Anime Spotlight: Snow White with the Red Hair

Snow White with the Red Hair is based on a manga by Sorata Akizuki. The series is animated by BONES, and directed by Masahiro Ando. Snow White with the Red Hair aired on Japanese television from July 6-September 21, 2015.

As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American license for Snow White with the Red Hair.

Shirayuki, an herbalist in a small medieval village, becomes the target of Prince Raj. The prince wants her to become his concubine because of her unusual red hair. Shirayuki is rightfully offended by this, so she decides she’s going to run away. Shirayuki’s not entirely happy about the color of her hair because of all the attention it gets her, since people like to gawk at it and bring attention to it. She cuts off some of her hair and leaves it behind, then crosses the border into the neighboring kingdom of Clarines.

As she wanders, Shirayuki comes across a fancy house, but no one is home when she knocks. She falls asleep outside, and when she wakes up the next morning, she sees a boy about her age jumping over a nearby wall. He’s so distracted when he sees her that he trips and injures himself. After some convincing, Shirayuki and Zen become friends. It’s soon revealed that Zen is a prince of Clarines, who is often accompanied by his retainers, Mitsuhide and Kiki. But Zen sees both Mitsuhide and Kiki as friends in addition to being his attendants.

When Prince Raj forces Shirayuki to return to their kingdom, Zen saves her and makes it clear to Raj that he needs to leave her alone. Shirayuki moves to Clarines, and she works at becoming an apprentice court herbalist.

Unfortunately, there are those in Clarines who object to Zen’s friendship with Shirayuki; this includes lords in the kingdom and Zen’s older brother, Izana. But Zen follows what he believes, and by the end of the series, Zen and Shirayuki realize they have feelings for each other.

But Shirayuki could have another admirer: Obi. He starts out working for Lord Haruka to try to scare Shirayuki out of the castle, but he later pledges himself to Zen. When Obi gains Zen’s trust, he becomes one of Zen’s aides and is given the task of watching over and protecting Shirayuki. While we see that Obi appears to have feelings for Shirayuki, he doesn’t do much to try to act on those feelings.

When I watched the first episode of the series, I thought the animation in Snow White with the Red Hair looked rather nice. I especially loved seeing how lush the backgrounds looked. I was truly convinced that I was watching something that takes place in medieval times. While the characters have typical shojo designs, the artistry of the animators helps to make them not look as average as they might have. And as the series progresses, the quality of the animation doesn’t appear to noticeably decline in quality.

I could also tell that Shirayuki would be a character that I would like. She is sweet, helpful, beautiful, and she also has agency. She’s not going to let people with sexist ideas push her around, and she’s willing to be her own independent person. And she retained a lot of these traits throughout most of the series, but becomes a little more willing to put her guard down around Zen after they acknowledge their feelings for each other.

The obsession over Shirayuki’s hair and her treatment by some in the court is very relatable to viewers, since it resonates so much with the various kinds of prejudice we see in the real world. But Shirayuki handles this all with grace and is able to hold her own.

While Snow White with the Red Hair is a shojo series that focuses on love and relationships, it never gets so sweet and sappy that it becomes saccharine. The viewer finds that they’re rooting for Shirayuki and Zen, and that by the end of the series, there’s a lot of payoff for liking these two characters so much.

I enjoyed Snow White with the Red Hair very much. In fact, I would have to say it was my favorite anime for the Summer 2015 season. I thought the ending of Episode 12 worked well as a way to end the first cour of the series. While it was a nice break after some of the drama in the episodes leading up to it, there’s still enough underlying tension there to make it clear that this story isn’t over yet. But I have to admit that I’m a little frustrated because I have to wait until January 2016 to see more and find out how this story will continue.

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