Reviewby Theron Martin,
Snow White with the Red Hair
BD+DVD - Season 2
Life proceeds apace in Clarines after Zen's declaration of devotion to Shirayuki, but an official invitation from Prince Raj for Shirayuki soon upsets the situation. Since Shirayuki will be representing Clarines in her visit to Tanbarun, she is trained to act courtly and sent with Obi as a bodyguard/attendant, while Zen attempts to track down a pair of ruffians who seem to be looking for Shirayuki. Raj does seem to have turned over a new leaf – or at least he's trying to – but danger still finds Shirayuki in a different way, from an unexpected source that leads to a fateful encounter. Afterward, Shirayuki contemplates whether the path she might take will allow her to stand by Zen's side for the long term.
The second season of Snow White with the Red Hair aired during the Winter 2016 season, covering episodes 13-24. Given the firm declaration of commitment from Zen near the end of the previous season and Shirayuki's generally secure position as an apprentice among the court herbalists, the potential for romantic drama coming into this season was very low. The only problem that really lingers is Prince Izana's belief that Shirayuki is not worthy of Zen as a potential mate. With little beyond that to act as a threat to Shirayuki within Clarines, the plot goes in the most obvious direction: an adventure back to Tanbarun to get her wrapped up in some hairy business along the way.
Surprisingly, the most welcome part of this scenario is bringing Prince Raj back into the story in a big way. Despite how poorly he came off in the first season, seeing that Shirayuki's last words to him really did make an impression is a welcome development. It's not often that anime characters who are such hideous asses are given a chance to reform, and kudos are in order for showing that it isn't an instant transformation for Raj. His genuine efforts to become a better prince haven't entirely overridden his spoiled and selfish inclinations, but his desire to turn over a new leaf isn't lost on Shirayuki. That eventually leads to one of the season's standout moments: Raj's triumphant participation in rescuing Shirayuki.
Although Shirayuki and Zen still get the lion's share of screentime, their characters are more or less unchanged from the first season. Shirayuki shows more vulnerability during this season's rescue attempt, but she's otherwise the same young woman who's self-assured about everything but love. Zen also offers little additional insight into his character, but that's more than made up for by a greater role for Obi. Not only does he get a feature episode that delves into his past, but he also shows a gradually shifting attitude. There are hints that he might be attracted to Shirayuki, but he clearly values his relationship with Zen enough to not intrude, and he takes his job seriously enough to be thrown for a loop when he fails at protecting Shirayuki due to some untimely interference. Despite that, he can also be his normal playful self in more casual times, along with getting some of the season's best zingers. We also get to see a little more about the relationship between Mitsuhide and Kiki, including how they first met and increasing hints that there could be something romantic between them. They would definitely make at least as neat a couple as Zen and Shirayuki, but the season ends without taking things that far.
It's good that the series has a strong enough cast to carry it through the slower parts, as these 12 episodes are about two-thirds plot and one-third tangential vignettes. Granted, the first season's inclination toward episodic adventures still worked out fine, but it had the advantage of being fresher on the scene. All of those charming Disney-esque moments feel more like eye-rolling schmaltziness the second time around. Helping to compensate for that is an uptick in the effectiveness of the show's humor. It's never a gut-busting affair, but director Masahiro Ando shows a real talent for slipping light jokes in without getting in the way of the driving story, so I hope this isn't his last outing with romantic comedy.
Overall, the studio BONES production effort remains fairly strong, with the bright and warm colors frequently making scenes look absolutely lovely. Moreso than the first season, this season also shows the propensity to slip in artistic quality on a semi-regular basis, especially in later episodes. Fight animation is still very limited, but this isn't the kind of series that sells itself on fight scenes anyway. Character designs are still lanky without being too blatantly shojo-styled, and Shirayuki looks reasonably pretty when she gets to dress up. The musical score is mostly a rehash of selections from the first season, with lots of graceful orchestrated numbers reminiscent of classic Hollywood romances, though the opener and closer are new. Neither is particularly memorable, though.
Funimation returns the English dub cast from the first season with equally strong results. Brina Palencia handles Shirayuki's more emotional moments very well, but there's not a weak performance anywhere in the returning cast. Amongst new major roles, Brandon Potter is a perfect fit as Mukaze, the leader of the Lions of the Mountain, and Monica Rial using the low end of her range makes a suitably menacing pirate captain.
Funimation's release of this second season comes in a standard Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. Extras include English audio commentaries for episodes 16 and 23, clean opener and closer, and a collection of commercials and promo videos.
If you liked the first season of this series, then you are unlikely to be disappointed with the second season, as it fully retains the tone, style, and strength of cast that made Snow White with the Red Hair a success. A weaker final quarter drags the season down some, but it proves quite satisfying overall as a more romance-intensive alternative to standard anime romcoms.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Some very pretty scenes, character development for Obi and Raj, strong English voice work
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