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 – 13

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime hung around an 8 all last Summer, and it’s back with more of the same. There’s no surprises here, except for a better OP; if you liked the first season’s serene blend of earnest shoujo romance and slice-of-life with a touch of action, you’ll probably like this. Much of the episode is somewhat re-introductory, with no shortage of brief flashbacks to key moments from last season.

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Shirayuki and Zen, who has such a romantic breakthrough a couple episodes ago, don’t even encounter one another until nearly halfway through the episode. Instead, we get some elegant slice-of-life for court herbalists, carrying out their semi-annual cleaning operation, while Obi befriends Lil’ Ryuu, who doesn’t make friends easily.

Zen still makes Shirayuki’s heart pound, whether he’s taking her hand while napping or telling her how glad he is to see her face after a long, stressful day. Of course, the feeling is mutual: Zen is motivated to work harder after seeing how hard Shirayuki works. This definitely isn’t that kind of couple that hurts one another’s productivity. Rather, the two thrive off one another.

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So it’s inevitable that in the midst of all this lovely slice-of-life that life threatens to get a little more difficult and complicated, either when Shirayuki is inevitably kidnapped for the hundredth time, or placed in a situation where kidnapping is a distinct possibility. That threat is introduced by Mihaya, a former kidnapper, notifying her of the existence of a bishounen named Kazuki who may be her future kidnapper.

The same night they meet Mihaya, Prince Izana summons Shirayuki and orders her to Tanbarun to hang out with Prince Raj, who thanks to her motivational words to him, has actually started getting his act together. Izana wants her to work more of her magic to make sure the future king stays on the right track. Zen is upset, but accepts the decision, as long as Mitsuhide can accompany her.

As for Shirayuki, I’m sure she feels like she’s being pulled in multiple directions, while all she wants to do is keep moving forward with Zen. And not get kidnapped! We’ll see how that goes.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 12 (Fin)

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Snow White with the Red Hair’s coda is titled “Goodbye to the Beginning”, and as expected, after the romantic fireworks of last week, Shirayuki and Zen merely settle into the new normal of being a couple. They don’t get married or live happily ever after, mind you; they simply enjoy the time they have alone together as much as they can, and still manage to have fun with other people around.

And because it’s “Open Castle Day” in Wistal, there are a lot of people around.

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That being the case, Shirayuki and Zen don’t flaunt their love around to the masses. Only a select few close to them know (Mitsuhide, Kiki, and Obi), and rather than make this their big coming-out party, the couple more or less lays low. Shirayuki even makes sure her hair is covered in public, lest she attract too much attention. As Zen says, there are still a lot of idiots out there.

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Even so, Shirayuki gets “captured” one last time: this time by a theater troupe whose leading lady has broken her foot and can’t take the stage. Shirayuki is swept into the role of understudy, and ironically has to dress up as a princess before the prince; perhaps a preview to the not-too-distant future when Zen makes an honest woman out of her.

Yet we also have one last sneering villain in the troupe leader, who wishes to expose Shirayuki’s red hair in order to increase buzz. Zen is having none of it, and crashes the stage as a masked knight to protect Shirayuki’s hair, as well as keep the stage prince from kissing her hand. That’s his hand to kiss!

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After that excitement, Shirayuki and Zen get a little more time together, and Shirayuki gets to tell him a bit about how her grandparents raised her to be strong and independent, yet she still wants to rely on Zen, as he relies on her. In a neat little role-reversal, it’s Shirayuki who kisses Zen’s hand as a gesture of commitment to sharing her future with him.

Then they go out to watch hundreds of lanterns get launched; a striking final image for a show that was equally striking in its unblinking earnestness and warmth in portraying the coming together of two hearts from very different backgrounds, in a fashion more realistic than fairy-tale. I shall miss Hayami Saori’s Shirayuki.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 11

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I was hoping something substantial would come of Zen’s stolen kiss in the watchtower last week (God, that just sounds romantic), rather than serving as a tease. I was hoping that kiss would start something that couldn’t be undone. This week, AnS’s penultimate episode, confirmed those hopes and then some with the loveliest, most upliftingly romantic outing of the show, that looked every bit as good as it felt to watch.

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It starts off with a speechless, stunned Shirayuki. Zen’s warm words of concern and his kiss have lit a fire in her heart, one that burns with a brightness and heat she didn’t know was possible. She’s got it so bad, she finds it difficult to even look at Zen, which obviously causes him to worry. Fortunately for both, Zen must off to Kihal’s island to negotiate a deal for the messenger birds. As Zen’s absence makes her heart only grow fonder, Shirayuki has at least a little time to process her feelings and figure out how to form a proper response.

While away, Zen shows the island elder’s he’s not a shitstain like their Viscount and impresses some kids, but while Kihal seemed especially nervous to travel with Zen, the two are never alone, dashing any possibility of a side-romance. As for Obi, he not only takes up an interest in Shirayuki’s herbalism, but also wants to help sooth her heart, which he suspects is troubled by something Zen said or did.

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He’s about to take her hand to comfort her when Zen re-appears, saying he’s right on schedule but still shocking both Shirayuki and me with the promptness of his return, just when Shirayuki was seeking someplace to think in solitude. Obi gives her one last assist by urging her to run into the forest. It turns out to be an assist for Zen as well, as he’s able to follow her into the forest to talk.

Once he actually gets her to stop running and look in his general direction, they simply walk around, enjoying the forest breezes, and end up in the same spot Zen once hung out with Atri; a place he’s been uneasy returning to since, but feels totally at ease thanks to Shirayuki’s presence.

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The opportunity for Shirayuki to tell Zen how she feels is here, and she doesn’t waste it. She tells him she loves him in addition to him being very dear to him and wanting to be his strength; her concern is whether it’s really alright to feel that way and look that way at Zen, to which the answer is obvious, since we’re in Zen’s head as much as we’re in hers.

Just as he lit a fire in her heart, she did the same to him, and he finally knows that there is someone out there who truly needs him, and doesn’t just go along with his wishes because he’s the prince.

The lighting, the music, the close-ups, and the gentle, precise animation as the two lovers draw closer together and finally kiss again, making official what had been an informal truth for some time; it’s all superb. As for Hayami Saori, it’s her best scene since Hatoko’s Rant in InoBato, though truly, she’s been on a roll all Summer with her work as Shirayuki.

I also appreciate that the mutual confession is now taken care of with an episode to spare, in order to bask in the afterglow, so to speak. Hopefully, Shirayuki can avoid getting kidnapped one last time!

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 10

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Shirayuki is finally herself again after recovering from Garack’s liquor prank, and by chance meets another beautiful young woman who, like herself, is committed to walk a path of her own choosing. This woman, Kihal Toghrul, has come to Wistal to ask Zen to weigh in on preserving a bird unique to her island’s culture which her new lord has decided to hunt for its gorgeous plumage.

Kihal, jaded by her dealings with Lord Brecker (a bit of a smirking dick), doesn’t think she’ll get anywhere with Zen, and indeed, Zen’s hands are tied as far as curtailing a lord’s activities on his own lands. However, Shirayuki backs Kihal up by mentioning the bird’s possible value to Clarines, with its potential to deliver messages faster than by horse.

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A test is set up, which is almost immediately corrupted by Brecker, who tries to strike a deal in which he’ll support Shirayuki in secret if she helps kill the test, and locks her up in a room when she refuses. Brecker spews the typical “status is everything” monologue that Shirayuki’s heard before. Not one to take lip from old assholes, Shirayuki puts Brecker in his place before leaping out the window to the lake below to recover the bell Brecker tossed away.

The bird points out the location of the bell to Shirayuki, who grabs it and sends the bird back right on time for the test to be a success. It would have been even more successful were it not for Brecker’s callous meddling, which gets him arrested. (I’d point out Obi was pretty dang hands-off as her bodyguard this week, leaving her alone with Brecker and all).

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When Zen rides to the watchtower and hears everything that happened from a guard, he races to the room where Shirayuki is resting and drying off. The arm injury she sustained from diving into the lake almost brings him to tears, and when she assures him she would never have hid it from him, he finally reaches a breaking point that was a long time coming, and kisses her; not on the hand or the forehead, but on the lips.

This is Zen acting on how he feels, and Shirayuki made it possible. This particular act was private, but whether it was a passionate impulse or a premeditated act of conviction, there’s no going back now. At least, I hope it isn’t laughed off, because I’m eager to see what happens if and when their relationship goes beyond mere friendship and mutual respect and into the realm of the romantic.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 09

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This week Shirayuki is still drunk, but also conscious enough to start wandering around on a mission. Of what sort remains a mystery until Obi figures it out (after swatting the Clarines equivalent of a paparazzo): her drunkenness has brought her guilt over Zen’s punishment at Laxdo drives her to want to ride there; only problem is, she can’t ride a horse.

Zen offers to take her, but qualifies that he’s just recently back from there, and produces the proof: some rare herbs that only grow in snow, and a detailed journal of the health of the garrison, both prepared by Shuka, the fortress’ herbalist-in-training. It’s enough to appease and please Shirayuki, though she wouldn’t have gotten far anyway, as she passes out again.

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Since this show has trained us to expect a flashback whenever Shirayuki passes out, we get a brief continuation of Mitsuhide’s recalling of the tragic events with Zen and Atri. Turns out Zen thought something was off about Atri too, but wanted to believe that gut feeling was overly suspicious. Losing Atri and being wrong shook Zen to the core, but it was ‘Hide who told him nobody will ever get close to a prince who prioritizes his suspicions. Essentially, Zen wasn’t wrong, or unprincely, to hope he was wrong about Atri. He was just wrong to have no backup plan.

I think that’s why in the present Zen keeps Atri’s arrowhead in a prominent spot in his desk drawer, which Hide spots, triggering the flashback. Since Atri has no grave, it’s a memorial, but also a reminder to take extra care in vetting those he’d allow close to him. It’s what he believes he’s achieved with Obi, which is why he presents him with a royal ID and the official role of royal messenger, though he’s still expected to keep an eye on Shirayuki whenever Zen can’t spare one.

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Obi purports to be like us, merely observers, not participants, in the goings-on within Wistal Castle. However, Zen seems to be welcoming him into the same tight-knit fold already consisting of Mitsuhide and Kiki (whose story we have yet to hear, unless I forgot about it :P). The episode ends with a wonderful atmosphere of everything being right in the world, with the stars shining down, Shirayuki peacefully sleeping it off, Zen and Obi drinking together, and Hide and Kiki sparring.

And that’s all fine and dandy…except that this episode also felt a bit too stagnant; that we’re going over and over the same themes about Zen finding the right balance of warmth and authority, and surrounding himself with those he trusts. He mentions a path he’s on, similar to how Shirayuki puts it; and indeed, she’s on that path, as well as all his trusted friends and attendants. Rather than talking about it more, why not let’s get back on that path and continue down that path, shall we?

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 08

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Raj is back home and Shirayuki’s place in the castle is secure, but now half of Wistal is convinced she’s actually Zen’s fiancee, for better or worse, so Zen assigns Obi, recently returned from a no-supervision trip to test his trustworthiness, to guard her. The two have had a prickly history together, but end up getting along. The problem is, the Chief herbalist tries to pull a prank on them, unaware of just how much Shirayuki can’t handle her liquor.

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With Shirayuki thus knocked out, the rest of the episode is given over to the story of how Mitsuhide was assigned to Zen, just as Obi was assigned to Shirayuki. Mitsu struggled to connect to the young prince, who said he had to maintain distance to maintain authority, like his brother Izana (who ordered Mitsu to guard him), yet has an increasingly suspicious secret friend and brother-like figure in the archer guard Atri.

Like me, Mitsu was almost instantly weary of Atri, him because of his instincts, me because of all the shots of him making an arrowhead and squinting forebodingly into the camera. The last straw is when Atri says he’s switching to the night shift and would like it if Zen came out to see him then. Zen was obviously very naive around this time.

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Fortunately Izana assigned Mitsu to him when he did, because both of them are able to stop Atri’s associates, disgruntled rebels from Lido, from capturing or hurting Zen; Mitsu even manages to slice Atri’s arrow in two while it’s in flight, which is almost incredulously badass.

The naive Zen largely died that night when Atri, someone he thought was his friend turned on him, having waited for his opportunity the whole time. Even so, Zen mourns Atri’s death, and Atri remarks that it might have been better if Zen wasn’t a prince, otherwise they wouldn’t be in such a situation and could have been friends.

Obi gives Shirayuki the same line (which Mitsuhide overhears, leading to this flashback), but Shirayuki warns Obi not to talk like that, lest she take it as an insult. Zen is a prince, she’s an apprentice herbalist (who later accidentally gets toasted). On the path she’s traveling, she’s accepted all these things, and like a good politician, isnt’ about entertaining theoreticals.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 07

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Last week threatened to keep Shirayuki away from Zen in just the moment when she wanted to see him the most, but this episode washes that threat away by revealing Zen on the balcony above where she was looking. Somewhat surprisingly, rather than using the stairs Shirayuki climbs a tree in order to be on the same level as Zen, and they share a warm embrace neither is in a hurry to end.

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After they touch base about what was said at the banquet Shirayuki wasn’t invited to, Zen tells her a story about Prince Izana that paints a pretty succinct picture of the kind of man he is. One minute, he’s a 17-year-old playboy who has a palace built between two feuding countries, who proceed to send him riches to ingratiate themselves with him, to the detriment of their own people. The next, he’s a princely mastermind, expelling both lords, replacing them with the envoys he’s come to know and trust, and returned all the gold the old lords gave him to the countries to help their people. Thus ended the feud.

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Thus, we learn while Zen can sometimes use and manipulate people for his entertainment, the primary goal is the betterment of the people he rules. He knows what it means to be king, and believes Zen is staying from that path. When Izana takes the throne, should anything happen to him, Zen will succeed him.

Seeing him infatuated with some red-haired commoner is, like that feud between lords, something he feels responsible for solving. At the same time, he respects that Zen has grown a spine, and isn’t so quick to bow before his brother. Zen believes he can still be a good prince and a good king without leaving Shirayuki’s side. Izana is dubious, but allows Zen the chance to prove it.

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Meanwhile, Raj is still a guest of Izana’s, and as he tours the castle grows increasingly stressed about seeing Shirayuki. Last week he called her Zen’s fiancee, and the rumors have spread furiously throughout the castle. Knowing the power of his careless words all too well, Raj isn’t all that gung-ho about crossing paths with Shirayuki. It’s a great inversion of the power dynamic that formerly existed between these two.

Naturally, while seeking a medicine for his upset stomach (caused by all the stress), Raj does indeed cross paths with Shirayuki, and their equally awkward tense, and courteous encounter is punctuated when Shirayuki slaps away a topical medicine Raj is about to drink. She also tells Raj to become the prince of her homeland that she can be proud of, even if she isn’t living there anymore.

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Izana witnesses the entire exchange, and just as Shirayuki learned about him through Zen, he learns more about her. She makes it clear to him she isn’t leaving Clarines, or backing down, or even averting her eyes. Izana even kisses her above her eye (beating Zen to the punch in the facial kiss area), but she doesn’t flinch or recoil. Seeing how she dealt with Raj and himself, I’m certain Izana’s opinion of this red-haired “nuisance” has improved considerably, and may be coming to understand perhaps she won’t bring ruin to Zen’s prncely path.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 06

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Another week, another annoying obstacle to the nice thing Shirayuki and Zen have going on. Also, another week of the two of them not quite sure what that nice thing is, allowing people like Zen’s older brother, First Prince Izana, and others attempt to dictate what it is for them. But it’s pretty plain to see in their first enocunter this week: both are a little upset about the prospect of not being able to see each other as much due to their busy work schedules. They just aren’t able to fully express it.

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Izana comes in (where’s he been, anyway), and starts immediately throwing his weight around, playing power games like showing up without warning, barring Zen’s path with guards in his own castle, quizzing him on the changes in the castle he’s made, summoning him by wax-sealed invitation, and, of course, secretly letting Shirayuki listen in on their meeting before dismissing Zen.

All these games aside, he seems committed to security of Clarines, which means when his little brother invites a foreign girl into the palace, there’s either some definable value to that girl, or Zen is an unstable, “good-for-nothing” prince who is threatening his position and the kingdom he represents. At least, that seems to be Izana’s take.

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Shirayuki, when asks, can’t guarantee she can put into words what her value is to Zen, and again Izana capitalizes on the couple’s lack of eloquence on the matter. He also must have  a pretty good information network, because he invites Prince Raj to the palace for a state dinner…and also, perhaps, to hear another perspective on this Zen-Shirayuki business.

Raj, who is still weary of even speaking of Shirayuki after Zen threatened him, doesn’t appreciate the awkward position he’s in, and while he says what Zen wants—he supported the girl coming to Clarines—he also improvises, adding that she’s Zen’s fiancee.

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Zen drags Raj away to “get on the same page”, but his (lack of) explanation to Raj—they’re not fiancees, nor lovers; at least not yet—is hardly satisfying. Kind of like this episode. All the while, poor Shirayuki is listening in on men talking about her. She’s stopped on the side of the road she’s traveling, wondering if the way ahead is barricaded by these men.

But when she recalls what she said to Zen earlier—about wanting to see how he lives—and how he responded that he wanted her there to see him live—it looks like she’s finally able to find the words she needs to say to him to get on the same page themselves. Alas, when she runs to where she last saw Zen talking to Lord Haruka, he’s nowhere to be found.

Hopefully as the story progresses, the show won’t continue to use incidents of bad timing and missed connections to further bar progress in their relationship, or Shirayuki’s journey of self-actualization.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 04

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What makes Shirayuki such a delight to watch isn’t just her striking hair, but her warm, striking, magnetic personality, and the fact that she’s not perfect, or even fully formed; she’s still searching and exploring, working hard and learning something new every day, picking up stones in sequence as she paves her chosen path.

And yet, it’s not a path she needs or wants to walk entirely alone. Zen may be a prince, but first and foremost he’s a friends, and someone who can calm her of exam nerves simply by resting her hand on his…and certainly not by using his position to get her a job.

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This week Shirayuki plunges into the world of court herbalism, first by meeting the castle’s chief herbalist, Garak, and then being given a small garden to tend and test her skills. She wants to do this right; gain the position with her own strength.

Zen, who as we know is under Shirayuki’s spell (who wouldn’t be?), is worried about her, so when he sees lights on in a greenhouse, he checks it out and they end up together, just before some unseen person locks them in together. His amplified concern is clear when she mentions a toxin in the water and he grabs her as if to save her life (the toxin isn’t harmful to humans).

What could have been a silly conceit, or an attempt to sabotage her exam through the appearance of nepotism, turns out to be something far more enticing, because Shirayuki changes the tone of the situation. Whether they’re locked in or not, she’s detected a toxin in the aqueducts that could kill everything in the garden if she doesn’t act quickly, even if it means having Zen help her. She simply rolls up her sleeves and gets to work.

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The sun rises, and with it comes Garak to unlock the door with her assistant. She’s surprised to find Zen there, but when she questions why Shirayuki let him help, she frames it as a matter of his highness’ safety. She also asks Zen why he doesn’t just snap his fingers and make Shirayuki is a court herbalist with his authority.

Garak probably already knows the answer that Zen gives her: that would defeat the purpose. Shirayuki doesn’t mind the occasional helping hand, but she won’t have someone doing all the work paving the road ahead; that’s hers to pave.

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Garak is impressed with Shirayuki’s skills, diligence, and I daresay wit, and passes her, making her officially an apprentice court herbalist. She’s paired with her superior Ryuu, who despite being a socially awkward little boy, is the herbalist version of Natural Police. 

Ryuu also tends to go with the flow, so when a patient comes in and refuses to be treated by Ryuu (fearing he’ll be made a test subject), Shirayuki wastes no time putting the asshat in his place, showing us her short temper for baseless conjecture, ignorance, and general prejudice. Fire-kissed hair, indeed!

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It doesn’t just hurt Shirayuki that the guy said those terrible things about Ryuu, but that Ryuu put up no defense. She’s been actively fighting for her freedom and her own kind of life for so long, she herself is ignorant to those like Ryuu who are more water than fire. When Shirayuki calls Ryuu “foolish” for telling her to let it go; it happens all the time, Ryuu is shaken, afraid he’s already ruined another relationship.

Still, the waterworks do come for Shirayuki when Garak, realizing she’s with Zen more than any of the other apprentices, decides to give her Zen’s medical records, so she knows what to do in “emergencies.” This isn’t something often given to a prospective girlfriend, but her position calls for it.

While I’m sure Garak probably saw it as a prudent, practical gesture, when Shirayuki reads through the journals intricately documenting the suffering Zen went through to work up his resistance to poisons, she is thoroughly shaken. And with good reason: she truly does care about Zen, and it’s more than fealty.

It turns out to be Ryuu, who sees her crying, who runs to Zen pleading for him to help her. Ryuu may have thought it was all his fault, but Zen knows that it’s his own. He also knows that Shirayuki isn’t going to turn her back at those records, but they might go down a little easier if their subject is right there beside her, alive and well.

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That’s exactly what Shirayuki needed, and when she returns to Ryuu both apologetic and grateful, everything turns out to be fine. And with Shirayuki smiling brightly, practically, glowing in the daylight, Ryuu not only betrays a blush, but stealthily confesses his affection for his new apprentice by telling her the plant that was the focus of her exam is his favorite because it’s “red and pretty.”

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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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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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