It says something about the quality of the writing in Akagami no Shirayukihime that it can swing as wildly as it has in tone this season without losing credibility. Make no mistake, this series is temperamentally more suited to what we saw this week than what we’ve seen over the prior course of this entire arc, but it went pretty far to the other extreme before returning to form. That’s a pretty ambitious way to build a narrative and while I wouldn’t judge it to have been an unqualified success (I’d rank the first season slightly ahead of the first two-thirds of this one), I would say it’s been far more effective than I would have expected.
In the end, though, it seems everything that happens in Akagami no Shirayukihime fundamentally builds towards one thing – the relationship between Zen and Shirayuki. In that sense this arc wasn’t really as different in substance as it was in tone, because its main function was to serve as a catalyst to bring the main pairing’s feelings for each other out into the open. There was other stuff happening here, certainly, and Shirayuki’s personal development was something of a casualty to the larger cause of the story. But in the end we got where we needed to go in entertaining fashion, and I suppose only a fool would complain about that.
Beyond that, in truth, there’s actually not that much to say about this episode because it speaks for itself in the way much of the first season of Akagami no Shirayukihime did. We had some exposition, mainly about Mukaze. A former noble on the run from his brother after coming out on the wrong end of a family conflict, he ends up in the care of the Lions of the Mountain, and Shirayuki is born in their village. But after the death of her mother, Mukaze decides it would be best for the girl to live in safer and more stable environment – a choice, it must be said, that many others in the community clearly didn’t make (though they didn’t have a member of the nobility targeting them specifically).
As for Kazuki’s role in all this, he’s not any sort of family – just a boy grateful for Mukaze’s help trying to do him a solid. One could argue that it would have made a lot more sense for Kazuki to just tell Shirayuki the truth, but I guess we wouldn’t have had a story that way. And father and daughter both recognized each other at once – obvious in his case, but Shirayuki because she’d spied on her father when he secretly came for a visit when she was a child. Mukaze doesn’t put up much of a fight when Zen announces (to her too, unwittingly) that he’s in love with his daughter. And in truth, he’s really in no place to interfere after having been absent from Shirayuki’s life for almost all of it.
If there’s any character who saw the most growth in their personal development in this plot-driven arc, it would have to be Raj. He’s still a bit (well – quite a bit) of a popinjay, but he’s come a long way – I especially liked his declaration to his younger siblings that if Shirayuki were living at the castle full-time (read: under his thumb) it would be “boring”. While part of that is his new maturity causing him to accept the writing on the wall, I do think there’s a measure of honesty here – for Raj, Shirayuki’s charm is largely based on her unavailability.
And let there be no confusion – she’s unavailable, and there’s not a damn thing Raj, Obi or anyone else can do about it. The open secret of Shirayuki and Zen’s mutual love is not even a secret anymore, even from each other. We’ve reached the point in Akagami no Shirayukihime where it’s a series about these two as a couple. We’ll see how it works in that mode (I suspect rather well) – though the manga is ongoing, the next four episodes will almost certainly provide the anime’s epilogue, and I’m quite confident Bones will want to wrap things up in a satisfyingly conclusive manner.