Review: Akagami no Shirayuki-hime

[Synopsis]: Shirayuki (Hayami, Saori), a strong-willed girl with exceptionally rare red hair, led a normal life as a town herbalist in the kingdom of Tanbarun until her beauty attracted the attention of the first prince Raji (Fukuyama, Jun) who requests that she become one of his concubines. Unable to outright refuse his demand due to her social status, she fled the kingdom and had a chance-encounter with a stranger by the name of Zen (Osaka, Ryota) who, after curing him of a poisoned apple meant for her, is discovered to be the second prince of the kingdom of Clarines. In Zen’s company, Shirayuki continues on to Clarines and attempts to start her life anew.

[Characters]:

Shirayuki, the protagonist of the story, offers refreshing enough characterization – she is intelligent, kind-hearted, and resourceful but her uniqueness resides in how she interacts with the rest of the cast. She avoids the majority of the character tropes associated with the romantic lead and female love interest through her conviction and at times assertive personality both of which I found to be compelling character traits. Moreover, while she may not exemplify the traits of the more typical romantic lead, she does offer a number of instances where she operates within a role-reversal between herself and prince Zen. Though she does not become masculine in this way, her actions more closely resemble that of the a male-lead. An explicit example of this reversal was when she climbed a tree to visit Zen on his balcony. Perhaps my only and most notable qualm concerning Shirayuki is that she exists too closely to a character paradigm and doesn’t offer much in the way of character flaws or moments of weakness – her character very purposefully exists in order to overcome the obstacles that would make other typical female characters stumble and in this way is a shade too ‘perfect’.

The lack of complications does not solely reside in Shirayuki and is also present in a decent number of the other cast members. The lack of this trait actually accounts for what I believe to be one of the shows major stumbling points in that, by nature of all of the main characters being goodhearted, sincere, and supportive the tone of the show becomes quite flat. Though they contribute greatly to the feel-good romance nature of the show there aren’t all that many diverse characters within the cast. Even someone like Obi who initially was more of a scoundrel-esc character quickly becomes homogenized after his introduction.

To speak briefly about Zen, there was one major area in which I felt his characterization was quite interesting and well done. He represents a pretty typical depiction of the prince of a kingdom – dashing, good-mannered, and kind and there isn’t much else that infringes upon this however I found it remarkable that despite Shirayuki receiving a good number of role reversal scenarios that he was not weakened or made less dominant within their relationship because of it. He possesses equal to or greater agency to anyone else in the story and his resilience and integrity of character in this regard was quite compelling as it, along with Shirayuki’s role in the relationship, resulted in something slightly more unique than i would have expected from what is otherwise quite a typical Shoujo romance.

[Art/Animation]:

The art and animation of the show was delivered in top form and avoided any and all noticeable quality drops throughout its 12 episode run. There were a great many uses of dynamic lighting which added significantly to the more important scenes and the scenes of greatest import were visually delivered quite beautifully. While the character designs were enjoyable by themselves I did find the presence of a fairly dynamic wardrobe to be a decent visual bonus as it made the show feel a bit more alive.

[Story]:

While Shirayuki offers a handful of uncommon character traits the story fails to follow suit and plays out in fairly predictable and typical ways with perhaps the exceptions where it attempts to specifically highlight Shirayuki’s characterization. One fortunate thing to note is that the story does offer plenty of romantic progression and so it avoids the route of starving the viewer while simultaneously tantalizing them each episode; in this area the pacing is good. The story initially exhibits some folk-tale influence through the use of poisoned apples and a snow-white-esc premise however this element seems to quickly be forgotten and I think it would have perhaps been more interesting had there been a greater number of allegories or references in this way.

Akagami’s story most likely falters for me due to its character reliance. Because the show is less concerned with offering an engaging plot or exploring the world being present and more focused on developing its main two characters both as people and as a romantic couple it comes off as highly reliant on the success or failure of its cast. With that being said, the cheerful and supportive tones in each and every one of the main characters makes for pretty bland and unexciting dialogue. The story doesn’t drag but is a bit uneventful outside of furthering character relationships and so not only does it proceed quite typically in the form of many other shoujou romances but offers very little to break away outside of its main character.

[Music]:

The music fit the show really well and while it didn’t blow me away I think it added significantly to the show. The soundtrack was used especially well to play up key moments of the show to better dramatize them. I think this element of the show could be described as working well for the show while falling short of being interesting in an objective sense.

[Final Thoughts and Rating]: 

At the end of the day Akagami plays out as a typical feel-good romantic show while offering several areas of interest such as its protagonist. Shirayuki’s characterization and avoidance of tropes was delivered in a bit of a hamfisted manner however this also allowed the show to more directly parody the stereotypical romantic relationship and so I am of the mind to forgive it in this way. I think the show still offers plenty of potential going forward into its upcoming second cour where the characters could very well better diversify themselves and a more interesting plot might develop. I remain hopeful for the show in the future.

Rating: 6

I gave Akagami a 6 because, while it was uneventful in many regards it also avoided being forgettable. Shirayuki and Zen carry the show to a degree and I feel that it’s worth watching almost solely because of how it plays with the dynamic of their relationship though it doesn’t offer a great deal beyond this. It was a decent show and certainly may turn into something more engaging in the future though ultimately there are better romance stories out there though few that play with its characters in this specific way.

[Recommendations]:

I would recommend Akagami first and foremost to those interested in the romance genre, more specifically to those who prefer shows that don’t spend their time endlessly dancing around the subject of romance but instead are frequently involved with it and see fairly frequent relationship progression. There are a handful of action scenes though they mostly exist to reinforce the setting rather than add to the show’s actual diversity of tone and so I don’t think it exhibits anything special in this regard. The show is fairly light on drama though some does manifest by means of the romantic tones and so while some drama exists Akagami falls a bit short in terms of quantity to actually exhibit the genre fully.

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