Saori HayamiRina SatouRyotaro OkiayuHaruki Ishiya
The Price of Smiles
Also known as: Egao no Daika
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2019
Director: Toshimasa Suzuki
Writer: Shinichi Inotsume
Actor: Haruki Ishiya, Hinaki Yano, Junya Enoki, Makoto Koichi, Minoru Shiraishi, Nobutoshi Canna, Rina Satou, Ryotaro Okiayu, Saori Hayami, Takashi Matsuyama, Toshiki Masuda, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Yuki Nagaku, Yumiri Hanamori
Keywords: anime, SF, mecha
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=21497
Website category: Anime 2019
Review date: 16 November 2020
Price of Smiles
I liked it. I seem to be in the minority, but I did. I thought it was an interesting show, if dry, with a worthwhile angle on its subject matter. It's been called Gundam-lite by people who like Gundam more than I do, but I prefer it to that mega-franchise. (For starters, I watched it.)
It's about war, but in a way that subverts anime cliches. Ep.1 is a bait-and-switch. We meet the adorable, innocent Princess Yuki who thinks everyone's beautiful and couldn't hurt a fly. Her friend Joshua is a enthusiastic, never-say-die hero. Nothing happens and I nearly ditched the show.
What awaits these scamps is death, more death and the brutal annihilation of innocence. What would happen if your commander-in-chief was a bleeding heart who lived by kiddie show logic and refused to let anyone die? Yeah, that's right. Compassionate but ill-thought-out decisions are capable of yielding a 100% death toll. It's an interesting war story, because it's not actually about winning a war. It's about how to stop the fighting and maximise the welfare of the population, while considering the environmental and political consequences of this SF world's technology and of course the fact that your enemy doesn't share your ideals. Should you surrender?
Meanwhile, it's annoying Gundam fans with its realisation that lumps of metal are boring. It has mecha, yes, but it's not actually that interested in them. They're just manned weapons. They occasionally get gunned down on battlefields, in between the more interesting political content. This is the correct emphasis, as far as I'm concerned, but not everyone will agree.
The show has two story threads, one on each opposing side. (The smaller but more sophisticated kingdom of Harlant has been invaded by the aggressive empire of Grandiga, which wants to steal its chrar supertechnology. Look out for the colours. Harlant is a fetching pink, while Grandiga is a delicate sky blue. The show's a bit too quick to assume that we'll leap on this colour-coding as a way of identifying who's who.) The gloomier A-story is set in the Harlant royal court, facing the twin problems of an invading army and a commanding officer who keeps vetoing the best military choice because too many enemy soldiers would die. (She'll be forced to grow up, but she'll never stop looking for out-of-the-box solutions. This show is her story. For her, even victory would be a sort of loss and she's constantly questioning assumptions.)
There's not much fun there, though. More relaxing, comparatively, is the B-story of Stella, an ordinary grunt in the Grandiga army. She's in a squad with a slightly mysterious commander. She goes where she's told and kills her enemies. (She'd kill children if ordered to.) This is a more straightforward, traditional war story and can even have relaxed, funny episodes like ep.7, about the farewell party for a wounded squadmate.
I think it's an interesting show. Underneath, it's going at right angles to ordinary war stories. It's portraying the environmental calculations people make out of political and economic self-interest. The finale's eye-opening if watched in the coronavirus era, incidentally, since we've shut down a lot of the world's economic activity over the past year as a pandemic measure. (That episode doesn't end as suddenly as you'd think. There's a post-credits sequence.)
Serious, political and a bit drab, but thoughtful. It also has a high body count of named characters.