When Shirayuki’s unique red hair gets noticed by the prince of her kingdom, she must flee for her safety to the neighboring land of Clarines. On her way there, she bumps into Zen, the second-prince of Clarines, who is captivated by her strong will and determination. With his support, she begins to set up a new life for herself in Clarines as she works towards her dream of becoming an herbalist.
From the studio behind Ouran Highschool Host Club, this anime was picked up by Funimation in 2015 for simulcast in the US. It quickly became one of my favorite new animes of that year. I can definitely see the influence of Studio Bones in the fluidity and expressiveness of the animation which comes across beautifully in the rare fight scenes we get. Not to mention that the cast are all pretty likable in their own ways without any obvious lack of characterization for secondary characters. The name of this anime may bring thoughts of Disney’s Snow White, but besides the use of a poisoned apple and her unique beauty, there really isn’t any correlation.
What really drew me to this anime though is the main character of Shirayuki. It can get tiring when you watch a lot of romances to constantly see female leads that repeatedly rely on their significant others for help. Shirayuki however, may take strength from the presence of Zen, but she solves her own problems through her own power and steadfastly sticks to her dreams. This pops up again and again through the season: running away from the prince that wants her to be a concubine, facing off against Zen’s advisor who thinks she’s only there to gain power through him, escaping from a slaver through her own wits, and working steadfastly towards her dream of becoming a court herbalist. In a world that seems to look down on women as inferior and seems to see her only for the color of her hair, she has a refreshing honesty that influences people around her. From Zen to the court herbalist Ryu, she unconsciously breaks through people’s walls, drawing them out of their closed off worlds.
Zen is a great pairing for Shirayuki. He is adorable when he’s with her as well as a strong prince to his people. We get to see clearly his devotion to his kingdom as he consistently leaves the castle to wander around the town and surrounding areas. In contrast to his older brother, Prince Izana, he is straightforward in much of his approaches just like Shirayuki. I think in some ways, this is what draws him to her, the fact that her personality is refreshing to him in a world of intrigue. Through the drama playing out around him, we see two of the major themes of this anime: the conflict that can arise between duty and desire and how different social status can influence people’s perceptions of each other. Shirayuki is constantly being pigeonholed and pushed around by people who think they know her, but with Zen we see that he will always support her choices because he understands the pressure of not being able to choose a life for himself.
What really completes this series in my eyes is the attention paid to the supporting cast of characters. Too often secondary characters get pushed to way-side, leaving them shallow husks of people with no real personality to speak of. Snow White with the Red Hair includes a lot of moments where we get to see more of the secondary cast, their background, and their forming relationships with other characters. They not only provide commentary on Zen and Shirayuki’s relationship, but they form relationships of their own, both with the main cast and their secondary counterparts. Their quick wit adds a nice contrast to Zen and Shirayuki’s sometimes more serious nature, giving this series a more light-hearted feel where it needs it most.
Her use and knowledge of herbs also plays an important role, especially when it comes to helping others or even escaping situations. I think this adds a great element to the anime that really brings out her character as well and acts as her way of influencing people. I think in the beginning of the season there was definitely a prevalence to showing her using herbs to solve problems, but that seems to taper off a little bit as the season went on. I’m honestly pretty partial to mysteries, and this facet of the series really intrigued me. I’m kind of sad that it started to fall off towards the end in favor of typical drama revolving more around Zen, but the characters kept pulling me back. I’d love to see more of her herb knowledge come back for season two, but I have a feeling that it may transition more into the drama surrounding Zen’s princely duties and their developing relationship. Both are fine, I think I’ll enjoy this series either way.
Look out for my review of Season 2! Be sure to hit that follow button or follow me on Facebook for updates. New reviews go up every Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday.