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Opinions (A):

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime may be a shoujo romance show, but simply calling it that is doing it a great injustice. While the show is perhaps, one of the most relaxing and heartwarming examples of how organic a romantic relationship can be, there’s other themes hidden in the periphery too. And sometimes… Those other themes get a bit of a focus, and its then that Akagami no Shirayuki becomes something that’s a cut above the rest.

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One of Akagami no Shirayuki-hime’s big plot devices and themes has to be the whole issue of royalty versus the common man. I call it a plot device, because that’s largely what it seemed like, at least at first. Zen and Shirayuki are good people, they gel well together and have the approval of nearly everyone around them for when they choose to be together.

But… if everything’s all rosey and good, then there’s no conflict, and one can argue that a good story needs conflict. The whole royalty angle has done just that, its been an obstacle, a barrier and a wall preventing Shirayuki and Zen from acting like any two genuinely compatible young people, i.e entering into a serious romantic relationship.

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I always thought that the whole idea of royalty and Zen and Izana’s conflicting views on distance was just something of an auxiliary point, some nice icing on the romance cake that added flavor. To take that horrible analogy and run with it, it seems like as we bite into that cake, we realize that it isn’t the icing that’s giving us that flavor, but rather the actual filling in the core of the entire cake.

Zen’s character and struggles are defined by his social position and the conflict it creates for a guy like him. Zen is a nice, friendly guy, a guy who likes to befriend people and make close connections. Unfortunately for him, however, he’s in a unique position of power, one that ends up isolating him from the majority of the populace.

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You’ve got to feel for the guy, as even someone like Mitsuhide, who he implicitly trusts with his life, started off as someone who was “ordered” to serve him.

There’s a really awkward beginning to Mitsuhide and Zen’s relationship, as its Izana who orders Mitsuhide to be beside Zen. The irony is that Mitsuhide actually wants to serve Izana (at least then…) and that creates a bit of a rift between him and Zen.

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But… The flashback to Zen and Mitsuhide’s first meeting, also illuminates another party that has really emerged as a personal favorite of mine; Izana. Izana in the flashback, comes off as a lot gentler and kinder, even doting 0n Zen a bit. There’s a real sense of care in every action he takes and its clear that Izana expects great things from his little brother.

Beyond all of that, however, what this flashback story does so well, is highlight that Izuna has some logic to his worry about Zen associating too much with the common folk. Zen as a young man, after all, nearly falls victim to his own naivety and eagerness to be friendly with strangers.

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Enter Atri, a young boy and Archery Gaurd, who ends up befriending Zen a little before Mitsuhide comes into the picture. Zen and Atri actually seem to have the trappings of a real good friendship, one that seems to disregard stuff like social standing and what not. And yet… For all the time Zen seems to enjoy around Atri, there’s a sense of privilege and almost insensitivity that Zen unintentionally exudes.

He’s a young kid who doesn’t know better, but you can see how the simple pleasures that Zen enjoys feel like heavenly luxuries to Atri.

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The real tragedy, however, is when Atri’s true intentions are revealed. He’s a rebel from a punished family that seeks revenge against the Royalty of Clarines, and Izuna specifically.

It all ties into that flashback we saw of Izana last week, where he quite shrewdly weeded out and punished those two corrupt lords. Uprooting evil like that, no matter how gradual, can breed resentment though. Izana himself commented on how some of those affected by the status quo change might come for his life, after all.

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And it happens, but it hits Zen instead of Izana. Zen ends up screwing up and finding himself at the mercy of the rebels. But what happens next! Well if you had any negative feelings about Izana, then I’d like to think that some of those changed a bit, at the very least.

Izana doesn’t bring an army to save Zen, nor does he negotiate for Zen’s safety. Izana comes to Zen’s aid himself, with only Mitsuhide in tow. For all the talk of keeping distance that Izana spews, he’s pretty quick to break all protocal and even a bit of common sense when it comes to his brother.

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No matter how you look at it, Izana and Mitsuhide taking on all those armed men is just suicide. Its insanely risky, and one could argue that the entire kingdom is put at risk because both Izana and Zen are in danger of death in that particular situation.

Yet, despite all of that, Izana and Mitsuhide go all Dynasty Warriors on the rebels and make quick work of them. There’s an element of raw, brutal violence to the whole affair too, it feels like a slaughtering more so than a battle. While the rebels clearly have the numerical advantage, its Izana and Mitsuhide who command the superior fighting prowess and skill.

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In the end, the rebels are all taken down, but not before Zen’s friend Atri makes a serious attempt on his life. Mitsuhide comes in, narrowly cutting down the fatal arrow and ending Atri’s life. It speaks to the kindess of Zen’s heart that he still cries for the friend he’s lost.

And then the words that started this flashback erupt from Atri’s mouth: “It would’ve been better if you weren’t a prince.”

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Its something that hurts Zen quite deeply, because despite how hard he works, he does feel that being royalty is a burden. Its a burden that isolates his freedom loving nature, but also his very core being. Zen wants to connect with people, and there’s always the big obstruction of his “status” to contend with.

Its this same status that’s causing his problems with Shirayuki after all. But, for how dark this episode is (and lets be honest, this is the some of the darkest stuff we’ve seen from this series), there’s always that ray of hope and happiness.

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Obi, who we’ve seen slowly join the ranks of Zen’s inner circle, is assigned to protect Shirayuki after that whole fiancee business that Raj ended up perpetuating continues to become an issue. While Obi’s doing his job, he also ends up running his mouth off, and ends up asking Shirayuki a question that I’ve been curious about myself.

Does she wish that Zen weren’t a prince? While its expected that Shirayuki would accept Zen for who he is, the fact that she gets angry at Obi is… interesting. I’m not exactly sure what it means yet, and I’ll say that I was just as puzzled as Obi was at her reaction to his question.

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But… her reaction is probably exactly what Zen needs from a prospective partner. Zen’s watching from above, unknown to either of them, so there’s that. I’m actually really looking forward to peering into Shirayuki’s head in the future, and learning why she got as emotional about the whole topic as she did.

The fact that she did get upset though, and the fact that neither Obi nor I really understood why, probably points to the fact that its Shirayuki that’s uniquely suited to be with Zen, and not either of us XD

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The last thing I’ll say is that, this whole theme and issue of Zen’s position serving as an impediment to his potential happiness with Shirayuki has slowly crept up as one of the stellar parts of the story. I really thought this was going to be a nice episode that clued us into Zen and Mitsuhide’s relationship, but it was that and then some.

The rather stealthy, almost ninja-like way in which the whole concept of Zen’s status has crept up into the foreground is kind of impressive but… That’s just how this show is. Its got writing that subtly lays the groundwork, then after careful buildup, it just surprises you.

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First it was Izana, and now this. I really like how this show continues to defy expectations and climb up the ranks as one of the best romance shows I’ve seen, period.  Between this and Ore Monogatari, this has been a great year for the shoujo genre/demographic.

Preview:

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Seems like we are going to focus more on the royalty aspect of this, but in the present day. Sounds great, I’d say!

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