Season two of Snow White with the Red Hair continues the story of Shirayuki as she works towards becoming a court herbalist in her new home of Wisteria. After running away from her homeland of Tanbarun when Prince Raj tried to force her to be a concubine because of her red hair, she meets the Second Prince of Wisteria Zen and settles in his neighboring country. Using her knowledge of herbs and her starkly honest personality, Shirayuki begins forming bonds with the people around her including the young mentor Ryu and the mysterious rogue-turned-bodyguard Obi. But her relationship with Zen keeps growing even as new challenges arise in this season.
If you haven’t read my review of season one, read it here before you continue on.
This season is a pretty great continuation of the first as all the old characters are brought back and we are introduced to some new ones. But, this season does have some small drawbacks for me, one of which being a lack of more characterization for Shirayuki. The story this time seems to focus more on the backstory of Obi and Raj, leaving Shirayuki to stay the same as she was in the last season and basically be a catalyst for a lot of events. I don’t think this really takes away from the story overall, but I do think it would have been an improvement if we were given more moments of growth.
Studio Bones has always had very strong animation and this season is no different. I would almost say that the animation actually improved, but maybe they were just given more chances to show off. Following Obi gave Bones a lot of chances to animate some great fight scenes, and their experience and style really showed through in those moments. There’s one short fight scene in a later episode in particular that I think really displays what Bones can do and adds a really different feel to that moment. Additionally, Studio Bones is great when it comes to expressions, and there were a few times where I was reminded of Miyazaki in how they were animated. Zen especially has some great expressions that adds to the moments of comedy throughout. The opening to this season is also pretty solid, with scenes that give us a good sense of the characters, upcoming episodes, and a great song to go along with it.
Season two definitely turns its focus away from Shirayuki for at least the fist half to look more at the characters of Obi and Raj. As her responsibilities grow past that of a court herbalist, she is called to go pay a visit to Tanbarun by Prince Raj. Through this visit we get to see a significant amount of character growth by both Raj and Obi. After the first season where Raj got a good taste of Shirayuki’s honesty, he started to turn over a new leaf and become a better prince to his kingdom. By calling on her to come pay a visit, he was also looking for her approval to see if he is on the right track to this goal. They both try very hard to relate to one another, sitting through awkward conversations over tea, and we see that Raj is pretty much all bluster. His sense of self-confidence is so low that he has to make up for it with this fake royal persona, but underneath it all, he’s just looking for a chance to be needed and relied on.
The character and background of Obi is also expanded on as he accompanies Shirayuki on her visit. In the first episode before they leave, we see an interesting conversation between him and Ryu about flowers. In it Obi says that he wouldn’t be able to take care of any plants because he doesn’t know how long he’ll be staying in the castle. Ryu suggests that it’s an even better reason to grow them then, as he’ll have something to return back to. For a rogue like Obi, this is a big moment of growth. The castle – and the people inside it – is slowly becoming his home, his place to return to, and something to protect. We see this need to protect and loyalty predominantly when it comes to his relationship with Shirayuki. Namely, his need to be her bodyguard instead of Mitsuhide and his guilt over not being able to protect her.
However, how they start this growth in their characters was a little iffy for me. For one, we get a kind of cliché “elevator” episode where Raj, Shirayuki, and Obi are all trapped in the tunnels under the castle and are forced to work together to get out. It reminded me of typical shoujo episodes where two people are trapped in an elevator or sports closet together which forces them to show their weaknesses and talk through issues. I will say they moved away from having this moment centered around romance, using it as more of a look at Raj’s character, but I do kind of wish shows would move away from this trope at some point. For another, the most growth comes through the characters working together to rescue Shirayuki. In this way, her character is mainly used as a catalyst for other character’s growth without really getting any herself. We get a sense of her fear and loneliness as she tries to hide it with a sense of forced bravery, but we’ve seen all this before in the last season. She makes a few attempts to escape but they don’t really compare to her previous ingenuity. In this way, Shirayuki becomes something that brings Raj, Zen, Obi, and a few others together. She gives them a purpose and a chance to negotiate and build a better relationship as well as a way to keep the story moving and the characterization growing in the right direction. In the first season we saw that Zen barely had to rescue her, she was always finding a way out of a bad situation herself, but now I feel like the series shifted away from her actions and more towards how her words effect people.
One thing I do really like about this series is the way the romance is presented. In a lot of shows with many different characters coming and going, there’s always a chance of a love triangle forming. But with this series, there’s this sense that all the characters who could be a potential love interest have this feeling of hopelessness because they see her relationship with Zen as something that can’t be broken. Obi and Raj both show they have feelings for Shirayuki in some way, but neither of them really make a move to take her away from Zen. On Obi’s side this is probably both his inexperience with matters of love and his loyalty to Zen. For Raj, it may not be romantic feelings, but I think we get the sense that if he had the chance, he would want Shirayuki to stay with him in Tanbarun. The idea of fate is tossed around a lot in these instances, like it is her destiny to stand by Zen’s side, but in a more general sense, their relationship just works. Both of them compliment each other and support each other both emotionally and physically. Zen is inspired by her strength and drive, which helps move him closer to his goal of becoming a better prince. Shirayuki is supported by the fact that Zen is probably one of the few people that she has met that took her dream seriously. It was an uphill battle for her to overcome the people who thought they new what was best for her or only saw her for her hair. Throughout the series, I think everyone around them comes to see that their relationship is mutually beneficial and supportive and that there’s really no room for anyone to step in and break it up. God knows Izana tries, and look where that got him. And in a simpler sense, they’re just really adorable as a couple.
However, as the season tries to do a bunch of new things, I think it rushes into some way too fast leaving more questions than answers or a sense that you want more. There were a few of these moments throughout this season. One of which is the introduction of Shirayuki’s father. We’ve been getting hints that she was raised in the mountains before her grandparents took her in, so it seemed the most likely path that her father would appear when Zen and Raj went to the mountains to get the assistance of the group of rogues living there. But, we don’t find out he’s her father until Shirayuki is rescued, and then it’s pretty much over. She’s basically like, “Dad?” everyone’s like, “What?!” and they move on with their lives. Their meeting isn’t emotional at all, and it left me feeling like this was just kind of thrown in without really having the intention of going deeper. Additionally, we get to see a bit of Obi’s past in one episode that left me with much of the same feeling. It was a nice snippet, but I did wish there was time for more. And finally, Shirayuki’s apprenticeship exam was way too short and glossed over. They did such a great job with her exam in the last season that this one just left me wanting. It’s supposed to be a huge moment for her, but I think the focus strays for a lot of it to other characters, leaving that episode kind of “meh” for me.
Snow White with the Red Hair sticks to its classical romance theme and really pulls through in that area in the second season. It did have a few small moments where I thought they could have done better, and I do feel like I enjoyed the first season more, but I would still say this is worth the watch. Overall it was enjoyable and we get to see more of Obi, who quickly became one of my favorites in the series. The romance between Zen and Shirayuki is adorable as always with a lot of great heart-throb moments. I’ll probably also check out the manga at some point as it’s still ongoing from what I’ve seen, but I love what Studio Bones has done with the anime and really enjoyed watching this all the way through.
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