After 3 months of waiting, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is back. The second cour, of what I’d have easily called one of the strongest shoujo romance series ever, let alone of last year. I’ll say it once more for good measure, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is back. Its back… but… Umm…
Look, there’s no easy way to say this but… As glad as I am to have a series, a world and a cast of characters I love return, I actually didn’t find this first episode all that great.That’s pretty darn shocking, because if you read my extremely lengthy, long and gushing posts about their series first cour, you’ll know that I absolutely adored and love everything about it. But I think that love, that adoration and that appreciation was something that Akagami no Shirayuki earned through its own hardwork.
This was a series that had stellar writing, a calming and relaxing style to its storytelling and a slow but steady sense of pacing. The characters were likable, understandable, and drove the plot rather than the reverse. And I’ll be the first to admit that I went into Akagami no Shirayuki-hime’s second cour with exceedingly high expectations. Expectations, that I’d say were probably set by just how well the first cour worked not only as a whole, but as a stand alone package.
Akagami no Shirayuki ended on a pretty nice turning point in the story, and I recall being so darn glad that we had another 12 episodes of this show to enjoy. But now, this week, having seen whats coming and what came forward, my mind can’t help but wander to Durarara!!x2 and how big of a disappointment that turned out to be.
Now I mention Durarara!!x2, not to be spiteful (because I don’t think Akagami is there quite yet), but because a lot of the issues I had with this opening episode seem to mirror my larger problems with that series as well.
See, there are a number of things that didn’t work for me, but the one most problematic thing of all was the fact that I just… Didn’t care. And again, that’s really weird with regards to this show. Feeling a sense of passiveness, a lack of attachment and that feeling of being an observer rather than someone lost in this magical world and its colorful characters, is not something I ever wanted to feel from this franchise. For a good chunk of the episode, however, I felt like I just wasn’t watching anything too important, meaningful, or frankly, all too interesting.
That feeling of detachment was there for a good chunk of the episode, and then momentarily dissipated near the end when things got exciting, only to come rushing back a few moments later. So why exactly did I feel this way? I haven’t mentioned any specific yet, so lets look at this episode in terms of the four major things that happened.
Thing number one, Ryu and Obi. Look, I like Obi, I like Ryu, and I can totally see them sharing a moment. The way they become friends is pretty organic, natural and nice, but its also pretty boring. Ryu is helped out by Obi when his pages get stuck in a tree and then Obi gets some seeds as a result? Okay… Erm.. Cool? I guess?
Its just.. This entire interaction feels like its checking off a box more than it is showing us something meaningful, interesting and new about the characters involved. Obi and Ryu are nice people, awkward people but nice and good-natured people none the less. The fact that they hit it off and become friends is nothing all that strange or odd. You’d kind of expect them to be friends at this point anyhow.
But The whole scene of the two of them connecting with one another, is a scene that could almost entirely happen off screen, or at the very least, could’ve been shortened signficantly. Or, I dunno, just made more interesting somehow. I would’ve liked the situation where Obi ends up helping Ryu or vice versa, to just be more interesting than “My book page is stuck on a tree”.
Yes, I get that Akagami is the kind of show where things are calm, relaxing and laid back, but I dunno, I just didn’t feel the emotion, the care and solid character moments that we generally get beyond that calm and relaxing demeanor. So yeah, Ryu and Obi’s new connection, while I appreciated it, I just didn’t feel like it worked all that well for me.
But see, I get WHY that whole thing happened and took up such a big part of the episode. Its because the whole “seed” thing served as yet another moment where the show awkwardly and half-heartedly began to push the fact that Obi seems to have feelings for Shirayuki. I think I’ve gone on and on about how this particular idea just rubs me the wrong way, so to see it get such a renewed focus after the break is just a little vexing.
Its also standard, predictable shoujo drama stuff, and the kind of stuff that I feel Akagami no Shirayuki is above. There’s enough drama with Shirayuki, Zen and their struggles, so I really can’t get behind this newer problem. To make matters worse, Zen himself is acting all passive aggressive about the whole thing. It seems like he’s definitely aware of how Obi feels, but then he tells him things like: “Oh by the way Shirayuki is looking for seeds like the one you have”
To what end? I’m not sure. And before people dismiss my concerns as overly paranoid, lets just make note of the fact that Zen ends up sending Mitsuhide with Shirayuki near the end of the episode, a fact that both myself and Obi noticed quite acutely.
Which brings me to my next point, Shirayuki and Zen, and how they’re interacting with one another. To say it feels off, is the understatement of the century. We saw these two characters, over the course of 12 episodes, fall for one another, fight for one another and then finally decide to be with one another. One of the most interesting questions I had, going into this second cour, was how Zen and Shirayuki were actually going to move forward as a couple.
From this episode? It feels like we’re right back in part 1 territory, almost a few days before that whole Castle Day festival thing. Shirayuki and Zen in this episode are just so… awkward. There’s a sense of distance and frankly a level of shyness that I’d think we’d be past now. The two have kissed for gods sake, held hands and promised to be with one another. They’ve jumped into water, supported each other through the tough times and come so far as a pair.
But you wouldn’t be able to tell that at all, from this episode. From what we can see, Shirayuki and Zen have actually moved back a few steps, rather than forward. Zen still feels like he has to prove himself to Shirayuki, and Shirayuki continues to blush and feel embarrassed at the slightest hand grab. It just doesn’t feel natural at all, given all the progression we had in that first cour.
So, the supporting characters interactions? Not really digging. The Main pair? They feel off and unnatural, all that chemistry feels like it was lost in whatever span of time we had between the ending of the last cour and now. At this point, you’d say that Akagami no Shirayuki is off to a pretty rough start eh?
I mean, sure the episode wasn’t great, but it had to try and remind us of why we love all these characters and this world, so a bit of recap and lack of progress could be expected. But see, the problems didn’t end there for me. Oh no, things got a whole lot worse.
In perhaps one of the weirdest moves from this franchise, this was perhaps the first time where I felt like the plot, was squarely moving the characters around, rather than vice versa.
See, the big challenge for Zen and Shirayuki is all about how they legitimize their relationship and be together. In my mind, that’s a tall enough order as is, and its worrisome enough that the two haven’t really made any progress in that particular department since we last saw them.
The thing that really irks me though, is that the mangaka ( Sorata Akizuki-sensei) felt the need to throw in some artificial challenges, just to “make things tense” and interesting again. Its almost like she doesn’t really know where to go from here… And so here’s two new plot threads that will present challenges for these characters to overcome.
The two challenges in question? First, there’s this blonde kid looking for Shirayuki, who runs into none other than cour 1 episode 2’s villain “Mihaya”. Okay, so maybe there’s something about Shirayuki’s lineage and hair color that’s going to play a big part in the story. We still don’t know much about her origins, nor Zen’s for that matter.
And I can see that as a side story, and one that causes alarm because someone seems to be after Shirayuki for her hair… Again. That’s the problem though isn’t it? We’ve gone through the whole “Shirayuki’s hair is weird” scenario enough times now. I feel like its full covered ground at this point, and yet the story seems to shoving that back into play.
Now since I’m not aware of what happens after this episode, I can’t comment on whether this will all be worth it. What I can say is that I know that the inclusion of this particular plot point felt weird, and really unnaturally hamfisted in.
But see, if the whole “someone is hunting for Shirayuki” thing weren’t enough, Izana ends up commanding Shirayuki to go back to Tanburn for some kind of ball. Again, I’m not sure what Izana’s playing at, but from how the episode itself presents it, his motivations seem entirely sinister.
And that’s really annoying, because the first cour went to great lengths to provide a nuanced look at Izana. Here, he just seems like a villain, clearly putting Shirayuki in a position that she doesn’t want to be in, and separating her and Zen in the process. He’s pretty aware of what he’s doing too, because he calls Zen for that very reason, and then even starts saying something along the lines of “Does this feel like something you can’t gain anything from Shirayuki?”
But we don’t address that head on. No one in that darn room does. Is he sending Shirayuki as an official representative of Clariness to improve her social standing and actually help her out? If so, he sure isn’t doing a good job of communicating that. And if Zen and Shirayuki are so crushed, then why don’t they just be honest and ASK? Why does Zen have to act like a friggin immature prat and throw out his whole: “I will add this one condition!”
Yes, Zen’s emotional and impatient to a fault, but I never viewed him as a illogical and foolish. And the reason all of this feels off, in my mind, is because its another situation, another story point, that’s just been put there to make things tougher for our characters. It doesn’t organically or logically feel like its something we need to see yet.
It also feels heavily recycled, especially given that we had JUST seen Raj and Shirayuki near the end of cour 1. Yes, I know its been 3 months or so, but I just feel like its too soon to be bringing that particular topic into play.
And going back to what I mentioned before, both in terms of Zen and Obi, its just weird that Zen ends up asking Mitsuhide to go with Shirayuki rather than Obi. I thought Zen more or less implicitly trusted Obi, and there was that whole “sharing a drink” scene near the end of the last cour? Did Zen just forget all of that? Obi sure as hell felt slighted there.
To close things out, because I feel utterly and completely horrible for just trashing one of my favorite franchises, on the eve of its return no less, I will say that I’m just sad. I’m sad and disappointed in whatever this week’s episode was, because it didn’t feel like anything from that magical first cour that I feel in love with. Am I being insane? Am I just crazy and making a big deal out of nothing? Was Shirayuki-hime always like this? Did I just have too high of an expectation for this show and episode?
Its definitely possible. I know that the best I could do was just list out everything that I felt was problematic with this show, and hope that maybe the show brings back the magic starting next week. I hope I’m just having an off day, and that its me, not the show. It has to be me right?
OP – [Sono Koe ga Chizu ni Naru] by Saori Hayami (B+):
Again, I hate myself for saying this, but I actually didn’t find this OP to be that amazing. It was fine, don’t get me wrong, but the song didn’t feel as cheery and moving as the first cour’s, and the animation felt largely throwaway. Just a bunch of scenes of characters on horseback, or running, combined with a few shots of what I’d call “B-Roll”. It wasn’t bad per say, but it just being “fine” is just not something I expect from a franchise of Shirayuki’s caliber, and a studio like BONES.
ED – [Page ~ Kimi to Tsuzuru Monogatari ~] by eyelis (A):
I liked the ED a bit better. It felt more suited, a lot like the first cour (for better or worse) and had some nice artwork. It STILL wasn’t as superb as the first cour, so… I guess I keep end up comparing this new cour to its own predeccesor. That is a pretty tough act to follow I guess.
Tags: Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2nd Season, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime anime blog, akagami no shirayuki-hime episode 13, akagami no shirayuki-hime episode blog, akagami no shirayuki-hime part 2, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime review, akagami no shirayuki-hime screencaps, akagami no shirayuki-hime season 2, akagami no shirayuki-hime second series, Obi, open castle day, snow white with the red hair, zen x shirayuki
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