Passion and Will – Egao no Daika Series Review

*Major Spoilers

With Egao no Daika (Price of Smiles) now over, the story of two girls on a planet with limited resources ends on a happy note. Yuki Soleil achieves her goal of destroying the Chrars and ending the war on a armistice agreement, while the other surviving main characters begin moving on with their lives (despite problems still existing).

At its core, I feel like Egao no Daika is more of a story on life in general rather than a war story, and at first, I didn’t exactly know what I was getting into when I started watching this series. While there were some boring bits, I still found the show  enjoyable. So let’s start the review!

Story Recap

As mentioned above, Egao no Daika follows the story of two girls who live on a planet where resources are limited. One girl, Yuki Soleil is the princess of the Soleil Kingdom,  an advanced society which has a bounty of  arable land and advanced technology. While the other girl, Stella Shining is an orphaned soldier for the Grandigan Empire  which is a large but also poor militaristic country whose land and resources are starting to dwindle.

At the start of the story, Yuki is just an happy twelve-year-old princess who was raised with love and affection by her best friend, Joshua Ingram, her royal advisers, Layla, Izana and Harold and by everyone in her nation. Now, Yuki mostly lives a sheltered life n the palace for the most part. After celebrating her twelfth birthday, this life then changes when Joshua is sent off for a diplomatic mission ( actually *war*) and returns back dead, having sustained life threatening injuries during a battle on the border. Yuki is then forced to confront the hideous fact that:

  1. Her nation has been at war with the Grandigan Empire for the last twelve years
  2. Her parents were actually killed in a terrorist attack planned by Verde Terrorists; and
  3. That  the people around her have been lying to her for most of her life.

Naturally this leaves Yuki in a depression until Episode 6. Stella Shining , on the other hand, is revealed  to be the exact opposite of Yuki. She is this serious, hard-working soldier who has also had her share of hardship. While Stella smiles, it is is largely fake and forced, revealing that she is actually a broken, depressed young woman who has repressed all of her emotions. Most of Stella’s arc revolves around us discovering her past and watching her regain her humanity through her interactions with her squad and the people around her. Her relationship with her commander is quite telling as he treats her like daughter despite initially finding her smile “creepy” at the beginning. In her youth,  Stella was caught up in the same terrorist attack that killed Yuki’s parents and was left buried under some rocks. She was then discovered by Grandigan soldiers  who placed her in an Grandigan foster care system. When the family that fostered her had their own child and fell on hard times, the family started ignoring Stella and began complaining about the lack of food.  This is also where Stella gained her trademark fake smile as her foster mother once told her that “a smile can help you get through anything.” Feeling like a burden, Stella ran away and began living her life on the streets until she signed up for the Grandigan Military and met her best friend, Lily.

Eventually, everything comes to a boil when the capital of the Soleil Kingdom is about to be invaded by the Imperial Grandigan Army. Not wanting to the cause of any more deaths, Yuki snaps out of her depression and resolves herself to try and stop the war by offering herself up as a prisoner of war. Although her advisers protest against this, Yuki insists on going through with it. But on the day she is to leave, Yuki is shocked when the transport ship carrying her towards the meeting area starts fleeing in the opposite direction. Despite protesting to take her to Grandiga, Commander Harold tells the crew not to stop as Yuki is suddenly confronted by a transmission from Izana telling her that this was all planned by them and that he has ordered Harold to take her to a safe location while he remains behind. Yuki asks what he intends to do and Izana reveals that he has take to care of the people remaining in the city and asks that Yuki take care of his pregnant wife and daughter (who are also on the ship).

6 months later, Grandiga has occupied the Soleil Royal Palace and has begun a PR campaign against Yuki and her Royal Guard by holding broadcasts and using Izana as a mediator between Grandiga and the remnants of Soleil’s army. Meanwhile Stella and her team go on clean-up missions searching for rebel factions while Yuki has been working hard defending the last bit of territory she has. When Izana no longer serves a purpose to them, Izana decides to break out and sneak into the Grandigan’s central computer room where he finds data that could be useful to Yuki. In sending the data, Izana alerts the  enemy forces who tries to break into the room. Right at the same moment, Izana’s wife starts to give birth and gives birth to a baby boy. Making one last communication to Yuki, Izana tells Yuki what he has discovered and give her his new child’s name ‘Ciel’ right before the enemy rushes in and kills him . The story then continues with Yuki trying to use the data in a way that allows her to win the war and deal with the chrars crisis at the same time.

Plot

One of the things that Egao no Daika does great in is telling an intriguing story. At its core, Egao no Daika is a depressing war story that talks about hope, the circle of life and the process of change and growing up.

Another narrative technique which I thought was used well too was the two separate narratives.  By having two separate narratives which follows both protagonists, we get an equal viewing of both sides of the war and are shown that these people are really all just trying to survive in a world with limited resources. There is no real main antagonist (which is a bit of a plus or minus in this case) and even the Gradigan commander has  justifiable concerns over the continuation of the war. If there is a bad guy, then it would have to be the chrars which are extensions of the world’s defense system (TYPEMOON: Counter Force) which is a symbol for power and energy.

The only two quips that I have against this plot is that Yuki and Stella probably should have met sooner rather than in the last episode and that most of the writing is dry. Since this is a serious story with 12 episodes, I get that there is no time for fun beach episodes or side stories.  But the heavy tone of the show is a downer especially with the deaths of Izana and Harold later on in the show and really could have used some light scenes to lighten the mood. They also could have moved Joshua’s death to Episode 3 instead of Episode 2.

Characters

All of the characters in Egao no Daika are likeable and lovable to some degree. With a small cast, the story really goes into heavy depth in exploring each of the older characters’ backgrounds whose personal tragedies centres on the Verde terrorist attack.. Princess Yuki’s parents were murdered during the attack. Layla Etoile was a Chrars researcher who lost her entire family (barring her daughter – Stella Shining (Real Name: Stella Etoile)) to that attack. Stella got separated from her birth mother (Layla) and was put in foster care by that attack and Harold Miller lost his wife, Katrina during the Verde terrorist attack. Harold in particular has a personal hatred for the Grandiga Empire for having caused the war to the point that he will often disregard Yuki’s orders in pursuit of his personal grudges. Yuki’s and Harold’s ideals often conflict because Harold is more pessimistic about the war ending while Yuki is an optimistic pacifist.

Besides the main characters, you can empathize to some level with each of the side characters as well. The only let down is that you don’t find out as much about the younger characters’ backgrounds. Like Yuni and Lune, you don’t find out about their pasts besides the fact that they were trained by Harold. While you only get a tiny hint of Lily’s past with the flashback where she had first met Stella.

Themes & Messages

While it is a war story in essence, Egao no Daika is more of a story on life in general. While most of the older cast members do end up dying, they impart important messages or seeds which allow Yuki and Stella to mature and become able to save the world from the chrar threat. For the most part, the show’s staff covers this theme quite well with the show’s soundtrack, symbols,  atmosphere and even the dialogue. The state of the sunflowers shown in the show is a wonderful symbol for Yuki’s heart which expresses the growth and maturity she goes through.. Stella is also touched by the sunflowers and finds salvation through Yuki and her comrades.

“You can get through anything in life so long as you have the passion and will to do it,” is also another excellent message that shows that even life gets tough, so long as you have the courage to see it through, you can find a solution to any problem. You can really feel this message throughout this show, due to the writer’s delicate care of it. Despite Joshua (the first one who said it) having died in episode 2, the message that he imparts encourages Yuki throughout the show to follow her own path and find a solution that no one has ever thought of. Though it does get a little bit annoying at the start.

Conclusion

While Egao no Daika wasn’t exactly the best series, I felt that it was a good series in general. It did suffer from really heavy writing and wasn’t exactly exciting in terms of action, but I  still think it did a solid job in presenting the major themes and messages of the show. My only regret with this is that Stella never finds out that Layla is her mother, but she senses it so that’s good enough for now. But the characters were all likeable and I feel that everyone should watch it once. I came away with a lot of feels and if you felt like you’ve come away  with something from it, then this anime succeeded in reaching us viewers’ hearts.

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