Akagami no Shirayukihime – 13

Well, if any blog post was ever a slam dunk…
It’s back, and just as good as ever.  Bones may be on Pierrot’s turf with Akagami no Shirayukihime, but with Ando Masahiro at the helm they’ve shown they take a back seat to nobody when it comes to shoujo fantasy.  Talk about a series that’s easy to love, this is it – it just does so many things right and so few wrong.  And even after a three-month break, it’s as easy to slip into as a nice, warm bath.

A few things stand out about this series that make it so special.  Oshima Michiru’s music for one, so unlike most of what we see in anime.  This is not one of those shows where the soundtrack is restrained to the point of near-invisibility – it’s ever-present but in a good way, like a character in its own right.  I’d also take note of the effortlessness of the writing and direction – Snow White With the Red Hair is not a series that’s constantly elbowing you in the ribs, telling you when to react.  It lets the material speak for itself, and trusts it enough to let things meander at their own pace sometimes.

What’s really on display in this episode is the way Akagami is able to blend slice-of-life and plot seamlessly.  Slice-of-life may be the most overused term in anime, but the first half of this ep is a true example of the art, and a wonderful one. It’s a great way to ease us back into the story, too, with the court herbalists (the junior ones) tasked with cleaning and organizing their offices.  That leaves us with time for some wonderful scenes between Obi and Ryuu, arguably the two most mismatched characters in the main cast.

If there was a flaw in the first cour, it might have been that after a very strong start, Ryuu (and a couple of other secondary cast members inside the castle) didn’t get a whole lot of development.  So it was nice to see Ryuu pushed out of his comfort zone a little by the rambunctious Obi, and it was  very nice moment when Ryuu gave Obi the flower seeds as thanks.  There was also a funny bit with Mitsuhide trying to convince Zen that getting “papers fiber” in his bloodstream after a paper cut could turn him into a paper man (a myth which apparently has enough standing in Clarines that educated sorts like Garack are aware of it).

The growing bond between Shirayuki and Zen, now an open secret in the castle, is never too far from the surface here.  But the world intrudes in the second half of the episode, first with the arrival on the scene of Shirayuki’s old kidnapper Mihaya, now a free man (apparently kidnapping is a misdemeanor offense in Clarines).  He comes seeking to barter information for cash or a job, having revealed Shirayuki’s location to a young boy named Kazuki (Kokuryu Sachi) on board a ship.  This is surely a classic Chekov’s bishounen, though it seems this particular plotline is merely a seed for now.

The one that takes flower first is an invitation from Shirayuki’s old tormentor Prince Raji to return to Tanbarun for a ball.  Raji seemed to turn over something of a new leaf – with Shirayuki’s help – in his return engagement last season, and perhaps his motivation here genuinely is gratitude, but I wouldn’t be totally comfortable making that assumption.  We’ll see – for now Izana (whose own motivations here are less than crystal clear) asks Shirayuki to endure a week of society training and then make the journey, and Zen – as forceful and hot-tempered as we’ve ever seen him in this ep – demands that he send one of his own men to accompany her.  My first thought was Obi, but Zen chooses Mitsuhide.

One of the things I loved about this episode is that it contrasts situations where characters’ thoughts and feelings could hardly be more clear – like those of Shirayuki and Zen for each other – with many where we just don’t know what someone is planning.  Is Izana secretly hoping something will happen to keep Shirayuki in Tanbarun, thus getting a potential distraction for Zen out of the way?  Does Zen choose to send Mitsuhde because he suspects Obi’s feelings for Shirayuki, or because he simply doesn’t quite trust Obi yet – or does he want to keep Obi around as a spy in case things start to get dodgy at home as regards Mihaya’s information?  We’ll know soon enough, but Akagami no Shirayukihime won’t beat us over the head with the answers – the behavior of the characters will lead us there in its own time.  And that’s one of many reasons why I love this show as much as I do.  It’s great to have it back.

 

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