Top 5 Obi Moments From Snow White With The Red Hair

Tuesday's Top 5

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.

Honourable Mentions:

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.

Snow White With The Red Hair - Obi

Number 5:

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.

Snow White With The Red Hair - Obi looks after Shirayuki

Number 4:

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.

Snow White With The Red Hair - Obi and Zen Fight

Number 3:

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.

Snow White With The Red Hair - Obi watches Shirayuki Fall

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Number 2:

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.

Snow White With The Red Hair - Obi

Number 1:

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.

Snow White With The Red Hair - Obi goes to fight

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.

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

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.

shirayuki_5a

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.

screenshot_2015-08-31-15-16-34

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.

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

Tuesday's Top 5

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?

Obi2.png

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?

Shirayuki2

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

Tuesday's Top 5

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

ZenXShirayuki5.JPG

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

ZenXShirayuki4.JPG

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

zenxshirayuki3

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

zenxshirayuki2

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

zenxshirayuki1

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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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?

snow1-2

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.

akagami-no-shirayukihime-episode-21-08-18_2016-03-08_15-05-02

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.

akagami-no-shirayukihime-episode-17-22-03_2016-02-08_19-17-54

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.

snow_white_red_hair_cast_characters_summer_2015_anime_bentobyte

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.