Shirayuki is a beautiful girl working as a medicine woman with red hair, a color that is considered very rare. When she is proposed and chased after by the prince of her country, she cuts her hair and runs away, only to meet Zen, the prince of a neighboring country. Finding respect for the young man, she decides to serve at his side as his court doctor. ~ANN
If I had to describe my initial thoughts on this episode in one word I’d have to say I was charmed. It’s about time that we see more light-hearted shojo series! Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii last year was a very solid story about an arranged marriage between a princess and a Prince both from very different kingdoms and traditions. Akagami is a Japanese shojo manga by Sorata Akizuki. She’s fairly new to the business starting out in the early 2000’s with a collection of short stories and one-shots including Akagami. This is her breakout hit as it is still ongoing with around 66 chapters out so far. More than enough for three seasons worth of material!
The story of Akagami is a take on Snow White. I grew up on Disney films (one of my favorites being Lion King) and like many children I found the magic of it all very fascinating. The romance were always uplifting, inspirational where these stories always had a lesson or two to teach. Contrary to a lot of belief regarding the classic tale of Snow White it is not a creation of Disney but a Brother’s Grimm fairytale based loosely on the life of 16-year old Margaretha of Waldeck. Waldeck was threatened by her stepmother and poisoned by Spanish authorities because they saw the inevitable marriage between Waldeck and the Prince. The history behind the story of Snow White is very dark and over time has received many interpretations and Akagami chooses the Disney path with this anime series. A nudge to Disney’s vision with many changes that involve more of an Eastern style.
Shirayuki is known as the beautiful girl with red hair all across the country and is chased after by Prince Raji. Raji is the stereotypical Disney villain–he’s made out to be this beautiful person on the outside and sinister on the inside. He desires Shirayuki because of her rare red hair and Zen says it best when he describes Prince Raji as when he wants something he already counts it as his. At first I thought Zen would be the representation of the well-known dwarf characters that are features so heavily in Disney’s version however this is not the case. He is Shirayuki’s love interest. The interactions between the two of them are fantastic–quick conversations that spark right after Shirayuki proves she’s an herbalist by injuring her own arm! I really like how their relationship tosses most romance comedy series out the window as Zen plays off as in-between from dark prince and knight and shining armor. He’s charistmatic, a genuinely nice guy and acts very realistic especially in the second half of this episode after he’s taken a bite of the apple and realizes it is poisoned. He’s a great balance to Shirayuki.
She’s not stubborn nor does she have a ditsy personality. She’s strong-willed, is able to hold her own when she’s in trouble which is a nice step away from the damsel-in-distress that many shojo series hold on to. This show does dive into that form quite a bit but it quickly saves itself from being too generic by giving her realistic courage. A very refreshing female protagonist! If this were any other kind of series I’d say this doesn’t work at all but since this handles classical storytelling it excels in re-introducing us the magical story with the author Akizuki’s nods to Snow White. The poisonous apple, mirror-mirror on the wall are but a few that were mentioned in this episode!
The production itself is amazing. Stellar visuals between wonderfully drawn backgrounds by three animators in the industry from animation company Studio Easter. The studio that did the background designs for 2011’s horror series, Another. Akiko Manabe, Yoko Atsumi and Yoko Kamiyama are all under the cooperation of Akagami‘s art director and another employee of Studio Easter, Erika Okazaki. What sort of budget did BONES have for this particular episode? This was stunning in the design department!
So far, Akagami is my favorite introductory episode to air this season–it reigns in so much talent from Sword of the Stranger, Zetsuen no Tempest and the original Full Metal Alchemist series director Masahiro Ando to Michiru Oshima’s emotionally moving classical score in an attempt to breathe life into the popular shojo manga! Oshima’s soundtrack for Akagami is the best this season has to offer. I really enjoyed Tsutchie’s work on GANGSTA but this was incredibly moving and lifted each scene to great heights!
Would also like to point out the pun in Shirayuki’s name. Shira’s literal translation is “white” and the second half of her name “yuki” means “snow”.
OP: “Yasashii Kibō” (やさしい希望;Gentle Hope) by Saori Hayami
This is the official opening to the show and acts as the ending for this first episode. I really like the visuals including its transitions on this. Overseen and storyboarded by series’ director Masahiro Ando the animation is fluid and gives us a good view of its main cast! The art is headed by Ouran Highschool Host Club‘s character designer Kumiko Takahashi. Wonderfully drawn with tons of talented key animators that include Hiroki Harada (Sasami-san@Garanbarai‘s character designer), Ayaka Hata, Takahiro Kimura, and Masahiro Sato! However, I feel the instrumentals in the music is way too fluffy for this series’ soundtrack. It works in bringing the world of Japanese anime to the screen of a classic story but doesn’t have that charm the overall score has. Perhaps Michiru Oshima should have written the score to this because Saori Hayami overwhelms the song! I think this would have been awesome to hear Oshima’s style with a set of chorus vocals in the background! I wonder if Kokia could do a light-hearted Oshima score? Maybe this will grow on me over time.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10