New season. New challenges. Same beautiful show.
After a busy premiere weekend characterized more by mediocrity than anything else, Snow White with the Red Hair returns to brighten a cloudy Monday and the winter as a whole. The art is gorgeous, the music vibrant, the interactions natural and charming, and the story handled with steady-handed grace. It’s quintessential Snow White, and it’s a delight to have it back.
The first half of this episode is more like a reintroduction than a proper story, as we check in on each characters’ day-to-day activities, remember who they are and what they’re up to, and sink back into this relaxed fairy tale world. In retrospect, it also functions as indirect foreshadowing, setting us up for at least some of the season’s overarching stories.
Like the medical wing Shirayuki spends part of the episode cleaning and rearranging during Act One, Act Two promises us a time of change and reorganization, of travel and separations and new-forming relationships. For such a sleepy little mini-story, there’s an awful lot of movement during these early scenes, and the camera is frequently following people as they walk down hallways or focusing on their backs, hinting at both forward progression and a concern about being left behind.
It also sets us up for what will likely characterize Shirayuki and Zen’s relationship in the coming weeks: Physical separation punctuated by brief moments of intimacy. They both spend most of this episode handling their own business, only finally spending time together when she’s finished her work and Zen’s
attendants friends push him to take a break. Given that Shirayuki looks to be spending time back in her home nation in the coming weeks, I suspect this will continue to be the case.
Yet for all that, the two are never far from each other’s thoughts, pushing and supporting the other even without their presence. And, when they do come together (11 minutes and 18 seconds into the episode, not that I, uh, know that for any particular reason), it’s predictably adorable, showing how Shirayuki worries for him and he instinctively reaches out to her for support, even while half-asleep. They aren’t quite on the same page—Zen is thinking about “the future” while Shirayuki is still getting comfortable with basic physical intimacy—but their mutual respect and trust hasn’t faded.
That will be vital in the coming weeks, given the plot bombs first failed kidnapper (but still massive jerk) Mihaya and then Prince Izana drop on our young couple. There’s a boy named Kazuki (Kokuyru Sachi) who may be planning a Shirayuki abduction of his own, and on the political side, the kingdom of Tanbarun has invited Shirayuki back to attend a ball as thanks for the positive influence she’s had on everybody’s favorite putz, Prince Raj.
It’s hard not to see this as a political maneuver by Tanbarun or Izana (or both) to get Shirayuki back in her native country and find a way to convince her to stay there. In other words, both these new events threaten to take Shirayuki away from Clarines. She and Zen react with concern, but where Shirayuki (who has very little power here) focuses on emotional strength, steeling herself and betraying only slight uneasiness, Zen responds with action, working to wield his power however he can to help her.
Snow White writes its characters so effortlessly that sometimes I forget what a great job it does handling nuance and layers, but these two scenes serve as a prime example of how a person can stay “in-character” while behaving in dramatically different ways.
Mihaya’s a nobody whom Zen despises, so he’s aggressive and blunt; Izana’s an older brother and prince whom he loves, so he’s restrained and polite. Yet in both situations he’s clearly terrified, more so than Shirayuki because she can at least react to whatever happens next, and is frantically trying to do whatever he can to ensure her safety in situations where he won’t be around to help directly.
Which brings us to the last nifty bit of indirect foreshadowing accomplished by Act One: A focus on new character pairings and building relationships. Obi and Ryu form a friendship in the first half, one that reveals additional aspects of their personalities and encourages them both to grow in new ways.
Ryu finds the courage to attempt to climb a tree, and Obi considers what it would mean to form more permanent ties. That both involve plants and growth is just thematic icing on the character cake.
One of the best ways to develop your cast in a character-driven story like this one is to have them interact with a variety of individuals. Snow White looks to be heading that direction as it separates Zen and Shirayuki from their two closest confidantes in Part One, brings Mitsuhide and Shirayuki together, and (anime gods willing) puts us in a position to have Kiki play right-hand lady to Zen for a while.
As much as I enjoy ShiraZen together, Snow White likely needed to reorganize its shelves as much as the medical wing did in order to keep things from growing stale. Let’s hope they can fend off their foes better than that enel herb did.
This, That, and the Other
- Sorry for the late post! Stream-panning and a nagging chest cold delayed me. These should go out within 24 hours of the episode from now on.
- Has Obi ever entered a room through anything but a window? It’s a nice bit of characterization, showing that he still feels like an outsider or intruder, but I’m kinda starting to worry that he doesn’t know how doorknobs work.
- Zen is warned that if he doesn’t treat his paper-cut, he will turn into paper. Oh, 2-D animated characters. I have some bad news for you.
- And on my deathbed I will mutter, still puzzled, still haunted: “What the hell is up with Yatsufusa’s eyes?!”