Not About Who Is Right, Only Who Is Left

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

The Price of Smiles Episode 10 Review Review

Death has definitely lost its impact in The Price of Smiles as three episodes have played three key deaths against the other. My only real concern was that Lily still hasn’t managed to bite the dust given she insists on raising her own death flag. However, with the exception of Joshua, this anime seems to have gone out of its way to target older men for death in battle despite the number of young females flying around in the mechs. It makes you wonder if the writer just couldn’t bring themselves to kill off the cuter characters.

The Price of Smiles Episode 10

There’s also an issue in episode 10 with the visuals. While The Price of Smiles hasn’t been exceptional, it has been relatively decent from both an art and animation point of view. However, this week felt rushed with long shots of characters frequently looking either off-model or facial expressions looking very sketched in and then jarringly we would snap to full detail for a closer image. It all just felt a little slap-dash and that is a shame as the season approaches it’s end game.

Outside of those complaints though, The Price of Smiles manages to continue furthering its development of Stella’s squad as the Kingdom presses forward with their battle. We get some more orphan dramas as Lily and Stella go with the commander to entertain some kids they come across (the irony of first making orphans and then feeling sorry for them is a little heavy handed but otherwise it makes a solid point).

The Price of Smiles Episode 10

The battle sequence also looks very well done. For all the earlier glitches in quality, the commanders final battle was a suitable spectacle, albeit brief.

What troubles me is that it seems really unlikely that this war can wrap up in the two episodes remaining because regardless of what Princess Yuki is up to she doesn’t have the power to stop the war. Stella is an interesting character but far too low in the military hierarchy to have any say on the direction of the war. All and all, this doesn’t feel like it can wrap up, unless of course they just blow the whole planet up and wouldn’t that be a depressing way for The Price of Smiles to wrap up.

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The Price of Smiles Episode 11 Review Review

Apparently we’ll get to episode 12 before Stella and Yuki actually meet (that’s assuming they do though it seems almost certain given the post credits sequence this episode). And we’re also apparently going for a destroy the thing everyone is fighting over kind of ending even though that is going to make life incredibly hard for everyone for a fair while. Oh well, with one more episode to go after this I guess there wasn’t much else they could do.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11

Stella’s squad are dealing with the death of their commander which causes some emotional outpourings and some punches, but otherwise they are still just following orders. It is Yuki who surprises this week by using propaganda of her own, declaring they have a new weapon, and taking a more aggressive approach by claiming they’ll reclaim one of the cities firmly in enemy hands.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11

Unsurprisingly this is a ruse and Yuki has cooked up a plan to destroy all the chraras which are the cause of the failing eco-system but also the source of their power. While the new weapon entertains the main forces, Yuki and her group are slipping through to the old Verde Empire to enact their plan. Which is where they encounter Stella’s squad which were ordered to watch a border.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11
3 Out of Five Of These Characters Are Dead – Who’s Next?

I’m not entirely certain if this is a satisfying direction but at least Yuki is taking a direct hand in the final events and if we actually get a Stella/Yuki meeting that would be kind of great after this long. Not to mention, Stella’s mother, Leila is with Yuki, and is also currently the only one of the four who essentially raised Yuki still alive. Does anyone else sense a death flag here?

Whichever way, next week’s episode is called ‘The Price of Smiles’ so I guess we’ll find out what it really costs to bring happiness to everyone.

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Karandi James
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Where Will Yuuki Find Her Smile Now?

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The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Review

There’s a price for everything and a consequence for all actions and The Price of Smiles seems determined to hammer that point home like a blunt instrument by continuing to emotionally throttle Princess Yuuki. The fact that it is obvious what the anime is doing isn’t actually a problem because it is doing it very well and because we occasionally perspective jump to Stella and her squad on the other side of the war, it doesn’t feel like we’re constantly getting beaten down as so far they’ve been pretty successful at their missions. It has been nicely executed even if heavy handed.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Episode 6 is pretty much all about Yuuki. She’s assisted the military in evacuating her people out of the capital by delivering a heart rending speech and she’s watching the final operation and keeping her eyes open without looking away. She feels the full weight and responsibility for her people being in this position even though there was literally nothing she could have done to change anything prior to this point. Twelve years old and she is watching the Kingdom her parents lead fall apart around her as the enemy comes for the power source that was supposed to bring everyone peace. It is all kinds of tragic and yet she continues to try to hold on.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6

The one bright spot in an episode that seems designed entirely to make you feel like this is completely hopeless, is when Yuuki orders a retreat of her forces and detonates all the mines left on the field. It is actually a pretty solid tactic and one that throws us back to episode one where we saw Yuuki directing Joshua with great success. For all that Yuuki has been kept in the dark about a lot of things, she’s a solid tactician when the occasion calls for it and her decision here possibly saved a lot of lives.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Soon after though she declares that she is going to surrender and this is where things get dicey again. While everyone around her claims to follow her and respect her, they’ve conspired to keep her in the dark about the threat to her kingdom and now they trick her and remove her from the city before the surrender. It makes you wonder whether she’ll ever be a Princess in anything more than name. Meanwhile, the guy who stays behind to surrender (and who will probably die) had his pregnant wife and kid introduced this episode just to twist that knife a bit further (and why didn’t one of the older military guys stay instead).

Why didn’t the suicidal guy stay and let the guy with the pregnant wife go with Yuuki?

The Price of Smiles is definitely a flawed show and one that is relying heavily on tearing at its audience emotionally through the age and inexperience of Yuuki as well as the subject matter in general, but despite that it manages to be an interesting watch and so far seems to be holding its own quite well. I’m still wondering if Yuuki and Stella will ever actually interact but otherwise I’m pretty happy just to watch and see where this one wants to take me.

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Karandi James
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NENDOROID NO. 1082 BANANA FISH: EIJI OKUMURA
	NENDOROID NO. 1082 BANANA FISH: EIJI OKUMURA

The Desperation of Both Sides in a War

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The Price of Smiles Episode 5 Review

So far The Price of Smiles or Egao no Daika has done a pretty excellent job at making me actually concerned about the characters in this story even if I barely know anything about them. There’s something about the way they interact, particularly Stella and her squad that we’ve only really spent an episode with, that makes them feel like real people and makes the war around them seem even more bleak than it might.

The Price of Smile's Episode 5

This episode is another interesting one as we follow Stella and her squad almost exclusively but in doing so we realise how far the enemy has pushed into Yuuki’s country and how desperate the war effort has become. It makes it difficult when we see Stella and her group moving into position to try and flank the enemy because I don’t want to see anything bad happen to Stella but I would also like Yuuki’s kingdom not to get overrun.

The Price of Smile's Episode 5

The action this week is pretty nice with some night time sneaking in mechas through a forest followed by a short but brutal fight amongst the trees. In the process we learn a bit more of the relationship between Lily and Stella and what has happened to Stella over the last few years. While it is all superficial stuff they’ve nicely sketched the outlines of a potentially interesting character and the Price of Smiles has bought enough goodwill from me that I’m willing to wait and see what they do with this.

The Price of Smiles Episode 5

While things remain unresolved at the end of the episode, and it is also unclear if we’ll be following Yuuki or Stella next episode, there’s certainly reason to look forward to next week. This one isn’t blowing me away but it is developing nicely and has so far managed to be an intriguing entry into the mecha anime field. Hopefully it can do something with its ideas before the end but it has been awhile since I’ve found a mecha I liked this much (Iron Blooded Orphans the first season was probably the last one I had this much enjoyment with).

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Karandi James
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DEADPOOL: BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL
DEADPOOL: BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL

Rare Case When Naive Heroism Doesn’t Win The Day

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The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Review

The Price of Smiles is still definitely a mixed bag four episodes in, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that even if it doesn’t nail its narrative, I’m happy I stuck with it because it at least feels like it is trying a few things. After this week’s episode I’m particularly impressed with how they are handling Yuuki, post Joshua.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Yuuki

Does anyone else find it odd watching the opening and seeing Joshua smiling and waving in central position in so many shots given he lasted all of two episodes and gets some flashbacks?

This episode sees the Princess’s military still fighting a losing retreat as they try to hold a line and evacuate cities being attacked pretty much continuously. At first Yuuki is completely unable to cope with the new situation (keeping in mind that everyone has worked to keep her completely in the dark). She screams at them and asks why they want her approval now when they’ve never asked her before or told her anything. It is a legitimate complaint and one that probably wouldn’t come up under normal circumstances. She doesn’t just smile bravely and do her job but has to take the time to process the new situation.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Princess Yuuki

We get a lot of backstory about the death of Yuuki’s parents and a lot of this explains how Leila came into the picture as someone close to Yuuki. Now this is where I felt they were laying coincidences on far too thickly as Leila was also in the explosion that killed Yuuki’s parents and during the course of events she lost her own family, including a blue haired daughter who I’m guessing is not so dead after all and isn’t that a convenient plot development, but Leila also saved Yuuki’s life when she was an infant.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4 Leila serves Yuuki

Still, as interesting as learning what triggered the war all those years ago was, it wasn’t half as interesting as what happened when the Princess decided to actually step up. She went to where the leaders were directing the evacuation and listened as they told her they’d used the technology she’d already told them wasn’t for war. Instead of flying off the handle she accepted that it was necessary to save lives.

The Price of Smiles Episode 4

Then we realise that in the evacuated city there are some civilians making their own stand. Yuuki asks the military leader to save them and he sends in a team to do just that, and they all get killed.

In so many other stories they’d have narrowly saved the day or come up with some clever plan. But here, under-resourced and under-pressure, they try and they fail and the soldiers sent in and the civilians are killed. Yuuki’s face sells the whole scene and it is curious to wonder just how many more blows she can take emotionally given her whole world has literally been upended over the past few days.

The Price of Smiles may not be amazing or revolutionary, but there’s enough interesting ideas being thrown about here and the cast work well enough. I’m having a good time with it and if it actually can develop these ideas without feeling rushed in its run then it could end up being fairly solid. Even if it doesn’t, it has so far proven entertaining enough.

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TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN: YOKO
TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN: YOKO

You Mean There’s People On The Other Side Of A War?

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The Price of Smiles Episode 3 Review

After two weeks, The Price of Smiles has finally in episode 3 moved to the second character we see as central to this whole anime in the opening. Her name is Stella and she’s on the other side of the war. We don’t know a lot about Stella other than she clearly lost people either during the war or before the war broke out, but she is often seen smiling. I get the distinct impression that Stella’s smile has a very different meaning to Yuuki’s.

The Price of Smiles Episode 3 Stella

It is almost a shame the anime didn’t start at this episode. While some of what we have learned helped provide a bit of a context to the events this week, this episode and the characters we met were far more instantly interesting. Whereas Joshua and Yuuki and the very honourable soldiers fighting on their side were potentially interesting and were just kind of coming onto their feet at the end of episode 2 (well, one of them wasn’t rising to his feet but that couldn’t be helped), Stella and her crew, while not necessarily likeable are an interesting mix of characters and there’s some good back and forth between them.

The Price of Smiles Episode 3

We’re also thrown not into the ideals of the war but into a squad that is clearly expendable with a commander who isn’t above bending the rules even while he does achieve his objectives. It makes for a fun introductory episode to Stella and the others and while the orphan sub-plot this episode was laying on the emotional angle and horror of war theme a little heavily, I actually really had fun with this.

The Price of Smiles Episode 3 Stella

While I’m still not overly interested in the was as a whole I am interested in Stella and the squad we met here. I’m interested in what Yuuki intends to do next after episode 2. I’m very curious as to when and how (or even if) Stella and Yuuki meet and where that will take the story. So The Price of Smiles had an okay start with some potentially interesting ideas but now I’m more or less on board for the season. Hopefully it can deliver something fairly solid from this foundation.

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NENDOROID DOLL: QUEEN OF HEARTS
NENDOROID DOLL: QUEEN OF HEARTS

The Will To Keep A Smile Shining

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The Price of Smiles Episode 2 Review

The Price of Smiles plunges us headfirst into the war this week. While learning that Joshua has been deliberately keeping the Princess in the dark we also see the lengths he will go to in order to see her smile. And yet…

The Price of Smiles Episode 2

There just seems to be a small hole in the whole plan here. Given the military are currently losing the war against the empire you would think sooner or later the Princess is going to notice pieces of her kingdom getting overrun. Not to mention the costs associated with maintaining all those units and the death and injury of the soldiers. Joshua is just a little misguided and what worries me more is that everyone else in the entire Kingdom seems to be playing along with it.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Joshua

Though, because of this, the end of the episode didn’t hit with anywhere near the impact it should have. It seemed obvious this set up was flawed and couldn’t be maintained and if you thought about how the cruellest way would be to make the Princess aware of the situation you could probably nail the end of this episode. It still works and it still sets up a dramatic turning point, but emotionally you were more waiting for it to happen rather than shocked by it.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Joshua

That said, we do get a brief moment at the very end where the second character who is dancing about the opening sequence finally shows up. It will be interesting to see where this story chooses to go next week now that we’ve thoroughly broken the Princess’ smile. Or will she just bravely soldier on with her usual cheeriness because people expect it of her? So many possibilities and we might just cut to the other group altogether.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Yuuki

I’m honestly not hugely into this show and yet at the same time I am intrigued by the possibilities so they’ve managed to get me very interested even if the execution and characters have so far been just okay (there really isn’t much to criticise it just doesn’t really grab me either).

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Karandi James
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TO ARU MAJUTSU NO INDEX III 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: MIKOTO MISAKA
TO ARU MAJUTSU NO INDEX III 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: MIKOTO MISAKA

The Small Victory and Loss Within a Greater Battle

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode Review Title Image

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Review

Reminder: the poll is now open for you to vote on the best and worst anime of the 2018 Autumn Anime Season. Be sure to jump in and have your say. Voting closes on the 29th of December.

This week we got the conclusion to Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary but really there was never much chance of the overall story being resolved. There was just too much going on in the world and so this final episode, much like the series, chose instead to focus on a battle that will decide the next steps for each of these characters.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13

The Yin, Ning and Zhao issue is effectively brought to a close by the events in this episode. And while Zhao remains a conflicted character who can’t really seem to pick a side, he does at least take action rather than waiting for power to be bestowed upon him. He pays a high price but he does manage to contribute in some small way to the survival of Yin, Ning and Cheng.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Zhao

Yin and Ning’s sisterly conflict is also kind of resolved though all things considered it just kind of feels like they are back to where they started at the beginning of the series. Possibly there was more of a resolution here but it just felt like we’d come full circle with Ning in even worse shape and Yin with yet more baggage to carry emotionally. While it might seem callous, it really felt like one of these two needed to be sacrificed for the story to make sense and while they kind of manage to make this work, it doesn’t have a lot of impact as you are kind of just left rolling your eyes as Yin refuses to leave Ning and Zhao and then they pull a power of love last minute save (though again, Ning and Zhao have already taken quite heavy losses throughout this fight).

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Cheng

However, it is Cheng, in her very limited screen time, who gains the most this episode. While Zhao is wishing for her happiness, Cheng has kind of adopted a very fatalistic attitude refusing to leave the palace despite the danger. She survives unscathed physically but her attitude during the credits and the ongoing expansion of the empire makes it clear that she’s been emotionally scarred and she has no one left around her to soften her attitude. While Cheng was the leader of the empire through this series, it was hard to see her as the big bad, but if this ever got a second season that is almost sure to change.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 13 Zhao and Ning

It is hard to say if anything was actually accomplished by these events other than a big explosion and some personal dramas, but I will admit this season has been relatively fun to watch. I’ll get to a full season review of it soon, but despite the fairly dodgy animation, this was a fun historical/fantasy story to get lost in this season.

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Karandi James
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NIER: AUTOMATA CHARACTER FIGURE: YORHA TYPE A NO.2
NIER: AUTOMATA CHARACTER FIGURE: YORHA TYPE A NO.2