Snow White with the Red Hair – Episode 11: “Experiencing…”

Okay, Snow White, now you’re just making the other shows look bad.

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Do I really need to say anything about that one? You watched it. You saw. You know the art was gorgeous and the staging elegant and the music sublime and the characters so wonderful that my notes are like 75% caps lock, underlines, and little heart drawings. I literally wrote “I can’t even” in large block letters at one point. Trying to parse it out and describe it almost feels like I’m cheapening the experience.

But not writing about it means I can’t share this experience with you, and I want to do that. Oh, very much. So hit the jump for some screenshots, gushing, and analysis. But mostly the first two.

Obligatory Scenery Porn: Island Vacation Edition

Obligatory Scenery Porn: Island Vacation Edition

Last week’s kisshanger is this week’s opening scene, and it leaves Shirayuki freaking out for the rest of the episode. She’s less rattled by the kiss itself (which Zen apologizes for, the beautiful cinnamon roll) as she is by Zen’s request that “next time” she tell him her true feelings. Being the serious, thoughtful person she is, Shirayuki has to spend a lot of time considering this, coming to terms with her own feelings and and grappling with their implications.

We won’t hear her answer until episode’s end, a storytelling choice that does create some gradual building tension, as I found myself thinking “Well, she obviously loves him back” and then, as the episode continued and she grew more and more upset, wondering “Wait… she’s not going to turn him down, is she?” Dragging this out for a full episode could have led to a dull 25 minutes, but in the end it succeeds in producing genuine uncertainty that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. All of which only makes our climax all the more emotional, both a relief and a delight.

More like Snow White with the Red Face, amirite?

More like Snow White with the Red Face, amirite?

But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, because Shirayuki and Zen are responsible adults who don’t let their personal lives consume their every waking moment, they have to spend some time apart taking care-a business. Zen travels to Kihal’s island to propose his new Aviary Post Office to the village leaders. He proves his trustworthiness to the chief mostly by showing how little he values money as a bartering tool (thus demonstrating that he’s nothing like Brecker), and they seal the deal.

Hopefully this means Kihal will be coming to the palace as a bird trainer and recurring character, but for now, everybody party! The scenes on the island are some of the lightest and most amusing, with Zen mingling with the local kids and Mitsuhide later giving him a listening ear (and some good-natured ribbing) about his feelings for Shirayuki. One day we’re going to need a proper Kiki episode, but Zen and Mitsu have such a great relationship that I certainly don’t mind seeing that bond again here.

Plus it gives me an excuse to post even more Obligatory Scenery Porn, and that's always a good thing.

Plus it gives me an excuse to post even more Obligatory Scenery Porn, and that’s always a good thing.

In the meantime, Shirayuki’s distracting herself with work. She and Ryuu put together a medicinal tea for the overworked Chief Herbalist, but its bitterness makes it almost undrinkable until Obi suggests adding roka to it. He’s got good taste (and they’re wise enough to recognize a good decision when they hear it, even if it doesn’t come from a trained herbalist), and the trio wind up inventing a new drink sweet enough to dull the taste of medicine, which should be a huge help when working with child patients.

The Chief Herbalist applauds their work, putting into words one of Snow White‘s major themes:

I mean, I brought this up weeks ago, but still, wise words, Chief.

I mean, I’ve been bringing this up for weeks now, but still, wise words, Chief.

Incidentally, I wasn’t really able to find one single visual motif that ran through this episode the way they have others—mostly we got a combination of techniques used in previous weeks, which I’ll get into in a minute—but there were some nifty little perspective shots used throughout, such as Obi watching the tea glass or Popo eyeing the travelers from his cage.

Heck, even the shot above is basically through the Chief Herbalist’s eyes, which is a nice way to visually demonstrate the Chief’s point: Every perspective is unique but limited, so sometimes you need another viewpoint in order to spot something you may have missed. And there’s no shame in that, as long as you’re aware of it and open-minded enough to listen to others when needed. So, yeah. Snow White continues to have great themes.

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Still flustered, Shirayuki decides to travel to the palace forest to clear her head. Obi accompanies her and very nearly tries to put the moves on her (a gesture that may have provoked a loud “STEP OFF, OBI” from a certain passionate blogger), but Zen’s party returns in the nick of time, preventing any awkward love triangle conflicts. Shirayuki flees into the forest with Obi’s help, and he chides Zen into going after her.

Ooh, and this brings us to our second Nifty Visual Motif, which combines last week’s high/low angles and Episode 8’s spacing between characters to demonstrate distances both social and emotional. For example, Zen is always raised on some kind of dais when dealing with the villagers, but they’re significantly closer to him during the party than they are during the negotiations. It shows that, while the political distance can never quite vanish, he can earn their trust and respect, at least.

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Then, during this scene with Obi, Zen sits atop his horse, almost an entire frame across from Obi and looming above him. But when he acknowledges Obi’s words as good advice, he descends from his “high” position and meets Obi on an equal level, bridging the gap between them in the process. It’s a simple but effective way to create just a touch of tension between the two while also showing that Zen isn’t blind to reason, and willing to listen to those technically “below” him.

Our Nifty Visual Technique continues into that {insert incoherent noises of pure, unadulterated love} final scene, when Zen and Shirayuki find a quiet spot away from the prying eyes of the palace to have an honest, personal conversation about their feelings for one another. The distance between them gradually shrinks throughout this scene, although Zen intentionally places himself lower than Shirayuki here, suggesting that she has all of the power. We know how Zen feels, after all, so whatever she says about their relationship is where it will go from here.

[squeeing intensifies]

[squeeing intensifies]

What’s so beautiful about their twin confessions is how carefully both the language and framing make certain to depict their relationship not as one person “winning” the other, but as two people who have come together through a shared bond. Shirayuki says she respects Zen and wants to be his strength, but worries that it’s “not okay” for her to keep looking at him the way she used to. In return, Zen admits to a desire to protect her but also asks for her help in accomplishing that, and confesses that he’s worried he won’t “be able to give back what he gets from her.”

They are their own strength as well as each other’s, and both acknowledge that and want it to continue, and it makes this the kind of romance between equals that’s so important in fiction yet so rarely seems to occur. But the part that sent me into absolute giddy delight wasn’t any dialogue but rather an understated moment of staging, as Zen kneels before Shirayuki—trying to play the prince claiming fealty to his beloved—and she joins him on the ground before taking his hand, silently rejecting traditional courtly romance in favor of equal footing and mutual strength. And it’s… so… I mean…

…Here, have some screenshots. I need a moment to flail again.

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Zen puts the emotional capstone on the episode by tearing up himself, so grateful to have met someone he can trust to love him because of Zen the Person and not out of a sense of duty towards Zen the Prince. And so as the sun begins its descent, Shirayuki and Zen return from the privacy of the forest, their inner monologues overlapping and becoming one joined voice. I’m sure they’ll have some hurdles to clear once they return to the world of nobles and commoners, princes and herbalists. But for the moment, at least, they can simply be two people who love each other, and we can warm ourselves in that light for at least a week.

Enjoy the glow, team. I’ll see you for the season finale next Tuesday.

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12 thoughts on “Snow White with the Red Hair – Episode 11: “Experiencing…”

  1. Personally, and this really is just my personal opinion, it seemed more like Obi wanted to grab her hand so he could be her strength, comfort, and someone she could hang on to while she was uncertain.

    Of course, I could be wrong about that, and Obi might just have feelings for her, but I’m not convince yet that isn’t just awkwardly trying to be her friend. He doesn’t seem like someone who knows much about how to be friends without it looking weird.

    Otherwise, EVERYTHING IS NOW AWESOME AND THE WORLD IS RIGHT WITH THE UNIVERSE!

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  2. I wish there was a coherent way to write the sounds I’m making. I think I shouldn’t have read the recap, because all those feelings rushed back and I can’t even! Flailing, squeeing, babbling, cheering, clapping, they were all a part of it.

    It’s official: my heart has become Zenyuki’s personal playground. They may do with it as they please. This is The Couple. I’m POSITIVE they can overcome anything.

    Random observations:
    – is it me, or is this a very good anime season for consent? Suna and Zen are rocking it!
    – I was TERRIFIED Shirayuki was gonna turn him down! “Shirayuki, don’t you DARE tell me you only see him as a friend! You guys DANCE TOGETHER in the opening, goddamn it!”
    – Obi, Jack Black and the School of Rock have a song specially for you: “Step off! Step off!”. Hahaha but seriously STEP. OFF. (I did laugh out loud with Obi raising his arms, and then giving Shirayuki cover to run. Zen’s “wtf” face said it all).
    – Dee, your analysis of the distance and height motifs was soooo great it made me squee.
    – Chief Herbalist had the Best Piece of Advice Ever. I was vaguely wondering why we were watching Shirayuki and Ryu make tea, when there was so much to get to, but then BOOM I was amazed. Bravo, Snow White.
    – I don’t particularly care for Kihal, I found her slightly one-note; but we definitely need more female characters. I AM officially pissed that I know more about Kihal than about Kiki, though. Her episode and backstory had better be great. That said, Zen x Mitsu Bonding Moments: so much love.
    – That confession. Shirayuki’s tears, can you NOT?! Zen, the kneeling, their conversation, the hand, Zen’s tears, the kissing, their thoughts, the music, everyone’s faces as they saw their OTP had finally become canon, MY EMOTIONS.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This whole comment made me happy, but I’ll just address a few points:

      is it me, or is this a very good anime season for consent? Suna and Zen are rocking it!

      And for a genre plagued with consent issues, this is SUCH a good thing. Continuing to hope this a trend we see more of in the coming anime seasons (and manga releases, too!).

      Dee, your analysis of the distance and height motifs was soooo great it made me squee.

      Thanks! My background is creative writing, not film studies, but I’m trying to get better at noticing cinematography and visuals as much as I do characters or themes. Fortunately Snow White is such a beautiful show that it’s easy to get lost in the art and notice patterns along the way.

      I AM officially pissed that I know more about Kihal than about Kiki, though. Her episode and backstory had better be great.

      I enjoyed Kihal as another commoner Shirayuki could bond with, and liked that they made her headstrong and hostile without turning her into the stereotypical “angry woman,” but I do agree that Kiki’s been sadly underdeveloped thus far. I love what I have seen of her, so a backstory episode would be fantastic. Fingers crossed we’ll get some of it in Part 2 this winter.

      …Aaaand we’re both back to flailing wordlessly about the final scene. This episode is dangerous. We should definitely avoid thinking about it while operating heavy machinery.

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  3. As you’ve pointed out so many times, this show definitely has one of the most equal and honest relationships I’ve ever seen in anime (or any other medium really). Every time I expect the show to leave me with awkward misunderstandings or “JUST TELL HIM/HER!” moments, one of the characters blows me away with their openness and empathy.

    I just had to bring up…I have NEVER seen a show handle consent so well. Having Zen back up and be like “Woah. Sorry. I didn’t ask you if you were okay with that. Let me give you time to think about your feelings so I can be sure we’re on the same page here,” pretty much left me screaming “Yes! Yes! That’s it! See!? Consent is totally romantic!”

    Now let’s hope Ore Monogatari follows suit with some openness and communication this Wednesday…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, I meant to reply to this sooner and just got busy! Well, you’ve probably noticed by now, but the OreMono finale got bumped back an extra week, so we won’t get to see if they can match Snow White until next week.

      And yes, I adore how well Snow White and OreMono have handled consent this season. Sexual aggression coded as romance is kind of a major sore point in the shoujo genre for me, so it’s such a joy to have not one, but two shows avoiding that trope right now.

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  4. Fan scanlations being what they are, you can never be sure if the wording is 100% accurate or not, but the manga translation I read had Zen explicitly saying “I’m sorry, I did that without your consent” and I just fell in love with him in the most pathetically heart-melted way.

    I’ve given up trying to be objective about this series: everything about it -tone, characterization, themes, gorgeous art- is perfect and makes me cry.

    Also YAY THANK YOU for noticing that bit with the kneeling, it’s so good to know that I’m not the only one it reduced to incoherent flailing. I flailed right out of my chair when I first read it, and later I read it again and wrote a thing (http://idioalacrity.tumblr.com/post/128741813915/flails), and then I got to watch it and replayed it half a dozen times all the while flailing because HOW COULD I NOT DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WHAT SHE’S DO- aw hell, I’m getting emotional again.

    This show, these two (and Obi- I’m not quite sure what’s up with him, but I get the feeling it’ll be a bumpy ride), they pain me so much. But in a good way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great tumblr post! Thanks for sharing! I too am glad to know I wasn’t the only person who lost their mind over how perfect and beautiful that was. ^_^ It’s also nice to see that the visuals came directly from the manga, and weren’t an addition made by the (superb) anime staff. I confess to preferring the anime just because of the way it handles pacing and character expressions (and my goodness, THE MUSIC), but Akizuki-sensei has written a truly wonderful original story here, and deserves full credit for that.

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  5. After putting it off for a few weeks I finally got caught up with this series and I’m so glad I did. Absolutely loved the past few episodes and I’m really looking forward to the finale.

    I especially love that there are shows like this where aggression and lack of consent isn’t coded as romantic like so many other shoujo (…and josei…and yaoi….) It also reminds me of this post I read on tumblr ages ago that criticized the whole thing with how a guy getting married is treated like he’s being sent to prison or something in bachelor party scenarios and the like (and vice versa) that essentially boiled down to “why do you hate your s.o.? Why would you be with them if you hate them?” Shirayuki and Zen LIKE each other. Takeo and Yamato LIKE each other. They’re not presented as adversaries who over time learn to stand each other so they can have some personality flaws fixed. They don’t treat each other like crap and get presented like some romantic fantasy. Its why I once physically recoiled at the prospect of reading/watching any incarnation of Boys Over Flowers. Hell, its one of the few quibbles I have with the 90’s Sailor Moon anime with Usagi/Mamoru where they were sometimes just downright nasty to one another (as opposed to the source material where there is some friction at first but it never reaches anywhere near those levels.)

    ngl I’ve been watching the series through the lens that Obi likes Shirayuki AND Zen and the show hasn’t really given me reason to think otherwise XD.

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