Snow White with the Red Hair is a deceptive title, because apart from the first episode this show has nothing to do with the classic Snow White tale. Shirayuki, a girl born with unusual red hair as bright as an apple, is ordered by the prince of her kingdom to come to his castle and become his concubine. Having none of that, Shirayuki promptly cuts her hair short and runs across the border. She meets a boy named Zen, the prince of Clarines, a neighboring kingdom. With his help, Shirayuki is able to escape the spoiled prince and work in Zen’s palace in the kingdom of Clarines as an herbalist. She and Zen soon fall in love and the show centers around their relationship and the trials they face.
This is definitely a shojo anime, aimed primarily at girls. The romance between Zen and Shirayuki is the central theme of the show, and while there are some action-packed arcs within the show, many of the episodes take palace within the quiet comfort of the palace. It is in many ways a slower-paced show, especially in its first season, but the main cast is so heartwarming that you never find yourself bored. The first season focuses mainly on Shirayuki finding her place within the palace as an herbalist and the start of the couple’s relationship, while the second season is more action-packed and shows the adventures and trials they face together.
One of the greatest strengths of the show is Shirayuki herself. She is a brave and capable heroine with an unusual set of skills. Instead of being proficient with a blade or bow, Shirayuki is a gifted herbalist, studying her craft with dedication and passion. She is an adept problem solver, able to diagnose mysterious illnesses and craft complex tinctures. Shirayuki remains cool-headed in the face of danger, coming up with innovative uses for the items around her, and although her rare red hair often makes her a target for those who would like to sell or own her, Shirayuki’s spirit is too strong to be broken. Thus she is the sort of kind-hearted heroine who is loved by all who know her, but she avoids the annoying passivity of some of her romance genre counterparts.
Prince Zen is also a well-written, fleshed out character, dodging the trope of being a decorative but bland ornament for the heroine.Though he is the second prince, Zen realizes he has a pivotal role in the kingdom, and he is always working to be a well-rounded and capable leader. He and Shirayuki inspire each other to work hard and become better people. They are a couple whose relationship does not change who either person is at their core, but rather strengthens both in their abilities and resolve.
The rest of the main cast are enjoyable as well, especially Obi, the mischievous, laid-back thief who becomes part of Zen’s main entourage. There is not a central villain in the show per se, but rather several characters who hurt others at different times for their own selfish ends. Many of these characters find some sort of redemption, becoming incorporated into the main group’s network of friends and allies. It’s not quite My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but Snow White with the Red Hair is certainly one of the most optimistic, positive anime I’ve watched when it comes to resolving conflict. This is a great anime to watch with children as the violence is not very graphic, and the few mature themes in the show (such as the subject of concubines) are not dwelt upon and will go over a child’s head.
The second season of Snow White with the Red Hair is certainly not the end of the story. I look forward to following the rest of Shirayuki and Zen’s journey toward becoming a royal couple in (anticipated) future seasons. If the anime continues its strong focus on character development, I am sure that Snow White will continue to tell excellent stories of the paths in life our choices take us down and the people we become.
Snow White with the Red Hair can currently be watched on Hulu.