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.
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.
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?
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