Is it a little shoujo in here, or is it just me?
“Come for the calm, stay for the comedy” is becoming my new Snow White pitch as of late. Strong interpersonal dynamics and a newfound emotional closeness have been the through-line of the last few episodes, turning this more into an ensemble production than a two-person show, and one with a hearty dash of humor to boot. Add to this a BONES team that knows its way around a silly face as well as they do a quiet, honest moment between friends, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for one delightful fairy tale. Seems a shame we have to close the book so soon.
The central plot this week is a pretty silly one, as a worried Mitsuhide accidentally doses himself with a hypnotic drug that brings out his most formal and protective tendencies. Which is to say, it turns him into a walking, talking shoujo stereotype, the “picture of a young noble” complete with cheesy lines, sparkle showers, and rose parades.
Snow White runs in a shoujo magazine, but this episode really calls attention to (and lightly pokes fun at) the fact that it doesn’t wear many of the genre’s more traditional trappings. Its interactions are more subdued, its character designs more simple, and its flowery effects limited to the occasional restrained sparkle or glow. Similarly, as I mentioned last post, Zen’s overprotective, princely tendencies usually get (gently) shut down, and so we see that again here, albeit it in much more humorous fashion, as Mitsuhide acts the Noble Retainer and everyone finds it either hilarious or insufferable.
As has been the case with all of Snow White‘s recent bursts of comedy, this gives the cast a chance to play off each other, working to reveal new facets of their characters and forward the few remaining story threads. Zen, forever aware of and uncomfortable about his royal status, gets frustrated with Mitsuhide treating him like a prince instead of a friend and tells him off (more on that in the bullet points), leaving him to his own devices. Since the drugged Mitsuhide is too focused on protecting others to seek help for himself, Zen basically sentences him to multiple days of hypnosis.
It’s a very light touch, but there are quiet parallels here between Mitsuhide’s altered state and drug use or even mental illness, and a central argument that sometimes people aren’t physically or psychologically capable of making healthy decisions and need others to help them. It’s no wonder his condition weighs on our resident doctor, and that she both seeks treatment for Mitsuhide and eventually confronts Zen about his behavior.
Zen being Zen, he listens to her quiet scolding and recognizes he’s in the wrong. He may have a streak of childishness in him (the same one that causes him to struggle with jealousy from time to time), but he’s also mature enough to realize that about himself and work to fix it, especially when it negatively effects others. Zen’s a good guy, but he still has room to grow. That he realizes this about himself in a library is a nice touch, echoing back to a certain other prince’s time of introspection and study.
This is an episode full of growth and study, in fact: Of illnesses, of other people, and of oneself. Small wonder, then, that the visuals are so packed with plants and books.
On the other side of the book snuggles, Shirayuki is dealing with her own forms of growth and study, both internal and external. Mitsuhide’s cure is one puzzle she’s able to solve after a little research and consideration, which unknowingly also earns her a passing grade from both Ryu and the Chief, promoting her to official court herbalist. Hooray! (I wouldn’t have minded seeing more focus placed on this challenge, but then I also wouldn’t have wanted to spend a bunch of time watching Shirayuki flip through textbooks, stare at plants, and tap a pencil against her chin, so I understand the decision here.)
Her other challenge is more personal, and one she hasn’t answered yet. Mitsuhide, still lacking a filter and likely sensing that Zen’s recent daze has to do with Shirayuki, asks her to consider her feelings for Zen, and if they’re serious enough for her to commit to the sociopolitical realities of that relationship. Smartly, the focus stays on Shirayuki here, as Mitsuhide doesn’t push her down any one path “for Zen’s sake” but simply asks her if the road Zen will take is the same one she wants to travel herself.
“Red is the color of fate,” she remembers, and Shirayuki carries that color with her. Since Shirayuki holds fate, then “fate,” it would seem, has become synonymous with “choice.” There’s no fate but the one she makes for herself. With her promotion, Shirayuki has shown she’s both willing to work for the things she wants and capable enough to attain them. Now she has to decide if “princess” could be one of those things.
This, That, and the Other
- The personality-altering drug–complete with convenient amnesia!–couldn’t help but remind me of the kodoku wine from Fushigi Yugi, albeit with much less dramatic effects (as is Snow White‘s M.O.). Given the long shadow FY casts on shoujo fantasy, this could very well be an affectionate parody/reference, even.
- The Sensei Next Door: The line of Zen’s that Shirayuki remarks on is katte ni shiro (勝手にしろ), which the subs translate as “do whatever you want.” It’s accurate but doesn’t quite get across the harshness of the phrase. Japan is historically a culture that values collectivism, so to act in a katte ni fashion (as one pleases, of one’s own accord) is often considered a negative trait or an insult. As such, to demand that someone behave in a katte ni fashion is equivalent to a “the hell with you, then!” in English. Zen basically told his drugged, worried friend to piss off, which is why he gets called out for behaving childishly.
- “Reckless Words You Spoke to Me As I Was Lying on the Master’s Sofa: Part One” is totally gonna be the title of Obi’s erotic friendfic.