The first thing that came to my mind as I saw this episode was “Kids, Don’t try this at home”. Despite how cool and easy Shirayuki made it look, climbing a tree instead of taking the stairs is just not a good idea. XD
All jokes aside, I think it is rather telling about the kind of show Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is, when Zen asks Shirayuki to wait for him to come to her, and she refuses, instead opting to go to him. And rather than refuse, Zen patiently waits for her. This isn’t your standard love story, for its clear that all the agency and power is as much in Shirayuki hands as it is Zen’s.
The heartfelt and emotional embrace in the very start of the episode is less about Shirayuki going to Zen for help, and more about just needing support from the guy she likes. The organic nature to which they’re relationship continues to grow really is a joy to see. Its getting bolder and bolder too, with the hugs getting more frequent, and being initiated by one of the two parties. At times its kind of odd how maturely these two behave, almost as if they’re a married couple rather than people who aren’t even officially dating, but the reason it works is because of how well the both of them take it in stride.
Carrying over from last week, the big issue of Shirayuki’s place and Prince Izuna’s problems with her were more or less resolved this week. What’s even more interesting, is how masterfully the show dispelled the feeling of tension and unease that had taken a hold so thoroughly last week, and brought us back towards the calmer and more relaxing show we’ve grown accustomed to.
It seems I was very much correct in identifying Izuna’s position last week. While he wasn’t going to outright force Shirayuki out of the place, he’s not in favor of a commoner being with his little brother, a crowned prince of the kingdom. I think Izuna makes a salient point as a ruler actually. Royalty is hardly ever allowed to marry for love because when the stakes are that high, generally royalty marries for some kind of political or economic benefit to the country, rather than for themselves. In some ways, Shirayuki doesn’t exactly provide any value to the kingdom, she’s a commoner with unusual hair, who ran away from a prince and was saved by another. She may be smart, she may even have a right to stay in the castle, but having the right to be with Zen? Unfortunately the way Clarines as a country works doesn’t allow it.
As the audience, we know that Shirayuki provides immeasurable value to Zen. She makes him a better person, makes him happy, and pushes forward to him by her own skill and power. She’s a remarkable woman, and there are just some things you can’t attach a price tag or empirical value to. Shirayuki may not be a princess in social standing, but the way she acts is perhaps even more dignified than most royalty (*cough* Raj *cough).
Its worth noting that Izuna and Zen are pretty unique, outliers in terms of how Royalty is, in general. They’re both good rulers, that work hard to serve the people around them and better the world. And like many of us suspected in the comments last week, there was more to Izuna than meets the eye. While Izuna definitely comes off as mean spirited, and is quite the manipulator, his actions generally are in service of the good. Its tempting to bring up the question of “do the ends justify the means”, but nothing Izuna does is particular evil.
In the flashback where Zen tells Shirayuki about his brother, it really all becomes clear. Izuna is a clever, smart man, one that understands the evil of people and how to bring about their true nature. As a politician, I’d say Izuna has the right combination of moral values and cutthroat thinking. And unfortunately, the way Izuna works, its all shrouded in mystery and the unknown. You can’t exactly tell what he’s doing, because that’s just how he works. He shows by action, rather than by sitting around and explaining himself.
There’s a real vibe of: “You’ll see.” to Izuna. He’s clever and smart, and he knows it but… He also realizes that his intentions and methods aren’t exactly the most easy to understand. Which is why he doesn’t explain himself to his kid brother Zen during the whole “two feuding lords” situation. He also doesn’t talk about the two retainers that come to him in secret either. He simply does his clever work, and lets Zen see it all play out. And in doing so, he both respects Zen and impresses him.
Through Zen and that flashback, I can definitely say that Izuna won me over as well. Prince Izuna is the sort of ruler that I think some of the more successful kingdoms in history have had, and its no question that both Zen and the kingdom of Clarines are such a fine place because of his strict but fair and just ruling.
But, sometimes you can be right and wrong at the same time, which I think is what Izuna comes to realize this week. I’d still say, from a “by the book” approach, Izuna is pretty right about Shirayuki’s perceived value. Its through Zen’s actions and through the actions of Kiki and Mitsuhide as well, that Izuna begins to realize that he may have judged the book by its cover rather than its contents.
Zen makes an equally strong point in this argument, that Izuna is being too hasty and judging Shirayuiki as a person without really getting to know her. Its by getting to know the girl, that her true value can be found, after all. And Izuna does indeed hide behind the “I don’t have time to slowly observe one girl” thing, but that’s not really an excuse, or true. Izuna’s the kind of man who IS actually observing Shirayuki rather closely.
This is some conjecture on my part, but the reason I think Izuna had a bad first impression on Shirayuki, has to do with that scene from the last episode, where Zen asked her if she’d miss him, and Shirayuki nervously shrugged it off. From an onlooker’s perspective, it could very well say that Zen was too into Shirayuki, and she wasn’t that into him. We know that to be untrue, but I can’t help but think that if I had judged the two of them based on THAT interaction, I’d have come to the same conclusions.
And I think that reveals the true situation here, that’s buried in subtletly and arguments and fine sparing (of both words and swords). Izuna is worried about his younger brother being smitten by a girl that might not be both that into him or worthy of him. That’s the reason the generally fine and competent ruler makes a pretty glaring error in his judgement. For all the awesomeness that Izuna has as the future ruler, he’s still very much human and a bit emotional when it comes to his family.
Its rather lucky then, that later that day, Shirayuki and Raj actually run into each other in the castle grounds, despite their best efforts. Raj acts like his usual idiot self and almost poisons himself. Shirayuki not only saves him from taking a dangerous medicine, but tells him off in a way that’s actually best for him. Its here that Shirayuki and the show do the impossible, they make us (or at least me) think that there’s hope for even someone like Raj in the long run.
Raj actually understands and seems to see the error of his ways when Shirayuki lectures him about his responsibility to himself and his people. Its something that goes without saying, but its something that Raj has been ignoring for a while. And while he leaves, the words clearly affecting him, the true blessing of this exchange comes from Izuna having seen the whole thing transpire.
After witnessing that stunning display from Shirayuki, in that situation, its no surprise that even Izuna concedes on the matter, calling Shirayuki “hime” (princess) and kissing her on the forehead in appreciation.
“What Strange Children” are the words of Izuna’s that truly stick with me, because they reveal so much about him so concisely. I’m not sure if it can truly be understood without actually understanding japanese and the tone of voice, but its not meant to be taken in a sarcastic or even negative manner here. The words are uttered in a very positive, pleasantly surprised way. And this phrase means that Izuna’s seen something that he didn’t quite think he would; that his mind has very much been changed with regards to the red haired girl in front of him and her potential relationship with his younger brother.
I think some of the joy I felt from seeing Izuna’s change of heart and this whole arc, has to come from me being an older brother myself. I’ve got a brother who’s much younger than me, and I think I often act in a similar way to Izuna when it comes to him. The show captures the relationship of an older stern brother with his likeable younger brother so beautifully that I’m almost at a loss for words. And I think its not just about what the series shows you, but what it makes you feel. The fact that Akagami no Shirayuki-hime can continue to make me feel such a wealth of emotions is perhaps the reason I love it so much.
Now, while I think I’ve spent what is probably my longest post on Shirayuki explaining the intricacies of WHAT happened, I think the reason I did that is because I find it so fascinating and impressive. The writing is layered with such subtly and is so relatable that it truly astounds me on an intellectual level. The fact that Izuna, a character that I wasn’t that much of a fan of, has turned into perhaps the most interesting and complex character this show has offered yet, is just amazing.
Its amazing, its noteworthy and its another reason why Akagami no Shirayuki is definitely something truly special. Its not something I’ve seen before, but its a masterclass in fantasy romance and even royalty, ruling and politics. And a lot more often than not, while it explains some of what’s happening on screen, it respects the audience enough to discern the stuff that’s buried underneath.
In closing, I’ll apologize a bit for the extremely long length of this post. I might have harped on a bit too much, but this episode just spoke to me in so many ways, and exceeded expectations in the best way possible. I had a lot of fun writing this post, so if you read it all, thank you for indulging me. I’m equally curious to hear about what people thought about this episode in the comments!
We’re past the half way point for the first cour of this show (its been confirmed to be a split cour), so I’m really wondering what this show has planned for the next few episodes. At this point, I’m just waiting with bated breath for whatever joys await us in the coming weeks.
Seems like next week is going to focus on Zen and Mitsuhide’s past. Sounds utterly fantastic!
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