Its in its quieter episodes that Akagami no Shirayuki-hime seems to the actual heavy lifting. For all intents and purposes this week’s offering felt like a slow, quiet and contemplative episode but make no mistake, the show clearly juggled multiple complex and intricate themes and ideas with an uncanny level of grace. That’s the show’s writing in a nutshell, stealthy as hell but powerfully potent once you dig past the surface.
I think if there are two words that kind of eclipsed everything that we saw this episode, it would be “struggle” and “support”. All the major characters on this show have a particular problem that they’re struggling with, and together with each other’s support, they’re trying to feel out a way to towards a meaningful conclusion to their respective problems.
For Zen, its finding out what kind of a Prince he wants to be, and learning who to trust and who to be vary of. The whole story that we learned about Atri and Mitsuhide last week actually came very much back into the fold this week, if only to tie up the last bits of its loose ends.
In a sense, it was this week that we got the true beginning of Zen and Mitsuhide’s friendship. Its worth noting that when Zen began to question himself and his whole approach of being a prince of the people, it was Mitsuhide that snapped him out of it. The support that Mitsuhide offers, propels the younger Zen forward, and he vows to become stronger to protect those that are precious to him.
From Mitsuhide’s perspective, its too early for Zen to decide on whether his approach is wrong or not. The terror and despair that Zen feels as he considers his mistakes with regards to Atri, at trying to believe in the fact that they could’ve been friends, is very real and painful. But I think as Mitsuhide puts it, its not entirely wrong and its okay for Zen to feel and struggle his way to an answer, regardless of what happened with Atri. Neither Zen nor Mitsuhide run from the tragedy of Atri’s death, and the arrow head is a pretty powerful symbol of them confronting their failure head on.
In many ways, Atri is still a friend to Zen, he’s just a friend he was unable to save, both from society’s cold harsh truth, but also from Atri himself. I think the fact that Zen keeps Atri’s arrow is a very powerful reminder. Its definitely something to honor the friend he lost, but even more so, I think its a reminder of one his failures that he learned greatly from.
Also of note, is Izana’s role in all this. He only makes a brief cameo this week, merely eavesdropping on Zen and Mitsuhide’s conversation, but his smile of approval at Mitsuhide’s suggestion to Zen clearly shows his position in all this.
I think even then, Izana respects his brother and his struggle, even if he may not agree with it. Zen, in his way, is trying to be the best prince that he can, and I think its in admiration of his little brother’s conviction, that Izana gives him the perfect comrade in Mitsuhide. In his own way, you could say that Izana’s struggle is to care for his little brother, and mold him into someone that the Kingdom can be proud of.
Now… Given Zen’s trust issues, it only makes sense that the whole trust thing focus on another character, Obi. Obi’s been an interesting character in that he’s been very much the odd man out in Zen and Shirayuki’s inner circle despite being quasi-welcomed into it. For Obi, the struggle has very much been to prove himself after what happened with Lord Haruka, and become someone that Zen can truly rely on.
I personally really like Obi, he brings a playful cheer to the show that contrasts nearly everyone else in the cast. Zen and Shirayuki are nice and likable but have a serious aspect to their personality. Kiki and Mitsuhide are kind of the same way, there’s no trickster, no jester in the cast, and I think Obi provides some of the wit and humor that balances out everything else nicely.
More than that though, Obi also gets the job of being an audience proxy of sorts, asking the right questions at the right times, and digging deeper into what exactly makes both Shirayuki and Zen tick. Its a pretty ingenious storytelling technique, having the mischievous trickster in the cast actually be the device that helps us understand what’s behind the surface for Zen and Shirayuki.
Last week, I was a bit baffled by Shirayuki’s strong reaction to one of Obi’s questions, and I’d like to think that that got some context this week. As Obi quite rightly analyzed, it was actually the stress about Laxado but more importantly Zen that was worrying her.
Shirayuki’s our title character, and I think its her struggle that’s the most unique and interesting. Shirayuki wants to be close to Zen, to accept him for everything that he is, including his social status. But, its that social status that is actively working against her to keep her away from him. Its causing problems for the both of them, and for Shirayuki its hard to really tell what the solution to the whole concept is. Is there a right way for the two to get together that would be acceptable to everyone? I don’t think so.
But the nature of Zen’s position requires that he be liked and respected by his people, which Shirayuki is acutely aware of. In fact, I think its because of how considerate she is of him, that she doesn’t rush off and handle everything herself like she’s used to, as even Zen points out later in the episode when he hears about the spy that Obi catches.
One of the great things about both Shirayuki and Zen is that they’re both very thoughtful of others, sparing them the details and worries. And that’s great, except for the fact that the both of them seem to understand and perceive one another on a pretty high level.
That comes from the fact that, like Obi mentions, Zen and Shirayuki are similar. They act, rush into situations and confront them head on, sometimes to their own detriment. Its a trait that serves as their greatest strength, but also a bit of a weakness, and its why those two, for how awesome they are, need people around them to support them.
One of the things that I think Akagami no Shirayuki-hime touches on in an indirect manner with all of this, is one of the corner stones of a healthy relationship. Through the ages, romantic stories have always focused on “the one”, that one person that makes the world great for you, the only person you need, your best and only friend e.t.c.
As anyone who’s been in an actual healthy relationship can tell you, putting your eggs in one basket, and associating your emotional happiness with one sole person, is a recipe for disaster. Its something we often see glorified in entertainment and fiction, and I’m glad that Akagami no Shirayuki-hime chose to actually highlight the importance of having friends alongside a significant other.
And I guess this as good as any to mention the thought that I’m sure came into a lot of people’s minds as they saw Shirayuki collapse again, Obi piggy-back carry her and Zen exhibit a bit of jealousy upon finding them. No, I don’t think there’s a love triangle here, and I don’t think that Obi is actually developing feelings for Shirayuki in any way, shape or form.
I really do think that Obi really does respect and like both Shirayuki and Zen, both as a couple, but also as people that are worthy of serving. Time and time again, even multiple times in this episode, Zen and Shirayuki have responded in ways that have surprised him and impressed him.
To me, the scene with Obi commenting on Shirayuki’s vulnerability has everything to do with the fact that like Zen, she’s someone that needs support and friends. Particularly because of how she pushes herself to the point where she constantly disregards herself in favor of others.
I think its interesting, because Obi is there for Shirayuki in a way that only a friend can be. He’s there to catch her when she’s vulnerable, and vulnerable in a way that you can’t really be in front of the person you like, perhaps. It goes back to the whole idea of having different kinds of relationships for different emotional needs.
Just like Zen has Mitsuhide to keep him from going too far off the deep end, so too is Obi largely starting to become that for Shirayuki. To me, Zen putting Obi in charge of being around Shirayuki is him putting forward the perfect companion for her in the same way that Izana did for him.
At least, that’s how I read it. Now, I admit given how late this post’s been due to real life issues of mine, I heard of this love triangle opinion from around the internet, and that’s my response to the whole thing. I just don’t see it. I didn’t see it when I saw this episode, and I don’t think that’s what Obi’s character arc is about.
Obi is very much someone who’s struggle has been to find someone that he can dedicate himself to, to serve and use his unique talents. When Zen hands him his identification, and therefore his trust with Shirayuki, it signals another step forward for Obi.
He’s gone from just being a “spectator” (as he puts it early in the episode) to an actual participant in this whole thing between Zen and Shirayuki. He’s a facilitator, much like Mitsuhide and Kiki. But… I may very well be in the minority here, so feel free to let me know what you think about this in the comments!
Speaking of being in the minority, we see a bit of Kiki this week, but I really am starting to wonder why we haven’t had any development on her. She seems to be as physically capable as Mitsuhide (they spar together afterall) and seems to be well regarded by both Izana and Zen in official matters.
I wonder when we’ll get an episode or a story arc dedicated to her, because given how much development everyone else has gotten, it almost seems odd at this point.
And wow… That turned out to be another rather lengthy post there. I guess that’s as much evidence as anything that this episode actually did A LOT, despite what it may have seemed like.
A new character? Is she a potential love interest of Izana’s? Please let her be a potential love interest for Izana! Oh and the Girl looks cool too. (I kid I kid! XD)
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