When I recently reviewed the Kamen Rider Fourze movie, I noticed that one of its biggest appeals is that it let me revisit a series I really enjoyed with minimal baggage and maximum enjoyment. In that way, the Smile PreCure! movie has much of the same appeal. Smile PreCure! The Movie: Big Mismatch in a Picture Book! lets you return to the Smile world that has characters you love for one last ride while still having everything you enjoyed about the original.
In fact, the movies have a lot of similarities when push comes to shove. They are both based on extremely long running franchises that have variable quality and mass market appeal. They are both fairly goofy iterations of their respective series with an emphasis on having a good time over drama. Both movies are self-contained stories inside a larger and more complex plot. They both take place near the end of the series so they let the cast use most of their high level powers but just early enough that none of the end game events of the series’ climax have started taking place. Both of them also have the old gaiden trap of being important enough that SOMEONE should have mentioned the events of the movie sometime during the TV series but don’t because that is how self-contained side stories work.
But most of all they are fun little stories that can be watched inline with the TV series as a long episode or after the TV series as a refreshing sorbet to complement the main course that is the main story.
I found the Smile PreCure! TV series to be a charming, feel-good show that brightened up my week. So, for the life of me I can’t imagine why I sat so long on this movie without watching it. Happily, it follows in the “everyone is hanging out and having a good time”-formula of the show.
Smile PreCure! The Movie: Big Mismatch in a Picture Book! This also happens to be the first PreCure! movie I’ve watched despite there being at least two for every year in recent memory. I had no idea there was an audience participation portion either!
The Smile PreCure! gang decides to go to the World Picture Book Exposition and get involved with fairy tale-related mischief as is their standard operating procedure. But instead of fighting the minions of Pierrot, they instead save a girl named Nico from the Journey to the West demons Ginkaku and Kinkaku. As a reward, Nico brings the PreCure to her world and lets them reenact their favorite fairy tales. But there is more going on than first meets the eye.
It was nice to see Miyuki’s love of books highlighted again. At the beginning of the film, we are privy to a flashback of Miyuki’s shy childhood which we had seen references to before. In these scenes she finds a picture book in the library with the final pages, and thus the ending, missing. Miyuki enjoys the main characters strength to smile and brave on so much that it changes her. She then promises to write the final pages and finish the story. Fast forward to the girls in present day and this incident has long been forgotten.
Spoilers, Nico is the girl from the picture book.
I really loved how many fairy tale elements were incorporated into this movie. It felt much more important and potent than the TV series touches on classic stories. The mix-ups are truly fun and funny as all the major antagonists are displaced by the PreCure girls who are just looking to have an adventure of their own.
It was nice to revisit the Smile Crew. They really stand out as bold characters that happily fill out their niche while still remaining fun, fresh, and fascinating in the TV series. It would be far too easy for them to feel like regurgitated stereotypes but they are so wonderfully realized it makes them stand out. And in that regard it is nice to see everyone back in full form.
Just the selection of what fairly tales they wish to play in speaks volumes about them. But then how they go about their roles and what trouble they get into is tailored to them quite nicely. Cure Happy is Cinderella because she would get the most western fairly tale of the bunch and it continues her Cinderella motif in the show in general. Cure Peace picks the closest there is to an otaku fairly tale with a story countless anime love to adapt again and again. Cure Sunny has to be the fiery One Inch Boy who also has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Cure March gets to be the compassionate Taro Urashima with a strong sense of justice. As always Cure Beauty is Momotaro because she has to get the fairly tale that is the most classically Japanese that you can get.
Also the cognitive dissidence of all the classic fairly tale heroes being bad buys and the classic villains helping of the PreCures was a nice touch. The Ox-Demon-King gets some real chances to shine as a manly hero and Cinderella as an evil 50 foot woman is equally enjoyable. It is a nice way to work in the general picture book theme that Smile uses while letting the movie subvert the traditional roles that the main series uses.
Nico actually comes off as part-PreCure and part-mascot.
Much like how Candy appears in the Miyuki’s life and brings with her the problems of evil Pierrot, Nico brings the girls into a world that is succumbing to hopelessness by the manipulations of Maou. But in the case of Nico, she has nefarious plans for Miyuki for abandoning Nico and Miyuki’s promise from childhood.
Nico also holds the essentially ingredients to defeat Maou, she always has, but she lost her way as loneliness crept in. In true PreCure! fashion she faces the past, looks for forgiveness, and becomes her own savior thanks to the indelible Smile team.
I really enjoyed how the movie approached and dealt with a broken promise. Miyuki made no excuses but instead apologized and relentlessly tried to fix the broken bond. It also felt like it took a real effort to mend since the running time was longer than a TV episode.
Am I the only one who was getting major Suite PreCure♪ vibes from the ending of this movie? It did not have Miyuki defeat the villain through the power of psychoanalysis but it came fairly close. And it is not that I don’t like the type of ending. I think that the Cures using their words to defeat their villains instead of the fists is hardly a bad message. It just seemed far more earned in Suite PreCure but that had a whole series to build up Noise where you just don’t have that time in a movie. It is just different tool to have in the PreCure bag. I still want some ending to be PreCure summon giant avatars punching people with spiked gantlets or just plain old crazy powerful beam attacks. But a less Oorah way of defeating enemies is not unwelcome from time to time.
As a side note I have to mention the more we learn about Miyuki the more we learn that she was peripherally involved with supernatural events several times as a child. From her grandmother who is a yokai expert, to her not so imaginary friend who taught her how to be confident, and now with this movie you think she would have been a little less surprised when she first became a PreCure. She has been dealing with real life magical adventures for a while.
While I enjoyed seeing the Smile girls again, and the story was a lot of fun, the movie does drag a bit. The last 30 minutes really felt long with the final battle being constantly on the verge of happening.
The ending battle with what I one can only describe as a Care Bear Stare moment was rather enlightening about the mega toy machine that is this franchise, too.
While Disney is great a producing great properties their side story and sequel movies are notoriously mediocre. (This is not always the case but it is far easier to make a top 20 list of the horrible sequels than a top 5 list of the good ones.) Besides usually just having a far smaller budget their main sin is often just not capturing the essence of the original which made it so strong. That joie de vivre that makes a classic. In that respect the Smile PreCure! movie avoids that trap and is able to recapture the magic of the original. By letting the girls of smile be themselves in a fairy tale adventure the movie lets itself be a natural extension of the TV series. When they do that it lets the Happy Shower into your heart.