Snow White with the Red Hair
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 18 of
Snow White with the Red Hair (TV 2) ?
This week marks a semi-return to form for Snow White with the Red Hair as everyone stops being shocked and horrified by the situation and starts to react to it, making the story go from an 18th century farce to a 19th century sensation novel. It's still not quite what made season one of this show great, but it's definitely a step in the right direction, to say nothing of a great episode for Kiki, one of the most chronically underutilized characters.
While it does make sense that Shirayuki spent most of last week's episode being scared and not doing much to improve her situation, it is nice to see her natural spark re-lit this week. Now that she's had time to adjust to what's happened (her two-fold kidnapping) and begun to realize that maybe Kazuki isn't quite as bad as he seems, or at least the lesser of two evils when compared to Umihebi, the vicious captain of the Claws of the Sea, she's able to think more clearly. When Kazuki mentions that they have a better chance of escape before the ship sets sail, Shirayuki is more than ready to go, even shocking her initial captor by ripping the presumably expensive material of her gown in order to be better able to run. (In a nice twist on the usual “all fabric shreds incredibly easily” trope, she just tears a slit and ties the skirt up rather than miraculously ripping it into a miniskirt.) Kazuki, whose whole experience of Shirayuki has been her captive princess act, is visibly startled, and his astonishment grows when she offers to treat his injuries and tells him that she's an herbalist of her own free will. This is our first hint that Kazuki may not have taken her out of any sort of malicious intent, something which is gone into in slightly more detail later in the episode, when we meet members of his band, the Lions of the Mountain. They reveal that Kazuki was sold to nobility to be an “ornament” (which I'm hoping isn't code for “sex slave”) and largely lived a life devoid of free will because of his striking looks. He may have truly believed that he was freeing Shirayuki from a similar situation based solely on the fact that she ran from one prince to another – he imposed his own tortured past on her because of the way Raj treated her initially. Not only does this make him a much more sympathetic character, but it also explains the whole double-kidnap: technically, he kidnapped Shirayuki, but the Claws kidnapped him; Shirayuki was just an added bonus. That makes this much more about Kazuki than Shirayuki, which doesn't detract from the peril of her situation, but it does give it less of a melodramatic edge.
Though speaking of melodrama, Umihebi, comprised of the words “sea” and “snake,” is the closest we've really come to a moustache-twirling villain since the whole bird incident in season one. She's cruel for the sake of cruelty, beating her men hard enough to cause internal bleeding when she's displeased with them and practicing some good old-fashioned pirate tortures. She's almost too evil in a show that's steered clear of that sort of villainy, but that doesn't make her any less of a character you can't help but hate with every fiber of your being. When she realizes that Shirayuki has medical experience, she doesn't ask her to treat anyone on board; instead her look suggests that she's contemplating how much more money she can get from selling her.
As with the previous episodes in this arc, this one flashes between what's going on with Shirayuki and with her would-be rescuers. Getting a look at the leader of the Lions certainly is suggestive of why Kazuki was allowed to go after Shirayuki in the first place, given his dark red hair and eyes the same color as Shirayuki's, but beyond that it's more about Zen trying to control his emotions while Raj tries desperately to be heroic. Obi is really the most interesting character in the rescue, with his feral side retreating once Zen and Co. show up. We've seen it now, though, and have to wonder which is the act – how he usually is, or the catlike beast? Especially with that in mind, it's impressive that Kiki is the one who enacts the first major step towards rescuing Shirayuki and Kazuki. Not only does she show her usual insight and forethought, but she also gets to be the savior figure for a change instead of taking a back seat to Zen or Obi. I'm looking forward to seeing how she helps to mastermind the next step of the rescue, especially since the rest of the party is going to take a slightly more roundabout route. It's up to Kiki now, and it's not only exciting to see what she's really capable of, but also to realize (or remember) that Shirayuki isn't the only strong female character in the story and that there is more than one way to display that strength.
Snow White with the Red Hair is currently streaming on Funimation.
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