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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