On a planet far from Earth, there is a kingdom full of smiling faces. Princess Yuuki is 12 years old, and about to enter a sensitive age in a person's life. Everyday, she cries, laughs, and sometimes, her heart throbs with excitement. All the while, she lives merrily in the royal palace.
Filling her days are her loyal vassals: her tutor Reira, Izana who assists in political affairs, the leader of the chivalry Harold … and then there is her childhood friend and aide Joshua.
"Yuuki! If you have spirit and guts, you can do anything!"
"…No, not this again! Joshua, be nobler!"
Stella is 17 years old and a capable, reserved soldier. However, she is always smiling ... for smiling is essential to living.
This is a story of two girls born on distant planets.
To me, science fiction and is a genre that has been somewhat underappreciated in our generation. It feels like many shows are treated as ticking time bombs that starts off with promise but eventually degenerates into a dumpster fire. Egao no Daika (The Price of Smiles) is an anime project serving as a celebration of Tatsunoko Production’s 55th anniversary. To celebrate, I should say The Price of Smiles should try to stand out as a show of its own and not be a clone of other similar popular works. What do we really get?
First impressions are important and with no doubt, war themes makes an
impact. It also gives off a political war feel with the conflicting nations, ideal clashes, and world building. We meet Yuuki Soleil, the 12 year old princess of the Kingdom of Soleli. Having lost her parents at such a young age, the show puts her character into the shoes of a leader. Red flags show early on when I see Yuuki as a naïve child and incapable of leading her kingdom. It doesn’t take long to realize how oblivious she is to the state of war. This is a sharp contrast to Stella Shining, a fighter of the Imperial Army serving for the Grandiga Empire. As a war orphan, she exhibits quiet strength although is also known for her untimely smiles. The show chronicles both characters’ roles on opposite sides of the war.
But did this show really capitalize on its sci-fi war story? To an extent, it definitely does as we we’ll quickly realize the reality of war. Smiles are shattered when Yuuki sees bodies hit the floor. Death is a harsh reality and it’s a hard truth to bear. Episode 2 is an easy example when Yuuki realizes the death of a close friend. And she finds out in the most gruesome way possible. Make no mistake. If there’s an episode that features extended focus on a character other than Yuuki or Stella, you should expect a death flag raised and set sail. That is to say, I do appreciate the show making time to gives some characters a chance to tell their story such as Joshua, Pierce, and Layla. The more important focus however falls under the main characters especially Stella and Yuuki.
From the very first moment I laid my eyes on Stella, I knew there was something unusual about her presence. The easiest way to say it is that she smiles a lot. In fact, she smiles under different circumstances that even includes on the front lines of war. During one particular episode, she shows an unstable side of herself after expressing a disturbing smile upon completing a mission. While a smile is often represented as an expression of joy and happiness, Stella’s smile instills an ominous feeling. It doesn’t also help that she is willing to kill children including Yuuki for her nation. Still, I do feel some sympathy for Stella after seeing her background story. Despite being an orphan, a family took her in and gave her love until they had a child of their own. From then on, her own world collapsed even more to the point where she abandoned her adoptive family. By the time we meet her in the present, she is considered “broken” as even stated by some of her comrades. However, the background storytelling about Yuuki is far less interesting, so much so that I don’t even feel it’s worth mentioning.
As a war driven show, there’s different elements that also includes politics. The Royal Order and Empire of Grandiga both adapts policies to maintain their existence. Even if needed to be, military dictatorship is used to maintain order. However, on the frontlines, there’s heavy emotions, bloodshed, and death. Stella’s squad undertakes the more direct frontline approach with their military expertise. Prominent members includes Lily, Gale, Huey, Pierce, and Break. The show explores some character relationship dynamics, most noticeably between Lily and Stella. For Stella herself, she may also be capable of expressing genuine smiles. In other words, while she can be a cold blooded person on the battlefield, she is still human and capable of showing human emotions. On the other hand, the more I watched more of this show, I felt distanced from Yuuki.
I’ll be honest. Yuuki is by far the WORST part of the show.
She is not intelligent as a leader, naïve as a child, and incapable of being a realist in this war conflict. I cannot take Yuuki seriously at all with her overly dramatic screams and personality. To make matters worse, she often doesn’t learn anything and has to have her advisors do the work for her. Now given her age, some could argue that she is too young yet to be a leader. Well, I say otherwise. She could take the better initiative and even support for her people. Instead, she gives the impression of a useless fool that others have to carry. Unlike Stella, her actions never speaks louder than her words and exposes the weakness of her character nearly every episode. By the time this show concluded, she became my very least favorite character. That being said though, Stella herself isn’t a very well written character either as she undergoes little development. Price of Smile seems to be more of an anime about showing rather than telling. The war speaks for itself and we can see the consequences of both sides. It’s not complicated to understand the story and to be honest, I don’t find it very well executed.
Created and produced by Tatsunoko Production, I could say this show is cool enough to be a science fiction war story. The mecha designs are distinctive enough to make an impact felt on the battleground. Meanwhile, characters on both sides are designed with military and political creativeness in mind. As one of the better executed part of the show, I would say the world building stands out for being able to craft these fictional worlds with complex systems and even technology. One of the key selling concept of the show is the smiles. The Price of Smiles, as they call it, is the title and we do get plentiful of that in different ways. On the other hand, I hate to bring this up again but Yuuki is really hard to take seriously when she shows emotions. It’s the typical scream of horror or anxiety you can picture from any war show.
The Price of Smiles. I don’t know if I should be smiling after completing this anime. It’s not too easy to recommend considering the length of its storytelling and lack of character development of the main leads. In truth, my feelings of this anime doesn’t change much from the first episode to the finale. It’s a mediocre mecha/sci-fi/war/drama story that did a lot of showing while failing to deliver a cast to remember.
It’s amazing that we can put a man on the moon but anime like this still somehow get made. Basically, it’s a poorly done student project that had someone with clout and money releasing it out of charity in commemorating Tatsunoko Production’s anniversary—some tribute this turned out to be since it’s so completely devoid of wit, style, intelligence or basic entertainment value that it makes Aldnoah.Zero seem like a purely artistic statement by comparison. Egao no Daika (The Price of smiles in English) seems above all abashed, embarrassed: It knows something has to change, but it can’t change anything. There is an awareness pulsing throughout
each episode, as it pulses through our lives, that so much of what once seemed like progress was the opposite of progress, that our dreams of a better tomorrow were always leading them to a miserable today.
The story is the kind that takes two steps forward and ten steps back, you’re constantly finding yourself trying to make sense of things that you soon discover to be void of logic, to begin with. The Price of Smiles is a big high-concept mecha-filled exploration of war themes gone wrong, with the most absurd depiction of politics, because what else could you expect when mixing all of that with aloof cute girls? They constantly clash with each other and there is hardly any meaningful theme exploration to make it matter. You have your average cute girls react to the "atrocities" of war, a war which you see too little to really care about. Ironically, the biggest issue this show suffers from is that there is no war in an anime about war. While you do get to see some action, but the actual war and the epic battles that happen are canonically told. Picture this scenario: The characters are on a skirmish prior to a big battle near a city or a key location. The skirmish ends. Our characters retreat to heal and get ammo—and then it cuts abruptly to after the big battle. This happens so often that you really feel scammed. "Oh, the big city fell to the enemy!", "Oh, we were ambushed last night and lost two carriers!" You don’t actually get to see it happening.
The flip-flopping story wouldn't be so bad if you could actually sympathize with both sides, and this is thanks to how it was poorly structured from the beginning where you will naturally side with Soleil. But the way the show is portraying the characters, it clearly wants us to sympathize more with the Empire soldiers, even though at the higher story level there is no reason to do so. It ends up adding pointless confusion and dissonance to the emotional core of the story. They don't show enough regret or disdain for their actions either, so why should the audience forgive them? If they wanted us to actually like these people, they would have presented a credible reason for their invasion. Some secret atrocity committed by Soleil, or show the desolate state of their country due to sanctions etc. The characters are awfully bad, they lack intelligence, characterization, development, personality, and simple logic. Simply one-dimensional and unrelatable—especially the main protagonist in Yuuki Soleil.
And speaking of Yuuki, she is a profoundly unlikable brat who is very clearly directly responsible for their setbacks while the competent commanders struggle to win a war with an idealistic idiot in charge who does nothing to actually attempt to implement her ideas and spends most of the day crying. She's a perfect example of why you don't put children in charge of your army. The first episode sets up that she is a competent tactician—and then we never see any indication of this ever again. She has no real plan to win the war besides Deus Ex Machina. Throughout the show, you get to witness her grand scheme of preventing casualties which happen anyway. She repeatedly gives orders and people tell her that would be a bad idea and she immediately retracts them. Her reasoning is not just childish, it’s that of a hippie, and we all know that hippies never prevented or ended wars. She should have abdicated her role in commanding troops to those more competent at the job, and the generals should have had her deposed long ago, and it makes their side appear stupid to continue listening to her. A real peace monger has to convince the people, not just disappear with the weapons, along with every other advancement that their civilization made, but that’s another can of worms.
And when you think it couldn’t get any worse, The Price of Smiles production team butchered everything in the visual department. You have bland character designs, barely any effort in detailing the background art, poor animation throughout, and then, everyone’s favorite—PlayStation 2 like CG graphics for the large scale mecha action sequences. Not only is the CG horrendous but the cinematography is worse, poorly framed to such levels where it's hard to make out of what’s happening on screen. A huge load of cheap tricks and shortcuts are jarringly noticeable. The soundtrack is forgettable, sometimes non-existent with the only saving grace being the voice actors. Somehow, they managed to pick up some talent but when you have a subpar script, there not much that these voice actors can do to make these characters feel like real people, to make them at least interesting.
There is just no way that I would recommend this show, even things such as the strategy "guerrilla" warfare are barely seen within 12 episodes that makes it even harder to call it a real war anime. Terrible plot and unbelievable politics. Watching people tap on computers, act like assholes towards each other, and make a useless princess cry (she cries all the damn time) isn't really exciting. The price you pay for watching this? Wasting your time! It’s good to know that, if we have to leave Earth someday, we won’t have to go without our kitsch. Forensics experts will be digging through the rubble of this fiasco for a long time, trying to reconstruct the accident. How did the story become so ridiculous? Why create a war anime with a cute girl ruling a country and its army? Why were the action scenes so disappointing and unconvincing? Who put the stink on this? The Price of Smiles is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a poor excuse for a war mecha story is nothing more than another piece of seasonal anime trash that panders to moe-loving otaku.
Egao no Daika is the most slept on show of the Winter 2019 anime season. This doesn't mean it's a masterpiece or anything, but I think this show has unjustly fallen under the radar of most of the anime community. This means it either has gone completely unnoticed by a majority of the anime community, and the few people that did watch it sell it far too short. I definitely believe this show should be given a chance by many anime viewers and I'm going to tell you why.
Egao no Daika is set in the future on another planet, where the population of planet
Earth has already ruined the environment and moved on to find another planet to inhabit. The story revolves around two girls, Princess Yuuki Soleil of the Soleil Kingdom and Stella of the Grandiga Empire. Yuuki and Stella, though they come from different backgrounds and answer to different governments, have more in common than just meets the eye. The story follows both of their perspectives throughout a war between the Kingdom of Soleil and the Grandiga Empire, which is one of the show's main plot points. I'm just going to leave the setting at that without spoiling much else, since it'll be better for you to watch for yourself.
What makes the show interesting is how the story unfolds very personally for each of the characters. Many times an episode may start with something that is out of context (and many times even out of chronological order), but the show drops enough clues for viewers to piece together the context, and doing so is often very rewarding in that it leads to organic character development for the cast. While the characters and the story writing aren't the best I've ever seen, they need to be given much more credit than what the ratings on MAL and what the anime community indicates.
The show's portrayal of war is also very intriguing since it shows off the ugliness of the front lines along with the challenges of making the big decisions in the safe (yet comparably stressful) command room. One of Egao no Daika's biggest strengths is opening up an intelligent discourse on the human condition. Especially when it comes to war, it often tries to digest thought-provoking topics when exploring the motivations of front line soldiers that are only pawns in the war, or when a leader needs to weigh their personal ideology against the greater good. The show often calls into question and really evaluates what the greater good should even entail. While Egao no Daika definitely doesn't have the philosophical clout that some other more well-known shows have, what it brings to the table isn't just ideological mumbo-jumbo that some people unfortunately misunderstood it as.
Overall, Egao no Daika is a character driven show that explores intricacies of the human condition using the setting of futuristic war. Futuristic war entails mechs and mecha fights, but you definitely don't need to be a hardcore mecha fan to enjoy the show. I think that at its core, Egao the Daika still tells a character driven narrative that touches over some philosophical questions. If you at all enjoy shows that have very human dialogue and characters or thought-provoking thematic elements, Egao no Daika should be right up your alley. The animation quality and some of the action sequences are already enough to carry the show as is, but the direction of the narrative and the thematic elements posed by the show definitely place it several tiers above your average seasonal rando show. As an anime original production with no source material, Egao no Daika deserves to be recognized for that.
P.S. If you've played Xenoblade Chronicles X, Egao no Daika's setting, characters, and thematic elements are all strikingly similar. Xenoblade Chronicles X is by the far the most slept on Xenoblade Chronicles game that falls under the radar of most of the Xenoblade community. Xenoblade Chronicles X is also my favorite Xenoblade, nay, favorite game of all time. Seeing the parallels between Egao no Daika and Xenoblade Chronicles X (both in their thematic elements and how they're getting largely ignored by their respective communities) is what gave birth to this particular review. I continue to defend Xenoblade Chronicles X from the haters that misunderstand it and didn't even play it, and I'll continue to advocate for Egao no Daika as one of the most underrated shows of the Winter 2019 anime season. Anything is possible with passion and will!
Is war really justified? Does human greed make up for the big mistakes humanity has done? Isn't there anything else we can do to avoid a major conflict? Many anime out there has touched the war topic trying to send a message to the viewer with its themes, Mobile Suit Gundam 00 comes to my mind as an example of what Egao no Daika might have been if things where handled better. And while Egao no Daika isn't bad, it still struggles with its theme that makes it look cheesy and minimized, yet, the message its still there.
Egao no Daika revolves around 2 different sides:
Yuki Soleil's kingdom (which name I already forgot lol) and there's Stella's team, one of many squads of the army of Grandiga. The plot is pretty straight forward as it revolves about the kingdom of Grandiga who wants to get their hands on the new Chrars tech (or whatever that kind of mech is called) for themselves... I think. The reasons behind this are pretty vague as it is just there as a plot device, it isn't explored that much and it's there just for the sake to create a "war"
Yuki Soleil is a 12 year old girl who is a Princess which pretty much ignores war. Its was a matter of time until things didn't go her way, witnessing the crude reality of war after shit happened due to how oblivious she was. You can't really blame her as every single adult on this anime tried really hard to hide this reality from her, fooling her into thinking that everything is laughs and smiles and making dumb decisions that leads to her suffering. Yuki side of the story is pretty cheesy and childish, specially her idealistic world where there is no war, which is kinda impossible as we all know how human kind is after all.
On the other side, we have Stella's Squad, which takes the spotlight of this anime imo, as it has the strongest emotions and the best episodes of this anime. Stella is a blue haired girl that will smile no matter what as she was told that smiling would lead her anywhere. Kinda hard to do as war is her job and there's only suffering coming from it.
I really like that we have both sides of the stories on this "war", making you sympathize with each side in order to understand their point of view. It helps a lot on understanding what this anime tries to achieve and how the characters feels about it. That said, the message behind the story might be childish, yet, thing should be more this way.
Characters on this anime are far from perfect but they are good enough to carry this show, specially Stella's faction as it holds the best moments on this show, for example Stella's past which was really sad and most of her motivations to keep on living.
Animation is okay although it suffers a bit on latter episodes, but nothing that can make it unwatchable. It is good enough to tell a story visually. Ost on the other hand really caught me by surprise as it is really good and well placed among scenes that requires it.
Despite its looks, this anime is really entertaining and as long as you don't expect some stellar story telling you will have a good time with this anime. Definitely not as bad as it seems, still better than Domestic na Kanojo tho.