I think maybe one’s take on this arc of Akagami no Shirayukihime is going to depend on what kind of series you think this is. If you think it’s a romance, then you’re probably going to be a bit restless right now. If you think it’s a historical fantasy with an emphasis on story, you might be happier, because we have multiple arcs playing themselves out (patiently, as they always do with this show). There’s always a kind of tug-of-war between the character and story sides of Akagami, and its success has hinged on its innate ability to balance them out.
I’m a bit torn on all this myself. I certainly feel that the romance between Shirayuki and Zen is the heart of the series, and arguably its strongest element. It’s a pretty major gamble to not only split them up, but put Shirayuki in the company of two men who have designs on her themselves. That would seem rife with potential for trouble (on both sides of the curtain) but Shirayuki’s independence and strength may be what salvages the situation.
I think we can certainly say that Shirayuki’s influence has changed Raj for the better (a low bar, true), but clearly, he’s still a ludicrous popinjay with astonishingly poor judgment. Witness his trying to take a shortcut through the maze of underground passages riddled with traps beneath the castle in order to lead Shirayuki to the greenhouse. And his refusal to admit he’s lost for fear of appearing weak in front of her (and the commoner, for that matter).
Into this mess step Rona (Minase Inori) and Eugena (Komatsu Mikako), Raj’s younger twin sister and brother. These two set off every alarm bell I have, especially Rona – she seems to embody the annoying lolimouto trope, and Minase’s performance is insufferably predictable. The relationship between the two – she’s bosses him around and he’s timid as a frightened turtle – is as cliche as it gets, too. This is a worrying development for a series like Akagami no Shirayukihime, which has made its living on being free of stuff like that. I’m prepared to be won over, but as of now I’m highly skeptical of these two.
It remains to be seen whether devoting an arc to what seems like Raj’s development is a wise move. It’s clear he’s still in love with (or at least infatuated with) Shirayuki, so perhaps it’s going to be in truly letting her go that he takes the next step as a character. I can’t help but wonder if the ultimate point of all this is going to be for Obi to finally admit his feelings to Shirayuki, which would of course open a massive can of worms in the process.
Meanwhile, Kihal (the bird whisperer) is back, and Prince Izana admits to Mitsuhide that this whole trip amounts to a test for Shirayuki and Zen. And perhaps just as importantly, Kazuki (Kokuryu Sachi) has been located, and Mihaya has snuck out of the castle to try and capture him. It would seem that the whole Kazuki thread is setting up the arc to follow the Tanbarun one, but just what Kazuki’s connection to Shirayuki is still hasn’t been revealed. He seems to be a pirate of some sort, and is clearly quite adept at looking after himself.