You know it’s a wild day when even Shirayuki looks overwhelmed.
Has everyone had time to catch their breaths after that whirlwind of an episode? I said last week that our story lines were beginning to converge, and this week we saw them all slam into each other with a tension and force Snow White has never had before, spinning us between locations and characters and surprise twists that leave our normally easy-going cast reeling. I never thought I’d say this, but Monday can’t come fast enough.
Picking up right where we left off, Kazuki and his partner Itoya arrive to take Shirayuki “where she should be.” Shirayuki reacts like a normal person would: By trying to run and screaming for outside aid. Unfortunately, she gets the royal twins, who mostly just distract Obi enough for Itoya to knock him out. Kazuki soon does the same to Shirayuki (who sure as hell wasn’t going gentle into that good night), although not before she can lose Zen’s pocket watch. Damn you, dramatic foreshadowing!
From there, a lot happens very quickly, although kudos to Snow White for keeping it all coherent and from feeling too rushed. Zen arrives in Tanbarun. A scary-mad Obi goes after Shirayuki on his own. Raj joins Team Zen and uses his newfound political knowledge to theorize that “The Claw of the Sea,” a pirate gang known for dealing in both money and people with unique traits, are most likely the ones who took Shirayuki. And they’re sort of right, because shortly thereafter, Shirayuki and Kazuki are kidnapped by none other than THE CLAWWWW.
Obi finds and captures Itoya, who recognizes The Claw’s calling card, so the two, er, “team up” to get help from the people who hired(?) Kazuki. Elsewhere, Shirayuki and Kazuki both wake up in a windowless room where they are greeted (read: smacked around and threatened) by Umihebi the Claw Queen. Turns out Kazuki was a former Claw himself, and you can’t just walk away from that. Capturing Shirayuki was something of an accident, but now that Umihebi’s got her she intends to keep her, meaning our heroine has just gone from the frying pan into the lobster pot.
…You, uh, got all that, team?
We were so busy this week that there wasn’t much room for quiet visual motifs (or at least none that I noticed). What there was room for was great animation and excellent camera work, all of which served to aid the sudden shift in tone from bright, courtly comedy to tense underworld intrigue. Scenes with Shirayuki and/or Obi are full of skewed angles, harsh faces, and close-ups to convey a sense of claustrophobia or entrapment, as well as to keep the audience as off-balance as the characters.
The Obi-Itoya fight scenes are particularly effective, using sketchy black lines and smears in a way that’s a trademark of Studio BONES’s… well, BONESier shows like Blood Blockade or ConRevo, but haven’t been seen much (if at all?) in Snow White before now. Even last season’s sporadic action scenes were smooth and clean, which gave them a sense of control, maybe even civility, that’s totally absent now. Obi and Itoya’s battles are brief, chaotic, and brutal, much like the episode itself, and both the cramped shots and intentionally messy animation help convey that.
In contrast, the majority of the Zen and/or Raj scenes use more typical Snow White shot selection and animation: Mid-range, straight-on, with more restrained (or comical) facial expressions. Zen and Raj are worried about Shirayuki, absolutely, but they have the support of others and complete control over their own actions, at least. As such, the camera provides a measure of stability to their scenes that is utterly lacking in the ones with Shirayuki or Obi.
It’s strange to call Raj of all people a steadying presence, but he shows that his growth is significant and real this week, first when he and Zen both take responsibility for the current situation and later when he insists on joining the rescue party. This is also thanks to loyal retainer Sakaki, who helps Raj maintain his own composure when he echoes one of Snow White‘s most enduring themes: That there is “something only you can do,” and it’s important to focus on that rather than the things that are out of your control.
It was Shirayuki’s mantra before coming to Tanbarun (“what I can do right now”), and one that’s kept her focused and steady throughout much of the series. And understandably so: As a commoner, there’s always been a great deal that’s been out of her control. Yet by focusing on her own strengths and skills, she’s still been able to exercise agency and wield her own kind of power, allowing her to “walk her own path,” which has been her driving motivator from the start.
By the end of this episode, though, that sense of control has been entirely stripped from her. She has no idea where she is, why she’s there, or if she can even trust her fellow captor. She’s not even wearing her own clothes, and her last piece of home (Zen’s pocket watch) is gone. With no ground to stand on and no earthly idea “what I can do right now,” it’s no wonder it’s all she can do not to break down.
That said, Shirayuki isn’t the type to sit idly by and wait for an abductor to decide her fate. Her grief and panic make her human, not weak. I fully expect her to regroup and work with Kazuki (the lesser of two evils and a potential future ally, one suspects) in the coming weeks. Between the perpetually hard-working triangle that is Shirayuki, Zen, and Obi, maybe Tanbarun will be able to reschedule that ball after all.
This, That, and the Other
- The pirate queen’s name is almost certainly a title, as “Umihebi” literally means “The Sea Snake.” Still, given that the show (wisely) chose to keep Shirayuki untranslated, it makes sense that they’d leave this name as-is, too.
- The King of Tanbarun appears just long enough to tell Zen he can do whatever he wants as long as he doesn’t shout “by order of the Prince of Clarines!” while he does it. Given how involved he is in his own son’s life, this seems about par for the course for this guy.
- Not a lot of humor this week, but I about died at the sight of Raj trying not to wet himself when he greeted Zen.
- H’OKAY. SO. Shirayuki was born in the mountains. Kazuki is working for a community in the mountains. We know there are vigilantes in the mountains. IS SHIRAYUKI THE LONG-LOST VIGILANTE MOUNTAIN PRINCESS?
…All right, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s pretty darn likely that Kazuki is trying to take her to the place she was born, and that this “Pops” of his is related to Shirayuki in some fashion. You know, dude, if you wanted her to visit, you could’ve just sent a letter or something.