The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Snow White with the Red Hair

Title: Snow White with the Red Hair aka Akagami no Shirayuki-hime
Genre: Drama
Companies: BONES
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 6 Jul 2015 – 21 Sept 2015; 11 Jan 2016 –28 Mar 2016

Synopsis: Shirayuki’s rare red hair is always getting her in trouble. Growing up as a young girl in the kingdom of Tanbarun, friendly and not-so-friendly strangers have frequently taken an interest in her because of her fiery locks. Her worst experience occurs when the entitled prince of her country tries to coerce her into becoming his concubine, which forces her to run away from her home. It’s not long, however, until she befriends the spirited Prince Zen of neighboring Clarines, who offers Shirayuki safe haven in exchange for having healed his wounds.

The Highlights
Main heroine: Independent and willful, Shirayuki is one of the more realistic and engrossing protagonists of recent anime.
World building: Wonderful visuals and an environment that speaks for itself.
Balanced storytelling: Tension and resolution, exposition and narration, character development and action; all of these are masterfully come together into a well-paced show.

While watching Snow White with the Red Hair, I realized how much I’ve been longing for the anime industry of days past, one that didn’t have to survive on the vapid yet highly polished franchises we see today. I’m particularly astonished by how little shoujo we’ve had recently, and I sorely miss watching series such as Skip Beat or Hanasakeru Seishounen, which seem like relics of the past compared to the deluge of slice-of-life and comedy anime around today. With Snow White with the Red Hair, I can now add a new favorite shoujo anime to my list.

The most delightful aspect of the show is the eponymous main character Shirayuki. She’s willfully stubborn at times yet innocent at others; from the beginning of the show it’s clear that she doesn’t just exist for the gaze of her handsome male companions. She’s a tenacious fighter that fights for what she believes is the right thing to do, in addition to being a capable young pharmacist that helps her companions out of trouble on numerous counts. I loved watching her grow as a character throughout the series’ two cours, especially as she faces bigger and bigger hurdles along her journey.

Part of the success of the series is due to Studio Bones‘s handling of the pacing: there’s just the right amount of dialogue and action. The show takes the time to explore its gorgeous landscapes, allowing the setting to come to life. For example, when Shirayuki and her companions are traveling across the countryside, we are given time to indulge in frames featuring gorgeous forests or oceans. Similarly, the stars in the sky twinkle as much as the characters’ eyes do at key moments when the characters are out celebrating at night. These visual flourishes allow the environment to set the tone and convey the character’s thoughts without dialogue. It’s a wonderful tactic that takes full advantage of the show’s fantasy setting, with the only downside being that the beautiful visuals aren’t always consistent.

Although I could wax poetic about the show’s strengths, there’s one section of the show weakened what I considered a strong story otherwise. In the second season, Shirayuki becomes passive and unsure of how to approach her royal love interest, Zen. To keep the story progressing, the show ends up focusing on Zen’s advances in order to progress the two characters’ relationship. This shifts focus away from Shirayuki’s development, which is incredibly unfortunate considering that her growth as a person is one of the best reasons to watch the show in the first place.

Snow White with the Red Hair brings up a nostalgia I have for strong female leads in anime regardless of genre. It’s wonderfully paced so that each episode has a balance of tension and resolution, exposition and narration, character development and action. It’s one of the few recent anime that have managed to grab my attention from the start and never let go, and I strongly recommend this series for anyone interested in not just shoujo but well-crafted anime in general.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Kylaran

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