First Impression – Egao no Daika (Price of a Smile)

Egao no Daika (エガオノダイカ) – Price of a Smile
Animation Studio: Tatsunoko Production Premiere Date: January 4th, 2019
No. of Episodes: 12 Airing Time: Fridays at 21:30 pm (JST)
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi Airing Channel: WOWOW
Information Links: AniDB, ANN Encyclopedia, MyAnimeList, syoboi, Wikipedia, Egao no Daika Official Site

What is the price of a smile? What lengths are you willing to go to get one and how much are you willing to sacrifice in order to protect it? Well, those are the questions that Egao no Daika asks as the show follows the story of two girls: Princess Yuki Soleil (Jap: Yumiri Hanamori (Gin Minowa -Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru: Washio Sumi no Shō)an orphaned princess and the sole heir to the throne of the Soleil Kingdom and Grandigan Imperial Soldier, Stella Shining (Jap: Saori Hayami (Shinoa Hiragi – Owari no Seraph; Kokoro – Darling in the Franxx), as they fight for their ideals on opposites sides of a devastating war that threatens to rip apart their nations.

The story of Egao no Daika begins with Princess Yuki happily preparing for a nationwide public birthday celebration while being assisted by her personal secretary, Layla Etoile (Jap: Rina Satō (Honoka Maki – Kiznaiver)), and her personal bodyguard and childhood friend, Joshua Ingram (Jap:Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Kazuto Kirigaya (Kirito) – Sword Art Online)). After almost fumbling at the podium, Yuki greets the crowd and gives a speech promising further prosperity for her people. The next day, Yuki goes about her day receiving birthday wishes from her people, accepting their requests for products and produce and discussing the possibility of sending new “Chrars (Generators)” to each of their provinces with Layla and Joshua in her bedroom.

Reminding Yuki that she will not treat her like a child anymore, a stern Layla reads out Yuki’s schedule for the rest of the day before leaving Yuki’s bedroom. Sulking, a pouting Yuki convinces Joshua to help her sneak out of the palace during their lunch break with the promise of returning back on time for her meeting with parliament. After visiting her parents’ memorial, Yuki and Joshua are suddenly spotted by a group of kids, forcing them to run and hide out in a Theurgear (robot) battling video game booth which automatically starts up. Wanting to win the prize of a cute stuff lion, Yuki convinces Joshua to play the game, but they are soon caught out by Grand Master Harold Miller (Jap: Nobutoshi Canna (Kabuto Yakushi – Boruto: Naruto Next Generations)), who has his female subordinate, Yuni Vanquish (Jap: Makoto Koichi) thrash Joshua in the game before escorting the two of them back to the palace.

Later on at the parliament meeting, Commander Izana Langford (Jap:
Ryōtarō Okiayu (Lancer of Black/Vlad III – Fate/Apocrypha)) changes the meeting agenda to have Harold report on the results of the secret talks that Soleil had with the Grandigan representatives at the Wister border three days prior. Harold reports that the talks went well and that they should be able to renew their nation’s non-aggression pact with Grandiga without issue. Delighted, Yuki gives Harold some of the presents that she received for her birthday and asks for them to be passed on to Grandiga as a token of friendship since their nation and its people are struggling. Taking the opportunity to interject, Yuni relays her criticisms of both Yuki and the current need for a monarchy; infuriating Joshua who calls her out for it. However, Yuki maintains a calm disposition and asks for her name. After Yuni introduces herself, Yuki calmly relays her wishes of wanting to make everyone happy and declaring that while she doesn’t know what she can do to help, she would Yuni to help her think up ways of accomplishing her dream. Relenting, Yuni apologizes for her insolence as Yuni’s twin brother, Lune Vanquish (Jap: Junya Enoki) informs Yuki that they were asked to test Yuki’s character by their master and Harold chips in that he brought them to be pilots, much to Joshua’s irritation.

However, the matter isn’t settled as a very angry Joshua challenges Yuni to a “Capture the Flag” mock battle that night. The very next day, Yuki is alerted to the fight and is summoned down to the simulation training room by Izana, just as the two parties are getting ready to battle. After the rules are explained by Lune, the fight gets underway with Joshua facing a major two against one disadvantage. Despite putting up a good offensive, Joshua soon finds himself almost losing midway through the battle, causing a fed up Yuki to volunteer to be Joshua’s second. With Yuki’s magnificent strategic guidance, Joshua manages to win the fight after a grueling battle, though Joshua gets immediately crushed by the virtual crumbling building in the process.

A couple of days later, Joshua, Yuni, Lune and the other knights are being dispatched to the border on a delegation mission. As Yuki wishes them well, Joshua presents her with the same stuffed lion prize from the video game as her birthday present. Yuki though throws it back and makes Joshua promise to show her the outside world instead. Joshua cheerfully agrees and leaves with the lion toy in his hand. Some time later, as the ship arrives at the border, the grim reality of their situation is made clear – everyone has been lying to Princess Yuki, Soleil is at war and Joshua and the others have actually been dispatched to settle the dispute at the border.

With a fascinating first episode that wonderfully sets up the show’s premise and world layout, fans of Egao no Daika immediately gets hints to what the characters’ overall situation is from the get-go. The setting for this show is set sometime in the near future, where humans have been forced to fly into space and live on colonized planets such as the one that Yuki and her people live in and that the world that Yuki and her people live in is suffering from scarce resources. So all of its inhabitants have been forced to adopt monarchy based societies where they rely on generator devices called “Chrars” to power their farms, houses and military machines called “Theurgears.” Despite the initial perception of a peaceful life for these people, the truth is that this is far from the truth as the Soleil Kingdom has been revealed to be at war with the Grandigan Empire for quite some time following some incident that occurred prior to the start of the story and may have to do with the reason why Princess Yuki’s parents are dead. And despite being generally cheerfully and kind, Princess Yuki has lived a sheltered life for most of her life as everyone within the palace had put on fake smiles and cleverly kept the truth of the war from her as a widely accepted lie because they wanted to spare her feelings, though she soon finds out the truth the hard way in the second episode.

From the third episode onwards, the story then splits into two alternating, but diverging branches where one episode focuses on the Grandigan side of the war with Stella Shining and her squad while the episode after it focuses on the Soleil side of the war. From the Grandigan side, we see that Grandiga is actually a poor, heavily militaristic empire which has begun running out of resources due to poor soil quality, lack of arable land and other various reasons. In Episode Three, Stella’s squad is amazed by the level of high class goods being sold in Azaria, hinting that their nation is poor. They have also partly started the new war due to their leaders wanting the Soleil Kingdom’s new Chrars (which I’m sure Yuki would have given to them had she known about it). Stella is also revealed to be an entirely different person from Yuki in that while she is a kickbutt, hardcore, rational but emotionless soldier, her smile is never genuine and her personality is usually perceived to be cold and aloof. While Stella normally gets along well with her squad mates, even her new commander, Gale Owens (Jap: Takashi Matsuyama (Nanijiroh Echizen – Prince of Tennis)), finds her creepy and has trouble dealing with her as he can never tell what she is thinking. Though Stella does have a good reason for this extreme personality and even has some moments later on, where she reveals a hidden kinder side to herself; especially with regards to her friend and squad mate, Lily Earhart (Jap: Yuki Nagaku).

Overall, Egao no Daika’s general framework for the two main characters’ arcs are especially planned out very well. On the plus side, having the protagonists alternate every episode as a storytelling device not only offers the viewer to get a great equal close-up glimpse of both Stella and Yuki’s lives and personal journeys, but it also provides an interesting comparison shot on Grandiga and Soleil’s conflicting political situations, their technological and social advancements, their social and cultural beliefs and their military systems especially in Episode Three. Our two main protagonists, Yuki and Stella basically serve as binary opposites and foils to each another as not only their national differences are clearly highlighted, but also their social classes, their upbringing and their general perspectives on life are revealed to be vastly different too.

Now while I understand the general reasoning behind keeping Yuki in the dark about the war was on the staff’s side, to show that she grew up in a peaceful society, loved and protected by all of the characters who were tiptoeing around her because they were conscious of her age and wanted to protect her smile, she really should have been informed about the war situation sooner, just so she could slowly accept the reality of her situation rather than having it smack her in the face with full force at the end of Episode Two. Granted, Yuki is only twelve years old and has little to no experience with real war, so its naturally understandable that everyone wouldn’t have wanted to put a child through leading a nation during a war. But, I also don’t really like the tiptoeing around as Yuki ended up being forced to handle all this stuff that she couldn’t handle at first and it made life more difficult for the Knight order as it must have been exhausting for Harold and Izana to have to sneakily come up with excuses and ways to get military budgets and the like approved, so that they could defend their nation. It is also a little bit surprising that she didn’t catch onto the lying sooner, but that’s slightly more excusable.

Another plus is that viewers also get provided with a wonderful social commentary on themes like social classes, poverty, survival, war and the effects that it has on people, which is another thing that the show does extremely well – especially with regards to the Stella episodes. In Episode 3, we learn the effects of war and the effect it has on Stella and especially young children like the orphans of city of Azaria. Now Stella is kind of like a mix of Yusaku Fujiki from Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS and Mikazuki Augus from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans in that she is mentally broken due to her childhood trauma and may or may not suffer from a mental ailment. She is apathetic and has no compulsion about killing people like Yuki regardless of their age. She also smiles while declaring this, making even her commander cringe a bit. Most of the orphans introduced in that episode are also all young children who have lost their families to war. Despite having bonded as a family, some of the children in Azaria City are still suffering from the mental trauma they suffered from losing their homes as a result, including Lana, a mostly quiet girl whom Stella bonds with until her identity as a Grandigan soldier is revealed to the orphans during the mission. Despite shown being affected by Lana’s sincere pleas for the return of her dead parents, Stella is shown smiling again and completely un-phased by it in a couple of hours and comments that she is eagerly awaiting her next mission, causing her commander to label her as “mad.”

On the negative side though, while the animation and plot writing has been great so far with creating exciting characterizations and amazing drama build-up in terms of action scenes and storytelling devices, there have been a few times where the script-writing has been a bit dull by bending to common stereotypes. Joshua Ingram is your hot-blooded shounen protagonist who tends to loose his cool a lot and while he can definitely be called a symbol of this show, he can be a bit irritating at times. A few viewers might also be irritated by the“Passion and Will” motto being mentioned by characters during every Yuki episode. Characters have also stated the obvious a lot.

To spin a positive on a negative though, there are also some questionable yet surprising plot twists and elements to this anime which some viewers will either hate or enjoy, with the biggest one being (without going into too much spoilers), the death of a major supporting character at the end of Episode 2 (who I personally thought would’ve lasted till Episode 6 at least). Depending on your preference, some viewers also may or not like the opening and ending theme songs as well, despite both songs being very fun and entertaining. The opening theme song “Egao no Kanata” by Chiho feat. Majiko is a light and cheery Jpop song, however, its not very action~y even though the lyrics are a perfect fit for this type of mecha show. Additionally, the ending theme “Kono Sekai ni Hanataba” by Kimi no Orphée is gentle sad ballad which has a great melody, however, some viewers may not appreciate the talking bits in the middle of the song. Though both songs do grow on you.

Egao no Daika is a great show that has greatly grown on both me and its audience since it started broadcasting in January. With exciting battle scenes, in-depth characterizations and dramatic social commentaries about war and life in general, this show is sure to snare the attention of anime fans like a sunflower and hopefully grow on them too.

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