Roses, tomatoes, and human blood. What do these all have in common? If you guess their color, then you would be correct. A certain girl with noticeable red hair also exists in a fantasy world where the colors of red decorates its colorful storytelling. Akagami no Shirayuki-hime (Snow White with the Red Hair) isn’t exactly a Disney tale where there’s just prince charming or Cinderella shoes. Rather, this show is what I’d envision as a unique fantasy story of vibrant coloring.
Adapted from the manga of the same name written and illustrated by Sorata Akizuki, the series focuses on a young woman named Shirayuki. She is born with her trademark red hair that catches the eye of almost anyone she meets. This unfortunately attracts the attention of a prince named Raji who wishes to marry her and in response, Shirayuki attempts to escape from the country. She later meets a young man named Zen and helps him with an injury. As prince Raji attempts to find Shirayuki, we see how her adventure begins not as a heroine who is on a mission to slay dragons but to obtain a rightful place in the world where she belongs. The series is noticeable that it’s a split cour (12 episodes) each. This review will cover the first cour of the adaptation by studio Bones.
As a fan of the manga, I was ecstatic to see that this anime adaptation became a reality. To get straight to the point, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is a very classic fantasy. It takes place in the Kingdom of Clarines that is highly decorative. In fact, its first few episodes will make you see the world fiction that Shirayuki and the others are part of. Even the very few first scenes of the show will unravel what may be expected. The highly decorated castle, the scarlet red haired heroine, and a prince with a commanding presence all bring out the atmospheric shoujo setting. The premise also includes a poisoned apple which is a classic plot device used in the original Snow White story. But rather than Snow White being saved, it’s Shirayuki who does the saving. In essence, Shirayuki is an antithesis of the damsel in distress trope. She is courageous, intelligent, daring, and very compassionate with the people around her. She helps a stranger (Zen) with little hesitation and often puts others’ will-being above her own. What defines her as a strong woman also makes her independent as she relies on almost no one to achieve her goal. And in this story, her goal is to become a professional pharmacist.
The show executes its storytelling from many angles. The most prominent would be the relationship building between Shirayuki and Zen. The two already have a charming chemistry with their moments from the very first time they’ve met. Zen’s curiosity of Shirayuki is also interesting to see as he wants to know more about her each episode. Their social status in the show contrasts greatly but it’s shown that they are similar in a variety of ways. Both are confident in their abilities, skillful in certain arts, and often uses clever thinking to solves problems. They are also both sometimes stubborn with certain objectives such as when Shirayuki stood in front of a sword while risking her life to get a point across. Furthermore, it’s also shown throughout that Zen has grown fond of Shirayuki to the point that he sometimes feels dependent of her. In return, Shirayuki often looks after his well-being while developing a mutual respect for one another. And given the shoujo fantasy premise, there’s little doubt that romance soon blossoms between the two.
As a character driven story, the series also puts emphasis on the other people that we see. The two most noticeable are Zen’s aides, Mitsuhide and Kiki. The two has a strange relationship although it’s shown that they very close. Their sense of loyalty is also unparalleled each episode as they are willing to put their lives at risk to help Zen. Although we don’t learn much about them, it’s shown that they’ve also grown quite fond of Shirayuki’s presence. Other characters such as Obi makes the audience wonder what they may be capable of especially with what they make of their first impressions. Lastly, there’s also a bit of sibling drama that occurs in the show. Zen’s brother is shown to be manipulative individual who is hard to read; sometimes he is serious, other times he is playful. The siblings’ relationship often creates tension whenever they are on-screen together and it really makes the audience curious to see how their relationship develop in the present story.
For Shirayuki’s role, she undertakes challenges to prove herself as a capable pharmacist. While the show is predictable, it still manages to capture the interest of the viewers as we see how she is able to take on different challenges. The experience she shows in the series isn’t just by the actions she does but by how she does them. It’s interesting to note that Shirayuki’s confidence comes from willing to help others as a goal to become a pharmacist rather than just earning money or achieve fame. Her selflessness combined with courage and independence makes her stand out as an inspiring heroine.
While the series is very appealing, this might not be a show for everyone. For starters, this is not to be taken as an action theater. In other words, do not expect epic sword clashes, war drama, or political affairs that spans into complicated plot angles. Instead, this is more of an inspiring fantasy shoujo that classifies the characters and how they progress. The relationship dynamics makes this series very colorful while retaining the strengths of a classic shoujo. I do have to admit that not everything is captured by source material adaptation standards. Also at times, the story’s pacing feels sluggish in particular with the first few episodes. There’s also some forced comedy that occasionally appears although this can be neglected by the memorable dialogues. A fantasy adventure like this isn’t also without romance so expect some obvious direction that the story follows up with. Despite this though, the show itself stands alone as something unique. It’s not a reboot of Snow White but a colorful tale of red.
As one of several Bones’ series to premiere in 2015, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is a powerhouse when it comes to visual arts. The show’s animation features vibrant colors combining elements of resourceful landscapes, architecture, and character designs. The Kingdom of Clarines is also shown to have fantastic features that is fitting for a grand castle along with its neighboring town. Shirayuki’s red hair is decorated as unique throughout the season. Her outfit gradually changes as her skill evolves and reflects on developed experience. Zen’s outfit is also fitting for someone with the status of a prince and alongside his aides, they make up a memorable trio. There is also virtually no fan service as the show makes its point to unravel Shirayuki as an independent heroine, a female character that doesn’t need to rely on looks to gain others’ attention. All things aside, I do have to admit that there are occasionally some sluggish animation issues with the character movements. However, the body language in the show is undeniable when it with ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ moments.
The word I’d describe the music for the show would be sweet. It’s lighthearted that isn’t hard on the ears but instead convey its fantasy shoujo feel whenever it needs to be. The OP/ED theme song are decorative and well connected to its atmospheric setting. Character voice mannerism comes from the strengths of the main leads. Shirayuki shows a lot of personality in her voice that shifts from confidence, humorous, and daring when she needs to be. Similarly, we also have Zen who displays a familiar nature as a prince. His voice sometimes does display inklings of stubbornness and even arrogance when interacting with his brother. That actually brings up to a good point as well. Izana is probably a character that I’d describe as the most hard to read yet. Just judging on his voice alone, there’s a lack of trustworthiness in his character. But overall in terms of character voice mannerisms, the whole cast is well portrayed.
So what else is to say about Akagami no Shirayuki-hime? It’s more than a tribute to the original Snow White story. We get a colorful cast of characters in a world where possibilities can become a reality. The show does a wonderful job when crafting its premise while staying true to it throughout the season. The character relationships are some of the key highlight points that makes the show worthy of its praise. And when it comes to its technical features, the series is a red scarlet eye candy of fantasy. In retrospect, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime makes you feel attached to the characters, story, and become a part of something almost magical.