Anime of the Week: Snow White with the Red Hair Ep. 3

Snow White with the Red Hair has certainly come a ways from its premiere episode–and I liked that one quite a bit. The series has developed Shirayuki into one of the strongest female characters in anime, outside of those that carry loaded guns and act like men, of course. This third episode does so much to prove Shirayuki’s gumption in the face of external powers who should have a strong level of control over her, simply because of their position in the world. In the face of all this, Shirayuki proves to be made of the stuff that most of us can only aspire to.

The episode, “Shining Time of Promise”, revolves around Shirayuki’s growing friendship and companionship with Prince Zen, and the reaction that various members of the castle’s ecosystem have to it. This ranges from guards who think Shirayuki is just the swellest, to Lord Haruka–a member of the court elite–who finds Shirayuki’s social status to be a disservice to Prince Zen.

An arrow barely misses Shirayuki

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With that foundation, “Shining Time of Promise” becomes more than just a manifesto on what it means to be a strong woman, but also what it means to believe in one’s self in the face of society’s class confines. Shirayuki never hesitates to see her future self as an equal of Prince Zen, in spite of what her lower class distinction would make the upper class think of her. At one point she tells Prince Zen,

I want to one day be able to go through the gates [of the castle] by myself and come be your ally.

Of course, she finds opposition to her true wishes. The majority of the episode revolves around Lord Haruka believing that he can pressure and intimidate Shirayuki into exiling herself from the castle–and from Prince Zen, more specifically. Haruka fails to see the strength of self that lies at Shirayuki’s core, instead viewing her as a silly girl that has tricked Prince Zen into giving her a higher social status than she deserves. At every turn, however, Shirayuki deftly proves this to be a falsity of epic proportions. In the face of physically violent threats, Shirayuki pushes forward to join Prince Zen as a friend and an equal.

Shirayuki's enthralled with a book on herbal remedies. Zen sleeps.

One of my favorite moments of the episode sees Shirayuki face-to-face with Lord Haruka, he with a sword to her chest in the hopes that she will turn away out of fear. Instead, Shirayuki wears her resolve on her sleeve and pushes forward, forcing Haruka back in fear of Shirayuki actually falling on his blade. It’s a terrific scene that feels of a piece with any moment of “civil disobedience” throughout history. I was immediately reminded of the bravery of the members of the Civil Rights movement, standing up against a society that would have them believe they were “lesser than”, all to say that “we are human beings, we are equal”. Clearly that was a much more important statement than this girl saying that she has a right to be friends with the Prince, but they each speak to the frailty of society’s divisions once those divisions are questioned by the right people; people who are willing to give their lives in the name of true freedom. It’s a message that’s increasingly needed in a time when societal confines are just as strong as ever, but much less considered or openly talked about. Alright, so hopefully that’s not too grandiose, but clearly Snow White with the Red Hair stirred something inside of me this time around.

Aside from commenting on the quintessential meaning of personhood, Snow White with the Red Hair is a cool little cartoon. The animation is still on the money, for my tastes, capturing the majesty of the court through vibrant colors and brightly lit scenes. The world outside the walls, however, is even more beautifully animated–and much less barren–reminding us, as it does Prince Zen, that the castle isn’t the only thing in the country and probably isn’t even the best thing. The combination between the quality of the art, the commentary on societal norms and the general sweetness that exists within Snow White with the Red Hair still vaguely gives me a Studio Ghibli vibe, as if this is the show that famed studio would make were it ever to venture into television–that’s right, I’m completely disowning Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, sorry Gorō. Obviously, Snow White doesn’t quite hit the upper echelon that certain Ghibli films do, but it’s certainly inspired by them.

An establishing shot of the kingdom of Clarines

Snow White with the Red Hair is a true gem that’s relatively easy to overlook in our current age of media consumption, because it’s not hard and gritty like Gangsta, Ranpo Kitan or God Eater. While all those shows do have worth in their individual messages, those messages simply don’t resound as well–at least not for me–as this story about a strong woman who refuses to be told what her role in the world is.

If you’re looking for more fantasy series, give Jennifer’s summer anime roundup a look-see.

The A-TEC crew testing out rocket propellers

Runner Up: Classroom Crisis – Ep. 3

Was there any doubt that if Snow White could finally topple Classroom Crisis for me, it’d only be to knock it down a peg? Of course not, because Classroom Crisis is still at peak performance, doing what it does best with both character development and world building.

This week’s episode finds Kaito and crew being put through even more paces than last week, with a new accountant being brought in by Nagisa who turns their world upside down. Is she there to destroy A-TEC or to do what she can to save it?

The power of this week’s Classroom Crisis lies in its point-of-view on community, and the importance of said community in surviving hard times. As we’ve seen in previous episodes, Nagisa and his brothers–those that run the Kirishina Corporation–continue to come to a head this episode, putting their sibling rivalry on full display at the top of a wobbling corporate infrastructure. In contrast, while the A-TEC crew certainly suffers some losses–both of physical resources and human resources–they tend to feel like more of a family, with their common goal keeping them going. At one point, Kaito finds himself at a bar, drinking his cares away with his old chief–the one that was relieved in the first episode. Kaito reminisces on all the time he’s put into A-TEC, saying,

…all that hard work we put in, half-killing ourselves along the way… What was all that for? Just because of a slight change in company policy, they’re denying all our achievements til now, calling us good-for-nothings, and now we have nowhere to go.

Kaito is a man with a family who’s been kicked out of their home, at a loss with what he can do to steer things back on the right path. But in all of this, Kaito never puts himself–the I–before the group–the we. It’s never his accomplishments, but their accomplishments. In stark contrast, Nagisa and his brothers seem to only speak in their own individual strengths–usually in comparison with each other to see who’s the strongest–rather than as a cohesive collective. It’s moments like this that give the audience hope for the A-TEC crew and makes Classroom Crisis a truly enjoyable underdog tale.

The Shadow-Man is both creepy AND sweet

Biggest Surprise: Ranpo Kitan – Ep. 3

Much like last week, a handful of shows surprised me in this week’s viewings, from God Eater‘s charmingly gritty second outing to Gangsta‘s thoughtful development of its one-eyed badass, Worick. But it was Ranpo Kitan, with its harsh look at child abduction, that bumped it from last week’s biggest disappointment to this week’s biggest surprise for me.

No, the characters don’t seem any more well defined this week–in fact Akechi’s dressing up like a girl felt like blatant fan service for the cross-dressing crowd, and didn’t do much of anything for his character–but Ranpo Kitan was able to set a mood in this episode hitherto unseen. Between the Shadow-Man, a truly creepy-seeming character, and the child abductions, Ranpo felt much closer to creepy anime mainstays like Paranoia Agent and Boogiepop Phantom, than the CSI procedural vibe I was getting off the last two episodes. Granted, Ranpo is never as interesting or as interested in the human condition as those other two series are, but the fact that it can channel them tone-wise, puts it ahead of the crowd in a relatively arid genre. I’m interested to see where the series goes from here. I don’t necessarily need episodes that are as dark as this one, but I would like to see Ranpo Kitan continue to be just as unsettling.

The Charlotte crew take some video

Biggest Disappointment: Charlotte

I’ve been decidedly mum on Charlotte so far this season for a few reasons. First off, I didn’t find anything interesting about it from the beginning, except for maybe the animation, and it felt like the perfect show for the hardcore otaku who likes to pick fights. Secondly, there’s nothing outright awful about Charlotte–unlike Overlord and Aoharu x Machinegun and countless others this season–so I wanted to give it the requisite three-episode try, for fear of missing out on something that got better as it went on. Sad to say, for a series from an animation studio with as beautiful an output as P.A. Works, Charlotte has to be one of the most vanilla series airing this summer. Its characters all feel similarly bland and I generally have a hard time remembering what I watched just a day after tipping my toes into the world of Charlotte. That’s disappointing considering some of the work that P.A. Works has done in the past.

Shirobako was a great watch–one of the best in the last few years–and though it’s on my shame list–series I still need to check out–The Eccentric Family has been equally heralded amongst anime fandom. Sure, Glasslip didn’t really go anywhere, and its characters were equally vanilla as here, but it was gorgeous beyond belief. Charlotte doesn’t seem to even bring the same level of consistent animation as Glasslip had. Certain scenes are beautiful–mainly the action scenes–but static character shots often feel lacking. I really wanted to like Charlotte, but its just not pushing my buttons the way that it does for hundreds of others. I’m just hoping that P.A. Works hits it out of the park with their next project. They’re certainly a studio that’s proven themselves in the past.

If you’re still interested in Charlotte, keep up with Logan’s weekly episode reviews of the popular series.

Several God Eaters at sunset after an attack

Predictions for Next Week

The broken record spins again because I’m still holding out for a truly great episode of Gangsta. Maybe my expectations are too high, and I’m sure many think the series has been incredible all the way through, but I still can’t help but feel that Gangsta lacks an emotional intelligence that its obvious forefathers–Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, Samurai Champloo to name a few–have in spades. Elsewhere, I’ve got a good feeling about Ranpo Kitan, now that I have a better idea of what to expect from the series; all mood and little substance, which is fine because we could always use more anime mood pieces. I’m a little more dubious about GATE–which has certainly been off and on so far–and Seiyu’s Life–which seems to have become much less purposeful with this week’s episode. Aside from that, I’m still stoked that the summer season seemingly salvaged itself, with series like Classroom Crisis and Snow White with the Red Hair dropping some quality on the anime audience while Prison School and God Eater are doing interesting things–sometimes with character and storytelling, sometimes with animation–whether you truly enjoy either series or not. Tune in next time to see where things stand in the week in anime. I’m crossing my fingers, Gangsta.

Survivors of the Week

Classroom Crisis
Snow White with the Red Hair
Monster Musume
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
Seiyu’s Life
Prison School
God Eater
My Love Story
Ninja Slayer: from Animation

Matthew McCrary
Matthew McCrary
Pop culture writer at Monkeys Fighting Robots and Boom Howdy. Currently hosting the Toondiculous Podcast, where two grown men point out the logic flaws in children's programming. This sort of thing makes him feel like a big man, you see.