Smile PreCure! Episode 4: March Madness

Nao may be the green cure, but it's the other cures who are quite envious of her awesomeness!

All hail Marina Inoue and our vertified overlords! This week’s episode was perhaps the one that I hyped up the most for myself, particularly because of the character that was being featured, as well as the seiyuu portraying her. I was completely blown away in both regards, and the episode itself was very well-done overall. Marina made her grand entrance, and it was made even better by how great the rest of the episode was when she wasn’t being the focus.

Synopsis

While having lunch in the school courtyard, Miyuki, Yayoi, and Akane are confronted by senior students who try to take over their eating spots. Fellow classmate, Nao Midorikawa, steps in and thoroughly justifies the girls’ right to where they eat. Drawn by Nao’s coolness, the three girls watch her during soccer practice and agree to recruit her as the fourth precure. Miyuki visits Nao’s house, where she meets her numerous siblings. After playing with Nao’s siblings and having lunch with the family, they meet up with Akane and Yayoi at a nearby soccer field. Red Oni appears and casts Bad End on the Soccer Field. The girls transform and try to protect Nao’s siblings from an Akanbe, but Miyuki gets caught by the Akanbe’s net. Nao awakens from Bad End and protects her siblings, awakening as Cure March in the process and defeating the Akanbe using her speed and March Shoot finisher.

Here are my 5 thoughts on the episode, mostly gushing about March.

1. I love Cure March, the character.

Super cool, super kind, super-athletic, super-sweet. Nao's got it all!

There’s a huge personal bias from me towards characters who place importance on family, and the fact that Nao is a remarkably competent big sister in the family is a huge plus in my book. With athleticism, responsibility, and a small streak of righteousness, Nao seems to have it all, but she’s wholly grounded by her siblings, who she keeps in line in return. She is a different kind of strong, big sister than Yayoi is from iDOLM@STER, who has the added responsibility of being a financial contributor to the household. They have their slight differences, but there’s a strength from familial devotion that comes out in the rest of their character when they’re outside of the house.

Nao shows this particularly well in both her relationship to the other girls as well as her strength as a PreCure. In episode 1, she is described by Akane as a boss-like character of a high school gang, and she throws her weight around as March though in this case, her wind-based powers gives her a weightless punch that is effective against the Akanbe nonetheless. Her super-speed has remarkable potential for animation, and the parallel between the speed burst that she showed during soccer practice and during her battle with the Akanbe is excellently paralleled, and animated ridiculously well.

Nao’s PreCure March Shoot is a wind version of Cure Rouge’s Pretty Cure Fire Strike in Yes 5! GoGo. It’s one example of the remarkably close similarities between Smile and Yes 5, but the fact remains that March’s finisher is a bit of a letdown due to the carbon-copy nature of it. Thankfully, it’s just a preliminary finisher, and whatever mid-season power-up will be definitely an upgrade in more ways than one.

2. I love Cure Marina, the voice actor.

"Watashi, kazoku ga daisuki nanda" - marry me, Inoue-sama

I was overhyped about Marina Inoue’s role as Nao Midorikawa ever since the seiyuu cast announcement for Smile, and despite my numerous ravings and rants about my high expectations for Marina’s presence on the show, she has exceeded every single expectation from a vocal standpoint. As I had predicted, she would take a similar delivery approach as she did with Kyoko Mogami from Skip Beat. Like Kyoko, Nao has a strong voice, an air of confidence (to the point of slight arrogance), and full of emotions at different ends of the spectrum.

In the picture above, she delivers a fantastic line about how much she loves her family, which is set up in the previous scene really well by her portrayal of an older sister in charge of the family. Nao is drawn with a very wistful look in her eyes, staring off in the background, but is topped off by Marina’s very airy tone when she says the line. Contrast that with the powerful booming voice that she commands when Nao transforms into Cure March, particularly during her stock footage delivery of “PreCure March Shoot!” and we see the dynamic range that Marina was brought on board for.

The best thing, though, is that she doesn’t need to rely on any particular character novelty to bring out her talents. Candy has the mascot tone of voice and verbal tic; Miyuki has the hammy over-acting; Akane has her Kansai dialect; Yayoi has an extremely shy temperament. Marina has the least to work with, but manages to pull off the strong-willed Nao very effectively. Combined with the fact that the other characters that I described have fantastic voice actors in their own right (Hisako Kanemoto as Yayoi, in particular), Marina’s strength is still felt, and doesn’t take away from the rest of the cast. This year looks to be really strong in the voice acting department, and I can’t wait to see where this show ends up in comparison to the rest of the PreCure franchise.

3. Candy is a pretty great PreCure mascot, right from the beginning.

I'm too kawaii to take this shit. Miyuki, you're on your own!

It took Hummy from Suite PreCure quite a bit of time to grow on me as a character, but it didn’t occur to me until all that random tacked-on stuff at the end after the big bad was defeated that I actually cared for the little brah. I don’t know when it happened throughout the show, but having recently watched the All-Stars DX3 movie, I can definitely confirm that Hummy is pretty cool as a mascot; her verbal tic isn’t too annoying, she has a good relationship to Hibiki and Kanade, and she has the right kind of airheadedness that is fit for a mascot.

Candy has a lot of the same thing going on for her as Hummy did in Suite, except the Smile critter is very likeable early on. Unlike the harshly grating timbres of Mepple from Futari wa and both Coco and Nuts from Yes 5, Candy’s is more infant-like in the vein of Chypre and Coffret, with a verbal tic of -kuru, which isn’t repeated too much for me to take any particular notice. She acts like the tsukkomi to Miyuki’s boke, and her annoyances with Miyuki is particularly refreshing and a necessary balance to Miyuki’s clumsiness. Candy’s seiyuu is Ikue Ootani, who has a lot of experience portraying mascot characters like Pikachu and Tony Tony Chopper from One Piece. Ikue’s role in One Piece is of an interesting note due to the running gag in the episode where Nao’s family mistakes Candy for a tanuki (raccoon), which is remarkably similar to TTC’s running gag throughout the entire series. Combined with the great scene where Candy is thrown around like a rag doll, the Cure mascot is already making a strong showing in the early episodes.

4. Despite many similarities to Yes 5, the early chemistry in Smile PreCure is much more apparent.

Sunny, your jokes are terrible. I fucking love them.

From my last experience watching Yes 5 a while back, it took a while for me to get into the characters. I liked each of them individually (Cure Dream and Cure Mint, in particular), but as a group, they didn’t really click together until after the other mascot, Nuts, appears. While Aqua’s initial inability to become a PreCure was a pretty neat spin on the episodic integration of the cast, it wasn’t until her little spat with Rouge in episode 8 when the dynamics and chemistry between the cast was fully felt.

We don’t know yet how Beauty’s episode will go, and if it’s any indication, Reika’s striking individual similarity to Karen from Yes 5, as well as episode 4’s preview will probably result in a similar circumstance resulting in more screentime required for Beauty to become a PreCure. It’s a necessary thing, considering that the nature of systematic character introduction episodes has so far resulted in Reika getting barely any lines; putting a bit extra oomf into Beauty’s addition helps with making up for her absence so far.

Despite that, the chemistry and relationship dynamic between the Cures introduced so far is much stronger, simply due to how much stronger the girls’ personalities are in relation to Yes 5. They stand out as individuals, but not too much as to take the spotlight away from each other. It helps that the main character is a transfer student, since the developing friendship centres around her, and is evened out with the characters with each episode. In Yes 5, Nozomi and Rin (the first two cures) are already friends, making the added dynamic of Urara/Cure Lemonade a bit more difficult, as she was the fifth wheel in the cast. By making the lead Cure the fifth wheel, the relationship development is much more evenly spread, even if Miyuki’s relationship with the others isn’t as strong as Nozomi’s.

As Akane said in the episode, their bonds aren’t strong yet, but they will be soon! It’s a portent of things to come, and Reika’s addition will complete the picture for this ensemble going forward.

5. Smile is on its way to becoming the most medium-aware PreCure in the franchise.

I went with scissors this week; clearly, I win at life.

As much as I’ve praised Nao and Marina like the pathetic fanboy that I am, my favourite part of the entire episode didn’t even involve the spotlight character. In an off-hand comment after Happy, Sunny, and Peace’s transformation, Red Oni points out how he played rock-paper-scissors with Yayoi during her transformation and lost. Even though I ragged pretty hard on the bad guys in the past few episodes, I’m beginning to see a bit of hope with regards the direction that these guys take throughout the show. Unlike the bumbling nincompoopery of Trio the Minor, the Bad End Kingdom is showing comic potential through such exchanges like this one.

As a show that is remarkably aware of the tropes inside and out of the PreCure franchise, it’s doing a fantastic job at hanging the odd lampshade here and there, and starting with Yayoi’s rock-paper-scissors gag, Smile is beginning to set itself apart from its other sister series. From Miyuki’s invocation of three little pigs in episode 1 to Akane’s manzai moments this week, this iteration of PreCure, as well as its villains, could be the most genre-savvy in the franchise to date. As a huge troper, I am loving every moment of it.

PreCure Power Rankings: Episode 4

1. Nao/Cure March – Marina makes a super-strong appearance this week, and makes the rest of the cast even better.
2. Yayoi/Cure Peace – Her rock-paper-scissors moment is the most hilarious part of the episode.
3. Akane/Cure Sunny – I liked the manzai bit, but I hope it doesn’t throw the hot-blooded aspect of her character out of balance.
4. Miyuki/Cure Happy – Solid overall. With every precure addition, she just gets better and better.
5. Red Oni Reika/Cure Beauty – No lines? No problem! Better make up for it with a good episode 5!

8 thoughts on “Smile PreCure! Episode 4: March Madness

  1. @krizzlybear next episode we will have the third villian which is the witch from the fairy tail snow white.by how you seen her at the preview do you think she will act more like real bad villian then oni and the wolf?

    1. I can see her being a crafty sneaky crone type like the stepmother from snow white. All of these villains are based on some sort of fairy tale archetype. The preview even showed her making a poison apple just like in Snow White. Definitely going to be something of that nature.

  2. All hail Marina Inoue! Indeed Krizzly! It took me back to Senjou no Valkyria and of course my all time favorite Haganai! I can’t wait till she says “meat” in a random episode I will die laughing so much…

    1. Me and my brother thought the same thing about March’s home life compared to Yayoi from Idolmaster! That whole “playing with the children” scene instantly came back to me. And I was thinking oh wow Krizzly is going to love this girl! Hooray for these characters <3 And she is tough and super friendly…I knew a few people like her in high school.

    2. Marina Inoue is just fantastic! I love her work <3 even thou I only know her from a handful of roles she always does a great job, I liked the THE RACCOON JUST TALKED!! Ahahaha that was great you gotta love those reaction faces.

    3. Hummy in Suite was soooo frigging annoying at the start with nya this nya that I seriously hated it at the start, but near the end when stuff got somewhat serious I actually liked Hummy…and now we have Candy? I can't get enough of that character. Not to mention he voices Chopper from One Piece and he says the same thing when people call him a raccoon! I wonder if that is a shout out to Chopper/One piece? Maybe not but damn does it make me laugh.

    4. Yeah right now they are still figuring each other out somewhat, but soon I hope to see tag team attacks and multiple attacks lined up to kick ass! However I can see episodes in the future where the girls are fighting not as pure cure, but more like at school because that happened a few times in Suite with the two mains butting heads in a few episodes.

    5. Hahaha Sunny I love your crazy mind! You are shy and hilarious after you transform, I died laughing when she played paper and Oni picked up on that? Wow i don't think I have ever seen 4th wall breaking since Gintama <3 or was it? I have no clue but good god…so much fun.

    And next the ice girl! I guess she has a "cold heart" towards friendship? The ice ones are usually the most "depressed" or something like that! But hey it makes them interesting.

    now my arm is falling off <3

    1. 1. The difference between her and Yayoi was that I completely overlooked Yayoi’s qualities and didn’t realize how awesome she was until I wrote that post back in December, but as for March, I’ve always loved her, wahaha~!

      2. I loved the raccoon line too, and also when she yelled at her younger siblings for ganging up and picking on Miyuki. I know that feeling too well, wahaha~!

      3. I have no idea how I ended up liking Hummy, but thank goodness I ended up doing so later.

      4. Yeah, that will happen right away, if Yes 5 is any indication! I can see a heated argument between Akane and Reika. They’re the most contrasted girls in the group, I think! Plus, the whole Red Oni, Blue Oni thing (not to be confused with the bad guy Aka Oni, lol!).

      5. I’m not sure if Red Oni’s rock-paper-scissors comment was breaking the 4th wall or not. It would certainly make sense in-universe if PreCure transformations really did take all that time to happen, since it was already shown that there is a transformation barrier. I can see Red Oni idly standing by watching them transform, and in result, playing along with Peace’s rock-paper-scissors during her transformation. Either way, I really loved his reaction to it, it really brought out his slightly imbecilic side which goes with his physical stature as a bad guy.

      Reika’s awakening will be serious business indeed!

  3. Good idea for a title called ‘March Madness’. Not in the NCAA, but a impressive Cure March episode.

    The Jankenpon one is epic win.

    1. I’m also very impressed by Cure March Episode. Speaking of NCAA, I’m sure Nao would probably be good enough to play basketball if she had enough practice, though I think Akane would be more suited for it due to her easily translatable skills in volleyball, hehe

      Don’t forget to play Jankenpon every week when Cure Peace transforms! I’m throwing Scissors next week, since I can’t fathom that she would throw rock after throwing scissors and paper these past two weeks. Now I’m thinking too hard about it, ugh!

    2. just sew episode 5 and you will put cure beauty in the first place in your feivorite precure once you will see her she has such grace and beauty

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