Smile PreCure! Episode 16: Beauty Blues

A path has been laid out for Beauty, but it is up to her to embark on that journey.

After a rather lengthy hiatus from Smile PreCure blogging, I am finally back! I must admit, this episode was the perfect place to take a reprieve from covering this show; I was in the midst of a somewhat distracting and energy-draining Aniblog tourney, and the things that I’ve learned in my journey to the top 16 has given me a whole new perspective, not in regards to what makes a blog popular, but rather, what makes me want to keep blogging. It’s the writing that I love, and I love writing about Smile PreCure. I’m not sure how fast I’ll be able to catch up to the most recent episode, but I’ll promise my best to put 100% of my effort into doing so. Without further ado, let’s get into this wonderful episode featuring that has recently become one of my favourite PreCure in the show, Cure Beauty!

Synopsis

A daunting question regarding Reika’s future goals brings her to examine herself and all of the things that make up her daily life. In order to truly discover what drives her forward, she temporarily quits all of her activities, from archery to student council, and even being a PreCure. In the meantime, Reika spends time with the other girls observing their activities and interests outside of school. She reads books in the library with Miyuki. She watches Akane’s volleyball practice. She draws with Yayoi. She helps Nao look after her siblings. During a reprieve with Candy, she reflects on how hard the others work, but Candy recognizes Reika’s efforts as well. Meanwhile, Aka Oni steals bad energy from elementary school kids, and in Beauty’s absence, the other four girls transform and fight an Akanbe that takes the form of a math workbook. The Akanbe challenges the girls to answer his trivia game consisting of academics problems, and the girls get snared after answering incorrectly. Beauty shows up and transforms, answering all of the questions the Akanbe throws at her. She declares what she has learned from the other four girls, and decides that even though she doesn’t yet know her future, she wants to fight as a PreCure. She uses Beauty Blizzard to vanquish the Akanbe.

Like Karen/Cure Aqua from Yes PreCure 5, Reika faces a crisis in regards to her identity, and within the context of the show, in regards to her role in the group as well. Let’s take a look at her relationship with the other girls.

Beauty and Happy: Maturity and Youthfulness

Even Reika can learn a thing or two from Miyuki.

The relationship between Cures Beauty and Happy is one of the more difficult ones to pin down compared to the other girls, but in terms of their respective roles in the group, it’s really interesting to note both girls’ capabilities in relation to their responsibilities as PreCure. Miyuki is clearly the leader of the group, yet seems to be the one who has the most to learn out of all five. However, Beauty is the most competent fighter, the smartest strategist, and arguably more courage to face her problems head-on.

However, what Beauty lacks is that x-factor that makes a leader a leader, especially in the world of PreCure. If you take a look at PreCures past, the leader of the group is hardly the one you expect to be the most fitting to take on the responsibility of saving the world with her friends, but it’s that unwavering determination that makes Cures Happy, Dream, Peach, Blossom, and Melody leaders by example. It is Beauty’s role, then to guide Happy throughout her maturation process to become the full realization of that determination. Channelling raw leadership into a potent force is something that is up to Beauty and her more than capable kin from the other franchises, Aqua, Moonlight, White, Egret, and Rhythm.

Reika has been watching Miyuki from the background ever since the start, and she will continue to guide her to ultra-happiness.

Beauty and Sunny: Intellect and Passion

Even polar opposites can be kindred spirits.

The red-oni, blue-oni trope is a storied duality between passion and intellect, hot-bloodedness and cool stoicism, wildness and controll. It’s a staple of Pretty Cure ever since its two-girl roots with Futari wa’s Nagisa (red) and Honoka (blue), and continues even into ensemble casts and Yes 5’s Rin (red) and Karen (blue), including a very interesting colour reversal in Heartcatch’s Tsubomi (blue) and Erika (red). Smile continues the tradition with Reika’s blue to Akane’s red.

However, unlike previous iterations, where the clash between red and blue often lead to butting heads (Yes 5) or early teamwork issues (Heartcatch), Reika and Akane are the most synergistic of the chromatic pairs. While wildly different from each other, the two are highly aware of their own pitfalls, but identify the other as the completing half. For instance, in Akane’s spotlight episode with the Okonomiyaki monster, she is able to use Beauty Blizzard to break herself out of the syrup trap. It’s no coincidence that their elemental powers are Fire and Ice.

Personality-wise, Akane respects and appreciate’s Reika’s giftedness, while Reika acknowledges Akane’s passion for her sport and for her friends. Opposites attract, and this is especially true for Beauty and Sunny.

Beauty and Peace: Knowledge and Craft

A peaceful moment between two highly focused girls.

It’s actually pretty interesting to note that of all the girls, I feel that Yayoi is actually the closest one, characteristically, to Reika compared to the other girls. I mean this perhaps in the most relative sense, since on paper, Yayoi and Reika are still different nonetheless. However, in relation to the other girls, it’s clear to me that Yayoi is close to Reika, at least in a sense that she’s not as far away from her in comparison to the other girls.

Where they intersect is actually very interesting. In regards to Yayoi’s interest in art, her approach to improving her skills is comparable to Reika’s studies. One cannot simply become better at art naturally, it’s a craft that takes time and dedication to develop, much like the time it takes to become more a more studious pupil in school. The focus that the two girls have in their natural elements make them a pretty good fit in my mind, especially when they turn it on as PreCure. While Peace still has a way to go with regards to actual combat competence compared to Beauty, the approach she takes is also similar; she takes after a super-hero with the brimming confidence and power that seeks to set things right.

Beauty is the out-of-shell personally that Peace wants to be, which makes her tend towards Beauty moreso than any of the other cures, even if Peace is currently a lot like Happy.

Beauty and March: Experience and Instinct

The Beauty/March dynamic has great potential for growth in the series. TL;DR: SHIPPING SO HARD

While the red-oni, blue-oni dynamic between Akane and Reika established rather clearly and effectively throughout the show, it’s easy to miss the subtle differences that make Nao and Reika rather contrasting to each other, potentially on the same level as Reika and Akane. If we look at their personality and colours in terms of Magic: the Gathering colours as well, the main oppositions and dualities occur in intellect versus instinct, nature versus nurture, and we can see all of this in the one small exchange during the episode.

When Nao’s little brother falls down while playing and begins to cry, Reika immediately rushes in to comfort him, but Nao steps in and lets him stand on his own two feet, and emotionally rewards him with encouragement and a pat on the back. As is the “green” way, Nao’s focus on family and nurturing a community is completely based on parental instinct. Common sense dictates that Reika’s reaction was without fault, but Nao’s approach appreciates that all people have the potential to grow, and by letting them do so on their own, without interference, that growth is strongest.

Despite their subtle oppositions, both Nao and Reika have a sense of community and need for social betterment, as seen in their respective roles as big sister and student council vice-president. They share a sense of focus that makes them natural leaders and great judges of characters. Within the PreCure, they would be the natural mom and dad of the group, which helps explains why they are so popular as a ship in the fandom.

I would consider myself to be one of those shippers as well! Nao x Reika forever!

PreCure Power Rankings, Episode 16

1. Reika/Cure Beauty – The focal character in the episode lived up to her billing. She showed some real growth in this episode, and kicked some major ass post-transformation.
2. Nao/Cure March – She encouraged Reika to take her break, and she had the most interesting one-on-one scenes in the episode. Her Akanbe blunder was the most hilarious. Tokugawa ie-something!
3. Miyuki/Cure Happy – Despite her goof-up in the library and against the Akanbe, she seemed to learn quite a bit from Reika, probably moreso than the other girls!
4. Yayoi/Cure Peace – Of all the girls’ one-on-one scenes, Reika seemed to be the most impressed by Yayoi’s. I wasn’t as much. I also lost at jan-ken-pon.
5. Akane/Cure Sunny – she didn’t really do much the entire episode, but her hilarious Engrish justified her being there at all.

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