Note: If you haven’t watched the first episode and don’t want to be exposed to spoilers, please consider doing so before returning to read this post. I don’t want to affect your enjoyment of the first episode and (possibly, but most likely not) the anime as a whole.
Let me start off by saying that shoujo anime and manga never appealed to me. 少女 (shoujo) literally means girl. (If we get into the specifics of the kanji, it can also translate to “young girl”. Wow, my two years of Japanese make me feel like an expert.) Shoujo is a demographic that is obviously aimed at a teenage female readership. Somehow, I ended up watching the first episode of Snow White with the Red Hair (also known as Akagami no Shirayukihime). When I first read the synopsis, I was intrigued, but still hesitant to watch it. Surprisingly, I ended the episode on an overwhelmingly positive note and even ended up watching it a second time. Here I am, posting my reasons for enjoying this anime besides the smooth animation and gorgeous art style that are delivered by Bones.
Allusions to the Source Material
I’ll say it here: don’t be fooled by the title; this is not a reboot of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. No, there weren’t any dwarf sightings in the first episode. The anime clearly intends to do its own thing, plot and characters included. It does, however, allude to familiar events, but it’s not a copy-paste job (some are just played for laughs). These little references are neat little reward to the viewers. To be honest, we’re probably going to run out of these soon. There’s just not enough material to go on for a 13-episode cour. Nevertheless, I still had fun recognizing these small details, even if they only happen in this episode. (I’m not saying that it’s going to happen. It’s just speculation.)
A Likeable and Useful Protagonist
Our protagonist, Shirayuki (or Snow White if you so desire), is an herbalist (a dealer of medicine). One minute into the show, and you can see that she is adored by the citizens for not only her looks, but also her hard-working and positive attitude. She creates all of her medicine from scratch, hunting for medicinal herbs at the crack of dawn before opening up her store. She has lots of moral integrity, putting the needs of her customers (and complete strangers) before her own. Yes, this woman is a medic. A pretty darn skilled one, at that. The fact that she’s a medic makes her actually useful, instead of being a “moral support” character. She’s also not a loli vampire, moe blob, or a horny high school girl, which is a big refresher for me. There’s nothing wrong with having no blatant fanservice whatsoever! (Fanservice has been irritating me lately. It’s rather abused, too.)
The Male Lead is a Bag of Fun
Zen feels like the physical embodiment of cliché tropes, and yet, I couldn’t dislike him for that. He pulls off those romance bits really well. I was actually having a hard time explaining (in detail) why I find him a likeable character, so I created a list to simplify the process.
I found Zen to be a likeable character for the following reasons:
- He doesn’t look like a pretty-boy (to me, at least).
- He pokes fun at his friends (or rather, one of them), which gives the anime (and his character) some added flair.
- He provides the show with some entertaining action. This was an especially huge benefit to my enjoyment factor. It also most likely reversed my decision of entirely dropping the anime.
Zen’s Friends Are Better Than I Thought
In every romance anime I have ever watched, the side characters are given naught but one purpose: lighten the mood at romantic moments. That’s what happens when Kiki and Mitsuhide get their screen time, but they can actually resist ruining the (possibly) romantic events. I was surprised to learn that they are capable of being serious when the plot dives into that moment of “Hey, what the—? Well, that’s not good... ” and become concerned when some
poisoned apples bad things happen. There’s something about them that makes me feel like they have a purpose in the story.
The Romance is Not Developed in the First Episode
Yes, Zen pulled out some smooth lines to cheer Shirayuki up. He does have some little romantic bits (like the apple scene), and he ends up saving Shirayuki from the oddball prince who
couldn’t distinguish a human and a mirror apart wanted Shirayuki as a concubine.
- (in polygamous societies) A woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife or wives.
- A mistress.
I could say our protagonist is immensely grateful to Zen for her rescue and she can go ahead and entrust her life to him. Cue confession time! Or not. Neither Shirayuki nor Zen explicitly state they have any feelings towards the other. At this stage, Zen only established a friendship with Shirayuki. That’s perfectly fine. It’s pretty obvious they’ll get together, but jumping straight into confessions right off the bat just doesn’t work for me.
My Final Thoughts
Despite my disinterest in shoujo anime/manga, I can tell you without a doubt that Snow White with the Red Hair was an unexpectedly welcome surprise. It wasn’t just likeable; it completely and utterly destroyed my expectations, and I’m glad it did. Bones’ artwork and animation for this anime is an absolute pleasure to look at. My eyes tend to wander around the screen to gaze at the backgrounds. If there’s one thing I’m pleased with, it’s that Shirayuki isn’t a sexualized character. It’s a blessing after watching too many action anime with hot spring trips and other needless fanservice tropes. I can fully appreciate her as a character and protagonist. She’s also the designated medic, making her more useful than other protagonists I’ve seen. This anime took everything I didn’t like about the romance genre and polished it to perfection (in my opinion). If you’re looking for a promising romance with entertaining characters, I think this anime is definitely worth your time.
Snow White with the Red Hair (Akagami no Shirayukihime) is a ongoing manga written and illustrated by Sorata Akizuki that began in 2006. It has recently received an anime adaptation that is planned to run for two seasons. Funimation has acquired licensing rights and will stream the anime as it airs in Japan, with new episodes released every Monday on Funimation’s official website.