It’s a worrying time in shoujo fantasy land…
The “can one minor character ruin an otherwise good show?” meme is all too familiar, though for obvious reasons I hate to see it put to the test. And it is being tested here, just as Rona is testing my patience. I think Akagami no Shirayukihime is a strong enough series to pull through this, and I have seen worse than the character doing the testing. But she is a dose of cliche and pandering (apparently successful pandering) in a show that had previously been refreshingly free of such things.
I’m still trying to get my bearings in this second season, really. The premiere felt like Akagami, but the last three episodes have been quite a change from most of the first cour. Pirate captains, annoying lolimoutos, love quadrangles, mysterious bishounen… I’m enjoying most of this, but it does feel like a different route than the one I thought I’d bought a ticket for. I think in the larger scheme what we’re seeing is all about testing Shirayuki and Zen’s relationship, and if that relationship was going to the next level it was always going to be tested. But it’s quite a long diversion away from what was the heart and soul of the first season.
One of the better elements of this season is seeing the effect Shirayuki is having on Prince Raj. I always give props when an initially preposterous buttmonkey of a character can convincingly be morphed into something more, and I think Akagami has done so pretty convincingly with Raj. He’s studying affairs of state (to impress her), thinking about the future (stealing another prince’s woman), and trying to help Shirayuki with the more awkward aspects of her visit (again, to impress her). Clearly Raj is still a pretty preposterous guy, but he’s at least making progress.
Ultimately, of course, all this is building towards an eventual (relatively) open declaration from Raj that he’s in-love with Shirayuki (as opposed to being in lust as he was before). It’s actually kind of heartbreaking because Raj obviously knows this is a bad move and he’s trying to do the right thing, but those who supposedly love him like Sakaki and Rona keep pushing him into declaring. Rona is also much more literally pushing Shirayuki and Obi together, trying to size up the relationship between Shirayuki and the man she’s mistakenly convinced herself is her brother’s biggest threat. Obi, too, knows that declaring would be a terrible mistake – but I suspect he too has to cave sooner or later for the story to move forward.
Of course, the real biggest threat to Shirayuki and Zen’s relationship may come from elsewhere – either Izana (who’s clearly the smartest guy in the room) or Kazuki. We still don’t really know what Kazuki is up to or what his interest in Shirayuki is (I’m expecting some kind of major misdirection now that they’re finally meeting), or even if he’s directly connected to the busty pirate captain we meet at the close of this episode, but Kazuki has gotten enough of a buildup that his role here is presumably quite significant.
Pressed by all this, Zen gives us what may be the most important thing in the episode and the point of this whole arc – he tells his brother that he intends to marry Shirayuki. It’s obvious of course, but the nature of court life (and anime) still makes that statement a game-changer. Having seen his brother moved to such bold pronouncements Izana allows Zen to travel to Tanbarun to try and protect Shirayuki from Kazuki, but accompanied by a threat that if she causes an incident that threatens the peace, she’s forever banned from the castle. The sense is strong that when all the bluster and noise has died down, it’s only Izana that can stop Zen and Shirayuki from being together – so despite all the attention paid to other men, it’s really the elder prince of Clarines that bears closest watching.