There’s nobody in this franchise that can hype me back into writing about Pretty Cure more than Yayoi Kise. A true fan of superheroes, it’s easy to draw the comparisons between her and the superhero that she becomes in Cure Peace, and it’s easy to forget that one of the primary raisons d’être behind the mythology of a magical girl is the empowerment in girls both on an emotional and spiritual level, brought out symbolically through their physical empowerment as legendary warriors.
It’s through episode 41’s spotlight of Yayoi’s potential as a manga artist that the ideals of a PreCure are discussed within the context of an episode’s plot, rather than explained in a preachy way like the recent All-Stars movie did with Ayumi’s awakening as the movie-exclusive PreCure, Cure Echo. Instead of being spoonfed the legacy of the PreCure valhalla, the heroism of Yayoi Kise is inherent from youth, and is fully realized through her transformation into Cure Peace. Say what she will about idolizing her fictional manga character, Miracle Peace, but all of her positive contributions to the world around her as Cure Peace, protecting those she loves, supporting her friends, among others, is exactly the type of girl that she looks up to. The transformation from Yayoi to Peace is the example path that all girls that precede and proceed her take.
This other idealistic side of Peace is a complement to the enthusiasm that she exudes the previous spotlight episode. In Episode 35, I mentioned about how Yayoi’s unbound enthusiasm for superheroes captivates the audience, lending to her status as a flagship character for the franchise, and this quality of hers is given breadth through the idealism of this week. Throughout the series, Yayoi has always been a duality of sorts between different emotional gears, whether it be white lies spiraling out of control, memories of a deceased father, or super robot hijinx, this week fills out a nice niche within this spectrum really well, somewhere between the arguably melodramatic father’s day episode and her burgeoning debut in episode 3. I would like to talk about her evolution throughout the show, but I’ll be saving this for a series of posts for each character once this cycle of spotlight episodes (assuredly the last before the grand finale) is over. All I can say for now is that Cure Peace is a complete character, and will be remembered for years to come.
Obvious praise for Yayoi aside, there were plenty of other things to write enthusiastically about with this episode, one of them being the wonderful art showcased this week. I suppose it makes sense that an episode that spotlights a girl’s artistic talents would be reflected by a noticeable rise in visual quality in some of the episode’s sequences, namely the Miracle Peace imagine spot, and Cure Peace’s duel against Aka Oni.
Let’s take a look at the Miracle Peace sequence through a series of different shots:
This entire sequence has an interesting visual style known as “Ben-Day dot,” which incorporates the usage of differently sized and coloured dots to create the illusion of shading and colour. It was originally done as a way of saving costs in printing comics in newspaper, but has since then taken off as an elaborate and unique style. Smile PreCure utilizes Ben-Day to establish this scene as Yayoi’s imagine-spot (imagine-dot?), separate from the reality of the show.
Dots are used to create different effects in this particular section of the episode. Firstly, it does the standard job of creating colour and shade, particularly that of the wall behind Miracle Peace as it is illuminated by the villain’s Dr. Doom-esque finger laser (the laser itself represented by the lack of dots). Secondly, it marries the comic book effect with the magical girl transformation scene through whimsical twinkles and evocative, vibrant-yet-cost-effective backgrounds. Lastly, it differentiates the entire sequence as an imagine spot as compared to the dream sequence that Yayoi has later on with the same characters, who are then animated in the standard style.
All of these effects are created within a single 52-second animated sequence, and is one of the reasons why the art style of Smile PreCure is one of the best in the franchise. It doesn’t have a bluntly unique style like Umakoshi’s designs in Heartcatch PreCure, but there’s enough here and there for Smile to stand out on its own compared to the others.
The fight choreography and animation in this week’s episode features a really awesome battle between an empowered Cure Peace and Aka Oni’s hyper Akanbe, which thoughtfully takes the form of Miracle Peace’s opponent from Yayoi’s manga. While the visuals are on par with the splendid battle showcased last week between Cure Sunny and Wolfrun, there’s an added element of meaning to the fight, as the two square off in a brawl that parallels that of Miracle Peace and the Dr. Doom dude.
Two specific shots come to mind:
It takes similarities to highlight the things that are truly different, and not only does the above sequence highlight this within the episode, but the other four PreCure’s arrival at the scene highlight this between episodes as well. While the familiar scene of four energy blasts save Peace from certain death from an overpowering Hyper Akanbe (which can only be defeated with the PreCure Royal Rainbow Burst combination attack), the sequence that follows is executed in a much more badass style than it was during Akane’s rescue in episode 40. A wonderful pan across the screen captures Cure Happy and the others striking a pose after casting their saving attacks, but then proceed to spout one-liners while frozen in the same pose. It’s the little things like this that makes this show as amazing as it is, and it is easily the highlight of the episode.
PreCure Power Rankings: Episode 41
1. Yayoi/Cure Peace – I mentioned the voicework of Hisako Kanemoto in episode 35. In episode 41, she cements what is essentially her greatest role to date.
2. Reika/Cure Beauty – Her post-blizzard pose is just perfect for the line she gave. She was also the most observant of Yayoi’s experiences prior to the battle.
3. Miyuki/Cure Happy – Miyuki leads the charge as always in driving the events for the spotlight character. She’s become quite competent at it.
4. Akane/Cure Sunny – While Cure Beauty had the best pose to go with her one-line above, Cure Sunny had the best executed line, spiced up by her Kansai dialect.
5. Nao/Cure March – She was mostly in the background this week, but her lines were indicative of her role as a major emotionally supporting character in this cast.