In an ever chaotic world where fear and cynical nihilism rule the media as the common narrative, it’s getting harder to pick out the optimistic, soft-hearted shows out there. Understandably, the doom-and-gloom is a product of people’s behaviors, especially in these trying times, and while I enjoy numerous quality products based on this line of thinking, too much negativity stresses the ol’ heart. There should be a place for happy, feel-good offerings, and Snow White with the Red Hair delivers in spades.
Shirayuki is an herbalist with unique red hair that’s as bright as an apple. This catches the eye of Prince Raj who orders Shirayuki to be his concubine. Ever independent and wary of those who would take advantage of her just for her exotic appearances, Shirayuki secretly leaves town and heads to the neighboring kingdom of Clarines. There she runs into its second prince, Zen and his attendants, Kiki and Mitsuhide. Shirayuki finds renewed strength from the friends she’s made and decides to see through her destiny and become a master herbalist.
Snow White with the Red Hair is like watching an anime Disney show: beautiful, soft colors grace the background and the characters are designed with appealing clothes and simple appearances. The tone is always sunny and bright, with sad moments far and few in-between. Music is often peppy and the medieval setting adds to the Disney-ish feel while feeling remarkably fresh with its largely realistic portrayal. Unlike Disney, there is no magic to be found, with science serving as the driving force of the narrative. It’s a show that people of all ages can appreciate, with nothing that would offend any but the most over-sensitive.
Shirayuki is an excellent, remarkable, and influential lead, emulating the best of recent Disney Princesses. She is easy to befriend and always helping those who need it. Like her red hair though, Shirayuki can be fierce and determined. Kidnapping is not an issue for her because she finds clever ways to escape or at least distract her enemies until help arrives. She always speaks her mind and is exceptionally confident with herself. I really appreciate that Shirayuki’s herbalist background means she is more than just a medic (a usually women-only role), but one that is very rooted in science and treated as useful tool to progress society. It is an important part of her identity and a passion that drives her to do her best.
Love understandably is a strong subplot in a shojo genre, but Snow White with the Red Hair treats the subject material with considerable grace. Both Shirayuki and Prince Zen are equals with each other. Both of them look to each other for support. Shirayuki doesn’t drop everything to constantly fawn over his pretty boy looks, instead genuinely appreciating his dedication to his kingdom and benevolent willingness. It is clear that Zen does not like Shirayuki for only her red hair, but rather is mesmerized by her determination and intelligence. Together they make admirable partners, which aids the show in crafting a romance you want to see happening without any of the petty nastiness or misogyny that could have arisen from it.
Snow White with the Red Hair is largely episodic, giving it necessary breathing spaces while it tackles some of the headier themes. The anime explores the potential consequences of a prince canoodling with a common girl and the negative reception that might arise. It also explores the unfairness of women being treated like objects to be desired due to a physical quality that strikes them as “exotic.” Shirayuki has to constantly contend with kidnappers and lecherous nobles who value her only for the red on her head. The issues are explained with enough simplicity and versatility in each episode without feeling loaded or heavy-handed.
For all the good in Snow White with the Red Hair, it does suffer from one thing that drags it down: it’s too low-stakes. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this show could benefit from some explosives. Both Shirayuki and Zen are extremely good at what they do and exhibit so much confidence that I had no doubt that they wouldn’t solve the numerous obstacles they face without a smile on their face. It lacks intensity, making most episodes less “I know they will make it, but how?” and more “I know they will make it because they’ll always be fine.” It has conflict, but it’s pretty dull to say the least.
This is further hindered by most of the secondary cast largely remaining the same throughout the twelve episodes. Only Zen and Shirayuki get any real character development. Coupled with its episodic nature, Snow White’s twelve-episode count feels longer than it really is.
The home media release comes with a Blu-ray/DVD combo. Extras include trailers, textless openers and closers, and, promos, and commercials. There are commentaries for episode nine and eleven from the dubbed writers and voice actors. Evidently, the Disney feel is not lost on the dubbed cast either.
Snow White with the Red Hair impressed me with its progressive message and relaxing tone. Watch it when you feel the world is collapsing on you and to get an idea on how to write women as character as well as a well-crafted romance. But I recommend viewing it in short bursts than a full marathon lest you fall asleep. At the least, it’ll leave behind pleasant dreams.