It’s really strange to imagine that Smile PreCure is the 9th season of Pretty Cure, and the 7th separate continuity created by Toei Animation. I’ve only recently started writing this blog, and it still boggles my mind that such a profitable franchise, after such prolonged success, still manages to squeak by the anime fandom outside of Japan, and perhaps outside of the primary demographic. Like Gundam, the PreCure multiverse is as wide as Cure Marine’s heart (which I’ve heard is wider than the oceans), which makes getting into PreCure a very daunting prospect. While an “Introduction to PreCure” post is still in the pipeline, I want to spend moment #1 in the 12 Days of Smile PreCure to look at the show as a whole with respect to the rest of the franchise.
As the 9th season/7th continuity in the franchise winds down at the end of the year, Smile, like all other shows before it, has made its mark on the franchise, and marks the beginning of a new phase in Pretty Cure. I’ll explain in further detail in a later post, but the history Pretty Cure can be divided into several eras/generations/stages, with Smile as the first series in the New Stage (see below):
First Stage: Futari wa Pretty Cure, Futari wa Pretty Cure Max Heart, Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star
Yes Stage: Yes! PreCure 5, Yes! PreCure 5 GoGo
Deluxe Stage: Fresh Pretty Cure, Heartcatch PreCure, Suite Precure
New Stage: Smile PreCure, Doki Doki! PreCure
One of the indicators of Smile being a part of the “new stage” of PreCure is the latest All-Stars movie, which takes on the same name. A departure from the original DX trilogy, All-Stars New Stage stuck to the fundamental continuity crossover premise, but shook up the trilogy’s formula in a few ways that felt fresh and novel, without straightforwardly abandoning the premise. With this movie, I felt a bit of a shift of the business and design philosophy that Toei has in mind with the franchise, and that definitely started with Smile.
Like New Stage, Smile PreCure brought a unique take to the franchise, and I have a feeling that those particular changes are going to continue. Despite being a throwback to the Yes 5 era with its inclusion of a 5-girl cast (as well as a bunch of other format elements), Smile didn’t feel too much like Yes 5 because it also took bits and pieces from the other continuities up to date. The DX era of Fresh, Heartcatch, and Suite, were remarkable experiments in art and storytelling style, combined with a shift in series design that culminated with the arrival of Smile. This approach of “modernized throwbacks” leads me to believe that Doki Doki will in some manner take after DX-era 4-girl shows, though it probably wouldn’t count as too much of a throwback, relatively speaking. Cure Heart already looks criminally similar to Fresh’s Cure peach, and the concept of Cure Sword as a lone wolf Cure reminds me of Suite’s Cure Muse.
With Smile already approaching the final arc of the series, I feel both saddened by the loss of such a wonderful weekly experience and vindicated by Smile’s entry into the PreCure Valhalla (Curehalla?). I look forward to seeing them in next All-Stars New Stage 2, and I look forward to seeing how they relate to Doki Doki.