Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 22

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Since Shirayuki’s visit to Tanbarun and Zen’s little excursion to rescue her from pirates, quite a lot of work has piled up at Wistal Castle. But this isn’t just a “Back-to-Work”, “Stay Busy to Keep from Getting Blue” episode: it brings up a crucial duty of Second Prince Zen Wisteria: he must, at some point, take a wife.

As Shirayuki’s herbalist work has piled up, so too have requests for marriage interviews from various highborn ladies from around the kingdom and beyond. Lord Haruka doesn’t give Zen the option to reject the process altogether, but he does give him some leeway: meeting with one potential wife will suffice…for now.

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From the list of suitable candidates, Zen chooses…Kiki. Turns out, she’s a count’s daughter. Zen, of course, can’t order her; he must make a heartfelt request to aid him in his stalling tactic. Because Kiki likes Zen and wants to do what she can for him and Shirayuki, she agrees, even though she hates dresses (since they make it hard to carry a sword).

And while Kiki’s name will be kept out of public discourse, it doesn’t take long for rumors to spread across the castle that Zen is meeting with somebody. Even Shirayuki hears this (unbeknownst to Zen), and no matter how hard she works, she can’t shake the uneasiness. Ryuu and Garack can see it practically emanating from her in waves.

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We already knew Kiki cleans up nice (her skin is even more “Snow White” than Shirayuki’s), but we didn’t know that she was in a dress when she and Mitsuhide met for the first time. Mitsu assumed she was a lady Zen was interested in, but the next time they met, she was sparring with Zen, and he mistook her for a “noble boy”.

The misunderstanding wouldn’t be cleared up right then and there, but Mitsu and Kiki would nevertheless spend five years having each other’s backs and protecting their prince. Obi can’t help but notice that seeing Kiki with another man—even if it’s Zen, and not a serious omiai—makes Mistu uneasy. Mitsu won’t go so far as to profess his love of Kiki, but he’s definitely glad they met, and the feeling is mutual.

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The interview doesn’t last long, and soon Zen is back to hittin’ the books, but when Obi lets slip that Shirayuki knows about the interview—but he didn’t inform her that it was with Kiki and just for show—Zen races to Shirayuki’s side to apologize and comfort her in one of their tender scenes.

Later that night, Izana informs Zen he’ll be taking a wife soon, which will make Zen next. The future of the kingdom rests on the choice he’ll make. Left unspoken throughout both this episode and the entire show, and yet always on my mind, is the fact Shirayuki is a commoner, with nary a drop of noble blood to her name, which would make any possible official arrangement with Zen extremely tricky at best and impossible at worst.

To my surprise and delight, Izana rekindles my desire to see the two lovebirds tie the knot in the end, by endorsing Zen’s decision and pledging his support as an ally, not an obstacle. He’s seen what Zen’s love for Shirayuki led him to do in her name, without tarnishing the royal family. He’s probably also weighing the immense cost of refusing him, but Zen has proven to him beyond doubt he’s serious about marrying Shirayuki and no one else.

Note, Izana doesn’t say it will be easy to convince everyone else—including their father the king—but this is a promising start to the fairy tale ending I desire.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 16

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Throughout the duration of Shirayuki’s visit to Tanbarun, the prevailing issue hasn’t been whether Shirayuki would fall for Raj (she just doesn’t see him that way, and in any case is already in love with Zen) or whether Raj would keep her here against her will (he owes his growth as a prince and a person to her, and the present Raj would never do that). Nor is it whether Obi will fall for Shirayuki (he seems to be, but doesn’t want to).

No, the issue that casts a shadow over this entire Tanbarun trip has been not if, but when those who are after Shirayuki will get their hands on her. Because we knew that when that happened, neither Zen nor Raj nor even Obi would be able to protect her, because if any of them did, because this is Akagami no Shirayuki-hime,which is Japanese for “She’s Getting Kidnapped.”

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That being said, until the night of her abduction arrives, life goes on, and it’s still great to see Raj putting in a very Beauty & the Beast (Disney Version) awkward effort into her sorta-not-quite-courtship. He’s even got a rose and a ginormous and awesome library that would even make Mirepoc Finedel gawk with awe.

Initially cute but quickly wearing out their welcome? Raj’s siblings Rona (who can’t help but meedle for Raj’s sake) and Eugena (too passive to stop the force of nature that is Rona). He’s a big boy, Rona. Let him sort this out for himself. Heck, she doesn’t even have the whole picture, wrongly assuming her heart belongs to Obi, which she “confirms” by shoving Shirayuki into him.

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When left to his own devices, Raj is slowly groping his way in the dark shadows of his selfish upbringing, and gradually starting to see the light of what an equitable interpersonal relationship is. Sure, he cheats a bit with notes, but he’s making the effort, which counts. And there’s no subterfuge in his lovely violin playing – at least this guy knows how to do something!

No amount of notes on general knowledge or violin playing, however, will convince Shirayuki to stay in Tanbarun any longer than originally planned, at least not if she’s not specifically asked to and given a good argument for why she should. She misses Zen terribly, which Obi can see when the two inadvertantly meet on their adjacent balconies.

When Obi said goodnight and went in first, staring at the hand that arrested Shirayuki’s fall in the library, as if thinking “I will never wash this hand again!”,  I was more than 50% sure his hand-staring would be interrupted by a scream indicating Shirayuki had finally been captured. After all, when Obi’s mind is staying to thoughts of impossible romance, his efficacy as a bodyguard is diminished.

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But no, the hammer doesn’t drop until the night of the ball, when Shirayuki gets dolled up in a gorgeously flowing pale green gown that makes her hair pop. Obi is telling her all the ways Raj is making the ball as painless and enjoyable as possible for her, before receiving a letter from Zen warning about Kazuki and an accomplice are on their way to Tanbarun.

How did Kazuki know which room Shirayuki would be in? How did he scale the castle walls without detection? Why the heck is he so gung-ho about kidnapping Shirayuki in the first place? These are all questions for which the answers lie ahead. All we know is, this season’s pleasant extended “honeymoon” is over.

Speaking of honeymoons, Zen, in demanding to go to Tanbarun to rescue Shirayuki, tells his brother he wishes to marry her. And Izana warns Zen if anything happens that requires him to bail him out, he can forget about bringing Shirayuki back to the castle. Yikes…everything is on the line now.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 15

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After a brief introduction to Raj’s siblings Rona and Eugena, we see that things aren’t exactly going so smoothly between Raj and Shirayuki. It’s nothing dramatic; he just can’t seem to strike up a proper conversation with her, perhaps feeling the pressure of not saying the wrong thing. His difficulty contrasts sharply with Shirayuki’s effortless chat with Obi on the balcony overlooking her hometown. It’s the conversation she should have had with Raj, but couldn’t.

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The siblings were a hint that the whole of Scheherazade is singularly focused on Raj’s interactions with Shirayuki, which explains why he feels like he’s on the spot. So he decides a change of scenery is best, and wouldn’t you know it, the castle has a greenhouse, which is Shirayuki’s wheelhouse.

The only problem is, while Raj has gotten a little nicer and more considerate, he’s still inept at most things, such as finding his way through the labyrinthine (and booby trap-laced) vaults that lead to their destination. Raj is doing his best to seem on top of things with his authoritative snapping, but he soon gets the three of them lost – which surely doesn’t help his confidence.

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Meanwhile, as Zen meets with that island hottie Kihal and her awesome birds, Mitsuhide runs into Prince Izana. He decides to ask point-blank if he’s testing the lovebirds, to which Izana responds point-blank (to Mitsu’s surprise) that yes, he is. If Zen and Shirayuki are for real, this little forced separation in the midst of an at-large would-be kidnapper should be a walk in the park.

Meanwhile in Tanbarun, Obi starts to notice they’re being followed, and manages to catch Rona and Eugena (and show off his mad ninja skillz). That gives Raj a rare moment alone with Shirayuki, during which he expresses his (wrong) opinion that she knows this was all going to go pear-shaped, and that she’s only sticking around so she can “say she couldn’t do it and leave as soon as possible”.

Shirayuki rightly takes exception to that assertion. In fact, she legitimately wants to change her relationship with Raj for the better. She believes she was sent to him for a reason and she’s going to stick it out. Once Obi and the twins (who know a way out) rejoin them, Shirayuki praises Raj for looking her in the eye when speaking to her, a first.

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Once they reach the greenhouse, Raj could, ya know, escort her around the grounds and stike up some kind of conversation about plants, but he’s so exhausted he collapses onto a bench and leaves her to Obi. Still, he makes sure to apologize for his mistakes – another first, by his siblings’ reckoning, and when the sun sets, Shirayuki says she’ll see him tomorrow.

So sure, there’s room for improvement, but large strides have already been made between Raj and Shirayuki; strides forged in those vaults. If only things could stay this breezy; but it would appear Mihaya may be forming an alliance with Kazuki, who promises to reward him handsomely through his “villainous” associates.

I’d say Shirayuki is safe in Raj’s castle with Obi in a room right next door to her, but surely there’s a Shirayuki-napping quota to be met, and Kazuki (who isn’t bad at the mad ninja skillz himself) will find a way.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 14

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Shirayuki knows this visit to Tanbarun is a little suspicious, and so does everyone around her. Like Obi, who splits his time looking for the bishounen Kazuki and observing how Shirayuki is taking her sudden orders.

Naturally, she’s working as hard as she can to learn enough about dancing, etiquette, and comportment in order to not bring shame upon Clarines during her visit. Whatever plot, if any, has been hatched, it’s starting with a gentle whisper, rather than a bang, which if anything, is more unsettling, considering how many times Shirayuki has found herself captured by someone.

But maybe there isn’t a plot…right? (No, there definitely is.) But theoretically, if there weren’t one, Shirayuki wants to take advantage of this opportunity anyway. She’s also heard Raj is a “new man”; and I’m as curious as she is to see if that’s true.

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As for Zen, well, he’s pretty sore about the whole thing, but like Shirayuki, keeps himself busy with palace and state matters, and whenever he’s not, he’s sparring with himself, in order to vent his frustration. I enjoy watching his entourage watch and comment on their master, who is more than just their master.

More and more since he became a permanent member of the posse, Obi seems like he’s cultivating a little bit of a crush on Shirayuki, or otherwise wants to be close to and protect her. That would make his master his rival for her affections.

Even if he suspects he has little chance against what the two lovebirds have, he’ll do what he can, like beat Zen in a match (proving how tough he is even unarmed), and granting his permission to accompany Shirayuki instead of Mitsuhide.

And I like this development. Mitsuhide, bless him, is too stiff for this trip. Shirayuki and Obi’s chemistry, while perhaps not as magnetic as her and Zen, has its own strange-but not-in-bad-way energy; not to mention the show is pushing the suspicion that Obi likes her, not Mitsu.

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If Obi had been peeping in the windows of the palace wing where Shirayuki is boarding, he might’ve seen just how steep a hill he’d have to climb to change Shirayuki’s heart. For the first time in this second season, Shirayuki and Zen get to share some quality time, be calmed and reassured by each others’ presence.

Zen’s last-minute hug-from-behind may not have been steamy, but it was so warm and sweet and lovely, as the atmosphere tends to be when these two are alone. But lest we forget, this is a farewell, for perhaps up to a month, even if all goes smoothly. So the encounter’s sweetness is tinged with the bitter truth that they’ll be apart, something neither of them want but are strong enough to accept.

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Loved the very sudden surprise appearance by Lord Haruka, Eternal Stodgy Sourpuss, only this time he’s fully accepted Shirayuki’s right to be at court. Of course he doesn’t miss out on the chance to remind her not to return in disgrace. Shirayuki very adorably asks for a trinket of Zen’s to keep with her, and he gives her his pocket watch, which she promises to give back upon her return. Even Prince Izana, the apparent mastermind in this dastardly scheme, shows up to see Shirayuki off.

As for Izana’s reasons for doing this, I can think of three: he wants to make sure Prince Zen can still function as a Prince of Clarines when his girlfriend isn’t constantly by his side; he wants Shirayuki to learn more about court life, in preparation for her to one day become Zen’s consort; and finally, to give Shirayuki the opportunity to spend some time outside of Wistal Castle and return to her home; offering her a good look at other potential paths, to ensure she’s on the right one.

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And Shirayuki will definitely see other things and people on her journey, from an Obi who acts a specific way around her (and knows how to clean up and speak pretty when he needs to); and a Prince Raj who upon welcoming her (back) to his kingdom seems to have changed somewhat for the better…only to revert back to his old goofy, wishy-washy self once they’re in the throne room.

I actually thought the transition was too quick; I kinda wanted to see Raj on his best behavior a little longer. Nevertheless, he seems shocked and a little overwhelmed that the girl he tried to forceably marry not long ago is actually there. Maybe he has changed, in that he realizes how badly he acted, and acknowledges he owes her a debt to her from his last stop in Clarines. Time will tell, but for now, all eyes are on Shirayuki–and not just for that dazzling apple-red hair.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 03

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As Shirayuki pays a visit to an overworked Zen and studies by his side as he catches up on some sleep, I’m reminded of a lovely scene from Whisper of the Heart in which the lead couple is simply quietly enjoying each other’s company in the library, exchanging looks of happiness and contentment. The connection is made stronger with orchestral music that calls to mind Nomi Yuji’s score from that film, one of my favorites.

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Things are peachy for Zen and Shirayuki…until, of course, they aren’t. Shirayuki isn’t kidnapped this week, but she is looked down upon by one of Zen’s liege lords, Haruka. A stern, authority and class-obsessed man, he will not tolerate Zen bringing in towngirls of low birth, and considers her hair color “vulgar”.

This guy has clearly painted a picture of a girl who wants to get something from the prince, and honestly believes he’s protecting the prince and his reputation, from her selfish feminine wiles. In other words…he’s a conclusion-jumping asshole.

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This asshole, and a lithe, ninja-like fellow named Obi he’s loosely allied with, conspire to keep Shirayuki out of the castle, but she manages to get back in before they warn the guards, to grab a book she forgot in the prince’s chambers. Once she realizes people who don’t speak for Zen and aren’t acting according to his will are messing with her, and her answer to that is to simply blow past them.

When Lord Haruka bars her way and tells her to leave, she invites him to join her to meet with Zen. He then draws his sword and names her an intruder…but asshole he may be, he doesn’t follow through on his threat to cut her. In fact, he seems downright flummoxed by Shirayuki’s utterly badass defiance. Despite having a sword in her face, she keeps advancing, until Haruka can only sheathe it, defeated.

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It is as Prince Zen told him: this girl is not the kind of girl to continually rely on the strength of others. She has her own strength, too, and she means to use it to become Court Herbalist so she can enter the gates of her own accord. She may be low-born (at least as far as we know), but Haruka saw a nobility in her resolve.

One could say her birth and her hair make Shirayuki someone who “makes enemies easily”, like Zen. But she couldn’t call Haruka an enemy, nor he her, because he didn’t know her, or what she was really doing in the castle. Now he knows: Shirayuki is a resolute badass.

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