We all know there are many pretty anime out there and flowers, particularly cherry blossoms, show up in a lot of stories (and usually look gorgeous). Today I’m looking at my favourite gardens in anime series (I excluded movies deliberately but still ended up with far too many options). This is definitely a list of my favourite picks so please feel free to tell me which anime gardens you love in the comments below.
Number 5: Blue Exorcist
Rin first meets Shiemi when his brother takes him to visit
the Garden of Amahara which ends up being important because Shiemi ends up
being Rin’s first real friend. However, the garden itself is beautiful even if
it is a little bit hostile when we first arrive there. What I love about it
though is that it isn’t just decorative. The garden and plants in general play
a fairly critical role in terms of exorcisms and healing throughout the story
and so it seems right that this is where me meet Shiemi for the first time.
That and it is really pretty.
Number 4: The Eccentric Family
The Eccentric Family takes place in Kyoto and a large part
of it is showing the play between the human world, the natural world and the
supernatural world. Needless to say we spend a lot of time outdoors and get to
see some very nice looking gardens throughout the series. I love the garden
that has the well in it where Yasaburo’s brother is for most of the first
season transformed into a frog. However, we see a range of lovely gardens
throughout the two seasons of the anime and visually this anime is worth
Number 3: The World Is Still Beautiful
I’m not entirely sure this one fits in with the rest, but I
really like the layout of the garden in this anime. It is incredibly tidy and
sculptured compared to the others on this list, but I remember thinking how
pretty the garden was the first time I watched the anime. And, given a lot of
the story involves Nike trying to convince Livius that the world is beautiful,
the garden features in quite a number of episodes in a variety of weather types.
Number 2: The Ancient Magus’ Bride
Where do you even start with gardens in this story? The
Ancient Magus’ Bride was gorgeous from start to finish and while I ultimately
found the episode count a little too long and the story felt like it meandered
too much, I cannot fault how beautiful they made the countryside look. Whether
it is the garden Chise studies in or the rose garden where we meet the vampire
character, there’s plenty of pretty sites to visit throughout the run of this
anime and ever single scene is worth the effort.
Number 1: Snow White
With The Red Hair
I absolutely love the hillside garden in Snow White With The Red Hair. There are so many plants, forests, and greenhouses in this story and they are all gorgeous, but that hill covered in flowers and medicinal herbs is beautiful to look at and so many key story moments take place on or near the hill. Honestly, let’s just have an OVA that involves all the herbalists working on the hill and I’ll happily watch it. This is the garden that immediately came to mind when I started thinking about this list.
And that’s my list for the week but as always I’d love to know your picks so be sure to let me know what your favourite anime garden is in the comments.
Tuesday’s Top 5 this week features Obi from Snow White With The Red Hair after a conversation I had with Derek following my Up Close post last week on Zen Wisteria. There is no denying Obi has some scene stealing moments so narrowing it down to just 5 was really hard. Here we go, celebrating this great supporting character. As always, this list is made up of my choices but I’d love to know what you would choose so leave me a comment below.
This week I’m giving an honourable mention to the scene where Zen has come back to the castle and Shirayuki, embarrassed and not sure how to face him wants to run. Obi originally stands between them but then he turns and tells Shirayuki to run away. After she does, Obi gives Zen the blunt prompt he needs to chase after her. It’s moments like these that make you realise how well Obi is looking out for these two.
Now I know a lot of people would place this moment higher, and it is a good moment, but for me it doesn’t stand out as much as some of Obi’s, however number 5 is when Obi takes care of Shirayuki when she gets drunk. It is fantastic seeing him joking around with her, trying to keep his distance while still keeping her safe, and mostly just trying to get to the bottom of what was really upsetting Shirayuki. It is a really precious moment between the pair and it also leads to a fairly solid moment between Obi and Zen, so I can see why this would be a lot of people’s favourite Obi moment.
I love seeing Obi in action, even if I do believe he should actually have broken his bones on multiple occasions after jumping off of walls or out of trees. He’s still cool to watch. There’s a fight early on in season two between Obi and Zen because Obi has decided he wants to accompany Shirayuki when she returns to Raj’s Kingdom. The fight is fantastic and shows off both Zen and Obi in action while also making it clear that while Obi has affection for Shirayuki and wants to keep her safe, he knows he’s keeping her safe for Zen.
Alright, this one just made me laugh out loud. Obi is still fairly new in his whole role in the castle and he’s accompanied Shirayuki to the tower by the lake for the test with the bird. The noble guy, having thrown the whistle off the tower thinks he has won and then Shirayuki just jumps in right after it. Obi’s expression as he sees the girl he’s meant to be protecting plummet past the window is pretty priceless. It also shows that while Obi is great in combat he also provides great comic relief in this anime without being too over the top.
Now we get to the tricky ones where I really struggled to split one and two. That’s probably because they both come fairly close together but they are both independently important moments for Obi. At number 2 I have Obi struggling with his feelings. He likes Shirayuki. That is really obvious. And while he remains playfully affectionate around her and maintains a distance knowing she’s with Zen, there’s definitely an internal struggle. Seeing that coming to a head and seeing Obi trying to sort his feelings about Zen, about Shirayuki, about his life since joining Zen is fantastic and it is lovely to see a supporting character getting such a great amount of development. That said, I can totally see why some people ship Shirayuki and Obi, but I’m very much for Zen and Shirayuki with Obi continuing to support the both of them; I really like that dynamic.
I had to give number one to a combat scene. As much as Obi plays a variety of other roles, he is at his best in a fight and there’s a fight in season two where we see Obi unleashed. After Shirayuki is kidnapped Obi drops the playful persona he’s adopted while in the castle and he goes after her. Of course it isn’t as easy as fetch the girl and instead we see Obi get caught up in a fight. It is over quickly but it is an awesome fight and I absolutely love Obi’s expression during the entire sequence. We almost never see him that serious and it was fantastic.
And that’s my list this week but as I said, I’d love to know what your favourite moments are with Obi so please leave a comment below and let’s celebrate such an amazing character.
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.
I’m no stranger to rewatching shows. Even when I was a little kid, I would play VHS’s literally to death. I’d watch my favourite shows and movies time after time, getting to the end of the video and instantly hitting rewind and beginning all over again. Once DVD’s became a thing there were many titles banned from being played in the house usually when I could identify the film from the five seconds of sound. I will admit I’ve watched some films to death to the point where even I won’t watch them anymore and I’ve done the same with more than a handful of books where I start reading them and realise I can literally recall the entire story in vivid detail to the point where I’m not even paying attention to the words anymore.
This is in stark contrast to some other people I know. A certain relative of mine used to be a great source of novels, mostly because he would read science fiction but he only ever read a book once. Then he would give the book away and knowing I loved to read I received quite a number of these books to add to my own collection. When I asked him if he would want the book back he asked me, “Whatever for?” He genuinely could not understand the point of reading something a second time, let alone a third, tenth or fiftieth time. Whereas for me, the point of trying something new is to see whether it belongs in the permanent collection or not and my greatest lament is that I don’t have enough time to bask in the books, movies and anime that comprise my ongoing collection and explore new media, and actually live a life that involves real human interactions and work.
That said, if you were to ask me what I get from a rewatch or reread my answer would vary depending on what I had recently returned to. It seems to come down to a few basic things.
01. The Rewatch To Understand
In the case of something like the original Steins;Gate, Darker than Black, or Evangelion, the rewatch is usually needed to try to get the plot clear in my mind. While I didn’t not get it the first time (way too many negatives there), it is more that a lot of the enjoyment isn’t there the first time because you are spending so much time reasoning and puzzling rather than actually absorbing. It also means you miss substantial amounts of character work, visuals, music, etc because the plot is all encompassing. Repeated rewatches, taking a break and coming back to it, watching in chunks or binge watching, all bring something new out of the experience. Even after the plot is clear, there’s so many other questions and aspects that you can turn your attention to that it never feels like the anime has gotten old.
02. The Rewatch To Relax
There’s a great feeling that comes from crashing into the couch cushions and hitting play on a DVD that I’ve seen a thousand times before. One that I know won’t tax my brain, isn’t going to ask more of me than I can give, and at the time has the exact tone I am looking for. You can’t get this from a series you’ve never seen as you never know what to fully expect and part of your brain stays on alert. Whereas, I know exactly what I’m in for when I press play on Snow White with the Red Hair, Ouran High School Host Club, or even Inu x Boku SS which are all some of my favourite binge and sleep anime that I put on when I just want to crash out.
03. The Rewatch To Share
Of course when you come across a great title you want to share. you want someone else to watch it with and to laugh and cry and discuss each moment with it. One of the best things that happened the first time I watched Yuri on Ice was that just after it finished airing I visited a friend and told her she needed to see it. Two days later we’d finished a binge watch of the series and the two of us were happily humming History Maker in her kitchen together. There’s something about watching a show with someone else that really elevates the enjoyment of it, plus you have someone to talk about it with once it is done so this is perhaps the most satisfying of all rewatches.
And then we have the new one.
04. The Rewatch to Analyse
I’ve never really done this before, but recently I started yet another Yuri on Ice rewatch with the express purpose of reviewing each episode in far more detail than I had before. It’s a new style of watching I’ve never tried and I’m loving it. Admittedly, a lot of the enjoyment is coming from the subject matter, but it is making me want to give other much loved shows a similar treatment. What I have noticed is that it is taking a very long time to get through a single episode and it isn’t a single watch of the episode I am doing. The other thing that makes this different from any other rewatch is I am only watching a single episode at a time. This viewing is not being binged. I’ll get back to my Yuri On Ice rewatch later this year once things settle a bit for me.
While I do get that some people are happy enough to watch something once and move on, I am as well for shows that are enjoyable enough but don’t grab me. However, the whole point for me is finding those shows and stories that I will never get tired of and want to watch and read again and again.
There’s something about growing up on a heavy dose of fairy tales and fantasy that leaves me with this ridiculous urge to still fantasise about the prince riding up on his noble steed and sweeping me off my feet, despite the fact that if common-sense hadn’t knocked that notion out of me, Shrek really should have. And yet, I can’t help but feel my heart do a little skip when we’re introduced to an anime prince who looks like they might be the hero I was holding out for.
With so many princes to choose from it was really hard to narrow down this list so I gave myself a few conditions. Firstly, they had to actually be a prince and not just called a prince (so no Prince of the school on this list). Secondly, no duplicates from the same show. Finally, these princes are in the order in which I personally would like them to come and save me from my mundane life. That said, I’d love to know which prince you’re holding out for.
While these days I’m not the biggest fan of Tuxedo Mask and even as a kid I thought he talked too much, there was something undeniably cool every time we got to see Prince Endymion. His costume for one was a thousand times better than the Tuxedo Mask persona and he had an actual sword rather than a rose and cane so actually looked combat ready. The real tragedy of course is the limited screen time this character got in the original series.
Number 4: Ling Yao (Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood)
Okay, questionable choices aside, Ling Yao is a character who is literally willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. And while at first it might seem like his goals are pretty self-serving, there’s a lot more at stake than it might at first appear. This guy is driven, talented, and willing to go as far as he needs to succeed. What’s not to like?
Of the four Princes in the Royal Tutor, Bruno was the one I consistently liked the most, though all of these princes went through some fairly decent character development throughout the course of the series. Bruno may have been awkward and indecisive at times, but deep down he always just wanted to succeed and he worked hard to achieve his goals. I love a hard working yet awkward prince.
Number 2: Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass)
Did I just say I liked someone awkward? Apparently not, because I’m now jumping to a guy who is literally overflowing with self-confidence. Between you and me, Lelouch would drive me crazy in real life. I’d probably end up slapping his smug face mid-chess game and then work at demolishing him on the board (okay, I don’t like losing either). And yet, there is something undeniably appealing about someone who will take on an entire empire to settle a personal grudge and who ultimately plots his own death in order to save the world. It’s a weird appeal, but it is appealing.
The prince that I think most of us envisioned as kids. The guy who will ride in to save the day but if he can see the situation is under control he’ll just wait patiently until you are done. Sorting most things through words and paperwork but able to draw a sword and go to town when needed, quite literally the fairy tale prince.
I had so much fun writing this list but I’m really looking forward to seeing which princes my readers like. Please let me know your favourite, or your top 5 anime princes in the comments. And next week I’m going to take on my favourite Princesses.
Shirayuki lives in the kingdom of Tanbarun as a herbalist until one day the Prince (having heard of her unusual hair colour) orders her to become his concubine. Rather than accepting that fate, she cuts off her hair (in a somehow perfectly straight line) and crosses the border into the Kingdom of Clarines. There her story really begins.
Alright, I’m going to admit there will be some gushing in this review. And no, I won’t argue that this is a ‘perfect’ anime or story but I am going to argue fairly passionately that this is storytelling done well.
Snow White with the Red Hair starts out very Disney. You’ve got your Princess character (though she is of low birth) and the Prince who wants her (although as a concubine so icky). She runs away and through the forest and comes across an empty house, though because she respects break and entry laws she sits outside and waits for the owner to return. We never do find out who actually owns the house, but a boy named Zen and his two attendants come by because they use the house and this is where the story really takes off. Zen is actually the Prince of Clarines but it isn’t his princliness that get’s Shirayuki’s attention. It is hs general advice about finding her own fate and the two embark on one of the most interesting relationships I’ve probably encountered in romance focussed anime.
Ultimately, this is a love story between Shirayuki and Zen (two of the sweetest and yet well rounded romance anime couples I’ve ever encountered). Both of them have issues, particularly their tendencies to take on everything rather than ask for help, but they are both genuinely striving to improve themselves and to help others. That said, they aren’t sickly sweet to the point of having no other personality. At times Zen is quite stubborn and childish, even having a temper tantrum after losing both a sparring match and a verbal argument with the first prince of Clarines, Izana. He’s also impulsive but has enough sense to heed the words of his attendants (most of the time). Shirayuki is the strong female character done right. She doesn’t need to be a violent psychopath, she uses her words and steely determination to get through things and when all else fails she can accept the occasional rescue. Not that I have anything against female characters who fight, but I found it refreshing to have a female lead who could clearly be labelled strong entirely because of her personality. Anyway, I featured Shirayuki way back when I did my top 5 list of female red heads because she is an amazing character.
Even if the rest of the anime stank, the relationship between Zen and Shirayuki would be enough to sell this story. Fortunately, the rest of the anime is pretty good.
Visually it does look Disney like. From the sweeping shots of the castle in Clarines, the forest sequences, to even the character designs to a point. It is a beautiful anime and has some quite bold colour choices for romance. I normally find romance anime to be a little washed out and faded looking (not all, but a lot), however Snow White goes for some fairly striking colours. The red hair for Shirayuki is obvious, and the various flowers and herbs being used are quite distinct, but even Zen’s standard blue for clothing and eyes, the forest greens, Obi’s darker brown and greens all draw your attention to whatever the current focus of the scene is. The colours work well and distinguishing mood and characters and are just visually appealing.
The music will sweep you away. While it is all pretty standard fairy-tail fare, it is so perfectly chosen to the story that you can’t help but be moved by it. Even the ending carries such a feeling of hope and a sense of moving forward that you kind of just get drawn on to the next episode before you really think about it.
The supporting cast are standout. Kiki and Mitsuhide as Zen’s attendants aren’t just there to be there or fill the background of scenes. They are rich and interesting characters in their own right (though you’ll have to watch season 2 for some more specific details about their relationship). Kiki is a physically strong female, but she is also gentle, caring, occasionally sarcastic (particularly toward Mitsuhide), and proud. Her interactions with Zen, Izana, Mitsuhide, Obi and Shirayuki are always interesting and informative. She’s fairly laconic but her choice of words is quite deliberate and the voice actress, Kaori Nazuka does an excellent job of conveying more meaning to the audience than just the words themselves. I haven’t watched the English dub but I really hope they managed to preserve Kiki’s character.
Mitsuhide at times comes off as a sound board for the other characters, but his is probably the most interesting relationship with Zen (other than Shirayuki) due to their history. This is hinted at several times early on and directly shown when it is revealed that Mitsuhide is the only one Zen really listens to once he’s made his mind up. Later in the series we get a flashback to Zen’s younger days which not only helps explain some of Zen’s emotional baggage but further elaborates on the relationship between Zen and Mitsuhide.
Of course, my favourite character is Obi. He’s so funny and he’s a little bit darker than the other characters so regularly makes fun at their expense. He is also the outside of the group, having first tried to scare off Shirayuki before becoming one of Zen’s attendants. This gives him an outsiders perspective on the group and his insights are usually amusing. His fighting style is also pretty impressive, as is his general agility. Possibly my favourite moment from the series (outside of a Zen and Shirayuki scene) came from the scene where Obi was looking after the drunk Shirayuki.
I’d love to write more about the cast (the other herbalists, the first prince, the prince of Tanbarun, the various villains who show up throughout the series, the couple of nobles we meet) but in honesty it would take too long. Basically, the cast works brilliantly and while no one detracts from the central characters, they all have their moment to shine.
Beyond that, the story itself is always interesting. Yes, this is a romance, but at the same time Shirayuki and Zen are both pursuing their own goals and the romance fits around that. There are episodes focussing on illness and Shirayuki working as a herbalist, episodes that deal with Zen’s childhood, episodes looking at the social status of the Prince and how he is seen by others, and all of this works really well to create a sense of moving forward and makes the moments where Zen and Shirayuki can have a quiet moment together and we see the progress of their relationship even sweeter.
I will say that I’m really glad there was a second season (season 3 where are you) and I will review that separately at some point.
Also, before I wrap this up I do need to add some criticisms.
Why does Shirayuki’s hair not grow at all during the months after she moves to Clarines? Are they trying to suggest she’s cutting it off like that regularly because otherwise there’s no reason for it to still be that short.
How did Shirayuki support herself after moving to Clarines before she passed the test to become a herbalist? She mentions once that she’s going to look for a job but when she finds out about the test she then studies for what seems like it must be weeks but doesn’t work. She has to be paying her rent somehow.
Yeah, they were petty criticisms but they bother me every time I watch this series through.
Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend this anime to people who only like action or darker anime, but for everyone else, this is a must watch.
There are moments in life when you definitely feel down. I originally wrote this post when I just felt like everything around me was falling apart and I didn’t really know how to hold things together. The stress was overwhelming and I felt sick each morning when I woke up. Then as the day wore on I’d realise more and more what sort of a hole I was in emotionally and I’d feel worse until by the end of the day I was just over it. I realised I needed to pick myself up and it wasn’t the first time, wouldn’t be the last.
There are so many bloggers out there who talk about how anime has saved them or given them the strength they’ve needed at a certain time in their life. Realistically, any story can have this impact if it is the right story delivered at the right time and the right way. However, for those of us who call ourselves anime fans, there’s something very special about anime and the way we connect with it and the characters. We know they aren’t real (or at least most of us do). We understand these are drawn or computer generated characters. And yet the emotions we feel while watching them are very real.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that watching Yuri on Ice is an experience in and of itself. Each time Yuri falls down he picks himself back up whether personally or professionally. The reciprocated respect between Yuri and Victor that ultimately becomes a truly beautiful love is amazing to watch and the scene where they exchange rings is absolutely fantastic.
Yet none of that beats the high of seeing Yuri performing his routine, to his chosen music, at the end of the series and finally delivery an awe inspiring performance. While the relationship between the characters is great, the whole cast is interesting, and the music great to listen to, for me the biggest high watching this anime through again is in seeing Yuri’s moment of triumph.
In a way that none of the screaming shounen protagonists have ever been able to do, Yuri’s performance inspires me, lifts me up, and makes me want to smile and cry all at the same time. It makes me want to try things and not give up and for a brief moment I might even crazily think I can accomplish anything and everything I set my mind to. About a minute after that my more cynical and rational mind kicks in and tells me not to get too ambitious but focus on the things I can in fact accomplish with just a bit of effort.
I followed this up with a round of Snow White with the Red Hair. Let’s be honest, Shirayuki is inspirational from episode 1. She never once lets a single thing set her back for too long. She gracefully rises to each challenge she is faced with and continues to look forward on her path. There’s never bitterness or complaints or looking for an easy path. There’s no faltering just because she’s tired. Shirayuki is the kind of character that might really annoy you if you were really feeling down, but after being raised up and inspired by Yuri, Shirayuki gives you a practical approach to walking the path you choose.
And finally, mostly for a laugh, I ended this anime recovery session by watching a single episode of Attack on Titan season 2. The one where Eren first actually kills a titan while in human form. Eren is not my favourite character and yet there’s a definite thrill and joy in seeing him momentarily celebrate this seemingly minor achievement during a battle. On a more serious note though, it does remind us to take time to celebrate the little things. Otherwise, we might get eaten by a titan before we have the chance to celebrate anything.
So while I’m still feeling very tired and behind and like life might just be piling too many things on my shoulders just at the moment, I’m no longer seeing this as a negative. Yuri, Shirayuki and Eren all gave me a reason to look forward, to embrace the challenge, to celebrate small successes, and to remember that I can choose to continue to wallow or I can choose to try to make my situation better. I may not always succeed at what I set my mind to, but I can certainly make some progress with effort.
Once again I find myself very thankful I am an anime fan.
So I’ll leave you with the question of which anime characters have ever inspired you?