The second-last episode is often the most intense one in a series’ run, with regards to the action involved and the production focus emphasized. In particular, Splash Star, Fresh, and Heartcatch all had stunning final battles, which culminated into eleventh hour shenanigans that carried over into the finale. Considering how low the bar was set in the few episodes leading up to this point, it would make sense that the pattern would take effect for Smile as well.
As such, episode 47 was the hallmark of production for the series to date. Despite a few necessary pauses, there was very little room to ease up on the visuals, which kept ramping up the awesome as the action progressed throughout the half-hour. I’m not a sakuga nerd at the slightest, but I absolutely loved what I saw, and it was supplemented by the finality of the story that Smile was trying to tell up to this point.
And by finality, I do mean the emergence of Candy as the successor to the throne of Marchenland, and her role as Royal Candy. When the preview footage was shown at the end of episode 46, I was slightly hesitant about the role that Royal Candy would play, as this sort of character function was awkwardly executed in Max Heart through Hikari/Shiny Luminous (aka Cure Third Wheel). Like Luminous, questions may arise whether Royal Candy counts as a PreCure in the same sense that Luminous and Milky Rose from Yes 5.
I wouldn’t agree with this line of thinking, but there’s no denying that Royal Candy is ridiculously powerful, and bailed out the PreCure like she always has. This time, however, a lot of her contribution came from her own power as the successor of Royal Queen’s power, and her responsibility with the Miracle Jewel that formed as a result of collecting all of the decor. It borders on deus ex, but relating back to the story and its themes, Candy’s inheritance of the Royal title fits perfectly with the themes of “light of hope” and “guiding the future.”
There is a sense of generation and change with Candy’s ascension that hasn’t been seen since the passing of responsibility from Cure Flower to Cure Moonlight to Cure Blossom in Heartcatch, and the resulting continuity detail strays slightly from the show’s tendency to keep things rather static. The Cures don’t change too drastically as people, but are rather explored more in-depth, and aside from the standard PreCure developments like power-ups and collecting plot items, Smile has a status-quo that makes Candy’s new role pretty important.
She’ll probably stay the same mascot character as always once everything is over (particularly with regards to her role in the next All Stars movie, which involves Marchenland to a noticeable extent), it will feel a bit weird for her to remain the same Candy that we’ve known for 46 episodes. I can’t wait to see where her story goes in episode 48.
While opinion of Candy will probably remain divided (as all mascots are usually subject to, save for Tarte because he’s just awesome like that), she is still the beacon of hope for the rest of the girls, who have taken their precure powers to ridiculous levels in this episode. I really hoped that they would showcase this level of combat prowess against the Bad End Generals in episode 45, akin to the battles between the Heartcatch girls and the desert messengers. However, since the summoned foe comes from the all-powerful final boss, Emperor Pierrot, there’s no need to hold back at all.
Let’s start with those combination attacks, which were conceptually very straightforward, and were longed for by fans for the longest time. The novelty was pretty neat yet fleeting, but the overall effect was carried by the girls’ collective demeanour throughout. March and Sunny’s Fire Shoot was a natural fit for the popular Nissan combi, and the sequence that led to the formation of the giant windy fireball felt reminiscent of Mint and Rouge’s exchange against Fusion in the opening sequence of All Stars New Stage. The Fire Shoot projectile itself left a lot to be desired though, as it didn’t look as much like a combination of their attacks as it did during their combined spotlight fight in episode 25.
By contrast, Cures Beauty and Peace’s collaboration, Thunder Blizzard, was much cooler and far more electrifying from both a conceptual and aesthetic standpoints. The evolution of Beauty’s armory takes its conclusion as the ice sword progresses into ice bow and finally into a gigantic ice shard imbued by electricity. There’s a really nice chemistry between Beauty and Peace here.
Beauty’s confidence and skill complements Peace’s scrappiness and determination, and when Peace answer’s Beauty’s call with a “leave it to me,” the associated shot of Peace summoning thunder was done at such a stylish angle that made the entire attack much more flashy than their Nissan counterpart. Beauty/Peace is a thing, and it’s an awesome thing at that.
The final animation sequence occurs after all of them are pulled from the abyss of the Bad End world, unsurprisingly thanks to Candy, and it spelled out the whole idea behind Smile PreCure’s power. In a world destined to a potential Bad End, the Smile PreCure are there to light the way to a better future. This emphasis on looking towards the future is a concept that stands on its own like other overall messages from the other series.
In comparison, Yes 5’s message is about having a dream and working hard to reach it. Smile is about persistence and never giving up hope, because the future is always off in the distance, and the light that leads the way towards there is that which comes from your friends and loved ones. It’s a complementary message to Smile’s sentai counterpart, and further sets the duality between these two wonderful shows.
The final episode is this weekend, and the shining future of the PreCure franchise comes ever closer with the end of this series, and the start of a new one. Get ready those goodbyes and look back at the wonderful memories when the time comes, as this was a wonderful year in Pretty Cure, which can only lead to more great times ahead.