Protected: February 2018 Podcast – Romance

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Sequels

I tend to run sequels down a lot (see Feature Discussing Sequels and Prequels), which is sometimes justified, but occasionally there are sequels, part 2’s, and follow ups that actually do add something to a series and are fairly enjoyable to watch. So I decided to think about all the good sequels out there for a top 5 list. This is my opinion and I’ve chosen sequels that I felt added something actually necessary to a story but were entertaining in their own right. I’d love to know what some of your favourite sequels are.

I did however disqualify long running shows without clear divisions between seasons (Bleach etc).

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Sailor Moon (Third Season), Natsume Yuujinchou (not sure if this counts as long running without clear division so left it off the list, but every season is amazing), Full Metal Panic (Second Raid is fantastic), and Noragami (Second season was amazing, but where’s the third as this story still isn’t finished).

Number 5: Clannad After Story

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I’d be the first to say that Clannad wasn’t really my thing as an anime. It is a beautiful story and there are some really great elements to it, but it just isn’t my type of show. That said, I watched through all of it and even cried so it works well enough and for people who like the genre it is probably an even more moving experience. After Story is a perfect follow up to the original series. It narrows the focus to the main characters, though all the other characters are still there, and it legitimately adds to their characters. Not to mention, it finally reveals what was going on during some of the stranger moments in season one. As a sequel or follow up it does everything a show needs to and is perfectly entertaining on its own (though you’ll probably miss some of the character moments if you haven’t sat through season 1).

Number 4: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai

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Follow up to Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (or When They Cry, When the Cicadas Cry, or whatever other title you’d like to give it), this is a fantastic sequel. I actually watched this first, not knowing it was the second part, and while the first loop was a bit confusing due to me not having a clue who anyone was, I soon figured out what was going on and this is the part of this series that actually solves the mystery of who is behind the tragedy.  While the first season is fine, by itself it is unsatisfying. Lots of loops, lots of violence, there are clues and character moments, but it doesn’t end. Season 2 builds on all those clues and character moments and gives us a very dramatic final confrontation. It legitimately works by itself as a story and is highly entertaining (you know, if you are in to horror).

Number 3: Kimi ni Todoke

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Now this is more just an ongoing story. Season 1 has our main character, Sawako, slowly coming out of her shell and making friends. Yes, there’s a guy involved and there’s romantic insinuations, but the romantic aspect decidedly takes a back seat to building confidence and friendships. Having already established that in season 1, season 2 squarely turns the focus on Sawako’s ongoing relationship with Kazehaya and whether it is respect or love she feels. For someone who has only just learned about friendship, there’s a lot that can go wrong as she treads her way into romance and season 2 takes us through all the ups and downs until we finally get to the moment we’ve all been waiting for. An excellent follow up on a very cute romance.

Number 2: Snow White With the Red Hair

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Possibly this is a theme given how many relationship heavy shows have ended up on this list, but I really felt Shirayuki and Zen had more story to tell after season 1, and season 2 proved that right though not as I expected. Rather than focussing fully on their relationship, season 2 kind of scattered the focus giving lots of other relationships time to develop and be revealed. It was deeply satisfying seeing various characters have their moment, while an overall narrative involving Shirayuki’s kidnapping played out, but it did kind of leave the show with little time at the end to address the main question of Shirayuki and Zen. Which of course means we’re left with a sweet but not final ending and why is there no season 3? Still, this sequel does the job of advancing the characters and the plot logically and adding to what we know about them and the world, so it succeeds even if it still felt unfinished.

Number 1: Assassination Classroom

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Much like Kimi ni Todoke, season 1 of this focussed very much on building the characters up. They were learning skills, facing themselves, overcoming past difficulties, before they had the final test when the class was put in legitimate danger. Season 2 shifts the focus dramatically to the motive for the assassination and trying to find a way around it, dividing opinions and characters. While there’s definitely some filler in season 2, the sheer number of excellent character moments, before we get to the very final and necessary conclusion, makes this a sequel that was needed and it delivered on the promise way back in season 1. Thoroughly enjoyable watch though one could argue the end was dragged out just a little too long. Despite that, it was unforgettable.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime With A Colour in the Title

This week’s list is a bit strange but I started wondering about how many anime actually used colours as part of their title and that took me down a meandering mental path that I won’t bore you with but the end result was this list. Essentially my favourite 5 anime that use any colour in the title. Now, to simplify things, I went with the English name of the anime (assuming they have one). Otherwise, my only other real consideration other than enjoyment was that the colour actually served some significant point in the story (symbolic or literal) and wasn’t just a random word thrown into the title. That, and I tried to avoid multiple titles with the same colour but that gave me a real headache trying to decide between Black Butler and Darker Than Black.

I’d love to know your favourite anime that uses a colour in the title so feel free to comment below.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: Red Data Girl and Black Butler (sorry Sebastian, but I just couldn’t pass over Darker Than Black on the list).

Number 5: Blue Spring Ride

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While I’m not a hopeless romantic I really did enjoy this story. The main character is kind of pitiful at the beginning as she endeavors to fit in by essentially denying her own character and then she kind of gets crushed when she reveals herself and is rejected, but the slow build-up from that low point is kind of sweet and the romantic element of the show is kind of adorable. Plus, when deciding between this or Blue Exorcist for the list (which were the two blue titles I narrowed it down to), Blue Exorcist just didn’t seem to have enough of a reason for the name other than the whole blue flame thing (though there might be some deeper reason I just overlooked).

Number 4: Golden Time

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It might be hard to claim I’m not a hopeless romantic with some of the titles on this list, but I loved Golden Time. Banri was great as the lead and I liked that even though he was kind of the every guy he wasn’t a complete push over. He did break up with Koko when he realised she was using him, which actually slapped some sense into her (metaphorically) and allowed their relationship to progress more naturally after that point. Okay, he is a convenient amnesiac and the story doesn’t really work if you start applying too much logic to it (and what about Linda), but that doesn’t stop it being really kind of sweet.

Number 3: Snow White with the Red Hair

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Okay, I like romance and romance apparently is full of anime with coloured titles. Besides, you had to know this one was coming on the list and it takes out two colours simultaneously, so points for being an over-achiever. Zen and Shirayuki are quite possibly my favourite anime couple ever. Basically, this one is adorable from start to finish and I’m completely in love with this anime which means the two anime coming are ones I am even more insanely in love with for various reasons and despite their flaws.

Number 2: Darker Than Black

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As might have been obvious from my choice of this anime for my 100th review, I really love Darker Than Black. It is one of those anime I never get enough of rewatching. There are some cool characters with awesome powers and a storyline that makes you think (just don’t over think it because it won’t hold up to the scrutiny) and it is fun. The other thing I love about this anime is that it appeals to non-anime fans and I’ve managed to convince quite a number of people to watch it with me over the years given there are minimal moments where you have to use the “it’s anime” excuse for something on the screen. Considering all the other anime out there with black in the title, this should have been a hard decision but Darker Than Black is not just one of my favourite anime with a colour in the title, it is one of my favourite anime of all time.

Number 1: D Gray Man

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But what beats Darker Than Black? Allan Walker and one of the most misery inducing stories I’ve ever watched and loved every single minute of. D Gray Man ran for 103 episodes before leaving us mid-narrative, completely stranded. The story returned in D Gray Man Hallow with new character designs and a brighter colour scheme in general but it just continued on as if 8 years hadn’t passed. And then it was only 13 episodes and gone again barely progressing the plot. Despite all of that and everything this show has done to drive me away, I’m still in love with this story. Partially, it is because I watched it when I hadn’t seen such a huge amount of anime but mostly it is because of what the show puts Allan Walker through and how he responds to it. He isn’t the happy-go-lucky protagonist who occasionally snaps. He isn’t a shouter. He isn’t a calm and collected genius. Nor is he simply a crazy berserker. Allan is a person in every way and a person who has been through some of the worst experiences imaginable and somehow is still mostly nice but has an undeniable dark streak (just try playing cards with him to see that in action). Following Allan, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve stared in stunned shock at the screen, I’ve yelled at him, I’ve supported him, and to be honest he is a character that I will never get over. The show has its rough edges and doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it is most definitely one of my favourite anime ever.

So there’s my list. What would have included on yours?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Questions I’d Like To Ask While Watching Snow White with the Red Hair

There’s a mouthful of a list name and I know I recently did my top 5 Zen and Shirayuki moments from season 1 after doing a rewatch of the show. However, while watching I also came up with a lot of questions for the characters that I’d just love to ask so I finally decided to put them in a top 5 list.

Any question you want to ask of this show? Or is there another anime that’s just left you with a whole bunch of questions you would like answered?

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week: Why is every sunset picturesque? Seriously, every single one. Secondly, where is the king of Clarines? Izana is a Prince and Zen is the second prince, but where is the King and why isn’t he having any say in the goings on in the palace?

Number 5: Why does Shirayuki’s hair never get any longer?

Shirayuki

I get that she cuts her hair in episode 1 (through the extremely silly method of tying it up, pulling it over her shoulder and then snipping it – does she know how uneven and lopsided that would make the cut) but after that her hair never grows an inch. I’m never entirely sure of the time frame for the events in this anime but realistically she should either have to keep trimming her hair to keep it that length or it should be growing back. Yet, nothing. Magic hair.

Number 4: Why is Obi never injured after jumping and or falling so far?

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Given this show fairly realistically limits the character actions to things humans are actually capable of, and injures them appropriately for even minor falls and scrapes, how does Obi not have multiple broken bones. Is it like he’s the only character who gets to apply standard anime physics to his actions? Because, more than once, he is either knocked off of or jumps off of a roof, castle wall, balcony, etc and he pretty much never sustains an injury from the landing. As much as I love Obi, a few times I just kind of wanted to see him at least sprain an ankle.

Number 3: What happens to the other apprentice herbalist?

HerbalistWhen Shirayuki did the exam there were two apprentices taken on. Shrayuki got assigned to Ryu and the other one… Do we ever even see him again? Possibly he just works in another wing of the medical building but as far as I can tell we just literally never see him again. Why even have a second person pass the exam if they aren’t going to do anything in the story?

Number 2: How does Shirayuki pay for her room and board while in Clarines?

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Shirayuki arrives in Clarines and she’s boarding in a room. She says herself she needs to find work so that she can afford to eat and goes to the local herbalist. There she finds out about the exam and we know she then studies for that. In the meantime, what is her source of income? We only really see her going with Zen to various places and studying herbs. Is she working? If not, how is she eating?

Number 1: Why doesn’t Prince Izana understand how sleeves work?

Seriously, if Izana wants a cloak or a cape, why not just wear one?  I don’t think he ever wears his jacket as a jacket in the entire first season. The sleeves are just hanging off the side, completely ignored and useless. This is really impractical and fairly silly when you think about it. Okay, I got a little distracted by this particular choice in fashion by the first prince. But really, why?

Your turn. What questions would you like to ask of Snow White with the Red Hair, or any anime?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Zen and Shirayuki Moments

I promised this one on Twitter and I kind of had to do this list anyway because while rewatching the first season of Snow White with the Red Hair I fell in love with this couple all over again. I also realised just how many good moments they had together on screen. Which is kind of odd in a romance because normally you get like one good moment early on and then nothing with both characters except awkwardness and misunderstandings until about half-way and so on. Zen and Shirayuki are adorable from the get-go and continue to be pretty adorable in nearly every episode. My conditions this week are simple: Zen and Shirayuki had to both be actively involved in the scene and it had to come from season 1 (because I didn’t rewatch season 2 yet and I already had way too many moments to think about for this list).

Over on my patreon site I will be counting down my lesser 5 moments of this anime. Those moments that just made me cringe. This one is just for patrons, though there are other posts and reviews for non-patrons to check out.

Please Note – Plenty of spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched this romance.

Honourable mentions go to: Episode 7 when Shirayuki climbed up the tree to reach Zen on the balcony and Episode 11 when Shirayuki ran away into the forest and Zen had to chase her.

Number 5: Episode 1, the forest walk

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I loved this scene. Watching these two talk so naturally, Zen refusing to help Shirayuki until she came clean, his outrage that she’d been asked to become a concubine. It really is the start of something great between these two characters.

Number 4: Episode 4, the medical records

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There are a lot of adorable moments in episode 4 (and not all of them are from Zen and Shirayuki) but I loved this moment where Zen comes to Shirayuki after hearing she’s crying and comforts her as she reads through his medical records. I always love in movies where a character says off-hand they’ve developed an immunity to a poison and I just wonder if they realise how painful that would actually be to do. This show tackles the off-hand remark from episode 1 head-on and deals with Shirayuki’s understanding of what Zen has gone through to be who he is in a fairly solid manner.

Number 3: Episode 10, the kiss in the tower

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Alright, a lot of people would have put this at number 1 and it is a great moment. Shirayuki has admitted that she wasn’t going to be stubborn this time and she’s fully thrown her support behind Zen. Zen on the other hand has just been scared she got hurt because of his decision and he’s relieved and proud and just overwhelmed. It’s an adorable scene. Still not my number 1 choice for Zen and Shirayuki moments even though it is definitely a welcome addition.

Number 2: Episode 4, the greenhouse

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This one is one of my favourite moments and comes from what is arguably my favourite episode of the show. I loved Zen sneaking into the greenhouse to check up on Shirayuki during the exam and then his annoyance at being trapped with her. I love her absolute  indifference to that issue when she’s fixated on the plants that aren’t blooming right. And I think it is truly fantastic watching the two of them work together to fix the garden. Plus, Shirayuki is still all chipper and ready to go come morning whereas Zen is looking a little worse for wear.

Number 1: Episode 5, Zen helps Shirayuki sleep

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This moment is so incredibly sweet. Zen’s just realised the strain Shirayuki has put herself under and feels incredibly guilty given he asked for her help. Rather than force a confrontation he simply gets her to sit down and then proceeds to get her to fall asleep in a fairly calm manner and for someone as exhausted as Shirayuki was that’s more or less all it would have taken. Its incredibly sweet and shows that Zen isn’t flawless as the Prince (something that we may have questioned up to this point) and also shows that Shirayuki is not indestructible, no matter what she might believe. It’s a great moment for both characters. What drives it above the kiss and the greenhouse is that it is a true show of mutual respect and care for one another without needing anything as showy as a kiss and without the ‘are they still just friends’ vibe of the greenhouse.

What are your favourite Zen and Shirayuki moments from season 1?


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Friday’s Feature: On Romance in Anime

As we get ready for Valentine’s Day (or get ready to be totally indifferent to anything that might resemble a public declaration of affection) I thought it was a good time to focus on romance and how it is portrayed in anime. This week I’m looking at the warm and fluffy side of romance. Next week, I’m going to look at some of the less pleasant portrayals of romance.

One of my first top 5 lists was a list of my favourite romantic anime. I’m going to draw on a lot of examples from these anime in my discussion this week. So what are the common features of these sweet and romantic anime?

01. For the most part they are focussed on the female in the relationship. While some shows (particularly a few in recent years) have portrayed romance from a male’s point of view (or at least a male character’s point of view) to majority of romance focussed anime follow the girl. This isn’t really surprising given the target audience for most romance anime are girls and as a general rule the romantic genre appeals more to a female audience. And while there are a lot of self-insert girls out there with limited personality besides a love of cooking and cleaning, because romance is such a prolific genre what we find are an array of female leads. From the super shy and fairly stereotypical right through to the oblivious and aggressive.

But that’s what makes romance so great is that if one doesn’t work for you there are plenty of other characters and romances to follow.

02. This one isn’t in every anime but it is a common feature. The love interest starts out being kind of a jerk and the girl doesn’t like him very much. Then something happens and suddenly she sees him in a new light. This is actually pretty standard in all romances really (and a staple of romantic comedies) and it probably exists because otherwise you have to introduce external tension and conflict early on before the characters have really been established. By creating tension between the two you can focus more or less entirely on the characters without boring the audience to death with their adoring stares.

I’m not the biggest fan of this particular cliché because I’ve never understood why the girl continues to interact with someone who is that much of a jerk, but I do understand from a narrative point of view why it works. Besides, Tomoe may have been nasty to Nanami but he still ends up being one of my favourite male leads in a romance.

03. The epiphany moment. Despite being in a romance, the characters tend to be unusually dense about their emotions and the state of their relationship. Either one or both of the characters needs to realise they are actually in love or that the other one actually likes them or something. Usually this is accompanied by sparkles, tears, or sometimes a punch because why not. However it is the reveal moment for the character that the audience have been waiting for forever because the character is usually the last to realise it. But hey, at least most of us don’t believe we have arrhythmia because our heart starts beating fast at the sight of the guy.

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04. There’s almost always a rival. Again, this is one of those necessary staples in order to inject some sort of tension or conflict into a story that is basically two people staring into each other’s eyes ad nauseum and rivals can add quite a bit of personality to the story. Probably my favourite rival ever is Kurumi from Kimi ni Todoke. That’s mostly because she pretty much demonstrates every charactersitic a rival might have rather than just being one type. It’s kind of interesting to watch her character transition.

While I don’t like her manipulative efforts early on (and we aren’t supposed to) you have to admit, Kurumi is a hard worker and ultimately she wasn’t really a nasty person so much as someone who was very driven by her goals. What makes her truly exceptional is that when she finally does confess and get turned down, she accepts this with reasonable grace and uses it as a chance to grow a bit as a person. A little bit. She still stirs the pot occasionally but mostly she moves on.

05. In anime romance tends to only get to the confession and dating stage, again there are exceptions. The vast majority finish the final episode on the confession, the first date, or a kiss and that is as much as we are getting of that story. Then again, given how red most of the characters get just trying to say the name of the person they are in love with I guess we can’t expect much more from them and it really isn’t needed given its the emotion of the relationship that has been conveyed.

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There’s probably a cultural reason for this trend and it isn’t as if the romance is any worse for the lack of physical displays of affection, however it is interesting watching teenage characters get flustered over eye contact or brushing their finger tips.

Well, that does it from me today. What are your favourite parts of romantic anime or what is your favourite romantic anime?


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Reflections on Anime in 2016 – The Best and The Worst of the Year (in my opinion)

It’s the first day of the year so let’s look back at the year that was. I know that at the end of Summer I did my first reflection post looking back at the anime I’d watched and  I purposefully left D Gray Man and Sailor Moon Crystal 3 off the lists because nostalgia was strong with those two. But now we are at the end of the year and I’m not playing nice anymore. I’m giving my lists of top 10 best and worst for 2016 and finally the results from the reader’s poll.

My rules:

  • I need to have watched the whole series (or as much as has aired in 2016 – I know some of these are continuing on).
  • My judgement is entirely based on the entertainment I got out of watching the anime.
  • Feel free to suggest your own top 10 best or worst in the comments.

Starting from the best.

  1. Yuri on Ice
  2. D Gray Man Hallow
  3. Natsume Yuujinchou
  4. Assassination Classroom 2nd Season
  5. Snow White with the Red Hair Season 2
  6. March Comes in Like a Lion
  7. My Hero Academia
  8. Alderamin on the Sky
  9. Erased
  10. Sailor Moon Crystal 3

Yeah, I can’t believe it either but Yuri on Ice actually edged out D Gray Man Hallow on anime I enjoyed watching. Neither anime is perfect (and I’ll happily admit to the flaws in both) but when it came to pure enjoyment I couldn’t beat either of these and in terms of the anime I’ll rewatch the most from this year, these 2 are the top picks. So why Yuri over D Gray Man? D Gray Man Hallow always had the advantage of nostalgia, but if I take that away, while I would have still enjoyed Hallow (assuming it made sense) it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable as the viewing experience for Yuri. In terms of the anime I sat waiting to the minute for the episode release, Yuri on Ice definitely won out.

However, for everything you enjoy there is a show that you watch and wonder why. Once again, I know there are worse anime out there, but these are the anime I watched all the way through and really wonder why.

Starting from the worst.

  1. Taboo Tattoo
  2. Big Order
  3. Lost Village
  4. Hitorinoshita
  5. Divine Gate
  6. Dimension W
  7. Nazotokine
  8. Norn 9
  9. Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle
  10. Bloodivores

What was pleasantly surprising was how few of the Autumn season found their way onto this list. Mostly the shows I watched in Autumn were more boring than terrible (though I did avoid a few shows that I knew were going to end up in this category so they didn’t count on the having watched them criteria).

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The Reader’s Poll

I was surprised by some of the results and not surprised by others. Probably the biggest issue is there were only 54 votes total so from a data point of view this probably isn’t the most valid survey. Anyway…

  1. Yuri on Ice (7 votes)
  2. Assassination Classroom 2 (6 votes)
  3. Mob Psycho 100 (6 votes)
  4. Tanaka-kun is Always Listless (5 votes)
  5. Bungo Stray Dogs (3 votes)
  6. Erased (3 votes)
  7. March Comes in Like a Lion (3 votes)
  8. Kiss Him Not Me (3 votes)
  9. Flip Flappers (3 votes)
  10. Grimgar of Fantasy of Ash (3 votes)

With that I say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in 2017 for a whole new year of watching anime.

By the way, over the next 4 weeks my Tuesday’s Top 5 post is going to do a recap of 2016. Top 5 Female Characters of 2016 is up first, followed by Top 5 Male Characters of 2016, Top 5 Visually Interesting Anime of 2016 and finally Top 5 Opening Themes of 2016. Then I will move on to something different but I felt January was a great time to recap the previous year.

Over to you: Which anime was your favourite or most hated from 2016?

Snow White with the Red Hair Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

We’re back in Clarines with Shirayuki, Zen and the rest but Zen’s brother Izana is scheming again. Shirayuki is sent to Tanbarun (her home kingdom) to attend a ball with Prince Raj and Zen is not invited. After some touching moments there, Shirayuki is kidnapped and then we spend most of the rest of the season rescuing Shirayuki.

Review:

Season 2’s are always a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of the wow factor has faded away and the characters have already developed to a certain extent and relationships have been forged. It’s hard to balance ongoing development, while maintaining what people like about a show, and manage to keep it interesting and fresh.

So does Season 2 of Snow White with the Red Hair succeed?

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The answer is mostly.

I absolutely loved season 1, as you probably figured from my review, and I fell in love with the characters. I particularly liked the relationship that had developed and consolidated between Shirayuki and Zen. This is where season 2 took a big risk. Most of the season separates these characters and at first it seems like a really contrived way to stretch out a love story. However, by the time Zen realises that Shirayuki is in potential danger and goes chasing into the next kingdom to get her back, you realise we kind of needed to see these characters apart again.

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Part of what fans of the series loved was Shirayuki’s independence even as she became closer to Zen. In order for the audience to realise that Shirayuki is still that intelligent and independent character we need to have her travel on her own, take on Raj as a person, and genuinely stand on her own two feet. It might seem disappointing that this interlude is ended when she is kidnapped leading to the need have not one but two princes follow after her to rescue her, the kidnapping doesn’t make Shirayuki appear weak. Yeah, she is genuinely in over her head and she isn’t getting out of it on her own. And yes, she’s scared. But she still faces this challenge with her usual quiet determination and while there are some excellent moments where her fear and anxiety is allowed to show, for the most part she is very calm under extreme circumstances.

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More importantly, Zen as a character didn’t get as many chances to shine in season 1. He had his moment or two, but Shirayuki stole the show out from under him. It’s important that we see him refusing to let Shirayuki go, refusing to allow a difficult political situation (or his brother) stand in his way, and that he has learned a lot about how to take on challenges in his time with Shirayuki in season 1.

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So both Zen and Shirayuki get to show us the full extent of their growth since coming together. And they are only given this chance because the show took a risk and split them apart. Not in a childish or petty fight (like some stories would have), but by a series of circumstances that force them to rise to the occasion.

We also get far more back story for the attendants. Kiki get’s her moment and while I was less fond of these episodes, they certainly helped us develop a clearer picture of the fairly stoic character. We also see more of her relationship with Mitsuhide and these moments are really quite cute. That said, I felt like they were also some of the weaker moments of the season.

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Obi, on the other hand, glowed. We see his relationship with both Shirayuki and Zen pushed and tested. One of my favourite moments came when Obi challenged Zen to a fight in order to prove he was able to be Shirayuki’s attendent while she was away. And Obi’s reaction when he failed to protect Shirayuki from being kidnapped was priceless. Pretty much every scene with Obi this season was spot on and I’m glad we got to meet someone from his past. Even though most of what was revealed we could have guessed, it was excellent seeing this get some screen time.

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We also meet Shirayuki’s father which is all kinds of interesting but I won’t say anymore about that because it would ruin the surprise if you haven’t watched.

My main criticisms of season 2 are these:

  1. The herbalists are all but non-existent. Which given how hard Shirayuki worked to become a court herbalist during season 1 just seems a little drastic. I know she doesn’t have a lot of time to make medicine while being kidnapped and all, but it just felt like this aspect of the show (and a crucial part of her character) really got sidelined for most of the season.
  2. What was with that ending? Unless we get a season 3, I am never going to be able to watch season 2 without wanting to knock Zen over the head (or Shirayuki – not sure who deserves it more after that last episode). Yes, anime relationships in sweet romances are notorious for moving slowly but that was ridiculous. Without saying what happened, when I finished the last few minutes of the final episode I immediately searched to see if a third season had been announced because it just felt like it was unfinished. Yes, we can fill in the blanks on our own, but no, I don’t want to, I want to see it.

Once again though, Snow White with the Red Hair has delivered a really nice fairy-tale like story that just makes you feel happy to be watching. If you haven’t checked it out, give it a go.

Snow White with the Red Hair Season 1 Series Review

Overview:

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.

Review:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.