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Why I’m Hyped for Akagami no Shirayuki-hime Season 2

tumblr_static_tumblr_static_aslbuttxvooo8kwo4sks0gs8o_640Akagami no Shirayuki-hime was a really pleasant, easy-to-watch show, but only towards the end of the season did it start to feel like it was going somewhere. Let me explain.

The narrative progression of Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is a bit all over the place. There’s a charming story about how Shirayuki chooses to become a court herbalist, but once she succeeds in that goal, the plot ambles for a while. At some point, the story ends up being more about Zen and his past than it is about the titular heroine.

Towards the end of the first season, however, Zen and Shirayuki’s struggles start to come together. Their romance (and the underlying conflict around their class differences) serves as a way for them to share each other’s burdens. Shirayuki’s journey as a court herbalist is no longer just about proving what she can do for her own sake. She now has to prove herself in front of the entire kingdom.

Season 1 feels like the calm before the storm. Season 2 is when I expect things to get real.

Otherwise, I don’t really have a lot to say about Shirayuki-hime.

Despite not being my cup of tea genre-wise, I enjoyed Shirayuki-hime. Most of my enjoyment of the series came from its wonderful aesthetics (and particularly its music). The atmosphere felt like something from a fairy tale. The characters are endearing and likable, although perhaps a little rosy and perfect to be truly interesting. It’s a fine thing to watch if you want something relaxing after a long, tiring day.

As much as I enjoyed the anime, I think I would have eventually tired of it if it remained that way forever. It did bother me when the focus shifted to Zen because I think it undermined the original point of the story: Shirayuki’s search for independence. Obviously, I don’t think you necessarily have to be single to be an autonomous individual, but we never really find out much about Shirayuki’s past or her motivations for doing things. Meanwhile, Zen gets all the meaty character development. It feels like Shirayuki is trying to have its cake and eat it too in that regard. The heroine is supposedly an independent character or whatever, but she also has this hot guy protecting her whenever she gets into the slightest spot of trouble. Oh well, at least he’s not a grade-A jerk.

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By the way, the show is legitimately cute, so don’t let my minor complaints dissuade you from trying it out. It really is nice to watch an anime filled with nice people whom you would genuinely want to spend time with if you knew them irl. There’s a refreshing, down-to-earth charm to the story, even during the dramatic parts. I particularly liked the episode where Zen and Shirayuki decide to become a couple because it was handled in such a naturalistic way.

If season 2 keeps the core strengths of the series while building on the character relationships, it may turn out to be one of the finer shojo romances of recent memory. It’s the show I’m most looking forward to next season.

I suppose now is also a good time to ask: what are you looking forward to next season?

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Posted on December 20, 2015, in Anime Analysis and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I am so looking forward to this show also !!!!! Being an romance genre lover I knew I would like it but not love it so much it’s killing me the wait for the second season to come already. Shirayuki hime was a hidden gem this year for many people who didn’t think they would end up loving it XD

  2. Once I said this show is so sweet it could result in diabetes, but is not sweet as a result of being fluffy or, it’s hard to express, having just a mass of overdone declarations, sweet talking, hugging etc. but everybody seems to be so straight, but still feels like composed, emotional but also rational, even villains sometimes are not just one dimensional jerks to be wrecked and killed. Anyway is hard to express feelings this show is generating.
    Also it have nice details like characters clothes changing accordingly with situation.

    It looks like Shirayuki will get some nice development too. After all I decided to try this show because I was tempted by idea of herbalist as a main character, I hope this part will not be abandoned with the story progression.

    Anyway one thing makes me chuckle. Royals guards seems to be completely useless every single time xD.

    PS. Let’s do not forget, there is a OVA incoming. With a date.

  3. Akagami’s been great, and skimming the manga makes me think it’ll continue to be so. Other shows to keep an eye on are BokuMachi, AoKana, Grimgar (obv), and Shouwa Genroku. Kouya might also give you an idea if you want to read the whole VN, as it adapts the first half.

    • The Kouya anime only adapts the first half? They’re probably going to stop when they finish making the game, and the part that most interests me is what comes afterwards (i.e. dealing with game companies and trying to make the product a commercial success).

  4. Hmm… I think the only thing I’m actively looking forward to is Dagashi Kashi, which if they adapt the manga well should be right silly. But other things may catch my interest, like Dimension W or some flashy unknown.

  5. Just so long as the OP doesn’t BLATANTLY LIE to us again.

    It promised an adorable ballroom scene that never happened.

    THE OP LIED!

    (Seriously though I’m really looking forward to the second half of Shirayuki, I think the show is adorable)

  6. I likewise really enjoyed this series. I was actually pretty okay the ambly nature of the show, but then, outside of ultra-moe stuff I usually like slow-paced slice-of-life material, and I get that not everyone is into that. Which isn’t to say I’m not also looking forward to season two and the progression of a more focused storyline, however – bring on season two, I say!

  7. I don’t think that Shirayuki’s search for independence was ever the original point of the show: you don’t base a show on Snowhite and have it not be a commoner-prince love story at the end. If you view the story as a text-book romance on how to treat your “partner” with respect, while still holding on to the commoner-prince romanticism, the show makes perfect sense.

    If it were a story about Shirayuki’s independence it would have to be a story in which Shirayuki makes a living being a herbalist. Being a court herbalist is one possibility among many, but you’d focus a lot more on the herbalism aspect, and Ryu and Shirayuki’s boss would have been much more prominent characters.

    This is first and foremost a romance, with a prince on top. He doesn’t want to be on top, mind you. He’s treating her as an equal, but he can’t do that openly. It’s not Zen; it’s society. See?

    If you want to balance Shirayuki’s search for independence with a commonor/princess romance you could choose another path: the altair/vega path that anime loves so much. They both work for the good of the country which serves as a connection, even though they can only very rarely meet (when epic events make them cross paths) and can never be really be together. I’m not saying that’s what it should have been; it’s just that imagining what could have been highlights what we do have by contrast.

    Shirayuki strikes me as a fairly typical Yamato Nadeshiko ideal: strong character always supporting her man. The narrative has never – as far as I can remember – undermined this, and I don’t expect it ever will. So no, I don’t think the show ever deviated from what it wanted to do, or that the show is trying to have its cake an eat it. It’s always been meant to be a very typical romance, to the extent that shipping them is a waste of time because they’ve been written as a unit. (That’s why almost ever other character in the show interests me more than the protagonists.)

    I’ll be watching the second season, but it’s fairly low on my priority list.

    ***

    I’ve only superficially skimmed next season, so far, but it looks pretty good to me (certainly better than the one that’s currently ending). Most anticipated: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: I like the concept, and I like the art.

    • So was I misled when in the very first episode Shirayuki declares that she wants to find her own way? She constantly reiterates this desire throughout the entire series, and to her credit she does seem to act upon her own words more often than not. I don’t think the story was trying to characterise her as someone who “always supports her man” because that would imply that she took up the court herbalist position specifically for Zen’s sake. And the earlier episodes did have a stronger focus on the herbalist side of the story, which led me to assume that it was supposed to be a major part of the narrative.

      Nevertheless, I do agree with you that the show is first and foremost a romance. This doesn’t bother me since as I said before you don’t have to be single to be an autonomous individual. I only take issue with the fact that Zen got a disproportionate amount of attention. Maybe that’s a result of trying to tell a “prince and commoner” love story since the prince’s situation is more complex than the commoner’s, but that doesn’t excuse how Shirayuki ended up becoming a somewhat boring character in her own right. I wanted to learn more about what drives her and how she became the person who she is today. Instead, most of her characterisation revolves around how great and strong-willed she is and why she’s such a good match for Zen.

      I think that the story was in the uneasy position of trying to depict a traditional fairy tale romance with more modern social values. When you’re telling a story like that, it’s hard not to come off as you’re trying to have your own cake and eat it too.

      • So was I misled when in the very first episode Shirayuki declares that she wants to find her own way? She constantly reiterates this desire throughout the entire series, and to her credit she does seem to act upon her own words more often than not. I don’t think the story was trying to characterise her as someone who “always supports her man” because that would imply that she took up the court herbalist position specifically for Zen’s sake. And the earlier episodes did have a stronger focus on the herbalist side of the story, which led me to assume that it was supposed to be a major part of the narrative.

        Ah, no, it’s complicated. Shirayuki can only support Zen from a position of strength. The narrative drive of the story has to first build up Shirayuki so the people can see her as a worthy spouse for a prince. Yes, Shirayuki strives to remain independent, but it’s played as a trait that wins over the court one by one. The thing here is that both Shirayuki and Zen, during the story, submit to the position of prince – with a for-the-people rationale that serves as the yardstick for both – but not to each other.

        Shirayuki’s life before she met bad prince is pretty much irrelevant to the story. What is it that she sees in herbalism? What do plants mean to her? We don’t know. When the story starts she runs her workshop, and what we take away from the scene is that she helps people and that she’s competent.

        Every single show of strength in the show felt the same to me: It’s all building her up as a competent heroine, but leaves her a cypher: no hint of whoever it was that taught her about herbalism in her knowledge (the “dojos” of herbalism so to speak); no hint of friends she left behind; nothing. Herbalism is little more than Shirayuki’s ticket to strength, and it’s a strength that will one day make her a good queen.

        Imagine what sort of story we’d have had if Shirayuki had left behind a best friend, parents, siblings… Even the workshop itself never felt like a real loss. Shirayuki, when the story started, was the epitome of indepence, because she didn’t seem to have even a single emotional tie to anything – not in a way that the audience could meaningfully work with. There were some “but don’t you miss your own kingdom,” sort of moments – but it was all rather vague.

        Her independence is sort of visualised in her red hair. Everyone wants her for it, but only the “good prince” gets her. So yes, I think you were misled by that – in the sense that you thought her independence was an end in its own right rather than a major element in a tried-and-true plot structure that leaves Shirayuki with a prince.

        What makes this show a bit different is that it’s actually a triangle, with Shirayuki-Zen forming an alliance against the position of “prince” for the good of the people. And the decision to apply for the job as court herbalist has indeed been taking for the sake of Zen (not for the sake of the position of prince; the difference her is important): it’s a minor reason on the level of character motivation – but it’s the only reason on the level of narrative drive.

        None of the later developments surprised me, and thus they couldn’t really disappoint. I got what I expected. Now, it doesn’t seem we see the show all that differently:

        Nevertheless, I do agree with you that the show is first and foremost a romance. This doesn’t bother me since as I said before you don’t have to be single to be an autonomous individual. I only take issue with the fact that Zen got a disproportionate amount of attention. Maybe that’s a result of trying to tell a “prince and commoner” love story since the prince’s situation is more complex than the commoner’s, but that doesn’t excuse how Shirayuki ended up becoming a somewhat boring character in her own right. I wanted to learn more about what drives her and how she became the person who she is today. Instead, most of her characterisation revolves around how great and strong-willed she is and why she’s such a good match for Zen.

        Whether I wanted to know those things or not, I simply didn’t expect them. Or rather, I’m not ruling out that some of those elements will come up in season two. The rom-cliché would be Shirayuki’s male childhood friend…

        What I’m saying is this: if you have a well-developed character, they carry their past with them, and there’s some sort of mystery about that person. Specifically, if you introduce them in their own setting, you don’t just make them interact with random grateful customer A (type old lady). You don’t just have her greeted by a cheerful band of Diney extras. She has relationships; she has people to say good-bye to (even if she had just left a bunch of letters to her friends, and not just her hair to a prince). As far as the audience is concerned, Shirayuki left behind a life lived alone, completely fulfilled by the cosy feeling of having helped her fellow villagers. Good enough for a romance fairy tale, not good enough for an interesting character. I got exactly what I expected.

  8. Battle of my fav red-heads: After Yona graced my life and becoming one of my fav shows from this year, I also got to find Shirayuki strutting her stuff with a naturally understated but unmistakable sense of feminine pride. You planning to continue your shipping publications with a piece on Yona’s ANNOYING (but adorable) ignorance and Hak’s pitiful wooing attempts?

    I am also ecstatic, that Bones got to be the studio to handle this title, but I admit to hoping that KyoAni or PA Works were the ones instead to adapt the manga: don’t get me wrong, Bones is one of my favourite studios (a notch below KyoAni for me), and they did the title justice with a show that balanced great background texture work and slick animation, but imagine Shirayuki with Hyouka-quality cinematics or…Nagi no Asakura-level atmospheres.

    • Yona is a fun series. I haven’t watched the anime but I do read the manga and it’s pretty good. I’m not planning to dedicate a post to it, though.

      If I did write a post, I would probably have said something similar to what I wrote in this post, about the series trying to have its cake and eat it too. Hak’s feelings for Yona are cute, but there are also some weird moments where he comes off as threatening and overly possessive. I do like how Yona’s character development has been consistent and how this has complicated her relationship with Hak. It is very interesting to see how their dynamic has evolved.

      At any rate, this has been a good year for shojo. I hope next year has some gems as well!

  9. Ah, Akagami no Shirayukihime. Never expected Bones to be the one who animated it, but I’m glad they did great job with it.

    As a person who read this series, and as someone who dislike romance in general, I like it a great deal. The author is smart enough to avoid common pitfalls in shoujo series and understand what the series currently lack or needs to improve. Hence, I’m definitely looking forward to season 2 and what it’s bringing.

    As for the next season, Ajin and Dimension W are my most anticipate series (plus returning series like Assasination Classroom, Shirayuki and DRRR!!)

  10. “It did bother me when the focus shifted to Zen because I think it undermined the original point of the story: Shirayuki’s search for independence.”

    I’d like to point out you have a bit of a double-standard here. When Shirayuki was searching for her place and Zen was trying to help her (while being beaten back), it’s okay. When Zen is the focal point — which, since his rank is higher, it SHOULD happen more often — and he’s trying to help Shirayuki who is in turn, helping his position/influence in court, it’s suddenly… not?

    Last I checked, one of the central points of society was that people specialized in order to help each other in greater efficiency. So why is it considered a failing to recognize that one might need help? By your definition, even great female rulers like Maria Theresa or Catherine the Great were not independent because she kept needing men (her generals) to bail her out of trouble.

    • My argument has more to do with narrative logic than RL logic. How do you establish that a character is independent in the context of a narrative? By showing the character making plot-important decisions on their own. That’s what Akagami does in the first few episodes, so that was why I made an assumption that the story in general was about Shirayuki’s journey as a person. When the focus of the story shifted, Shirayuki’s character development was left in the background. It’s fine for Zen to get development, but he ended up overshadowing Shirayuki. If that had had been the focus of the story from the beginning, I would not have minded.

      At the same time, there’s a reasonable argument to be had that Akagami was never actually trying to be a story about Shirayuki’s independence and that I misinterpreted the intention of the opening episodes. You might find Dawnstorm’s comments in this thread interesting.

      Also, you seemed to have missed the part where I said, “you don’t have to be single to be an autonomous individual.”

      • Oops, it really didn’t jump out at me during my thoughts =3

        Well, you are right in that Zen overshadowed her for a few too many episodes. Though one could blame this on the fact that Zen simply have a far more complex set of motivations than Shirayuki does because he has far more social pressure on his shoulders thanks to his birth. Shirayuki’s approach to life can be summed down in a paragraph. Zen’s can be a little hard sometimes. I think this problem is just inherent in any tale where a commoner gets tagged to a royal (or simply one of considerably higher rank). It’s like if you’re going on a trip with your boss, you’re simply not going to be making many of the decisions on your own =3

  1. Pingback: Froggy’s Top Anime of 2015 | Fantastic Memes

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