Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 02

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The OP presages Shirayuki as a Court Herbalist of Clarines, but we’re not quite there yet; this episode opens on her job hunt as a new resident of Wistal, capital of Clarines. She learns there’s an annual exam to become a Court Herbalist, but she wants to educate herself about the herbs of Clarines, knowing that good medicines need good herbs need good land.

Prince Zen is delighted to get out of stodgy paperwork when she visits the palace, and he escorts her to the dock where she’ll travel to the mountain isle Koto to explore, but not before Zen remarks how their desire to learn more about their world and become better at what they do is very similar.

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But when two townsfolk talk about how unusual Shirayuki’s hair is (and what it could make them if sold), along with Shirayuki saying “she’ll be back by nightfall”, it’s pretty much a given that things aren’t going to turn out peachy for her on this trip. Sure enough, she’s captured by a young rogue named Mihaya, who—you guessed it—wants to make money off that hair.

Just when I was hoping Shirayuki would attempt escape as soon as she could, she does just that, sawing at the ropes, locking Mihaya in the cell, then using her knowledge of herbs to make a smoke that temporarily paralyzes him. This captivity represents a roadblock on Shirayuki’s self-decided road, with a detour to a road not of her choosing. And she simply isn’t gonna have it.

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She makes it out of the seemingly abandoned, labyrinthine castle, only to get cornered once more by Mihaya, who is now pissed off. He then gives her patter about how he’ll sell her to someone rich so she can live a comfy life of luxury. Unlike the last time she was kidnapped (by Prince Raj), she doesn’t give in, replying with a “Fuck That Noise” expression.

For this defiance, she’s about to take whatever punishment Mihaya is about to dish out, when Zen appears in the nick of time, which is just when we thought he’d arrive. Yes, the guy is rescuing the girl again, but Shirayuki is hardly a damsel in distress, demonstrating she did everything an unarmed person could have done in her situation. Also, she made things a lot easier for Zen by escaping from the castle.

I’d like to think if Zen hadn’t been able to make it, Shirayuki would have kept fighting Mihaya until she either escaped his clutches or he let her go out of exasperation. That’s how much faith I place in Shirayuki’s strength and resolve to travel her own path. She’s a fighter. I really like her!

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Zen also makes it clear, he’s saving Shirayuki not so he can use her as a tool, or a means to recoup a lost family fortune like Mihaya (I don’t particularly care about his story, he abducted someone, he deserves prison), but because he considers himself Shirayuki’s friend. And friends help their friends out when they’re in trouble.

Sure, I can see things being taken further than friendship, but like Shirayuki’s appointment to the Court, that’s yet to come. For now, Shirayuki resolves to watch her back, as her hair really does cause trouble; yet I like how there’s no discussion of dyeing it. Shirayuki isn’t trying to hide, she’s trying to better herself and live a free and fulfilling life doing what she loves.

Even before her trusty friends show up, those who threaten he freedom will find her a wily, resourceful handful. Bottom line: don’t mess with someone who doesn’t want to be messed with…and knows fifty ways to poison you!

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 01 (First Impressions)

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In a new re-imagining of the fairy tales of yore, in which Shirayuki (Snow White, voiced by Hayami Saori) is perfectly content with her life as an herbalist until the unscrupulous prince of her territory, Raj, learns of her rare red hair and decrees she is to become his concubine.

Rather than face that future, Shirayuki flees, and by chance meets a trio of young swordsmen led by Zen. After healing his bruised arm, he offers her shelter at an abandoned house they use, but it isn’t long before a basket of apples from Prince Raj arrives. Zen eats one and is poisoned, and Shirayuki is captured and brought before Raj. 

Shirayuki is about to relent to Raj in exchange for the antidote for Zen, but a healthy Zen bursts in, revealing himself as the second prince of the neighboring Clarines and getting Raj to agree not to pursue Shirayuki any further. Shirayuki chooses to go with him to his kingdom and continue writing her own story.

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This was an exceedingly well-polished, gleaming, rich and verdant outing; one that felt like a movie in miniature (one produced by Studio Ghibli rather than Mickey), with a well-developed arc from start to finish. Things look peachy for Shirayuki but her fortunes fall fast and she snips that seemingly accursed hair and runs…out of the kingdom of a pig and into the company of someone willing to view her not as a piece of property, but an equal.

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I like the idea of Shirayuki wanting to write her own tale, and that tale is to be the best damn herbalist she can be. It’s what she’s trained for and it’s what she wants to do. Whatever Raj wants (and I have a fairly good idea), he won’t let her decide her fate. There’s no future there. So it’s a good thing she ran into those who appreciate her for who she is.

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In Zen and his two mates Shirayuki gets some security and structure, but I knew at some point someone from Raj would come calling, and the use of the poison apple was, while not altogether surprising, novel enough in execution. Shirayuki comes to Raj offering what she knows he wants—her—which is all she has to bargain with for what she deems to be Zen’s life.

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But Shirayuki, like me, made a few false assumptions about Zen: one, that he has built up a tolerance for poisons, and two, that he himself is a prince (which explains the need for the tolerance, and the fancy steel). Turns out she of the hair the color of fate ran from one prince into another, only Zen is a good guy who has an “amazing way of thinking about things”, who offers not captivity, but a chance for her to practice her herbalism in a more official role (as the ED montage indicates).

The show can be a little preachy and obvious at times, but hey, it’s a fairy tale; I’ll cut it some slack. On the whole this is a earnest, well-made episode and a fun fantastical ride, and I can’t help but root for Shirayuki as she continues to write her own story.

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