All work and no play makes Snow White a sleepy girl.
This seems to be the week where I start my posts by praising the production, so let’s go ahead and do that, because Snow White deserves plenty of accolades for what it’s managed to accomplish over five weeks. Successfully adapting a work is no easy task (although studio BONES has one of the better track records in that respect, despite some hit-and-miss anime-original endings), but having read this far into the manga, I can say with zero reservations that Director Ando and his creative team have not only produced an anime that surpasses the source material, but have done it in a way that makes it look darn near effortless.
Soft, ethereal backgrounds and Oshima Michiru‘s pitch-perfect score set the mood and give the world depth; expressions and movements are just exaggerated enough to convey personality while still maintaining the series’ grounded tone; and story lines are woven gracefully together, taking the most important pieces, shifting them around as needed, and combining them again to add new layers and draw connections that may not have been as obvious in the original.
This week’s episode is a great example of this, as in the manga, Zen’s bandit-hunting and Shirayuki’s exhaustion are separate chapters. Here, though, they’ve been combined so that, by the time Zen confronts the bandits, we understand how hard Shirayuki has worked and how much she’s inspired Zen to handle his own responsibilities with as much dedication and competence as she does hers. It also helps balance the episode into two interrelated A- and B-stories, rather than only loosely connected first and second halves, which gives the whole episode a better cohesion and flow.
It also doesn’t hurt that our BONES team knows their way around an action sequence, using quick cuts and key bits of dynamic animation to make the anime Snow White a much more exciting experience than its manga counterpart. Add to this some clever little touches of detail (Obi’s line of snowmen) along with beautiful staging and cinematography—particularly with the way this episode used windows to frame (pun!) Shirayuki and her private burdens (and then to show Zen also framed in that window once she agrees to share her struggles with him)—and you’ve got yourself a lovingly crafted episode, created by a team that knows what they’re doing and clearly cares a whole lot about doing it.
In terms of actual content, our main couple reveals some similar flaws this week, as both try to take on more than they’re able. Their twin stubborn streaks have worked in their favor in the past, but this time Shirayuki almost works herself into the ground, and Zen gets a little pushy when he wants to stay inside the castle, trying to force Shirayuki to accept his help with the sick soldiers when there’s really nothing he can do (and would likely just be underfoot and/or fall ill himself if he tried).
Both are trying to live up to their own sky-high expectations and embody the perfect version of their roles—Zen the devoted leader, Shirayuki the tireless physician—but they’re not superhuman, either, and by ignoring their own needs they’re actually more likely to let down the people who depend on them. As Mitsuhide points out, Zen won’t be able to help anyone if he falls ill himself, and the same can be said of Shirayuki. There’s a fine line between passion and self-destructive pigheadedness, and they both tread it this week.
Fortunately they have people around to realize when they’re pushing themselves too hard and to step in and remind them to back off. While our main couple had some great moments, this week was really about getting to know Zen’s retinue better, and especially how they relate to their boss.
Kiki is more vocal and aggressive with a deadpan sense of humor, while Mitsuhide is more likely to openly tease but rarely gives advice because Zen places so much weight on his opinion. We know almost nothing about this trio’s shared history (I wouldn’t say “no” to an origin story episode at some point), but their interactions have been so natural and consistent that it’s easy to get a general feel for their relationship even without any backstory specifics. Good, organic character building, that.
Obi is our newcomer, but he’s a naturally snarky and playful sort, so he integrates into the group quickly, although he has a tendency to want to run off on his own and Zen has to reign him in. If I have one complaint with this episode, it’s that Obi becoming a regular cast member feels awfully sudden and was never fully explained (I guess Marquis Haruka just didn’t feel like he could object after the business with Shirayuki?). Still, he’s a solid source of humor and provides a nice outsider’s perspective regarding our main quartet, so I’m willing to roll with it.
All-in-all this is a more-or-less self-contained story where nothing particularly groundbreaking happens, but we learn a little more about our cast and strengthen the bonds between them. Shirayuki and Zen continue to be honest and straightforward and basically wonderful together, and watching them inspire and learn from each other is the highlight of each week.
I also hope you all sat through the end credits, because we got a hint of what’s coming next week, and it’s none other than Izana Wistalia, the crown prince and Zen’s very own older brother. We’ve known this day was coming (Zen is the “second prince,” after all), but if our introductory shot is any indication, it may prove to be a trying one.
This “illness arc” was the last thing I read in the manga, so I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I suspect some bad blood between brothers. I also suspect that Shirayuki and Zen will handle it with their usual blend of communication, trust, and general awesomeness. They tend to be pretty good at that.