I give this unabashedly carefree and girly show...a 77/100!
Starting from the 70s and 80s, kids shows, especially in America, cared more about selling toys than allowing animators to create the stories they wanted and develop characters. The more toys that sold, the more money went into the cartoons. But characters would be given the shaft in favor of new ones, and the stories were very basic, the characters being boring and flat, and being aimed mostly at children. However, nowadays, even shows that come off as toy commercials are putting in more effort to just tell a story and create characters that audiences can care about, rather than just making a show just for the sake of selling toys. Anime has been doing this for a while now, probably since Pokemon, so it's no slouch in the animation and storytelling department. Some examples of good kids shows that are made to sell toys are Pokemon, Jewelpet, Digimon (some of the time), Sailor Moon, and Pretty Cure. In Japan, Pretty Cure still reigns supreme as the number one show for girls, and has done so for decades since its inception, even if it does have its drawbacks. However, even big franchises aren't immune to having their duds. Smile Pretty Cure is a good show that can appeal to a lot of people, but it unfortunately is being held back by a lot of flaws that prevent it from being truly great, although it's definitely not the worst I've seen.
Miyuki Hoshizora is a happy, friendly, amiable girl who just moved into a new town, and is excited to start a new chapter of her life. One day, a cute fairy named Candy appears before her, telling her that she and four other girls have to become legendary warriors called Pretty Cure, in order to save her world, Marchenland, from villains from the Bad End Kingdom and ressurrect her queen. Miyuki accepts and becomes Cure Happy. She and four other girls have to defeat the villains, collect Cure Decor, and ressurrect the queen of Marchenland before Wolfrun, Akaoni, and Majorina ressurrect their own master, King Pierrot, and save the world from heading towards a bad end. They are determined to make sure their story has a happy ending, just like the fairytales Miyuki loves and cherishes.
For the most part, the animation is pretty good. Nothing stellar, but the colors are bright, the transformation sequences are well animated, everything is smooth, there's lots of energy put into it, and the sparkles and the brightness adds to the show's goofy, light-hearted tone, even if it can be rather hard to look at sometimes. Yeah, this show is VERY bright and riddled with bright colors that'll hurt your eyes if you're sensitive to light. The music, while also nothing stellar, does its job well. Then again, Yasuharu Takanashi is well known for making good music and making sure they fit the show in every way, whether it be in tone and atmosphere. I hear this series used a lot of music from Fresh Pretty Cure, but I haven't seen that series so I won't comment on that.
The characters...well, I'm not gonna lie, most of them are pretty bland. They stay the same throughout the entire show, not really changing much. Miyuki is the happy-go-lucky friendly girl who loves being kind to people, Akane is the hotblooded sporty girl, Yayoi is the shy artist, etc. I will admit, the show does care about wanting the audience to see what the characters are like outside of fighting, showing that they have actual lives outside of being superheroes. I feel that so many shows nowadays forget that while people can be superheroes, they're still human. Smile Precure does a great job at showing that outside of their superhero business, the girls are just that. Young girls who have their own problems and worries to deal with in their lives, and yet...even with that, they barely develop in any meaningful way. What little development they do have is so predictable that anyone can see it coming, and as a result, they still come off as bland. The only character I can think of who actually got good development was Yayoi, the yellow Cure. Seriously, I love this girl. She is basically me in a nutshell: shy, cries a lot, loves to draw, loves cartoons (though she likes robot shows and I don't), has trouble making friends, tries to do whatever she can for others and herself, etc. She's pretty much the best thing about Smile. I like Miyuki and all, but I do kinda wish Yayoi was the main character. The others...stay the same, Reika especially. I like her, but she's pretty much a blank slate, and rather static, suffering from the worst of the show's characterization problems. She starts off and ends the show being the same calm, smart girl who doesn't know what she wants to do in life. Also, Candy is annoying and always causes trouble for the girls, almost ruining Miyuki's social life in one episode where they switch bodies. The villains are pretty goofy and not very intimidating except for one, but that's a spoiler.
The story, well...there is no story. There is, but its extremely basic: all the girls really have to do is collect decor, save Marchenland and the queen, and deal with the Bad End Kingdom. That's seriously it. 85% of the show is filler, 10% character development, and 5% storytelling. While I appreciate the show's attempts to get us to care about the characters, in doing so, it completely hurt the story. The worst thing about the story and the show in general? There's basically ZERO sense of urgency. The villains sans Joker and Pierrot are all goofy goofballs, the series is very episodic in nature, the girls battle a bunch of monsters, and because the show chose to favor just showing the characters having fun, villains included, and because of this, there is still little reason for us to care about what the characters go through. My problem with slice-of-life shows or most kids shows nowadays aren't that they're kiddy or marketed at kids or giant toy commercials. It’s the fact that nothing happens. I want to sympathize with the characters, but for that, they need to be put in danger. I don’t really care about characters who spend their time eating cakes at a summer-festival, or something. Same with romances. I want to see the different characters face challenges, put their lives on the line, that’ll make me care about them, if done well. Smile attempts this, but unfortunately, it falls flat on its face in doing so. Still, I don't hate Smile. In fact, I like it. I'd definitely take Smile over Happiness Charge any day.
Smile isn't the best Precure series, but it's a perfectly safe, carefree show for kids that your daughter, sister, niece, or that kid you're babysitting can definitely enjoy. I do feel Smile could have done a heck of a lot better though. I haven't seen the English dub, Glitter Force, yet, nor do I plan to anytime soon, but I hope it'll pave the way for Precure to be successful in the US.