I’ll Walk On My Own/I’ll Walk With You

June OWLS Tour – Vulnerable

In the month of June, we will be discussing what it means to be vulnerable. To some individuals, being vulnerable could be seen as a sign of weakness, but in fact, vulnerability is actually a sign of strength. In this month’s posts, we will explore what it means to be vulnerable and how certain characters in pop culture glamorize vulnerability. When do we show our vulnerability? How do we express vulnerability? Why should we show vulnerability? These are questions that we will be discussing in our posts featuring characters that show vulnerability and/or sensitivity and what we can learn from them or even our own personal stories.  

Be sure to check out Matt’s post about Sword Art Online and tomorrow you can check out Yumdeku’s post on Shin Sekai Yori.

Shirayuki Gains Strength By Allowing Herself To Be Vulnerable.

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you’ll know I really love the anime Snow White With The Red Hair (or Shirayuki ga Akagami) and I particularly love the relationship between Zen and Shirayuki that develops. When I read the prompt for this month I was initially stumped because I wasn’t sure I wanted to write another post about March Comes in Like a Lion but that was the first anime that came to mind. However, soon after that, I thought about Shirayuki and more importantly, about how her character became stronger once she allowed herself to be vulnerable.

Shirayuki is a fascinating character. In the beginning of the story she seems incredibly independent and strong. Her grandparents have died leaving her on her own to run the herbalist shop, she explores the forest for herbs, and she defies Prince Raj’s order to become his concubine all on her own with no one really standing beside her or lending her support. It is nice to see her not immediately thrust into the damsel in distress role and while there are instances where she is rescued, she is never completely useless as she continues to strive to overcome her own problems.

However, this strength that she seems to demonstrate early in the series is incredibly fragile. She has no real ability to stand up to Raj on her own and makes the decision to flee which shows initiative and a desire to be independent but a lack of strength. That she asks no one in the town for help in her flight or preparations speaks volumes. While she likes the people she helps each day and thinks of them as she prepares medicine to leave for them, she keeps them at a distance.

Part of that would be the logical thought of not wanting to drag them into trouble with the royal family. It is very considerate of Shirayuki. But part of it also seems to be her desire to not feel she needs anyone else. Shirayuki doesn’t want to appear vulnerable or weak or to feel like she can’t handle the situation alone. And so she acts alone and leaves the kingdom of Tanbarun for the neighbouring kingdom of Clarines.

What happens next in the anime, shows that despite Shirayuki’s best efforts to not appear vulnerable, she really is whether she wants to admit it or not. And it is a vulnerability she hasn’t accepted or been in control of.

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Raj pursues her, or sends his servants to, and after Zen is poisoned Shirayuki concedes to following along with his actions. Even then, she isn’t just playing damsel. She’s determined to help Zen, the guy she just met and knows nothing about, because she feels responsible for him being poisoned.

This all shows the audience that while Shirayuki is a strong character, she still has limitations. By herself she can only go so far walking on her own before she will hit a wall that cannot be overcome by her own determination and guts, though she’ll certainly try.

The friendship that then forms between Shirayuki and Zen determines the next steps for her character. At first Shirayuki continues to keep Zen at a distance, not wanting to trouble him with her problems, and continues to try to solve things alone. However, a small change begins.

It is small though. At first Shirayuki will occasionally consult with Zen on the problem but not allow him to interfere with her solution. Then we see her working to heal the men at the fort and concealing her exhaustion from Zen so as not to worry him.

However, by the time we are fully into the second season, we see a Shirayuki who has realised that there is only so far she can get walking alone and more importantly, she doesn’t want to be alone.

Shirayuki wants to walk with Zen and we see both of these characters, both very strong in their own ways and yet also weak in others, begin to open up to one another and trust the other sufficiently to be vulnerable before them. The end result is that both characters grow stronger together and support the other. It is a relationship built on trust and one that can only exist because they have the courage to be vulnerable and reveal their true selves to the other.

Shirayuki is a strong character when she is alone, but she is undeniably stronger when she walks beside Zen and the other friends she makes. By allowing herself to be vulnerable, she opened up the possibility of becoming stronger and overcoming her individual limitations.

What did you think of Shirayuki?

Reminder to check out Matt’s post about Sword Art Online and tomorrow you can check out Yumdeku’s post on Shin Sekai Yori.


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Karandi James



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13 thoughts on “I’ll Walk On My Own/I’ll Walk With You

  1. She seems to remind me a lot of Yona from Yona of the Dawn (the manga specifically). I actually considered using Yona when I originally planned to do an OWLS this month. Thank you for writing and sharing this. I loved reading it and it helped me get a little bit more perspective on you, plus I’ve a reason to bump this up on my watchlist.

    1. I need to get back to reading the Yona of the Dawn manga. I started it but kind of put it on hold while I’ve read through Natsume but I did intend to read it because I want to know what happens after the anime ends.

        1. It just kind of ends right when the story seems to be getting going. It definitely needed another season (or more) and just leaving us hanging with a read the manga ending was really unhelpful.

  2. I’ve never seen Snow White With The Red Hair, but your synopsis of the story reminds me very much of The World Is Still Beautiful. Nike is herself a very strong and independent character who very much resists the initial demands of her betrothed, the Sun King Livius. For his part, he considers her too independent to rely upon with the problems he faces. As the series progresses, they learn to respect, accept, and trust one another and eventually form a strong partnership. It’s a show I enjoyed and repeatedly rewatch.

    1. There are definitely some similarities though I remember when watching The World Is Still Beautiful I didn’t really click with Nike or Livius as characters and though I enjoyed watching them learn to respect one another, I never really got drawn into their relationship. Shirayuki and Zen on the otherhand I liked from the beginning and watching the two come together is something I never get enough of.

  3. Hmm. An interesting topic, and an interesting character. I agree on some points, and I disagree on others (such is the way of it! 😉 )

    When Shirayuki is unable to overcome certain physical obstacles, I’d call that having her own limitations, more than being vulnerable. I mean, she defies a prince, and only runs away because that is the wisest course of action at the time. She leaves everything she’s ever known, her home, without hesitation, and that requires a strength that is not physical. But then she turns back when someone else is endangered for it, and faces him head on. Similarly, she fights when she is kidnapped, not flinching when a torch is rammed into the wall right next to her face, and she’s not deterred from what she wants by flying arrows or a noble with a drawn sword in his hand, and she leaps off a tower (albeit a fairly short one, thank goodness) during the test with the messenger birds. So, she has limits, but didn’t really strike me as “vulnerable.”

    To use a non-anime example, when I think of vulnerable, I recall Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of Buffy’s boyfriends eventually leaves her partially because she doesn’t let him support her emotionally. During the worst ordeal of her life to date, she cries when she’s alone, but not when she’s with him. She doesn’t let herself lean on him when she’s facing something that can’t be physically overcome, only endured. She doesn’t open up in that way, and that’s what allowing oneself to be vulnerable is, which, that is what loving someone is: lowering one’s defenses and letting them in.

    I suppose a good example of that would be Luffy and the Straw Hats from One Piece. Luffy has no problem admitting how he needs his friends, and most of his crew have relied on him in their darkest moments, shedding tears freely, as he relies on them. When they get scattered and know he needs them, not one of them hesitates or thinks, “Luffy wouldn’t want my help.” They rush to help him, and when they receive his message to wait for their rendezvous, they wait. Simple as that. It’s a beautiful symbiosis between all of them. 🙂

    1. Buffy would be a great discussion topic for this theme, but unfortunately I haven’t seen enough of One Piece to know much about it.
      Thanks for reading the post and sharing your view of Shirayuki. She’s a fascinating character and one I enjoy watching through her story fairly often (good comfort food). Hopefully one day we’ll get another season of her story in anime form and be able to discuss the next steps for her character.

I'd love to know what you think.

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