I wish this was the episode that led me to say; “Aha! So that’s what this show was planning!”. Instead, I still feel the odd combination of unease, excitement and general bewilderment. But while I’m still unsure as to where the show is actually going with all the things that its been setting up and planning, I do know this: This probably isn’t the best way to go about getting some of the things we got this week.
Lets examine each of those three things I mentioned, unease, excitement and surprise one by one, as they’re each tied to some of the major things that happened this week. Unease comes first, mostly because it’s just a repeat of all the things that I’ve not been a fan of since the series started back up.
The unease I feel seems to come exclusively from the odd love quadrangle we have between Zen, Shirayuki, Raj and Obi. It seems like manga Sorata Akizuki has a bit of a mean streak in her, because she continues to torture both her viewers/readers and the characters with this needless love drama. Yes, guys often fall for a very pretty, nice and strong willed girl, especially one that impresses them. But far from being a beautiful and heartwarming romance story, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is starting to feel more and more like a reverse harem.
To me, I just don’t see why Obi and Raj can’t have themselves and their outlook change for the better WITHOUT falling in love with Shirayuki. Shirayuki is an amazing girl, and a great character, and after 16 episodes of seeing her basically rock on and be awesome, I don’t dispute that. I do wish, however, that the story would put forward her awesomeness as something that’s worthy of respect and adoration, rather than something that just makes her just infinitely more attractive and desirable. And I say that, as a male viewer watching a Shoujo show, so there’s some inherent irony in that whole affair.
Where it hurts the most, personally, is when it comes to Obi. The show and story continue to devote massive amounts of time and linger on how he’s feeling about her, and how difficult it is for him to deal with his feelings. The whole situation is just rife with misfortune. Its not Obi’s fault he’s in love with Shirayuki, nor is it his fault that he can’t distance himself from her. She needs him, both as a friend and a bodyguard that she can rely on. And its not Shirayuki’s fault for constantly having to lead on Obi, because well, she’s not really aware of his feelings for her and what she’s doing.
The weird holding pattern that Obi has around Shirayuki is tough to watch. It also gives a real scary and dispacable kinda message, if you read between the lines. It suggests that because Obi isn’t in the sort of social standing where he can openly compete with Zen, he has to subvert his own feelings. Were Obi another prince for example? Then he’d at least have the power to try and vy for Shirayuki’s heart. Not that that’s at all the right thing to do here. When someone isn’t interested in you, and lets be honest, Shirayuki’s not interested in anyone but Zen, then the best thing to do is to distance yourself and mend your broken heart.
But what is Akagami no Shirayuki-hime indirectly getting at here? Well, its basically saying that if you’re into someone then well, sucks to be you, and just deal with it. As someone who’s been on both ends of the spectrum myself, I can tell you that THAT is not a healthy way to be thinking about things like that. I wish Akizuki-sensei could have a sit down with Kazane Kuawahara-sensei (Ore Monogatari) because it seems like there’s some emotional maturity that needs addressing here, IMO.
And while we’re on the topic of Shirayuki and being interested in anyone but Zen, I don’t think I appreciate how much the story is hinting at the fact that she may be unsure of her feelings for him. Its the little things, like Obi (and the show) pointing out that Shirayuki isn’t as open and direct about her feelings for Zen, as she is about nearly everything else. That, combined with Izana’s little test for her, seems to suggest that Shirayuki needs to PROVE herself, rather than you know, just be.
And before you suggest that I’m reading too much into things, I’ll just say that this is a show that’s always had subtext layered into it. The first cour had mostly positive subtext, but I don’t think you can simply turn off the subtext reading when the story itself starts giving you mixed messaging. At the end of the day, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime will always reflect whatever world view Akizuki-sensei projects into it, as is her right. I’ll just step in and say that I don’t quite agree what’s being suggested here, even if I still do like the story and more importantly the characters.
And while the story seems to be hinting at Shirayuki being potentially unable to confront her feelings for Zen head-on, there’s the other parrallel in Raj too. Raj, again, is a guy that’s met Shirayuki twice, and the second meeting is what changed him for the better. After meeting something and someone that he can’t have outright, and who doesn’t just bend to his will, Raj has learned the meaning of wanting something, and wanting to be better for someone. The fact that its changing him and making him strive to be a better person is actually a fairly realistic concept and idea.
But while I respect Raj for just trying to be FRIENDS and just you know, getting his ducks in a row in terms of being a better person, nearly everyone around him seems to be a lot more toxic than I’d like. So Raj is interested in a girl and that girl is leading him to be a better person? Cool. What’s not cool is just deciding to KEEP that person there, or to somehow force her onto him in an effort to not “lose” that.
Again, I can get that from the younger twins, since those two are kids and not really all that smart or mature when it comes to these things. But the rest of his attendants and advisors? Man, this match making makes me seriously uncomfortable BECAUSE it ignores the most important thing of all, what Shirayuki wants. Have Shirayuki’s wants and needs been considered or factored into the equation at all? Not really.
Every conversation that revolves around Shirayuki’s stay revolves around somehow delaying her, or even going as far as to talk to Obi and ask if “he” could extend their stay. Isn’t Shirayuki the one who should be asked here? The way everyone seems to be basically setting up Raj to get the perfect woman, one that’ll steer him in the right direction, is pretty disgusting to be honest. Its played for laughs and what not, and done all tongue in cheek, but the subtext is again, there.
Full disclosure, I’ve ALSO been in the sort of situation where I’ve basically been in Shirayuki’s position, and none too happy about it. So there’s some life experience playing into and coloring my opinions and reactions to the show. Is that fair? Probably not, but again, that’s the beautiful thing about media, about entertainment and about stories. They affect us and garner reactions from us in different ways. These sorts of things might not bother some people at all, hell, it might not even be all that noticeable to them. It ruffles my feathers though, simply because of my own life experiences.
The situation at hand kinda reminds of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, in that some people just HATED that show because of how it chose to tackle subjects like depression, friendship and unrequited love. I was one of the people who could relate to that show in a positive way, because of how and what my life experiences had taught me, and I’m sure there are people here that will feel a similar sense of positivity from Akagami no Shirayuki-hime.
And that’s fine. Liking this episode, loving this story, enjoying the sense of drama and what not, is fine and totally okay. I respect that particular view point, and I respect that reaction to this particular story, even if it doesn’t exactly mirror my own.
Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is still a great show, even with all the things that personally bug me about it’s recent decisions. I still like it, and there are things that I am genuinely enjoying. So now that lets talk about those then. The things that made me generally excited.
I’m actually really really glad that the Kazuki storyline is picking up steam, and coming to the forefront so darn fast. To be honest, I had expected the Raj situation to resolve first, and then lead right into the Kazuki storyline. To have the second storyline come right in and interrupt what was a rather awkward situation to begin with, is actually a win in my book. Kazuki switching directions and heading right to Tanburn in order to capture Shirayuki is great and has at least gotten the ball moving on that storyline.
That particular development, also gave Zen a chance to shine and stop sitting on the sidelines. I loved, adored and was downright impressed by Zen’s determination to go to Shirayuki, and his open declaration of intending to marry her was bold. Bold, open and very direct, something that’s refreshing to see after all these people continuing to either deny their feelings or hide them. Zen’s earnest, straightforward approach to getting his way in the situation with Izana, was just amazing to see unfold.
See, I don’t actually think Izana is in the wrong here. Zen is a prince, and he can’t just go galloping into another country out of nowhere, and potentially engage foreign enemies on foreign soil. That’s such terrible diplomacy that even the middle ages wouldn’t have stood for that kind of stuff. Yet, Shirayuki is in danger, and Zen needs to go to her, come hell or high water.
I almost expected Zen to threaten to abandon his title of Princehood, and I don’t doubt that he would have, had Izana pushed him to. And I think that’s what ultimately made Izana budge, against his better judgement. I honestly do think, that Izana’s stipulation of not wanting to get involved in an official capacity, and the threat of not bringing Shirayuki back if it happens, was pretty reasonable, given the circumstances.
Causing an international incident over one girl, and potentially having Tanburn and Clariness’s relations burned in the process, is just not okay, no matter how you slice it. Zen’s in the wrong here, but Shirayuki matters all that much to him, that he’s ready to throw caution to the wind, and potentially even put his own country at risk.
Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t think Zen’s thought that far ahead, even if Izana has. I think all that Zen cares about right now is going to the woman he loves and making sure she’s alright. And that’s a very human thing to do, I’ll give Akagami no Shirayuki-hime and Akizuki-sensei props for pulling that off so smoothly.
Its also quite telling, about how serious this whole thing is, where there’s both a pirate ship with someone unknown lady character coming in to Tanburn, and Kazuki already being at the palace. This week’s episode definitely ended at an exciting point, and there’s no telling whether Obi is actually going to be able to handle this challenge by himself, or if even Zen will be able to, when he does arrive. From what Izana’s told him, he’s on his own, and thus that means that both Shirayuki and Zen are in for quite the challenge and sticky situation.
That, despite all the problems and issues I continue to have with the series, is why I’m still liking it as a whole. I’m looking forward to where we go from here, at least, and I hope that the worst is behind us.
The final thing I’ll squeeze in is the fact that while I did have a few problems with the story of the show, I do have to say that as an adaption and a production, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is STELLAR. Studio Bones is doing an amazing job of bring this manga to life. Their art direction, animation and nearly everything is a sight and sound to behold. I think its worth commending how great all the production work is, and how it almost gets overshadowed by how powerful the story and characters are. The only reason those two things stand out so much, however, is because the animation and production leave absolutely nothing to be desired.
Seems like things aren’t going to go too well for Obi, Shirayuki or Raj next week. I’ll see you then, and hopefully on time instead of a day late! XD
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