Chiwa SaitoYuko KaidaJun FukuyamaYuichiro Umehara
Snow White with the Red Hair: Season 1
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2015: S
Also known as: Akagami no Shirayukihime: Season 1
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2015
Director: Masahiro Ando
Original creator: Sorata Akiduki
Writer: Akiko Waba, Deko Akao, Megumi Shimizu
Actor: Ryota Ohsaka, Saori Hayami, Akira Ishida, Chiwa Saito, Jun Fukuyama, Kaori Nazuka, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Yuichiro Umehara, Yuko Kaida, Yuko Sanpei
Keywords: Akagami no Shirayukihime, anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Season One: 12 episodes + an OVA 13th
Website category: Anime 2015
Review date: 21 June 2016
Akagami no Shirayukihime
It's a gently charming shoujo series and I'm looking forward to Season 2. It's a romance, set in a pseudo-historical world of princes, castles, etc. I'm tempted to call it fantasy, except that it has no fantastical elements and indeed its portrayal of pre-industrial life is grounded and realistic.
Shirayuki is a herbalist with red hair. She's also practical, hard-working and one of the most straightforwardly likeable anime heroines I can remember. She gets on with life and she's never the damsel in distress. If the prince of her country decides to make her his concubine, she won't make a fuss or cause any trouble for anyone. She'll just flee over the border while no one's looking. Other characters will sometimes think she's more self-reliant than she is, but even so it's very, very hard to fluster Shirayuki. (Not impossible, though. Being wooed will do it, if she can't immediately find an answer for the gentleman.)
There's an underplayed romance that plays out in a perfectly straight line, with rather sweet inevitability. Shirayuki and Prince Zen become friends almost immediately and it's inconceivable that they won't end up together. They're so natural together. They trust each other. It's almost startling how quickly you assume they're going to fall in love, not (just) because we're genre-savvy but simply because these two people are so instinctively in synch with each other. What's more, the storyline doesn't try to complicate their progress with misunderstandings, rivals, etc. Everyone's too sensible for that. If Shirayuki sees something open to misinterpretation, she never leaps to conclusions and instead goes to investigate the facts. This is refreshing and I'd like to recommend her example to many idiots, especially in romantic comedies.
There are obstacles, of course. Shirayuki is a commoner. The royal court has some roaring snobs in it, all of whom are more than capable of making things difficult. Meanwhile Prince Zen has been aware for a long time that he's only a human being when he's off-duty and then only sometimes. If he ever expressed interest in a girl, theoretically she wouldn't really even have the option of refusing him.
You're not worried about them, though. The only real question mark (albeit a faint one) involves another potential love interest. They're close. He gets ordered to go around with her. It's fairly clear that he likes Shirayuki and you can read things into his reactions late in the season when the romantic angle finally gets sorted out, but there's nothing negative in it. They're friends. There are five of them altogether, some of them have saved each other's lives and they're close-knit. They're not jealous of each other. They're happy for each other.
That's only part of the show, though. Mostly it isn't romantic. Shirayuki's emigrated to a new country, where her professional qualifications don't apply and she's got to retrain to be able to work. Prince Zen has a job to do as well. Royalty isn't a ceremonial position here. He's faced assassination attempts and the death of friends. He's got to be an army commander, visiting distant forts and investigating trouble. He's got to sort out bandits. He's got to pass legal judgement on cases where a slimy bastard appears to be in the right.
As the title suggests, by the way, there are fairy tale elements. "Shirayuki" means "Snow White". There are princes, poisoned apples, etc. To be honest, though, I'm not sure if the writer's planning to do anything with this. Those elements are only noticeable in ep.1 and soon disappear from the show as a whole unless you think princes and castles are inseparable from the Brothers Grimm. The tone isn't fairy-tale at all. Maybe it'll return in Season 2? (Almost every reviewer I've read wants to compare this show with Disney, but personally I reckon that's a knee-jerk response to the show's title. I suppose perhaps might argue that the animation quality is lush and classical in a way that's a bit like old-school Disney.) There's also not a huge amount of comedy, with both Shirayuki and Zen mostly just being straightforward and sensible. Prince Zen's retainers sometimes made me laugh, though. They're commentators on events, although also two of those five close friends I mentioned.
It's a warm, pleasant show. Fairly modest and calming, but there's nothing wrong with that. It's easy to watch. (I did notice that Zen's sword fight against bandits somehow showed him defeating them bloodlessly, mind you, whereas the swords of less sympathetic characters are capable of spilling blood and leaving corpses.) Shirayuki's polite, respectful and thoroughly deserves every good thing she works to achieve. Zen's a good bloke too. Even antagonists tend to get shown more respect than you'd expect and humanised with some insight into their character. It's perhaps a little too calm and low-stakes to make fandom fall madly in love with it, but I think it's very good.