite a few things to be resolved and taken care of. The build up to the finale is pretty good, there's a nice flow into the final arc and the episodes are used to foreshadow some important events later on as well as give the characters their resolution that helps them face the eventual hardships. The finale itself gets pretty crazy but there are some unfortunate hiccups in it and several sudden revelations and plot events that aren't given the necessary time to really be focused on well enough and have as much impact as they should. However the final showdown is very intense and awesome, you see how far the girls have come in their journey and the themes of the show are displayed excellently. Despite some problems Smile manages to have a very emotional and sometimes heart-wrenching finale.
The epilogue is very sweet and manages to give us one last moment of silliness that perfectly fits the show.
Smile Precure is aptly named. It's cheerful, bright, energetic, and the whole show feels like it's just trying to make you ultra happy, laugh, and put a big smile on your face.
Please bear with me as this is my first review for this site.
Smile Pretty Cure is among the best in the franchise alongside Heartcatch and the original Futari Wa Pretty Cure not because it tries to outshine them but rather it explores our imaginations and emotions like the way Disney would. Case in point, it asks its viewers (both children and young adults) "What is happiness? Where does it come from? Why are dreams and goals so important in the grand scheme of happiness? What do friends have to do with being happy?" These are very deep questions, even for young men to bear; but
for a kids show, its a brilliant concept because its the kind of thing these developing minds need to ask themselves so they can find their answer and be ultra happy themselves. While the story is great, its major downfall was its downplayed fairy-tale/children's literature theme. It's there, but not prominent enough to be a true interaction to any kind of viewer like the way Suite's musical themes or Heartcatch's floral themes were. Story 8/10.
The art is absolutely beautifully drawn and animated. The show's vibrant and lighthearted atmosphere fits its fairy-tale theme very well. The comedy really drove the show's pace and carried our hearts into it. If you don't laugh at any time during the show, you will never find your true happiness. period. The visuals have effort simply bled into them, especially the finishing attacks and transformation sequences. Art 9/10.
The voice acting and sound effects felt very natural and worked seamlessly. The characters' personalities and emotions were excellently expressed and felt like they were true teenagers. As for the music, all I can say is this: Yasuharu Takanashi-san, you impressed me with Heartcatch's soundtrack. I was thrilled with Suite's soundtrack as well, and you've certainly met my expectations here with Smile. The music played here just outright shines for each moment that accompanies the track. Believe me, as a fan who thinks each song is its own story, that speaks volumes of the incredible power behind the music. If anybody doesn't know what I'm talking about, then going through the soundtrack should yield some favorites even to someone that never watched the show. Sound 9/10.
The characters are just great balls of fun and joy, even the villains. Every one of the main characters contributes to the show's comedy and they are such goofballs to the point where even Miss Serious Business, Reika, cannot even begin to ruin the humor but only add to it. The clear winning character is Yayoi Kise/Cure Peace. Why? I feel is because she represents that overly shy, yet cute, archetype in a very humanistic manner and then developing it into someone that isn't afraid of the world. She also displays very realistic reactions to being a superhero and having to fight villains who are willing to hurt and destroy on massive scales. Writing about it is one thing, but having to experience it first-hand was quite the "shock" to her (pun intended). Joker also made a GREAT villain. He is everything every previous Pretty Cure villain wasn't: competent, clever, disturbing, threatening, and nightmarish. He was ALWAYS taken seriously despite the fact that he looks like that "other" Joker and certainly did not disappoint. This was a much needed character for the villains' line up and a breath of fresh air when it came to having a truly evil villain for the franchise instead of the typical gag villain we've come to expect from the franchise in general. Characters 9/10.
Overall, I give Smile Pretty Cure a 9/10. This is one show you will see yourself watching in rapid succession like I did should you be into either the comedy, magical girl, and/or action genres. If you find yourself smiling and being ultra happy, then you should have absolutely no problem finishing this show.
Starting from the 70s and 80s, kids shows, especially in America, cared more about selling toys than allowing animators to create the stories they wanted and develop characters. The more toys that sold, the more money went into the cartoons. But characters would be given the shaft in favor of new ones, and the stories were very basic, the characters being boring and flat, and being aimed mostly at children. However, nowadays, even shows that come off as toy commercials are putting in more effort to just tell a story and create characters that audiences can care about, rather than just making a show just
for the sake of selling toys. Anime has been doing this for a while now, probably since Pokemon, so it's no slouch in the animation and storytelling department. Some examples of good kids shows that are made to sell toys are Pokemon, Jewelpet, Digimon (some of the time), Sailor Moon, and Pretty Cure. In Japan, Pretty Cure still reigns supreme as the number one show for girls, and has done so for decades since its inception, even if it does have its drawbacks. However, even big franchises aren't immune to having their duds. Smile Pretty Cure is a good show that can appeal to a lot of people, but it unfortunately is being held back by a lot of flaws that prevent it from being truly great, although it's definitely not the worst I've seen.
Miyuki Hoshizora is a happy, friendly, amiable girl who just moved into a new town, and is excited to start a new chapter of her life. One day, a cute fairy named Candy appears before her, telling her that she and four other girls have to become legendary warriors called Pretty Cure, in order to save her world, Marchenland, from villains from the Bad End Kingdom and ressurrect her queen. Miyuki accepts and becomes Cure Happy. She and four other girls have to defeat the villains, collect Cure Decor, and ressurrect the queen of Marchenland before Wolfrun, Akaoni, and Majorina ressurrect their own master, King Pierrot, and save the world from heading towards a bad end. They are determined to make sure their story has a happy ending, just like the fairytales Miyuki loves and cherishes.
For the most part, the animation is pretty good. Nothing stellar, but the colors are bright, the transformation sequences are well animated, everything is smooth, there's lots of energy put into it, and the sparkles and the brightness adds to the show's goofy, light-hearted tone, even if it can be rather hard to look at sometimes. Yeah, this show is VERY bright and riddled with bright colors that'll hurt your eyes if you're sensitive to light. The music, while also nothing stellar, does its job well. Then again, Yasuharu Takanashi is well known for making good music and making sure they fit the show in every way, whether it be in tone and atmosphere. I hear this series used a lot of music from Fresh Pretty Cure, but I haven't seen that series so I won't comment on that.
The characters...well, I'm not gonna lie, most of them are pretty bland. They stay the same throughout the entire show, not really changing much. Miyuki is the happy-go-lucky friendly girl who loves being kind to people, Akane is the hotblooded sporty girl, Yayoi is the shy artist, etc. I will admit, the show does care about wanting the audience to see what the characters are like outside of fighting, showing that they have actual lives outside of being superheroes. I feel that so many shows nowadays forget that while people can be superheroes, they're still human. Smile Precure does a great job at showing that outside of their superhero business, the girls are just that. Young girls who have their own problems and worries to deal with in their lives, and yet...even with that, they barely develop in any meaningful way. What little development they do have is so predictable that anyone can see it coming, and as a result, they still come off as bland. The only character I can think of who actually got good development was Yayoi, the yellow Cure. Seriously, I love this girl. She is basically me in a nutshell: shy, cries a lot, loves to draw, loves cartoons (though she likes robot shows and I don't), has trouble making friends, tries to do whatever she can for others and herself, etc. She's pretty much the best thing about Smile. I like Miyuki and all, but I do kinda wish Yayoi was the main character. The others...stay the same, Reika especially. I like her, but she's pretty much a blank slate, and rather static, suffering from the worst of the show's characterization problems. She starts off and ends the show being the same calm, smart girl who doesn't know what she wants to do in life. Also, Candy is annoying and always causes trouble for the girls, almost ruining Miyuki's social life in one episode where they switch bodies. The villains are pretty goofy and not very intimidating except for one, but that's a spoiler.
The story, well...there is no story. There is, but its extremely basic: all the girls really have to do is collect decor, save Marchenland and the queen, and deal with the Bad End Kingdom. That's seriously it. 85% of the show is filler, 10% character development, and 5% storytelling. While I appreciate the show's attempts to get us to care about the characters, in doing so, it completely hurt the story. The worst thing about the story and the show in general? There's basically ZERO sense of urgency. The villains sans Joker and Pierrot are all goofy goofballs, the series is very episodic in nature, the girls battle a bunch of monsters, and because the show chose to favor just showing the characters having fun, villains included, and because of this, there is still little reason for us to care about what the characters go through. My problem with slice-of-life shows or most kids shows nowadays aren't that they're kiddy or marketed at kids or giant toy commercials. It’s the fact that nothing happens. I want to sympathize with the characters, but for that, they need to be put in danger. I don’t really care about characters who spend their time eating cakes at a summer festival, or something. Same with romances. I want to see the different characters face challenges, put their lives on the line, that’ll make me care about them, if done well. Smile attempts this, but unfortunately, it falls flat on its face in doing so. There's also a lot of melodrama, over-acting from the actors, and cheesiness. Still, I don't hate Smile. In fact, I like it. I'd definitely take Smile over Happiness Charge any day.
Smile isn't the best Precure series, but it's a perfectly safe, carefree show for kids that your daughter, sister, niece, or that kid you're babysitting can definitely enjoy. I do feel Smile could have done a heck of a lot better though. I haven't seen the English dub, Glitter Force, yet, nor do I plan to anytime soon, but I hope it'll pave the way for Precure to be successful in the US.
Hot, hot, hot! There's simply no other way of describing these characters. These insanely hot anime fire users can ignite certain feelings in us with their amazing fire control (and their figurative hotness).
Japanese schools host a number of special events every year, one of the most popular being the Bunkasai, or Culture Festival. The homemade posters, cute remakes of Shakespeare, somewhat edible snacks, and frighteningly not scary haunted houses... Welcome to the world of Bunkasai!