What sets Smile PreCure! (and by extension, the PreCure franchise in general) apart from its mahou shoujo peers is its often-relentless brand of comedy. This week’s episode delves into manzai comedy, which features the duality between a comically active funny man (boke) and a contrasting straight man (tsukkomi). While Akane is the figurehead of comedy in Smile’s cast, each of the other girls bring their own style of audaciousness, falling into different parts of the manzai spectrum, creating a nice team dynamic as far as humour goes. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the episode that tackles comedy as subject matter is the funniest in the series so far.
Akane and Miyuki practice a manzai routine for an upcoming comedy festival, with the other girls as their practice audience. Excited for the festival’s special guests, Fujiwara, the group decides to attend together. Akane is star-struck when the girls meet Fujiwara at the event, and hang out with the duo in their dressing room. In a hilarious exchange covering up Candy’s identity, the two comedians recognize the girls’ natural abilities for manzai, encouraging them to participate in the festival as a group.
Stage fright takes the better of the girls when they show off their routine, resulting in major laughs from the audience at their expense. Fujiwara tries to cheer Akane up, but when they do their own routine, Majorina uses the turn-me-dulls on the duo, casting a Bad End spell in the process. The PreCure transform, but are bested by an Akanbe tag-team. Fujiwara breaks free from the Bad End aura, and Candy mistakes them as new PreCure. Haranishi faux-transforms into “Cure Gorilla,” eliciting a tsukkomi response from Fujimon. The Akanbe’s laughter frees the PreCure from their grasp, and Cure Sunny’s resolve after realizing the power of comedy allows her to defeat one of the Akanbe by herself. The group uses Rainbow Healing to eliminate the other Akanbe.
There were a number elements in this week’s Smile PreCure! that contributed to a hilarious episode overall. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Reika’s comedic seriousness brings a unique style of comedy to the show.
I’ve mentioned Reika’s attempted seriousness in previous episodes, with one of her more memorable moments involving her selection of Mount Fuji as a prospective secret base. That particular moment in episode 7 was effective due to her absent-mindedness regarding the dynamics of her group. She sees herself as a leader and intellectual, where in reality, she is so far-out in her worldview that the other girls are perplexed by her disconnect.
This disconnect is played out remarkably well in episode 17, and passes for a very different (and hilarious) form of boke. Here, Reika’s already-established “higher intelligence” allows for her to appear completely removed from the concept of comedy. This is capitulated in the group’s failed routine, where Reika completely sidetracks their intended joke regarding Miyuki’s crush on Momotaro; she points out that Miyuki previously confessed to having a crush on Peter Pan instead, much to the chagrin of her comrades and to the delight of the festival audience.
Reika was perfectly off the mark in this episode, and made the most effective contribution to the show’s comedic element.
Nao’s tsukkomi is under-appreciated, but highly effective.
It’s hard for me to peg Nao with any sort of “obvious” comedic role in the cast of Smile, as she doesn’t really have any characteristics that stand out in a particularly funny way. While she does have her fear of bugs, its lack of subtlety makes it less humorous than intended. However, her role as the lone straight girl in this week’s episode provided a welcome balance to this week’s dynamic, as she is the most grounded girl in the group.
Nao didn’t do anything that stood out in particular in this episode, but being the tsukkomi allows for a rather sizeable amount of facial reaction to the antics of the other four girls. For every silly or snide comment made by the other girls, Nao provides an equally effective response, whether in the form of a facial expression or simple line executed with exasperation that increases as the episode progresses. Much credit goes to Marina Inoue here in that regard.
The Bad End Kingdom strikes the perfect comedic balance.
One of my many complaints in Suite PreCure♪ was the ineffectiveness of Trio the Minor as the show’s comic relief villains. While their corniness was probably intended for the purposes of eliciting reactions from the PreCure themselves, their inability to capture any sort of attention from the audience stems from them forming a trio, but never actually providing any sort of dynamic making the trio fully-realized. They were just 3 guys who were frustrating in their sheer redundancy.
With the three henchmen from the Bad End Kingdom out and about in this episode, it’s much easier to see the balance between Majorina, Aka Oni, and Wolfrun. Majorina, despite her natural role as boke due to being a senile witch, is the straight-faced of the three, incapable of reacting to the sheer audaciousness of Wolfrun and Oni’s ridiculous manzai costumes. In this case, Wolfrun provides a bit of a middle ground in the spectrum between Majorina’s reactionary mode and Oni’s sheer outlandish idiocy.
The resulting balance is quite nice for a group of villains. With Joker serving the role as the real muscle of evil, the three subordinates are free to be as ridiculous as they want, while remaining capable of being somewhat competent at opportune times.
Facial expression is the key to emphasizing silliness.
Expressive faces is the cornerstone of quality animation and character design, and the PreCure has it in spades. Each continuity seems to have a particular character whose popularity with fans coincides strongly with the quality and variety of facial expressions that supplement their wacky personalities. Splash☆Star had the ridiculous eyebrows of Saki/Cure Bloom. Heartcatch had the in-your-face faces of Erika/Cure Marine. While Smile prominently places Cure Sunny in this role, there is no shortage of memorable expressions from the rest of the cast.
As explained above, Nao’s exasperated reactions are effective foils to the tomfoolery of the other girls. Miyuki has her trademark -3- face when she goes hub-bu-buu. Yayoi’s wide-eyed fancy for nearly everything that she comes across in the show (especially in this episode) is remarkably cute and endearing. Reika expresses herself so straightly that it either comes across as anti-climactic or even anti-humour. The wide range of expression in Smile across all of the characters allows for the show to live up to its name, providing loads of laughs straightforwardly.
If Smile PreCure’s comedy is fresh, then Fresh Pretty Cure’s comedy brings smiles.
Episode 27 of Fresh Pretty Cure! provides a similar comedic backdrop as Smile’s episode 17. Like Smile, the Fresh girls participate in a manzai competition, though not intentionally. Due to a mix-up caused by one of the mascots, Chiffon, the girls accidentally sign up for the manzai event, instead of the dancing event that they originally prepared for. Whereas Smile features a real-life manzai cameo from Fujiwara, Fresh’s cast enlists the help of their own guests in Audrey, a duo that is well-known for subverting the tsukkomi-boke dynamic.
Fresh goes the traditional manzai route by splitting the girls into two two-man groups. Of particular note, heel-turned-face Setsuna/Cure Passion provides a similar form of anticlimactic humour as Reika, through misunderstandings and obliviousness to comedic situations. Her partner, the perfectionist Miki/Cure Berry, is the perfect tsukkomi foil, providing spot-on reaction to Setsuna’s incompetence.
While Audrey helps out in the PreCure’s eventual battle with the Akanbe, they also are privy to the Cures’ identities, noting that they both strive for the same goal: bringing smiles to the people of the world.
PreCure Power Rankings, episode 17
1. Reika/Cure Beauty – her anti-climactic humour stood out the most.
2. Nao/Cure March – her lone responsibility as the straight Cure was executed nicely.
3. Akane/Cure Sunny – the middle character in the spectrum, she made use of her spotlight.
4. Miyuki/Cure Happy – she played the boke fairly straightforwardly.
5. Yayoi/Cure Peace – leaned slightly towards tsukkomi, but was distracted in her own humourously cute way, but didn’t stand out much.