Over the decades, the number of fantastical stories starring female characters has slowly but significantly risen. As that number has gone up, so too have the number of lady action heroes. Girls and women are no longer relegated to the roles of “white mage” or “brainiac”; they can sling spells, slay vampires, and punch supervillains in the face right alongside the menfolk.
And this is a good thing… for the most part. But the ability to enact violence shouldn’t be the only way we measure someone’s value. It’s important to showcase a variety of roles—not just soldiers, but politicians, doctors, mediators, artists, caretakers, and so on—to highlight the different ways of doing good or being a hero. This is as true of fantastical escapist fiction as it is grounded slice-of-life stories.
So, how do we tell these stories without falling back into the old gendered stereotypes of “man fight, woman heal”? One subgenre in particular provides us with a useful template: shoujo fantasy, which features a number of action-packed tales with protagonists as diverse as their worlds.
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This year’s Top Five is so strong, it’s actually a Top Six.
Did you miss out on Part 1? Fear not! You can click here for the year in review and the bottom half of the Top 10, including honorable mentions. Or, if you’re ready to check out the cream of the crop, you can hit the jump and read on for more.
Something something “the winter of our discontent.”
This is my shortest retrospective to date, thanks to a pretty dismal season in terms of incoming series. Some of that had to do with my own time constraints and self-imposed ranking rules (there are four shows in the “unranked” category this season, three of which I’d happily recommend to others), but some of it had to do with there just not being a lot that caught my eye this time around. Still, the top two were pretty special, and if an anime season can give you even one incredible series, then it’s hard to call it a true disappointment, I s’pose.
If there’s one positive trend to take from this season, it’s that we’ve got some good artists and directors in the business: people able to take into account all elements of a production and elevate the source material, whether that’s from “meh” to “good” or “good” to “great.” So take heart! The blueprints may be rough at times, but at least they’re in the hands of skilled builders.
And so we turn the final page on our cozy little fairy tale.
With a surprise messenger and a moonlit conversation, Snow White comes to a warm, heartfelt conclusion, providing a finale that’s open-ended but also satisfyingly complete. As is the norm, I’ll spend the first half of this post providing a spoiler-free review for those curious about the series, and the second half talking about the episode itself. Hit the jump for glowing words and screenshots alike.
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.
A retainer’s work is never done.
We return to the palace and our characters’ return to their daily lives, which means navigating relationships professional and personal and trying to find that tricky balance between duty and desire. Fortunately Shirayuki and Zen have not only each other, but a bevy of friends and coworkers to support them in their journey–including one new ally who could make all the difference in turning their quiet fairy tale into a political reality.
Nothing like a quiet night in. …Right?
The gang takes refuge from a rainstorm to spend an incognito evening together, but what looks to be another comfy episode turns into a busy blast from the past. A new character arrives with a job offer in hand, and Obi takes center stage to show that, while you may not be able to erase your footprints, you can still choose to take a different path going forward. Prepare your heart for imminent warming.
Dust settles gently around here.
The past few episodes tricked me into thinking Snow White was a more conventional (albeit still quite good) shoujo fantasy, but this one was quick to remind me in no uncertain terms that it is, for better or for worse, very much its own story: A relaxed, low-key fairy tale about personal choice and defining oneself. As I said in the first cour, that’s not going to work for everyone, but love it or bored by it, I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Snow White isn’t doing exactly what it wants to do, audience expectations be damned. And, for me at least, that’s definitely “for better.”
The gang makes like McGruff and takes a bite outta crime.
The Pirates of the Tanbarun comes to its thrilling(?) conclusion this week, perhaps proving more than anything that Snow White is a much better character drama and cozy fairy tale than it is a rip-roaring adventure series. This might be the show’s weakest outing since it’s second episode (meaning it was still “pretty good” by most standards, mind you), but it still had plenty of standout moments, and its ending opened the door to what could be a major paradigm shift.
The party is shrinking faster than expected.
While it’s not unheard-of for me to drop shows between the third and sixth episode, my retention rate is something like 80 percent. Basically, if you can hook me after three, I’m usually invested enough to stick around through the whole cour even if I wind up with a negative opinion of the show.
This season, though? This season there was enough mildly entertaining mid-range stuff that I threw it all at the wall and waited to see what would stick. Not much of it did, and some of the results surprised even me. Hit the jump to see where we stand halfway through this chilly season.