Snow White with the Red Hair
Episode 21

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 21 of
Snow White with the Red Hair (TV 2) ?

If we gave out seasonal awards, I might have to nominate this episode for being both the cutest and the sweetest thus far. It's one of those transitional episodes I tend to be hard on, but Snow White with the Red Hair uses it less to move us between storylines and more to allow us to enjoy the characters and their relationships. Shirayuki, Zen, Obi, Kiki, and Mitsuhide are en route home from Tanbarun when a rainstorm hits, sending them to the nearest inn. Since they're all chilled from the weather, they head off to the baths, with poor Mitsuhide drawing guard duty while Zen and Obi soak in the men's bath. In one of the least guarded Zen moments we've seen this season, he gets totally flustered when Obi teases him with the fact that Shirayuki (and Kiki, but we know who this is about) are naked in the baths next door. Zen's reaction is so un-Zen, at least as we usually see him, that it's really funny, and you can practically see him trying to force the thoughts out of his head while they dig themselves in. Obi never cuts him any slack, and watching the two of them interact like friends rather than master and servant is delightful. Meanwhile, Shirayuki is blinded by the beauty of Kiki's nude body in the tub, another unusual moment that gives the characters some levity. It may be a tiny bit out of character, especially for Shirayuki, who usually takes a much more clinical approach to bodies, but it fits right in with the overall tone of the episode, which is friendly and much less serious than usual.

Apart from the attractions of Casual Zen in his T-shirt (and he's the only one dressing down, which feels a little odd since Kiki's and Mitsuhide's outfits have a soldierly look to them), this episode also gives us some information about Obi's past life as a roving…mercenary? Thief? Probably “highly skilled jack-of-all-trades” is the best way to describe it, as presented by his past associate Trow, a woman they meet at the inn that Obi pretends not to know at first. They're clearly members of the same band, or quite possibly tribe, given their similar eyes, and may have been lovers as well from the implications. Trow isn't interested in getting Obi back, however; she seems content to have figured out that he's alive and well, albeit miffed that he's happy being in someone's service. Apparently Obi's former life didn't advocate forming attachments to other people, and Trow can't quite understand how Obi could have done so. So is Obi, for that matter – he describes being with the group as feeling like he's lost his freedom, but not in a bad way. It really solidifies his “domesticated feline” air, and he strongly reminds me of my formerly feral cat Horus, who seemed strangely surprised that he kept coming back to the same house day after day. Obi has come to terms with it, and as he gets more comfortable we see him ribbing Zen more, not just in the bath scene, but in having Shirayuki ride with him – at the end of the episode Zen is grousing about how Shirayuki never rides with him, before we see Obi and Shirayuki laughing together. Given Obi's observational skills and how he teased Zen in the bath, I have to think that he knows exactly what he's doing.

There are plenty of adorable moments this week as well, with a very cute handholding scene between Zen and Shirayuki as well as Kiki (deliberately) missing Mitsuhide hitting on her over tea. Zen and Shirayuki's body language declares them a couple even if they aren't all over each other, and just watching them together is awfully sweet. Of course, the preview for next week mentions “marriage meetings,” so this is doubtless meant to make us worry about what's ahead for the herbalist and her prince, and it definitely looks like Izana is going to be harassing his little brother a bit. But it also seems possible that we're going to build on Mitsuhide's attempt at expressing interest in Kiki, which would be a nice twist on what we've been seeing. At the very least, it seems that there's plenty to try and guess at while we wait to find out next week.

Rating: A-

Snow White with the Red Hair is currently streaming on Funimation.

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