The Price of Smiles – Ep. 1 (First Impressions)

And so Winter 2019 begins.

First of all, regardless of how The Price of Smiles turns out, congrats to Tatsunoko on their 55th anniversary. It’s not every day you see an anime company live for that long and while not the biggest name these days, it’s hard to deny the presence it had in the industry during its formative years. By all means, 55 years in the business is worth celebrating with an original property.

Of course, The Price of Smiles will need to stand as its own product and not just a celebratory project. I’ll admit that making it a point of interest in my Season Preview was a slight shot in the dark. There just wasn’t a whole lot of hype surrounding it as far as I could tell. The premise did sound mildly interesting though. The show centers around two girls: Yuuki Soleil (Yumiri Hanamori) and Stella Shining (Saori Hayami). Yuuki is the young princess of a small kingdom while Stella is just a soldier from a neighboring empire. They’re two completely different girls but in any case, they are fated to have them cross paths. I suppose this plot has been done before but there’s still potential with the dynamic of the two lead characters and how their views and backgrounds might mix and/or clash. Also, the promotional materials highlighted cute anime girls and mechs so…

Naturally, the story would be at the set-up phase in Episode 1 but it did surprise me to find that premiere is entirely dedicated to introducing Yuuki. Stella doesn’t appear at all, not even in a cameo appearance. If I had to guess, Episode 2 will probably be all about her. It’s not a bad approach though I think it would’ve made for a more enticing beginning if you did introduce both girls at once and allow any possible parallels and differences between them surface. The risk here is that if people aren’t impressed with one lead after a whole episode starring her, what is the likelihood that they want to come back to meet the other?

To give credit where it’s due though, Yuuki does make a decent enough first impression. What interests me most about her is how she walks a fine line between a maturing leader and a naive youth. The very beginning of the episode has her accidentally and literally tumble onto the stage of her latest public appearance. Shortly after though, she regains her composure and gives her speech just fine. In another scene, Yuuki’s ability to govern is met with skepticism and objection by a soldier, Yuni (Makoto Koichi). Though she does concede to the fact that she’s still learning, her sheer optimism and desire to help her people earns back Yuni’s respect and faith. This kind of personality even extends to the action where you see Yuuki struggling at chess only to later give sound tactical advice to her friend, Joshua (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka), during a mock capture the flag match against Yuni. All things considered, Yuuki effectively comes across as a capable princess who is still learning about her role in shaping the world she lives in.

Still, Yuuki only comprises one half of The Price of Smiles‘ main plot. Much of the success will also lie in Stella’s character, not to mention her and Yuuki eventually meeting in person. And obviously, to find out how that fares, I’m going to need to at least watch one more episode. I guess, in that regard, this premiere does succeed in making me watch more. However, that is just a temporary victory. What lies ahead really needs to hook me in if this show is to gain any permanence in the watch list.

OP: “Egao no Kanata” by Chiho ft. majiko

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Watch The Price of Smiles on Crunchyroll and HIDIVE

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