Review: Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2nd Season

[Synopsis]: The second season of Akagami no Shirayuki-hime picks up right after the conclusion of the first and features all of the same characters with some new additions to the cast. This season of the show sees Shirayuki (Hayami, Saori) return to her homeland of Tanbarun to confront Prince Raji. All the while, unbeknownst to her, she is trailed by a mysterious boy who aims to kidnap her and steal her away from the Kingdom of Clarines and Prince Zen (Osaka, Ryota).

[Characters]:

The first episode of the new season does a good job of reintroducing all of the main cast members from the first season and showing what kind of chemistry they share with one another. They may not all be interesting as individuals however the manner in which the characters interact and get along with each other is notably organic and believable. The beginning of the show tries to emphasize this quality that was strengthened over the course of the show’s first installment. This strength of the show is somewhat upset when Shirayuki travels to Tanbarun as she is separated from the rest of the cast she works well with however enough good characterization happens regardless of this.

The cast across the board is very similarly characterized to how they were in the first season of the show. Shiryuki is still Shirayuki and Zen is still Zen though this season featured fewer instances of outright trope subversion in favor of making Shirayuki feel like a stronger character and instead just ran with what had already been established. This was a benefit to the show as one of my biggest qualms with the first season was how hamfisted it was in illustrating her personality.

One of the most surprising features of the second season was the character development of Raji Shenazard, an initially forgettable comedic character from the first season who prospers from some fairly believable growth. His personality never drastically changes from its original portrayal however his outlook shifts both subtly and quickly while preserving the key traits that made him humorous in the first place. He remains as crude and awkward around Shirayuki as always however he has moments of attempted-seriousness and when they come around they feel legitimized despite his comedic attributes because of how he develops and behaves within the scene. Though somewhat of a dismissible character, his heightened involvement and role in the second season made him stand out as one of the stronger elements of the show.

While Raji’s characterization benefited greatly from this season of Akagami the same cannot be said for Zen. Though is isn’t ever written poorly over the course of the show, his own lack of development leaves him feeling overly generic and under-investigated compared to other members of the cast. Zen thinks very straightforwardly about his relationship with Shirayuki and yet all the while the show surrounds her with mock-suitors who experience far more development and exploration than him in an attempt to legitimize them as romantic interests. Zen sports much the same personality he did in the first season and outside of his endearing determination and commitment to Shirayuki the show doesn’t do all that much to remind the viewer of why they should be together while it simultaneously strengthens the validity of other romantic interests. He isn’t a bad character but the rest of the cast leaves him feeling a little bland by comparison.

[Art/Animation]:

Much like the characters the visuals of Akagami don’t change hardly at all between the two installments however there are some things worth noting. The first episode and some of the episodes at the tail-end of the season have a few quality issues primarily concerning the quality of the show’s character designs however the rest of the episodes are free of this and look pretty good. The backgrounds and lighting are colorful and lively as always complimenting series’ lighthearted subject matter with very vibrant visuals. Though Akagami hasn’t been one to flaunt particularly  flashy animation in the past, this season has a few more action-oriented episodes that feature impressive animation and enliven the scenes considerably.

[Story]:

The first season of Akagami was relatively uneventful and so, after reintroducing the cast of the show and reiterating their chemistry with one another, the appearance of a promising subplot that quickly moves to the forefront of the action sets up the new season well. The narrative of the second season stands on its own better than the first as it is less interested in upturning stereotypical conventions and character exchanges and more interested in furthering the relationships of its characters and expanding upon the world they live in, if only slightly. This approach answered one of my issues with Akagami’s first installment and immediately sets up the second season to be more entertaining than the last at least insofar as it’s story.

For the most part, the second season has a pretty entertaining story which collectively spans around two-thirds of the show before Akagami returns to something more akin to the subject matter of its first season. The plot admittedly still features the previously established convention of Shirayuki being captured though I found it slightly more forgiveable this time because of the otherwise entertaining context under which it occurs. The tactic of capturing her in order to make Shirayuki appear more vulnerable and feminine before subverting the situation through her personality and empowering her is so painfully straightforward and was one of the reasons the first season was so overt in how it attempted to paint her as a strong female-lead. I don’t think the situation detracts nearly as much from the story this time around but it remains none the less.

It is a shame that Akagami so often relies on such lofty and vague sentiments such as ‘taking steps towards tomorrow’ and the like. The show could ground its implications and the reasoning of its characters very easily and make them far more relatable and coherent. The obscurity and unnecessary grandness of their aspirations distance the characters at times despite their otherwise perfectly relatable traits and predicaments. It’s not that Shirayuki and Zen shouldn’t dream big but rather that their desires should at least be concrete if they are to live up to their own grandeur.

The conclusion of the show is a bit slow to arrive as the pacing of the show slows down considerably in its final few episodes especially considering the more adventurous feel of the early parts of the season. It feels as though Akagami has finished what it set out to do before the end of its run and spends a few episodes prefacing its finale with wishful doddering rather than developing anything interesting. With that said the second season of Akagami is more entertaining than the first and retains the same attributes that made the first installment enjoyable as well.

[Music]:

The music is pretty much entirely unchanged from how it appeared in the first season and presents a similar relationship with the visuals and the narrative. The main theme does a wonderful job of setting the tone of the show – compassionate and sincere.

[Final Thoughts and Rating]: 

The second season of Akagami is certainly more engaging than the first because of its more lively story and action though it does fall back into its slow-paced, uneventful style before it arrives at its charming conclusion. Though it falters in some areas I think this season was a clear step up from the last.

Rating: 6

I gave Akagami a 6 because I found a few of its recurring characters to be enjoyable and entertaining and the development on the part of Raji particularly caught my interest. The story was a good deal more exciting this time around which I think was a big improvement though at times the characters felt unrelatable in how they expressed themselves and ultimately the romance of the show comes off as being rather vanilla.

[Recommendations]:

 I would recommend Akagami’s second season to those who enjoyed the first as I think it encapsulates much of what made the first enjoyable and stays true to all of the characters it employed. Though the romance is somewhat typical, Shirayuki and Zen are interesting enough characters to make the relationship worth watching and I’d recommend the show to anyone interested in the genre.

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