The Price of Smiles Series Review

The Price of Smiles Episode 1

Smile and the world smiles with you… Unless you are in the middle of a war.

There is something about average anime that make them very hard to review. They aren’t necessarily bad, but the potential they had to be better actually makes them taste a bit more sour particularly after they’ve just ended. The Price of Smiles is an average anime, even for a mecha anime. Almost painfully average in every respect. Yet at times there were glimpses of a far more epic and amazing story simmering just beneath the mediocre execution and some of what was delivered managed to shine just bright enough to keep up hope of improvement.

The Price of Smiles Episode 8 Yuki

However, if you aren’t drawn in within the first few episodes, you will probably be better off thanking The Price of Smiles for its time and moving on. Without trying to be too facetious, the pay-off at the end of the Price of Smiles is not really worth the price of time commitment to get there.

Which is a real shame because there was a lot of potential in the ideas here.

For those unfamiliar with The Price of Smiles it covers two different girls, Yuki and Stella. Some episodes exclusively focus on Yuki and her Kingdom, yes she is a Princess, and other episodes focus on Stella, who is just an expendable soldier on the other side of the war. It isn’t until the second last episode that we see both perspectives in the same episode and it is an interesting way of delivering what might be a fairly predictable narrative.

The Price of Smile's Episode 5

While the war itself, two sides fighting over resources, is pretty standard, through Yuki’s position we see those at the decision making level of the war on both sides as well as Yuki’s childish and naive perspective. It gives one view of the story and realistically, that could have been the only view and we still would have ended up with an okay anime.

But, by cutting Yuki’s story by introducing episodes from Stella’s perspective, on the front lines of fighting and on the side of the invading forces, it kind of gives the story more depth and keeps it feeling fresh.

The Price of Smiles Episode 6 Yuuki

Neither story is particularly amazing, though Stella’s story and the cast surrounding her are perhaps the more interesting, but together they manage to create a wide view of the world and the different responses to the war. If there had been a few more episodes and a bit longer to really flesh out a few world building points, this choice in splitting the narrative between two characters would have worked really well.

That said, it isn’t exactly an original idea with plenty of other mecha anime that split their narrative between representatives of different factions to give that particular insight into what each side is doing and how it is affecting different groups of people. But original or not, it is a fairly solid choice particularly with the anti-conflict message that is heavily stamped on almost every episode.

The Price of Smiles Episode 5

Again, this isn’t exactly new for the genre, but here the lack of subtlety is probably one of the things that hurts this anime the most. Yuki, the white and pink clad Princess wringing her hands and hoping for peace and wanting to bring smiles to everyone is just too much. And while the excuse that her advisers kept her in the dark about the true state of things, or even that they were at war, can explain some of her reluctance to face the reality they are dealing with when it is force upon her, honestly some of her decisions are a little hard to swallow.

Though while we are on messages, this anime also managed to bring in a heavy handed environmental allegory about humans over using resources and destroying eco-systems and while this seems to be at the centre of the conflict and is tied heavily in the final solution of the series, it is almost as though The Price of Smiles knew it didn’t have time for everything and so while it wanted to wear an environmental slogan it ultimately discarded it in favour of the anti-conflict stance.

The Price of Smiles Episode 9

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Which is why I said the anime needed more episodes to really develop its world. The setting here is fantastic (or at least could have been). They are on a colonised world that was terraformed using technology no one on the world still really understands but the Kingdom has developed the chrars, a fairly substantial power source and one which allows their technological superiority (not that it really helps them all that much in the war).

As the story progresses we learn a bit more about this seemingly amazing power source and how its use is tied in to the failing crops and eco-systems that are at the core of the conflict between the two groups as resources are becoming scarce. If this idea had been put front and centre and given time to be really discussed and dealt with, it could have really given this anime a bit more of an edge. However, while the idea is there, and is interesting, ultimately Yuki’s decision comes down to her immediate need to not see any more death in the war. The long term implications, despite the ground work already being laid, are more or less glossed over leaving this all feeling a little bit less than satisfying.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11

Visually, The Price of Smiles also suffers as its run continues. While action sequences always look relatively polished and are great fun to watch, and the character designs are quite lovely even if the majority of their clothing looks insanely impractical, the animation falters in later episodes in non-action scenes and characters appear off-model more often or with barely sketched in faces when seen from a distance. It isn’t enough to really mar the viewing but it is definitely noticeable in the later episodes.

The other major complaint I will level at this series is its inability to create drama through any means other than killing off its cast. While the first important death comes early and is something of a shock, in the second half they essentially kill one major character per episode with increasingly diminished emotional returns to the point that the final death in the last episode can barely even register because you were expecting it long before it happened.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Joshua

Despite its faults, I don’t really mind that I watched The Price of Smiles this season. There was always plenty to talk about and while I wanted more from it, I actually relatively enjoyed what I watched. The characters weren’t amazing but were interesting enough and the fights were spaced out nicely to keep the talking moments and the fighting moments relatively balanced.

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Yuuki

This isn’t an anime to avoid, nor is it one to rush out and watch. Still, if you are in the mood for a mecha anime, and you have a bit of spare time, you could certainly do worse than The Price of Smiles.

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Karandi James
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Bringing Back Smiles Through Over-Simplification

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The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Review

Well we have come to the end and I can say with confidence at least that this anime concludes its story. The fact that it does so through over-simplifying the situation in the extreme and relies on cute girls smiling to sell the solution is kind of a point against it, but at least we aren’t left hanging for a sequel that probably would never have happened.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Stella

I’m going to really try to avoid spoilers, but we kind of new the end The Price of Smiles had in store for us at the end of the last episode. There aren’t any particular curve balls in this episode with the character who was clearly going to die following through beautifully in doing so, those who were always going to survive also doing so even against sensible reason, and Yuki’s vision achieved and any negative consequences played down to a ridiculous extent.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Yuki and Layla

That doesn’t stop it being a perfectly sound ending. It takes the tone, ideas, and characters from the series and finalises it in a way not so many anime manage, so even though the word ‘trite’ is springing to mind when describing this ending, at least I am not left annoyed that plot threads were just never addressed or that characters seemed to serve no purpose. In fact, other than the fact that this narrative ended up being fairly ordinary despite having the potential to go into so much more, they never seemed to bite off more than they could chew and this ending makes it clear they were never planning to be that ambitious.

The Price of Smiles Episode 12 Yuki and Stella

I will fault Yuki as a character though. Without to much detail, she is put in a position where she needs to get Stella onside and her arguments are around peace and smiles. That’s all well and good but why not use the one compelling argument that has been revealed? If they don’t stop the chrars the entire eco-system is going to collapse and everyone will be dead anyway regardless of who wins the war. This would have been a much more compelling reason for an enemy to suddenly assist and would have made the whole shoe-horned in environmental narrative actually become more than just an add on to the anti-war stance this war focused anime seemed to be taking.

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Anyway, I’ll get to a full review soon as this is the first of my Winter anime to be completed, and I’ll look more at what the series did and didn’t accomplish then. However, in terms of being interesting and watchable, The Price of Smiles has succeeded, even if it didn’t do much beyond that.

The Price of Smiles Episode 11
Back to the picture – yep everyone except Yuki died. The message? Don’t stand in a photo with Yuki.

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Not About Who Is Right, Only Who Is Left

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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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You Can Only Smile For So Long

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The Price of Smiles Episode 7 Review

Even after taking the capital the war continues. Episode 7 follows Stella and her squad for the most part as they have a bit of down time and also send off Pierce who was injured during the fighting. However, while that does involve some wine drinking and cooking, because anime, it also involves some very real questions being asked about what is next for Pierce.

The Price of Smiles Episode 7

While we’ve never once seen the reality of the planet outside of Yuuki’s kingdom. Brief flashes of childhood memories from Stella are as close as we get, but stories like Pierce and the reactions of the squad to the Kingdom is a pretty good indicator that things are not so crash hot. Whether that justifies invasion is another question, but The Price of Smiles continues to remain free of sermonising and is more presenting the situation for audiences to interpret as they will.

The Price of Smiles Episode 7 Stella

That said, I think they’ve fallen into a bit of a pattern now as the ‘twist’ at the end of this episode was very much expected after what they have previously done to Joshua. While it lessened the impact a little bit, it still is a good moment and seeing Stella’s smile faltering more often as she opens herself up to others has been an interesting experience.

The Price of Smiles Episode 8
I wish I could remember either of these character’s names. They continue to play at war while the others have a farewell party.

Kind of hopeful for this series still though they are kind of running out of episodes and it still feels like we are setting things up. Either we’re getting an incomplete ending or a rushed ending. I’m still hoping for an actual ending but I guess we’ll see how the next couple of episodes go.

The Price of Smiles Episode 8 Review

Hey, I learned the long haired guys name. You know, the one who has been a prisoner since Yuki fled the palace. And of course, I learned his name just in time for that to be more or less a pointless exercise. Still, he left his impact on the story and I quite liked him even if I did struggle remembering what his name was.

The Price of Smiles Episode 8 Yuki

We flip perspectives again this week and follow Yuki as she commands what is left of her forces in hit and run and retreat tactics. The problem is, she’s trying to have her cake and eat it to as she doesn’t want to surrender and doesn’t want anyone on either side to die. It is certainly a losing strategy long term and one that by the end of this episode comes to bite her. Then again, Harold’s rush the enemy with everything you’ve got strategy would probably be equally disastrous.

The Price of Smiles Episode 8 Harold

However, suddenly the old empire has become a significant figure and I’m wondering if I just missed mention of it earlier but it seems there’s a third faction with their hand in this war. I really feel like I’m going to have to watch this anime again from the beginning at some point because clearly I’m not catching everything the first time through.

Looking forward to seeing what the next episode brings.

The Price of Smiles Episode 9 Review

Another episode and another death, though this one was well past the expiration date and I was kind of glad it finally happened given how many times it probably should have. Still, I think Yuki’s smile might be permanently damaged after the last couple of episodes and who could blame her?

The Price of Smiles Episode 9

However, more important than the ongoing retreat and battles is the information Izana sent the Princess last episode right before his death. Yes, the reason the facility was blown up 12 years ago is revealed and it ties in with the colonization of the planet and the dwindling resources. I love it when a plot actually comes together and everything feels purposeful rather than just kind of like an added on complication to stretch drama.

The Price of Smiles Episode 9 Yuki

While the science might be a little on the ludicrous side, it has been internally consistent at least and while I’m not sure what they can do at this point to fix the problem, at the very least the picture has now become pretty clear. Incidentally, it appears Yuki isn’t the only royal to have her orders routinely ignored and to be lied to given her parents apparently never got the memo about how dangerous their chrars actually were.

The Price of Smiles Episode 9

Still not sure how this can wrap in another three episodes but this was a good step in the right direction for bringing this story together.

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The Desperation of Both Sides in a War

The Price of Smiles Post Title Image

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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