I’ve already written lots about Snow White With The Red Hair (Shirayuki ga Akagami) though most of that has either been reviewing the series or focusing on Shirayuki. At best I’ve touched on Zen when I’ve looked at my favourite Zen and Shirayuki moments in a top 5 list that was an absolute blast to write and made me want to watch the anime again even though I’d just finished watching it yet again. However, this post is all about Zen, the charming Prince of this fairy tale story.
There’s a lot to love about Zen as a character. Certainly he fills the archetype of a Prince Charming character but Snow White With The Red Hair makes it clear right from episode one that even though Zen has a lot of the superficial traits of someone’s Prince Charming, he’s very much his own character. We meet him as he leaps a garden wall and then, because he spots Shirayuki, he ends up catching his foot and falling flat on his face. It goes from being a standard first encounter with the good looking, athletic Prince in the forest to making you laugh at him in a single instant and that impression of Zen remains throughout the series.
Part of that comes about because Zen is playing a role, or rather is forced to by his position. You can see him visibly shift between the mischievous child the hurt boy who has trust issues, the selfish and entitled child, and the trained Prince as he works through each interaction. As Zen and Shirayuki get closer we see more moments where all the masks seem to fall and Zen is more relaxed and natural and it feels almost like we get to see who Zen is without playing any particular part.
Of course, in his Prince role he is certainly heroic looking, a wonderful sword fighter, smart and shrewd, yet not too cold and removed. He also has significantly better fashion sense than his brother Izana, and he understands what sleeves do in a jacket (yeah, I’m never getting over that).
However, where Zen really made me fall in love with his character was in how he treats Shirayuki throughout the story. Certainly he rescues her on more than one occasion but he also listens to her, and when she asks him not to interfere he respects that. He might watch over her and worry but he allows her to handle the things she feels she needs to handle. There’s a wonderful balance between the two where Shirayuki also helps Zen out and keeps him grounded.
The two are in what is perhaps one of the healthiest relationships I’ve seen in anime where the two characters genuinely respect the other and don’t try to dominate or control. Of course, the whole he’s a Prince thing kind of puts a few holes in their forward growth as a couple, but really, it is beautiful seeing these two together and in season two when they reunite after quite a few episodes apart it is one of those moments that just makes you want to cry and cheer simultaneously.
Zen is a really fantastic character and one who doesn’t get talked about individually enough. As a male lead in a romance he does a fantastic job and he certainly made me wish that he’d end up with Shirayuki by the end.
How do you feel about Zen?
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SNOW WHITE WITH THE RED HAIR: SEASON ONE [BLU-RAY+DVD]