Opinions (A):

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime may be going down the difficult path of change, but underneath all the growing pains is a series that still has a lot of the heart and the soul of the lovable first cour. This week’s episode was the first one, in a good long while, where I enjoyed something in nearly scene that I had the good fortune to come across.

The feeling of complete and utter joy has been such a rarity with the return of this series, that I was genuinely surprised at how good of a time I had. And because of the previous weeks filled with small bits of disappointment, I was actually hyper sensitive and possibly even looking for problems a lot more than I normally do. And while even this week’s Akagami no Shirayuki-hime wasn’t perfect, it got oh so close to the high points of the glorious first part of the series, and moved several steps in the right direction.

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In many ways, this week’s episode felt like the show going back to the basics. The emotional core of this series, this story and this franchise is Zen and Shirayuki, so opening up the episode with a flashback to a tender moment shared between the two was superb. It almost felt like we were peering back in time, to a time where things were just simple, both in terms of the effectiveness of the story, but also just in terms of the lives of our main couple.

Shirayuki and Zen are in a very difficult situation right now, so contrasting that with what was undoubtedly one of their happiest moments is a powerful way to put everything that’s happening into context. It gave me, at least, a sense of prespective and reaffirmed the idea of how dire things really are, and how hard it probably is for Shirayuki.

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Following that stellar start up, was Shirayuki, the real Shirayuki. This is a Shirayuki’s that smart, brave and quick on her feet. She’s clever and capable, and we got enough of a dose of that, that I felt like we were still watching the same character that I at least, had grown to adore in the first cour. That’s been my one problem with this current arc, in that its stripped the agency away from Shirayuki and made her someone who needs rescuing.

That’s still the case here, even if it is there to a lesser degree. What I did like, however, was Shirayuki actually doing something about her situation and fighting to get out of it. While it wasn’t quite the character we saw deal with Mihaya all those episodes ago, it was nice to see the spark come out here. Shirayuki is obviously scared, what reasonable person wouldn’t be? But she’s more than up for taking on the challenge. Its her memories and great time with Zen, and the yearning to get back to that place that brings her forward.

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It is a bit unfortunate then, that while Shirayuki definitely tries, she doesn’t end up getting very far. The effort is there, the actions are there that keep her character development intact, but the plot still actively needs her to stay a prisoner. There’s still something inherently frustrating about that, even more so than the somewhat convenient discovery of those weird seeds that produce smoke.

These are the cracks in the storytelling, ones that are emerging because Akizuki-sensei is moving out of her comfort zone, and into an actual adventure story. Adventure stories are harder to pull off convincingly, and I don’t think Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is quite there as a straight up fantasy adventure story. Still, I did find myself wanting to come up with excuses to compensate for the story this week, if only because seeing the main protagonist act like herself was such a welcome change of pace.

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Shirayuki could have just gotten duller thanks to all the happy times she had with Zen. Going from her tough start, to the happy days in Clariness and then back would obviously throw her off. A part of me really wants to make those excuses for the story, to fill in those gaps because the characters are just that lovable. But make no mistake, those ideas really are excuses, and its not something that the story itself has spelled out or even hinted at.

The real issue is that because of this whole “Shirayuki’s trapped by a band of pirates” scenario, Shirayuki is very much the one in need of rescuing. And its Zen, the guy, that needs to go in and help her out because despite her best efforts, she can’t do it herself. Now… I fully realize that there are times when any person, male or female needs help, and this could very well be the case of Shirayuki needing help from her signficant other and friends.

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It could be, but why does it have to be? That’s the question I kept asking myself. Why can’t Shirayuki and Kazuki actually make some headway and escape, with Umihebi hot on their heels. Why can’t Shirayuki and Zen, both, in their own situations, be moving slowly but surely towards being with each other again. The old show, the show I originally fell in love with, would do something like that.

The sad part is that the show HAS already done it before, with the whole Mihaya storyline. When Mihaya kidnapped Shirayuki, she managed to get most of the way out of that jam herself, with Zen only coming in to help at the last moment. If the show did want to create some kind of grand adventure, why couldn’t we have gotten a more complex and nuanced version of THAT rather than Shirayuki pretty much being trapped, and Zen slowly moving to get to her.

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Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved and continue to thoroughly enjoy every little thing that Zen and Raj are doing in their efforts to rescue Shirayuki. Zen continues to demonstrate his capability, both as a leader, but also as a man. He’s making all the right moves, staying calm, and herding his friends along to where they need to go.

Zen’s reunion with Obi, was particularly a fantastic moment for this episode. It showed that Zen was the bigger man, and that he absolutely deserves the faith and dedication that Obi ascribes to him. Zen showed, after a long ass while, that he’s the kind of guy that you’d want to be friends with, and follow to the death. He’s a far cry from the emotional, rash mess we found him as at the start of the cour.

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Yet, this isn’t Zen’s show alone, even if he is the co-lead. Shirayuki and Zen should always be equals, at least in my eyes, so while I continue to love Zen, and his capable actions in getting to Shirayuki, it is very much a case of “two steps forward, one step back”.

But While I keep interlacing the bad with the good, I do believe that there was more good than bad this week, a lot more. One of the really good things, was how Kazuki’s little attempt to kidnap Shirayuki actually spurred from what Raj had done at the start of the series. There’s just something inherently intriguing about the irony of Shirayuki getting captured and being put through hell because of a mistake Raj made when he was a lesser person.

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It comes back and  bites Raj, right as he’s starting to move on from his past. I like it though, because its the series, the story and Akizuki-sensei acknowledging that while Raj might be turning into a better person, it doesn’t excuse what he did at the start o-f the series. That’s pretty much how you do redemption for characters like Raj, by refusing to ignore the past, and giving the character chances to show how much he’s changed since.

Case in point, the whole scene with Mihaya, and how quickly Raj agreed to reward him if he got them to the “Claws of the Sea”‘s hideout. It was a nice contrast to Zen, who’s a bit more of a straight arrow and refuses to compromise on his refusal to give Mihaya what he wants. Raj though? He could care less. Mihaya is giving him a way to get to Shirayuki, and no price is high as far as he’s concerned.

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There’s also an interesting difference between Raj and Zen in this situation. While Zen may be the more responsible prince, its clearly noticeable that its Raj that wields more power and thus has more of an ability to do things as a result. Its a nice little commentary on the idea of a ruler, and how much power he should or shouldn’t have. Props to Akizuki-sensei for managing to slip that in in her more stealthy, ninja like way.

So… While Shirayuki is unable to escape her captors, Zen actually does manage to close in on her location this episode. That leads to the biggest surprise I’ve seen from the series yet, and a very welcome one. The story finally utilizes a character that I felt has long gone underused in Kiki. Kiki’s part of Zen’s gang, but unlike literally every other character on the show, she’s never had a prominent role in anything.

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So while I’m not a huge fan of Kiki being “sold” because she’s a woman, I was pretty glad to see her take the stage for once. And with Kiki, it really is the little things. Like how she confidently suggests using herself as the infiltration agent, and how Mitsuhide suddenly freaks out about it. I’ve long hoped that Mitsuhide and Kiki were somehow interested in each other, and while I will say that there’s no clear evidence of it here, its at least good to see that the two really do care for each other as close friends.

I look forward to the rare opportunity this unlikely scenario is presenting us. We’ll get to see Kiki and Shirayuki interact, without everyone else there to get in the way. I’m hoping this is the first of many moments where Kiki gets to shine and get some attention and development.

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And that’s pretty much how the episode ends, with Kiki managing to meet up with Shirayuki in the ship dungeon. I will say that Shirayuki suddenly breaking down after hearing about Zen and feeling a bit relieved, is something that once again, gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand, I get it, Shirayuki is a girl that’s missing her man, and she’s overcome with joy at the fact that she might see him again. At the same time, I just can’t see it.

This is the girl that jumped off a roof for Zen, who’s constantly displayed a strength and vigor that actively faught against the “women get emotional” stereotype. You can say it works, because the story provides enough context for it, but I’m still a bit let down. I’m let down, but only because I care so darn much about this show.

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I will say, that its been a hard time for me these past few weeks, seeing Akagami no Shirayuki mess with its winning formula, and become a lesser show than it once was. But now we’re moving to a point where the show is finally starting to regain its footing. Just the mere fact that I’m genuinely excited for what comes next, rather than dreading it, is such a huge win in my book, that I’ll just take it. If Shirayuki can continue this upward trend and rise back to perfection, then I’ll definitely be patient and let it work through its issues.

Preview:

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Seems like the assault on the Headquarters and Zen’s plan are both underway next week. See you all then!

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The Owner, webmaster, designer, coder and writer for the site. Anime Evo is Setsuken’s (Hassan's) proclamation of love for Anime, which he can’t seem to get enough of. He’s a 26 year old male, and current resides in the USA . A writer for a number of years Hassan is also a 3D Artist, a Game Designer, a Web Designer and a Huge Anime Obsessed Enthusiast.

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