Felt like someone got a little Yona in my Shirayukihime…
If the Akagami no Shirayukihime OVA was a refresher course on what made this series a success in the first season, I guess this episode was the apex of what it’s become in the second – a definite Yang to that familiar Yin. I’ve been open about the fact that I’ve missed that other face of Akagami, because it was that side that made me fall in love with it in the first place. But operating at the level it did this week, this Snow White With the Red Hair need take a back seat to nobody.
In a way it was almost as if Bones felt the need to say “Hey – just because we’re doing a wistful shoujo fantasy that doesn’t mean you should forget we’re Bones” – because they really pulled out all the stops animation-wise this week. There’s just nothing like really good action sequences in almost exclusively hand-drawn animation – and there aren’t many studios who still do them that way. I’ve accepted the evolving role of CGI in TV anime, but I’ll never forget the defiance in Koyama Shigeto’s voice when he told me how important it was to Bones that scenes like this still be done by animators – and I hope they never stop feeling that way.
I think we need to stipulate for the record that what we saw this week would have been unthinkable during the first season to anyone who hadn’t read the Akagami manga. But if you can get past that, this was pretty splendid stuff. The series has already transitioned to a plot-driven narrative this arc, and now it’s a full-on action blockbuster. Andou Masahiro is, of course, as good as anybody in the business at action blockbusters, and it shows. The first fight between Obi and Itoya is a blockbuster by itself, and it’s only when Eugena and Rona happen to knock on Shirayuki’s door that it turns in Itoya’s favor. It should also be noted that the twins have a delightfully small role here, and don’t behave at all incongruously given their age – that’s about how they should be used, if you ask me.
There’s just loads of stuff happening all over Tanbarun here, a dizzying plot-nado of very un-Akagami proportions. Zen and his party are racing towards the castle, Kazuki and Itoya are fleeing through the woods with an unconscious Shirayuki, and a now-recovered Obi has bolted the castle to give chase. There’s other stuff going on too, which we don’t find out until Kazuki is surprised while guarding Shirayuki alone in the woods.
Raj’s turnabout as a character is pretty much complete at this point – he’s as humbled as can be, but Zen being the prince of a guy he is apologizes to him over not having warned him of the threat to Shirayuki. This is when Raj’s father gets into the picture (one wonders where Zen and Izana’s father might be), and a rather intimidating figure the King is. He’s clearly quite miffed over the embarrassment this incident is causing for his Kingdom, and allows Zen the freedom to roam freely to try and find Shirayuki – but with a veiled warning not to take advantage of the privilege or cause any further scandal. He’s also aware, it seems, of Raj’s true interest in Shirayuki – though I don’t think anything will come of that in the end.
It’s been hinted that there might actually be two separate interests hunting for Shirayuki, and as I said last week I expected some sort of curveball when Kazuki finally did find her – it certainly seemed as if he knew her well, if not she him. Turns out Kazuki is apparently a former pirate who’s tried to leave that life behind him (is that you, Kit Cloudkicker?) but his former boss Umihebi – “Sea Snake” (Saiga Mitsuki – yeah, that was her in… everything) has caught up to him and wants
Shere Khan’s stone Shirayuki back. Meanwhile, Obi and Itoya have their rematch in the woods – and this one is even more of an animator orgy than the first one.
Yeah, so – this is definitely not the route I thought I was buying a ticket for back in July, but it’s turning into one hell of a ride. I still kind of find myself hoping this arc doesn’t take up the whole season, and that the next one is more laid-back and, well- Akagami-like. But I definitely find myself more invested in the plot now than I have been at any time this season. In truth, the first and fifth episodes (and that’s 40%) of the season have been great, and the ones in-between pretty darn good too – and there just aren’t a lot of series that can compete at that level.