After stealing the show in episode 1 with her outspoken exchange with Miyuki during her self-introduction, we get to take a closer look at the passionately optomistic Akane Hino as she awakens as Cure Sunny. She didn’t disappoint, as her debut as a PreCure was filled with bits of fluffy friendship as well as hot-blooded superpower. Overall, I really enjoyed it, and Smile, despite its potential challenges with balancing out the cast throughout the show, has been reasonably maintaining a solid standard of watchability for PreCure fans and newbies alike.
Akane shows off her volleyball skills in gym class, prompting Miyuki to recruit her and Kise as PreCure. Akane is confused by the concept of PreCure, but invites Miyuki to volleyball practice to watch her in action. She doesn’t live up to the ace billing that she displayed in class, and practices under a bridge due to her disappointing outing. Miyuki sees the passion in her practice, and helps Akane out. Akane’s improvement significantly shows in the next practice, but is interrupted by Wolfrun, who captures the bad energy of the volleyball team. Miyuki transforms into Cure Happy, but is unable to defeat the volleyball-shaped Akanbe monster. Akane escapes the clutch of Wolfrun’s bad energy, and defends Cure Happy from the Akanbe, and awakens as Cure Sunny in the process.
Hoping to establish a bit more structure into this episodic coverage of Smile PreCure, here are my five thoughts on this week’s episode:
1. Miyuki is remarkably idiotic, but not yet lovably idiotic.
I’m not that big of a fan of the idiotic hero. For me, I personally like my main characters to be somewhat competent, but the odd moments of clumsiness here and there help show that as a main character and hero, he or she is still has plenty of room for improvement, even though they’re remarkably strong from the get-go. Such examples include heroes like Maka from Soul Eater and Sosuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic.
As the first and foremost PreCure in the series, she’s clearly the star of the show, but the responsibility of taking up the most screen-time requires that she doesn’t come off as too much of a dunce, since too much of it can work against her. I’ve said before that the seiyuu’s overacting is much better than under-acting, which makes Miyuki an interesting case to observe with regards to how much she can balance her clumsiness with her responsibility to lead a band of five girls. As the secondary and point-of-view character in this episode, I’ll give her a passing mark this week; since she readily defers the spotlight to Sunny, while supporting her in helping with her awakening as a PreCure.
2. My Heart Burns for Akane/Cure Sunny.
That said, Cure Sunny is everything I thought that she would be from what was teased from last week’s episode. As a girl who’s outspoken and passionate about things she cares about, her disposition is appropriately sunny. And I hate myself for having written that just now.
Akane’s awakening as Cure Sunny is all about setting off the fire in her that was stoked from the embers of developing friendship, which I will comment later. What I really love about Sunny’s character is that she really does care about her friends, old and new. Akane is already friends with Kise (Cure Peace), and readily accepts Miyuki as one as well. Her passion for volleyball also brings out a competitive spirit in her in which she wants to show off her abilities to Miyuki, but her failing to do so initially shouldn’t be overstated. As far as Osakans go, they’re often characterized as boisterous braggarts, which comes into play quite effectively when Akane fails to live up to her big talking. She falls pretty hard, but doesn’t give up; she’s immediately seen doing spiking drills by herself. I really admire that, and the scene progression was a nicely executed touch.
3. The big bad wolf is more bad than big.
I understand the concept behind wolfrun, but as far as first impressions go, his appearance in episode 1 left a pretty distinct distaste in my mouth. There are a lot of inconsistencies in his abilities as an evil henchman, since he talks pretty big despite not showing just how menacing he tries to be. Compared to other baddies like the Desert Messengers, Wolfrun is not menacing at all. The hot-blooded Kumojacky is remarkably strong and trains relentlessly. Sasorina takes her insecurities out on the PreCure with her snarky laugh and potent scorpion hair. Cobraja’s extreme vanity is backed up by his prowress with his card projectiles.
Wolfrun has nothing. All he’s shown to do, power-wise is conjure up the Bad End aura from his book (which by itself is actually really neat in its presentation compared to cop-out negative aura powers like in Fresh and Suite) and summon Akanbe monsters. He doesn’t show any other abilities with regards to fighting, and depends too much on his summons. At least with the incompetence of Trio the Minor from Suite, they were purposely bad due to their role as comedic relief (not that they were effective at that role anyway, to say the least). If Wolfrun is intended to be played straight as a villain, then he’s not doing a particularly convincing job at doing so.
I disapprove of him to the extent that I’d rather have Cure Sunny as the feature picture for this particular segment. Cure Sunny is just that awesome.
4. Lucky Seven? I’m convinced that there are most likely Seven PreCure in the series.
It’s a rumor circulating in fandom that the original cast of five PreCure will be expanded to seven, due a few hints dropped in the show already, as seen above. There are seven coloured jewels on the Cure tact, as well as seven colours in the rainbow, which seems to be one of the visual tie-ins with regards to the structure and dynamics of the cast. Furthermore, the name of the theme-named village is Nanairogakura, which loosely translates to “Raibow village.” As it stands, five of the seven colours are already represented by precure withOrange, Yellow, Blue, and Green represented by Sunny, Peace, Beauty, and March, respectively. Loosely speaking, Cure Happy is visually pink, coinciding with the pink jewel in the cure tact, but dynamically falls under indigo with regards to the colour spectrum, since indigo is often regarded as the miscellaneous colour.
Colour-wise, we’re already seeing the relationships between the characters that represent them, with Orange and Yellow hanging out together, and Blue and Green often seen together, relatively speaking. That leaves Red and Purple, which are also chromatically close to each other in the rainbow, allowing for a logical opportunity to introduce the 6th and 7th PreCure later on. This is a casting decision that I support, despite my worries about the show’s ability to balance out an already large cast. Will it actually happen, though? I’m not certain, but I believe for the most part that it will, and I’ll look forward to it happening later, rather than sooner. It’s too early to make any judgments here, since we’re yet to see March and Beauty in any considerable spotlight at the moment.
5. I’m a huge sucker for the Power of Friendship.
Smile PreCure has the potential to be the most troperiffic show in the PreCure franchise, very much due to the show’s fairy tale motif, which by itself naturally involves the concept of archetypes and self-realization of unconscious connections with different forms of imagery and narrative. It also provides the opportunity for this show to laugh at itself with regards to all of the PreCure stock elements that it uses. We’ve already seen it with Miyuki’s inability to use her PreCure powers, as well as her remarkable failure to do so in this episode. It continues to be a hit, but at the same time, it still manages to play some tropes fairly straight, and fairly effectively.
Enter the Power of Friendship, which is the underlying premise of pretty much every PreCure show (and magical girl show, for that matter) in existence. What I like about PreCure is that they really emphasize both aspects of the trope, which is simply the proportional relationship between the Friendship between the characters and the prowess that they exude. Both manage to increase gradually because we get to see them become closer to each other throughout the show, and the believability of those bonds rest on how likeable the characters are. If we as an audience are capable of liking these characters, then we are then capable of liking them liking each other. It’s the core selling point of the show, and Smile does not fail in the slightest bit.
There’s a wonderful scene as shown in the picture above, where Miyuki tries to cheer Akane up when the latter is practicing her volleyball drills. Even though Miyuki is barely new to the school, her comfort level with Akane, built from the previous episode’s self-introduction scene naturally progresses to a genuine concern. At first she tries to pull off the somewhat tired “I want to protect my friend’s sadness” card, but Akane wants none of that. Instead, we’re treated to a nice little heartwarming moment where Akane instead enlists Miyuki to help her with her volleyball practice. A simple reversal like that is what I truly love about this show and its approach to the tried-and-true elements of friendship; it takes a realistic, yet still fluffy approach to the scene, while at the same time, introduces a humorous element with Candy, who brings up Miyuki’s short attention span surrounding her search for new PreCure members. The simultaneous foreground/background dialogue is present here, somewhat, which is a recurring method used in several scenes in this show already, which is another handy touch.
Genre savvy isn’t limited to simply pointing out the occurrence of genre conventions; it’s also about being capable of playing them in different ways, including straightforwardly. Smile is capable of doing this for the most part, at least with regards to the fundamental elements of PreCure.
PreCure Power Rankings
1. Akane/Cure Sunny – spotlight episode. Didn’t disappoint.
2. Kise/Cure Peace – Got to see more of her. She’s a really nice girl with lots of potential.
3. Miyuki/Cure Happy – I can’t stand idiot heroes, but she’s got other redeeming qualities that makes it worthwhile.
4. Nao/Cure March – Victim #1 of early cast balance issues, but she’ll get her day in the sun eventually.
5. Reika/Cure Beauty – Victim #2 as mentioned above, but she didn’t really do much this episode either.