Like many Shoujo shows, they are sweet. Sweet as in they are sugar coated in ingredients that entices people who easily go for anything that is similar to its flavor. Not that people who follow Shoujo are easy to impress, but its a genre that many akin to when they do not want a complex story or complex characters. There are some exceptions to this and become classics in their own right. However, there are others that try to do this formula, such as Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, and come across as painfully average in the process.
When I say that it is average, or just borderline okay, I mean that there are parts of it that work tremendously to help facilitate the anime from being bad but there are other rusted parts that feel unstable and slightly bring it down a notch. Obviously, if you do not fit into the demographic that this show typically panders to, most of the problems I’ll mention might not be an issue for you. Nevertheless, if you’re like me and want to be surprised by an anime of any genre, there are many things to pick out of Akagami no Shirayuki-hime that range from positive or negative.
Let us start out with the positive aspects, starting with Akagami’s main heroine, Shirayuki. As far as female characters go, she is what many would figure out as the perfect example of a strong female character. But do not be discouraged if you think the show is going to rub it into your face about how strong she is. Shirayuki’s strong charisma and optimism feels very natural and less tact-on to be in league with many other strong anime females in the past. Voiced by the always lovely, Saori Hayami, she adds a nice level of innocence and personality that gives Shirayuki a likable presence along with her actions. They even play with the damsel in distress plot arc and give it a nice twist to it that makes her capable and true to her character arc. Not that she is a woman because she does this but because she just so happens to be female and succeeds in doing so is where Akagami flourishes.
Like many Shoujo anime, the art style is usually fitting for the characters to look relatively minimalistic and less-overblown, to which Akagami is no exception. However, the art style has nice little tidbits to it that give it a nice pastel atmosphere from the character designs and how the world is drawn. I would not say that it is exactly like a Studio Ghibli production, but there are various elements that seem like inspirations to the studio. The character expression all feel very natural and fluid, not to mention the saturated colors of the characters and backgrounds feel almost as if they were done with a paintbrush that give it a 1980s aesthetic in modern times.
That is where, unfortunately, all of the positives grind to a halt. Where most of the problems lie is the plot itself. Is it badly written? Do the characters not have enough development? Is it boring? Both of these can be answered with: Yes, yes, and yes. It is badly written from the prospect that the plot feels very bland and not really well-thought out. From the half-way point into Akagami, I found myself really apathetic to what was going on because the plot has nothing to it other than we’re just watching Shirayuki try to fit in with this new town that she is living in. And while I do love Shirayuki as a character, nothing else that she does that tries to further the plot does nothing to resonate me with it.
On top of that, another big crux to the plot are the other characters besides Shirayuki. It was almost as if the writers took most of their time to focus on how great she is, but forgot that there were other characters to shine as well. Her knight in shining armor, Zen Clarines, is a prime example of this where his entire personality is completely overshadowed by her’s. It comes down to how Zen is portrayed as a knight hopelessly in love with her and the lines and things he does, unknowingly, to win Shirayuki’s heart is about as cliched as one can get out of a Shoujo anime. The other characters that fall into the same spectrum as Zen, such as Obi and Rouen, are just as dull and uninteresting as he is; so much so that I had to look up their names so I could write them down on this review.
As I mentioned about Zen being overshadowed by Shirayuki, their relationship that reaches its climax by the end of Akagami does not heighten my positive reflections of Shirayuki or lower my perception of Zen. It just feels like your typical romance relationship that does not feel surprising by the time you reach the last two episodes. It goes about as you would expect if you are familiar with this kind of story. Not that I was wanting a new way of telling this type of romantic story, but if it wants to do something similar, at least give Zen a better archetype that helps in keeping this from being monotonous.
While Akagami no Shirayuki-hime boasts one of the best female characters this year, the plot does not win best of the year. If it was not also for the magnificent art design, this would have been an extremely forgettable anime to pick out. It was a polarizing experiencing that could have been something more than what it already is if time was spent to write better supporting characters. Akagami was a missed opportunity in being special, no doubt. It just cannot seem to get pass the curse of being another generic Shoujo anime.