What’s this – an actual relationship in anime?

Sometimes (not very often) they get the end exactly right.

What a contrast today’s two series finales represent – the sincerity-puncturing irreverence of Osomatsu-san against the unapologetic sincerity of Akagami no Shirayukihime.  Osomatsu is a near-certainty to get multiple sequels, a genuine social phenomenon, while this is very probably the last we’ll see of Akagami in anime form.  There might be an OVA or two down the line – Bones has a track record of producing those for otherwise incomplete adaptations – but as a TV series, this is almost certainty the end.  But I’ll be jiggered if that wasn’t a perfect way to go out.

Without wanting to be a broken record, I have to once again shower some praise on Bones.  These guys are truly a superb studio in every sense of the word.  Their production values are consistently stellar, they actively strive to work with outstanding directors (in the past year they’ve brought in the two brightest young stars in the field, Matsumoto Rie and Tachikawa Yuzuru), and they actively seek to offer a broad range of genres and demographic.  Bones isn’t just good, they’e good for anime – they make it a more diverse and broad-thinking medium, and for that they deserve immense credit.

As for Akagami no Shirayukihime, it’s just another example of the cream rising to the top.  Shoujo fantasy might not be a genre Bones is known for, but they didn’t miss a beat in nailing this adaptation.  Sometimes I think we forget how truly great a director Ando Masahiro is – he’s a master of so many divergent styles, and he has an innate gift for juxtaposing intimacy and epic scale.  He also likes to partner with Oshima Michiru for music, and to say that’s worked out well in shows like this one and Zetsuen no Tempest is a massive understatement.  The soundtrack for Akagami is almost another cast member, so vital is it in so many crucial moments.

There may have been the odd moment when I felt the second season of Akagami no Shrayukihime wobbled a bit, and on balance I’d rank it a hair below the first, but this final episode was spot on. Odd as it may sound I’ve noticed that the finest anime episodes almost always result in one of two things on the scratchpad that always sits next to my computer when I watch anime I intend to blog – either it’s jam-packed with notes, or it’s virtually empty.  This ep is one of the latter examples, because it so eloquently and simply makes its case.

I think Akagami is at its best when it doesn’t try too hard – with plot, with action, with violence.  This is at heart a show most at home showing us the daily lives of people it seems like it’d be nice to get to know in a place you’d love to spend some time.  At it’s best, this show is Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – it says volumes wth minimal fanfare.  And this finale was Akagami at its very best.  Endings are hard (any anime fan could tell you that) and the best ones usually make them seem a lot easier than they truly are.

As to what actually happened here, a couple of specific events are certainly worth noting.  First, we have Prince Raj (thoroughly rehabilitated now) sending Sakaki and Mihaya to confer officially on Shirayuki the title of “Friend of the Crown”.  This may seem merely like the kind act of a fawning popinjay prince, but it’s actually an extremely savvy move for a character that’s been portrayed as somewhat shallow and dim (that’s why Izana laughed the way he did).  It was also an extremely selfless act, because what Raj is effectively doing here (and his letter confirms this, though Shirayuki may not fully understand until later) is giving Zen cover to be with Shirayuki.  A title, even a makeshift one like this, is a hugely important symbol in a feudal system like this one.  Raj has acted to make it possible for the woman he loves to be with his rival, which is quite a gesture in any book.

The road ahead for these two still isn’t going to be easy, because even with this “shield” in-hand Shirayuki remains well below Zen’s station.  But I sense Izana is starting to accept that neither his brother nor Shirayuki is going to be moved off their position.  She may not answer Izana’s challenge to tell him herself what she wants from her relationship with Zen, but it’s not due to any uncertainty on her part – Shirayuki simply doesn’t yet believe she’s in any position to hope her dreams might come true.

The engine that drives Akagami no Shirayukihime is, always, the relationship between Shirayuki and Zen.  It’s one of the most natural and unforced in any anime I can recall, shoujo or otherwise – it flows like a river, meanders and all, from the first episode to the last.  Simply put, this is one of the most bullshit-free love stories you’ll ever see.  It takes some time for them to admit the truth, the awkwardness still lingers, but the physical intimacy slowly grows.  They open up to each other, they hold hands, eventually they kiss.  In the finale, Zen even kisses Shirayuki on the neck (how rare is that in mainstream anime?), literally kissing her off her feet in the process.  Want to see an anime beautifully depict two people meeting, falling in love, and slowly and realistically become a couple?  I don’t think you need to shop around any further.

In the end, this final episode gives us everything anyone could reasonably want apart from a sequel announcement.  The love story takes center stage, but fittingly for what’s at heart a slice-of-life, life goes on: everyone plays a part, and the show closes with Shirayuki and Ryuu heading off together to yank herbs out of the ground.  I seriously don’t know how any fan could watch this episode and not feel a sense of happiness – it’s just warmth, honesty and unpretentious and open emotion from every pore.  This is why I love Akagami no Shirayukihime – what I’ve adored about it from the very beginning.  It’s not often a series can say it closes by putting its very best face forward and reminding you of everything that’s great about it, but that’s exactly what Akagami does here. From Akizuki Sorata’s manga through to Bones and Ando, it’s a triumph of good storytelling – and one of the best shows of 2016.


      1. Oohhhh, interesting. Is this based on a manga or LN? And how closely does it follow the source? Like, would I have to start from scratch, or can I continue from where the anime ends?

      2. It’s based on the manga. I would say it’s a pretty good adaptation so you can probably just drop it and read it. But in the end it’s still an adaptation so if you can, reading it again would be nicer.

    1. Guaranteed if you read her arc in the manga, you’ll love her even more. Probably one of my favorite characters in anime/manga, which is astounding given how little she’s actually featured compared to other heroines

  1. I don’t like shoujo in general.

    But I’ll ask a quick question:

    If I liked Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii anime, will I like this one or it has more shoujo cliches and slower pacing?

    1. I like Soredemo Sekai and I like this show, FWIW. I don’t find Akagami to be especially heavy in shoujo cliches, but to be honest I don’t find most shoujo to be that heavy in shoujo cliches – they seem like a bogeyman created by shoujo haters more than a common thing. Of course I don’t watch every shoujo and there are some that do seem to fall under that umbrella, but stuff like Akagami is more a hybrid than a hard-core shoujo if you ask me.

      1. Tastes differ. For example a lot of people like Ouran and Kimi ni Todoke but I wasn’t hook by the first one and found second really cliched and boring. Some other famous shoujo adaptations I watched were the same. So I’m really cautious then it comes to this genre.

    2. i think soredemo sekai had strong shoujo tropes than Akagami. I suggest giving a few episodes a try since both are different, if i were to compare: Akagami’s “story” is lighter and the scenery is less fantastical and more fairy-tale like, plus its alot slower or relaxed in pace.

  2. Yes. I am ranking this second to Rakugo as my best show this season. Yikes. Winter has some seriously good shows, ne? I can only squeak in glee with these shows. ERASED is a commercial success (at least the manga boost), Rakugo is the left of center to go for show and Shirayuki-hime is just… what good romance shows does because it has good characters.

  3. I like how they portrayed the naturalism and laid-back relationship between Shirayuki and Zen. All the supporting cast played their roles in revitalising the atmosphere, preventing concentric relationship between Shirayuki and Zen throughout the season.
    Overall, wishing for season 3 but it may be a distant hope as for now….

  4. I had a frowned look in my face when Zen did that neck kiss LOL

    The thought of a 3rd season isn’t that positive with me even though we have a ton-load of source material to adapt. Problem is, it’s already the 2nd season but we’re just 25-30 chapters in the manga 🙁

  5. Sales observers say the Akagami manga got a slight boost in sales from the anime, but the anime Bluray sales have been poor. So there’s concern there may not be a financial incentive for the studio to make Season 3.

    Manga readers are unsure if the next arcs are worth animating though – they’re long, slow-paced, very conversation driven, with extremely little conflict. However, safe to say the mangaka found her writing groove with those arcs.

  6. Amen, Enzonon. When a series isn’t likely to continue in anime form, it’s nice to get a sense of closure (even if it’s only up to a point, with more to come in the source) and a beautiful moment to end on. They gave us a complete, solid arc, so that anime-only viewers can stop now if they choose…but the story’s so sweet, we don’t want to. Need moar Shirayuki x Zen! (And Mitsuhide x Kiki, i.e. best couple)

    1. It’s really hard to make such endings that can feel both like an conclusive end AND an open end should they continue at some point.

      I really like how the romance is taking its time in a much more realistic fashion rather than trying to go for some sort of Disney-style romance. I mean, it’s been around a year in-universe and Shirayuki and Zen have only kissed like what, three times now? In a typical romance anime, they probably would be married and/or have slept together little after halfway through last season, lol. Heck, there hasn’t even really been anything that could be described as ecchi or fan-service (at least not gratuitous).

  7. Not only that, it’s one of those series that’s really well adapted from the manga. Such a great series and I’m going to miss it. Anyways, back to re-reading that’s been translated for the 3rd time.

  8. It’s been an enjoyable ride, but I do wish there was more conflict and greater urgency in some places. People love this story because it’s different, but I think it goes too far towards being anti-climatic and pragmatic at times.

  9. This is one of the few romance anime TV that is done right. When Zen made that promise and said “yes” I already feel the deal (or marriage proposal/acceptance) is sealed. I’m happy for them, as I know this is definitely one of those happily ever after stories. And since the couple are both cool and the supporting cast are so supportive of them, no one gets hurt in this relationship. Win-win.

    random viewer
  10. This is probably one of my favorite shows period, that I’ve ever seen. American, Japanese, Youtube, whichever. I tend to aim to watch as much anime as Stilts season to season (though I don’t think I’m making the cut) because of the wealth of stories and quality – this, Snow White with the Red Hair, will be one of my top recommendations to push onto folks from here on out. Also, it’s being dubbed, so that’s good for folks who don’t like subs: I only hope there’s decent voice-overs, as I haven’t given them a listen.

    1. Yeah, it might be more accurate to have said either Zephyr or me – we watched far too much (or not enough?) anime last year. Stilts seems to have a life, lucky him. 😛

      I agree that this show is great. The first cour was my choice for Best Fantasy and in my personal top 5 of 2015 for good reasons! 2016 looks like it could be a brilliant year for anime, so it’ll be interesting to see if it lands in the same spot once again.

    2. If I look at this previous season:
      Completed: Ace of Diamond, Erased, Grimgar, Heavy Object, KonoSuba, Ojisan to Marshmallow, Ooya-san was Shishunki, Galko-chan, Sekko Boys, She & Her Cat, Snow White S2, Bahamut, Utawarerumono, Gate S2, Haikyuu S2
      Working Thru: Concrete Revolutio S1, Prince of Stride, Phantom World, Dagashi Kashi, Aokana, Ajin
      Shall Marathon: Haruchika, Osomatsu-san, Durarara S4
      Want To Watch: Active Raid, Latest Precure, Reikenzan, BBK/BRNK, Dimension W, Divine Gate

      So, 15 finished, 6 about to join them, then 3 to marathon, and 6 I want to watch (or did an episode or 2 and then lost track of). Spring season looks so much worse, though – I think I picked out 30+ to test out. XD

      She & Her Cat was super sad, but very good.

  11. I have followed RC and your blog on and off since I was a teenager. I do not really watch much anime anymore, and rarely do I find one that I sincerely am interested in anymore. But this show immediately jumped out at me, and I followed every update about it. I was so sad when the second season was dropped on RC but I quickly found it on your site. Thank you for loving this show as much as those like me. I was just catching up on the spring shows and saw this post and was reminded of how rare it was for me to find a show I immediately gravitated towards like this one.


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