Akagami no Shirayukihime – 12 (Season Finale)

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I really there’s been no anime in a very long time that gets as much from so little asAkagami no Shirayukihime.

This is the season finale of Akagami no Shirayukihime, which thanks to its split-cour format is off until January (which makes it ineligible for the year-end Top 10 list, for the record).  And it concludes for now with a truly superb episode, one that was beautiful in every sense of the word.  If one were to complain, I can really only think of one – where does the series go from here?  This season finale exemplified everything that makes this a wonderful show so perfectly that the notion that it ended too well is a legitimate worry.

There are so many words that spring to mind when it comes to this series.  Dignity, restraint, minimalism – there’s never (apart from Episode 10) too much of anything, but neither is there too little.  It’s as if the show stripped away everything that wasn’t essential and concentrated on making the rest perfect – like pruning a grapevine so that all the nourishment goes into the remaining fruit.  Akagami no Shirayukihime has its priorities in order and executes its mission brilliantly.

The final episode is full of the little touches that make this series special.  The music, always a companion to the story but never intrusive.  Ryuu’s face as he watched adults behaving like idiots – the sardonic puzzlement of a too-smart child bewildered by the nonsensical adult world.  The Impressionist backgrounds, beautiful in their muted and slightly off-focus patina, giving way to an explosion of color and light as the skies above the castle fill with candlelit balloons, making fireworks seem pedestrian.

This is a show that gets an awful lot out of its faces generally speaking, fitting for one that can say so much with so little effort.  What the characters are feeling about each other is always there in their expressions if you look for it.  It’s most obvious in Zen and Shirayuki, who are young and hopelessly in-love, and whose faces are practically shouting it out.  But you see it in Obi, too – the frustration, the helplessness.  Izana’s stern worry for his brother, Mitsuhide’s neurotic overprotectiveness.  Every face tells a story, and none of them are unimportant.  I only wish a little more time had been given to telling Ryuu and Kiki’s, but that’s a small quibble that will hopefully be addressed in the second cour.

The premise of the final episode is “Open Castle Day” but in truth, no series this season can do more with less plot than this one.  What there is here is really present for the purpose of fleshing out the feelings of the characters.  Prince Zen goes undercover as a guard so he can mingle amongst the people, and takes Shirayuki with him.  There’s a company of actors (played by big names Uchiyama Kouki, Toriumi Kousuke and Kotobuki Minako – I might note that both Coach Aoi and Natchan were part of the troupe) here to entertain, one of whom breaks her ankle.  This forces Shirayuki to act as a stand-on, which leads to one more heroic moment for Zen and a beautiful moment of bonding between them.

There’s a lot of subtext to this play, of course – Shirayuki is playing a princess, and Zen winds up fighting against the prince for her hand.  One of the realities of Open Castle Day is that it serves a reminder of just how great the gulf that exists between Shirayuki’s station and Zen’s still is – and in case we might forget, the faces of Izana and Haruka are never too far away to jog our memories.  Part of what that second cour will surely focus on is the power of love, and its limitations in face of overwhelming obstacles.

I’m certainly keen to see how that story plays out, and it’s not a stretch to guess that the second season of Akagami will prove darker and more conflict-driven than the first.  But however that plays out, what’s undeniable is that this one stands on its own in magnificent fashion.  This may not be the series ending (the manga is in fact still ongoing) but it’s a finale that works much better as an ending than most true finales could ever dream of.  It’s another triumph for BONES, and especially for Ando Masahiro – it’s truly remarkable that a director could achieve such heights of scope and grandiosity with Zetsuen no Tempest, then succeed with a virtually unmatched economy of style with Akagami no Shirayukihime.  When it comes to this series pedigree really wins out, and we’re lucky to have another season to look forward to.

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ED Sequence:

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  1. Y

    I was genuinely worried you were going to dislike this episode, since they played around with the timeline once again. But I'm genuinely glad to see you enjoyed it. Do you know how many episodes the second cour will consist of?

  2. R

    I dare say t5hat this is the best close this season (I still need to play catchup to Ore Monogatari). That last third with the play is definitely bery amusing.

    Can't help but feel sorry for Obi though. The poor guy is already well aware that he has no chances with Shirayuki now, but he is still in full support of her relationship with Zen.

    And I actually found those anachronistic clown costumes (seriously, suits and bow ties in a medieval setting?) weirdly amusing. Kinda like Kihal's hotpants.

  3. J

    Normally I find that my opinion of whatever shoujo you blog is a fair bit lower than your own, but not in this case. This series has really hit the right notes, being wistful without going too far into the whimsical. You've more or less echoed my thoughts about how efficient the anime has been with the characters (with the notable exception of Ryuu, here's to seeing more of him next year). Everything falls neatly into place because rarely does someone do something that feels out of place.

    With the relative disappointment of Gangsta (although that's more to production than content) this and Ushio to Tora have been the highlights of the season. I'll be looking forward to the next cour.

  4. G

    This series is more like a slice of life series with a wee bit of romance thrown in. Thinks happen slowly and surely over time. I'm looking forward to the next cour. Perhaps Zen's brother is gonna try and quash the romance between the 2 leads (I just don't trust him). We will find out in January.

  5. J

    While I didn't find the show displayed any particular sense of minimalism (maybe it's because I've come to associate the term with those talky shows like Monogatari that try to cut costs and pass it off as artistic direction) I definitely would agree with the term dignity to describe. Really it had a very uncharacteristic sense of dignity permeating from it, particularly from a season like this Summer which felt like it was all about the exhibitionism and just pandering extra special hard to the lowest common denominator even by anime standards. I kind of actually hope virtually everything from this season flops financially and that executives get to be sad for a change because it was a truly cynical and pitiful effort from the lot of them with this being the sole shining light in the dark just by refusing to slum it. Because of this Akagami didn't even have to be anything extra special to easily become my favorite of this season, just merely be functional and halfway respectable television and it more than met that simple bar.

  6. E

    I'm pretty sure those balloons are cgi, but damn are they pretty. The show also really loves its cartoon villains…

  7. Y

    I didn't think the troupe manager was a villain; seemed to me he just got overly-excited xD

  8. K

    Damn, I was under the assumption that this would be a straight two-cours with no interruption between the two halves, until the ending kicked in with the recap of the 12 episodes. Then it hit me: this is the last episode. I felt really sad. I’m gonna miss the music, the gorgeous backgrounds and the voice actors.
    Thankfully, there will be a second cour in January! This is the first thing I’m looking forward to for next year.
    This show heals me. Today I went through a strange state of numbness, got into disputes, didn’t have any appetite and felt a headache. Then I decided to watch this episode to relax. And relax I did. More than that, I can feel now my good mood back. How many other shows can do that for me? Can’t really remember any right now.
    The least I can do is post this comment while listening to the lovely opening. And thank you Enzo for covering this show, I enjoyed reading your reviews and saving your screenshots (I’ve built up a pretty collection).

  9. Y

    Happy to hear you're feeling better; Akagami really has that effect. :)

  10. A

    Gawd that was cute as hell.

    I was rather wary at the beginning of the serie, as the serie gave a very strong sense of [i]Soredemo[/i], which was a pretty disappointing clichés-storm laden by a retarded premise and terrible storytelling.
    Hopefully, if [i]Akagami[/i] has its fair share of clichés, they are not the most irritating ones (in fact, it happily LACK these, so is both rather predictable but refreshing), and it manage to be sufficiently believable to allow a great execution and a very winning cast to overcome the hurdles.

    At the core, it's an extremely gentle and soothing serie, with absolutely loveable characters (seriously, Shirayuki is adorable, I want to bring her home ! And for once the male MC is nice without lacking spine, and decisive without being a jerk, so I can honestly root for him). It might be a bit too lighthearted and inoffensive for its own good sometimes, but manage to stop well before falling into dumb sugary mood, so it still a win.

    It's a feel-good serie which manages it by going the path of the dignity and understated, respecting its characters and giving enough political/societal elements to not look like some shallow self-insert fantasy, while still being light enough to fall short of pretending being a deep political beast.

    To sum up : it's a winner, the kind of serie you're happy to let yourself immerse into and to feel during the (too short) amount of time it's here.

    I also wasn't aware it was a two-courts one, so paint me surprisingly happy to come here and discover there will be another 12 episodes of the treat !
    I have some worries, of course : if so far the serie has avoided boring clichés and artificial set-up for the sake of drama, I'm a bit afraid we'll see Obi growing feelings take us this way, which would be pretty annoying. I hope we'll stay on the more down-to-earth problems of Prince x Foreign Commoner and how they manage to overcome it, which is perhaps a more fairy tale approach, but so much more in tune with this, so far, marvelously loveable show.

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