Sailor Moon’s got nothing on Akagami no Shirayukihime.
Transformation complete – Akagami no Shirayukihime has changed more from cour to cour than just about any series I remember (except maybe Baka-Test, but that was just a complete shark-jumping). The nice thing is that the essence of the series is still there – the essential kindness and warmth – but damn, it’s gone full-on action adventure now. In fact this episode had an almost Princess Bride quality to it I thought, sans most of the humor – and that’s certainly not a bad thing to be compared to.
If I were to niggle a bit with this arc, it would be over the fact that there’s really no growth on the part of Shirayuki. In fact I wouldn’t dismiss it if you were to argue her character has even regressed a bit, though that’s more of a judgment call. But irrespective of that, while the arc has been a showcase for the development of several other characters, Shirayuki has been reduced to more or less a passive role. Maybe that’s not a bad thing since she probably had more development in the first cour than anyone and the ledger had room for some balancing, but I still haven’t made up my mind on that point. I did find her a bit too weepy towards the end of this episode, though she certainly had good reason to cry tears of joy so maybe I’m just a heartless DB.
Probably no one has grown more than Raj, though of course he was starting from a remarkably low base point. I suppose the love of a good woman can change any man in a shoujo fantasy, even if it’s unrequited. But I’d like to think Raj simply figured out that it was time to grow up, and that it was his shameful prior treatment of Shirayuki – and her forgiveness for it – that made him realize it. Stepping in to request the aid of the merchant fleet was probably the hardest moment of the arc for him – harder even than ordering his ship into the Blue Vortex (seriously, you can’t get more Princess Bride-y than that).
Raj even names Shirayuki “Friend of the Crown” in a nifty bit of thinking on his feet, but while the intent is to unnerve Umihebi, I wonder if it’s a good idea to tell a kidnapper that their captive is someone that valuable. Again, it’s not Shirayuki proactively engendering her own escape – Kiki helps from the inside, buying time until help (including her “partner”, heh) Mitsuhide arrives at the Claw of the Sea’s secret island (the Don Karnage parallels just don’t quit). Raj pincering by sea, Zen and the Lions of the Mountain by land – Umihebi has no idea how much she’s bitten off here. But she’s a pretty despicable woman, so it couldn’t happen to a nicer pirate.
The long-awaited reunion between
Buttercup Shirayuki and Wesley Zen doesn’t disappoint, complete with lots of tears (even a few from Zen) and soaring music, as the non-royals (and Raj) clean up the mess outside. The thing is that this is the sort of scene that Akagami does so very well, so it totally works – and in that moment of vulnerability and relief where neither of them is thinking about shyness or decorum it’s absolutely clear that Zen and Shirayuki are completely in love. It’s a good payoff for the arc, which has certainly pushed their relationship (if not Shirayuk’s character itself) forward.
But it doesn’t end there, oh no. It’s been hinted at, but the reason why Kazuki was so anxious to bring Shirayuki back with him becomes clear when she calls the Lion King Mukaze (Ookawa Tohru) “Dad”. I’m actually glad Kazuki had a more compelling reason for what he did, though I can’t help but wonder – are they siblings (and if so, what color hair did the stable boy or chambermaid have)? And why did Mukaze not immediately recognize (or at least acknowledge) his daughter when red hair is clearly a curiosity in this universe? Questions still abound, though it does seem the fireworks of the non-emotional variety are over, and this epic arc can conclude with everyone taking a deep breath and sorting out their relationships.