In most storytelling media, whether it be books, television, movies, or in the context of this series, fairy tales, good generally triumphs over evil, and the happy endings that result from these outcomes most often come at the expense of the antagonist being defeated or even killed off for the purpose of driving the plot. It’s a thankless job, and fortunately, Smile PreCure is an appropriate show to address this concern.
That said, the final arc did not get off to the best of starts. There were a lot of production problems in this week’s episode, ranging from choppy fight animation to continuity errors (Candy, for instance, disappears for a single shot at the beginning of the episode where the girls see Pierrot’s egg for the first time). The transitions between action and dialogue were not crisp at all, and save for a few details, the means through which Wolfrun, Aka Oni and Majorina were defeated was a tad on the lazy side. Overall, the episode was quite a bit of a letdown compared to the last time the PreCure were forced to fight the Bad End Generals.
One of the reasons for this was the “matchup” situation in this episode compared to the last time they fought. During the midway arc, the PreCure were adequately matched up in 1v1 situations, pitting Cure Sunny against Wolfrun, Peace against Aka Oni, March against Majorina, Beauty against Joker (with Pop’s help, though nowadays she can hold her own), and Happy against an Akanbe. This week’s fights were not neatly balanced, with two girls against Aka Oni and Majorina, respectively, and Happy against Wolfrun, with Joker nowhere in sight.
The resulting arrangement felt quite awkward, as the series has, up to this point, competently arranged fight choreography for 1v1 and 5v1 (PreCure vs Akanbe) situations. This leads me to believe that next week’s episode featuring the Bad End PreCure will have to live up to some considerable hype (I’ll discuss this after the fact), since this week felt like the production team was consciously holding back, in an effort to ensure that next week’s episode would be of considerable quality.
Despite the many missteps of this week’s episode, there were a number of interesting highlights, namely the spotlight placed on the Bad End Generals themselves. Right from the beginning of the series, there was a bit of a worry that they would end up awkwardly set up as hero fodder in the same manner as Trio the Minor from Suite (who were awkward at best, unnecessary at worst); however, each of them were well-balanced with each other with regards stature, personality, and fighting style.
While their character designs borrowed quite well from the storybook motif that it fit the show very well, it never really occurred to me where they actually fit in with the plot of the series until the last spotlight cycle, as there were small hints at backstory provided by Joker. He threatens each of them that they were on their respective last straws, and another defeat would bring them back to their troubled pasts, whatever that was.
It makes sense that their origins would lie in the fairy tales themselves, and that they were sick and tired of being hated by the protagonists and the audience; but instead of taking the Wreck-it-Ralph route and branching out on an adventure to become heroes, they succumbed to Joker’s empty promises and became more formidable villains.
Despite how oddly their stories played out close to the end, their revelation to the PreCure comes as a surprise, and the Cures were put in a difficult situation that could have been played out better. There was room for redemption, but unfortunately, the best way for it to happen was for the Bad End Generals to actually be defeated. But there again lies the problem of the awkward balance, which probably would not allow an opportunity for “clean” victory to allow the General to fade away gloriously.
What we had instead was a deus ex ascension from Cure Happy into a Goddess-like state (though in this case, it was inside Happy’s realm which allowed her to ascend in the first place) which purified their evil hearts and returned them to their natural state, Marchenland fairies. This was a pretty great development, and while it wasn’t mentioned further, I’m sure that there will be room to address their endings in the epilogue in the same manner as Heartcatch PreCure and their treatment of the Desert Messengers.
Like Heartcatch, the likeability of the bad guy characters in Smile rested in their personalities, while sparing the audience from any sort of backstory. We were treated to a year of protagonist antics, ranging from adorable exchanges with police officers, failed Bad End spells, and the most awkward manzai routine in all of anime. Their defeat did not necessarily do them justice, but the manner in which they were returned to their original form was fitting for their (lack of) dignity throughout the show.
Wolfrun, Aka Oni, Majorina, goodbye. It was a weird, but entertaining ride, and you will not be forgotten!