The magic is here in more ways in than one.
Lush backgrounds, slowly building stories, ever-expanding casts, romantic (sub?)plots—all in a day’s work for a fantasy anime. Hit the jump for one Mesoamerican-inspired epic and one relaxing fairy tale.
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers (Rokka no Yuusha)
In true epic fantasy fashion, Rokka is taking its time expanding its cast and building its world, so even though we’re three episodes in I’m a little stumped to properly explain exactly what this series is all about. Six warriors of legend taking down a demon god, yes, but beyond that we’ve gotten only glimmers of the possible twists, turns, and pasts that may come around to haunt these characters.
What I can tell you, at least, is that the animation (barring the ugly CG monsters) is sleek and bright, the dialogue crisp and natural, and the characters a lot of fun to watch play off each other. The series has a tendency to get bogged down in lengthy exposition, but this has become less of a problem each episode, and there’s enough visual movement to keep it from feeling static even during its longer speeches. I still haven’t fully committed to this one, but I’m liking it a little more each week, and if it can settle into its world and keep developing its cast, there’s a very good chance you’ll be hearing about it again.
Snow White with the Red Hair (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime)
I like Snow White an awful lot, but I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t for everyone. It’s an intentionally low-key affair, with a soft color palette and lovely, string-based score to match. Its characters are mature, thoughtful, and deliberate individuals. They have goals but they’re methodical about them, and while the main couple are clearly smitten with each other, it’s a relaxed relationship about mutual support and comfort rather than grand emotions and romantic gestures.
As such, while each episode features its own conflict (some of them quite dire), there’s always the steady-handed sense that Shirayuki and Zen will be perfectly able to handle it. Snow White is a dreamlike series with (as the male MC’s name would suggest) an almost meditative feel to many of its scenes and interactions. It lacks the dramatic oomph given to most fantasy or shojo (or both) stories, and I can see how this could turn some viewers off.
Even so, it’s still one of (if not the) best executed shows airing this season. Every element (art design, music, stories, dialogue) come together to create a very specific mood and tone. It’s a story about the balance between responsibilities and freedom, about finding a way to pursue the life you want without giving up the people you care about, and Shirayuki approaches every conflict with a calm but unwavering gaze. She’s a great protagonist, neither a stereotypical Strong Female nor a teary-eyed damsel in distress, but rather a resourceful, capable young pharmacist-in-training who knows what she wants and pursues it. Snow White may not be what everyone wants to see, but it is exactly what it wants to be.