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

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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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	SNOW WHITE WITH THE RED HAIR: SEASON ONE [BLU-RAY+DVD]

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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Up Close With Zen Wisteria

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.

Zen from Shirayuki With The Red Hair

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).

Izana demonstrating how not to wear a jacket.
What does he think those sleeves are supposed to do?

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.

Zen and Shirayuki - Zen trying to put Shirayuki to sleep.

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 showing us he is every bit a Prince

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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Karandi James
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SNOW WHITE WITH THE RED HAIR: SEASON ONE [BLU-RAY+DVD]
SNOW WHITE WITH THE RED HAIR: SEASON ONE [BLU-RAY+DVD]

Tuesday’s Top 5: Top 5 Red-Heads (Female)

Tuesday's Top 5

I mentioned in a previous post I was thinking of adding a list feature and I’ve decided to jump in feet first and see what happens. I will probably be a bit hit and miss at first but eventually I hope to make this a weekly feature.

As the title suggests I’m going to attempt to do a top 5 list every Tuesday. Why did I start with Red-Heads? Because it was an easy list to write and really shouldn’t lead to too many people wanting to tell me exactly how many different ways I am wrong. I could be wrong about that, but time will tell.

After thinking this through, I decided I needed to split the guys and the girls so technically my first top 5 list is actually a top 10 split into two parts. Why are these characters in my top list other than having red hair? Mostly because they are memorable and I like them (further explanation will hopefully come below).

However, mostly I want this to start a conversation. Feel free to tell us your top crimson heroes or heroines and reasons why.

Let’s start with the ladies – we’ll save the guys for next week.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions to Yona from Yona Akatsuki and Felicita from Arcana Famiglia. Both amazing red-headed characters but unfortunately did not make the final cut.

Number 5: Madam Red from Black Butler

Why is Madam Red on my list? Because she is a female doctor in the 1800’s. She’s amazing at social gatherings and still a doting aunt to Ciel (who may just be one of the most obnoxious nephews in history). And then there’s the whole serial killer thing. Admittedly, that is where her character kind of comes undone (in more ways than one) but Madam Red’s story – while short- has a massive impact when watching Black Butler.

Number 4: Yoko from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

And no, I didn’t choose Yoko for her fashion sense, though I’m sure many of the males in the audience appreciated her many fine physical attributes. Yoko’s on the list because she is an incredibly dynamic character. She is fiery as her red hair suggests, but she’s also incredibly sensitive and gradually becomes the voice of reason in amongst a very male dominated and highly unreasonable crowd. That said, she’s still in the fights with the best of them.

Number 3: Erika Chiba from The Irregular at Magic High School

Another fiery red head on the list, but Erika manages to keep it mostly in check. For a school heavy on magic, Erika definitely relied on her physical prowess as much as her magical capabilities. She’s hanging out with Tatsuya and that means she’s kind of thrown into dangerous situations at every turn, but Erika does not mind. In fact, that’s probably part of the appeal for her. If I could change anything about The Irregular at Magic High School, I would so increase Erika’s screen time.

Number 2: Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail

This one shouldn’t need much explanation. She’s tough enough to terrify even Natsu and Grey into acting like friends. She has a cute side. She travels with enough weapons and armour to equip an entire army. Everything about Erza is awesome. In a guild filled with extraordinary people, Erza stands out and takes control when the occasion calls for it but is fiercely loyal to those she considers friends. And just because Natsu has saved her once or twice doesn’t mean she’s going to go easy on him in a fight. If he wants to beat her he is definitely going to have to work for it. Erza kind of defines what is mean by fiery red head.

So after so many combatant entries, number one may come as a surprise.

Yep:

Number 1: Shirayuki from Shirayuki no Akagami

Let me explain. Shirayuki embodies the same qualities of the other characters on this list. She is forthright, upstanding, fights for justice, loyal to her friends, and packs some amazing emotional punch for one character. Unlike the above characters, her strength doesn’t come from a weapon or physical abilities (though she certainly won’t just sit in her prison cell and wait to be rescued and she isn’t above diving out a window if she deems it necessary). She’s just a strong character who does anything she can within her means. And when she finds something is beyond her, she doesn’t give up, she finds a path that will bring her closer to where she wants to be. Shirayuki is a character you just can’t help but watch and hope that she succeeds and that is why she is my number one red-haired female character.

Is your favourite red-headed character on the list or have I missed someone amazing. Feel free to tell us below.