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.
13 thoughts on “Rule of Three Review, Fantasy Digest: Rokka, Snow White with the Red Hair – Episodes 2-3”
Your review of Snow White has gotten me interested in it. I’ll have to give it a go. Thanks!
I wanted to confess, as well, that I’m very curious to hear your thoughts on Gakkou Gurashi! once the third episode airs. I’ve reviewed the first two episodes over at my blog, and as I find myself almost always in agreement, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on that particular show.
Gakkou has so far probably been the biggest surprise of the season. The second episode was really well-done, building tension and developing its characters in equal turns. We’ll see how the third one does, but I’ll definitely be back to talk about it afterwards!
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Completely agree. If they keep it up, they may well have one of the best of the season.
I fully agree, it us definitely pretty heart!
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These are both on my catchup pile. Snow white because my daughter enjoys it with me, Rokka because while I am enjoying it,i am not enjoying it enough to pay a premium to watch it. But I am loving snow white for its maturity. It makes it feel much more real than most anime, and watching adults dealing with things in adult Waya is something I want more of. I also love that Shirayuki isn’t the normal tropes. It is great to see her both handle things I get own, but also accept help when it is needed.
That’s probably what I like most is the nuance. Anime characters are so often one note, taken to an extreme. But the characters in this have nuance and depth, independence and a certain that makes them all more than their sums. I get it isn’t for everyone, but I think everyone should at least give it a try with the knowledge that if it catches on out could almost be a new genre, one I desire.
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Yessssss, you’ve nailed my thoughts exactly on these two shows!
I really am impressed with Snow White, precisely because it is such a low-key affair. I’m pretty sick of shojo stories where the guy is a smug a-hole. Even if Zen is a bit cocky, he comes off as more boyish and naive than pompous. It’s just so refreshing to watch, even if the plot itself isn’t terribly ambitious.
And he and Shirayuki actually like each other and trust each other and communicate with each other…! Be still, my heart.
Between this, Yona, and My Love Story, we’ve had a really good run of likable (or at least layered and sympathetic) protagonists and love interests in shoujo anime adaptations this year. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a trend and not just a 2015 anomaly.
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After reading this I decided to give Snow White a whirl, as I thoroughly trust your recommendations. I absolutely love it! And you’re very right when you say it’s a low-key affair – it is, indeed. And all the more welcome for that.
I started watching the first episode thinking I wouldn’t like Shirayuki – then I thought I wouldn’t like Zen. THEN I thought it was a cheap knock off of The Princess Bride. And then I quickly realized the error of my ways, and started loving all of it.
Another recommendation of yours I tried was Wagnaria!!, and again, another one out of the park!
You know, I’d actually stopped watching animes a few years ago (not a rational decision, more of a… slow descent into not-watching-it territory), and had concentrated simply in reading mangas. But after stumbling into the amazing Nozaki-kun last year, I decided to dive into the anime world once again, and now I wonder how I could’ve stayed away for so long! But the weirdest part is to find how my taste has changed. 10 years ago I was all for the big shonen stories, or the big shojo dramas – now I just want something more understated. I’m trying to think of it as “people change” rather than “I’m getting old…”.
Anyway, your recommendations have been as priceless as your recaps, and I intend to follow some more! Thank you!
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Yay! Glad I could help you find some titles!
And I know what you mean about the changing tastes, although for me I think it’s just that I’ve gotten a little pickier about what I watch from each genre. My bar is pretty high for big shonen titles, for instance, but I still devoured Hunter x Hunter and sang its praises to the rooftops. But on the flip side, a lot of quieter, more cerebral titles that probably would’ve bored me as a kid are a lot more interesting to me now, too.
Hmm… maybe that means I should finally go back and give Lain another try…
Man, Lain is, a hard one. I love out in every way, butcitizens know that other people don’t and just as validly. Part of it for me,i think, was how much into the internet and cyberpunk and such I was. Also I had a pretty shitty teen experience so her frustrations appealed to me. I recently bought the blue ray just to see it even prettier and I still love it. If you were in Queensland I would totally invite you over for coffee and anime to watch it. But in the end I think Lain is something you either ‘get’ or don’t, and both are just as valid. It has flaws. It is surreal and nihilistic as heck. At times, it makes no sense unless you get it on a subconscious level. But it is soul in my top 5 anime series ever and the soundtrack is are wtfawesome. And I am rambling, sorry, so done!
No worries! Yeah, I tried to get into it when I was maybe 16 or so, but I was watching it with sometimes weeks between episodes which made it impossible to really follow. Eventually I just kind of gave up on it. I would like to go back to it at some point though, if only because it’s one of those classic titles that everyone (as you mentioned) has An Opinion about, so I figure I should probably have one of those, too.
That is a great idea, go back to Lain! I tried it when I was 17-18, and I just didn’t get it. I didn’t even know what to make of it, I was so confused. But back then, I thought Fushigi Yuugi was the best story ever written, and anything slightly more complicated than that turned me off, I did not want to think when watching my animes.
Things being so different, now that more than 10 years have passed, I should definitely give it a decent go.