Manga of the Month: Snow White with the Red Hair

Snow White with the Red Hair by Sorata Akiduki

Over the last year or so, I’ve been rediscovering my passion for Snow White with the Red Hair. Some of you may recall that I absolutely loved the anime and its cast. The manga extends far beyond the anime (and that’s saying something when, as of this writing, the English release is still about 10 books behind the Japanese).

Shirayuki is a self-possessed young woman who made a life for herself as a herbalist in the kingdom of Tanbarun. When she is ordered to become the concubine of the prince, Shirayuki instead decides to leave her home for the neighboring country of Clarines. In no time at all, she is working in the castle of Clarines as a court herbalist swiftly taking on new challenges, and falling in love with a very different prince than the one she left behind.

Despite the title, Snow with the Red Hair is not really a fairy-tale retelling, and the title is only vaguely related to the series’ initial meeting between the main cast. Beyond that, Snow White with the Red Hair becomes about the intertwined lives of Shirayuki and Prince Zen as they pursue their goals, grow as people and a couple, and the people, politics, and machinations of the kingdom around them.

Prince Zen is the second prince of Clarines and ripe to start taking on real responsibilities in the vast kingdom. Zen is down-to-earth, enjoys a little mischief, and chafes at the royal title but also wants to do what is right for the people of Clarines. In the mix is a lovable cast of side characters including the unflappable swordswoman Kiki, the earnest aide Mitsuhide, the aloof messenger Obi, the enigmatic first prince Izana, and the list goes on and on.

The love story at the center of Snow White with the Red Hair is incredibly satisfying and stands up to being a long series without adding in too much overwrought drama. Firstly, Shirayuki and Zen are quick to say they have feelings for the other and want to figure out what that means for them. Second, manga-ka Sorata Akiduki is masterful at creating swoony moments and slow builds. Third, Shirayuki and Zen have major stories outside of their romance that are just as interesting. (Fourth, possibly for me only, is that I am somehow able to 100% believe in Shirayuki and Zen’s love while simultaneously rooting for Obi.)

The story of Clarines goes further and becomes more grandiose than I would have imagined. Two years have passed in the series as of vol. 16 and so much has happened. Shirayuki and Zen have experienced adventures, setbacks, balls, political manipulation, victories, loss, friendship, separation, joy, doubt, love, and so much growth in their lives. Those around them have had similar trajectories and the world just keeps opening up further.

Snow White with the Red Hair boasts strong characters, heartfelt romance, a balance of drama and humor, and a well-crafted world to set it all in. Picking up the manga a few years after the anime has made me even more of a fan of Shirayuki, Zen, Obi and the rest of the gang, and I look forward to every volume to see where the story takes them next.

-Kate

Manga of the Month: The Rose of Versailles

Screen Shot 2021-08-22 at 1.02.25 PMThe Rose of Versailles (ベルサイユのばら)
by Riyoko Ikeda

July 2015 will probably be remembered as the summer when anime and manga dreams came true. Sort of. The month before has been the E3 where the The Last Guardian was saved, Final Fantasy VII got a remake, and Shenmue III was going to get made via a kickstarter. The Anime Expo 2015 did the same thing for the otaku community. While the impossible dream of getting the Legend of the Galactic Heroes anime and novels would normally be enough to make the announcements go into the realm of the fantastic the manga lineup was no slouch. The most surprising news was probably the fact that Udon was going to release the original The Rose of Versailles manga from the 70s.

The Rose of Versailles was always one of those manga that everyone asked for but never really expected. When the Right Stuf licensed the anime the reaction (beyond being slack-jawed) usually was, “It would be nice if we could also get the manga but this is more than good enough.” So when Udon of all people unveiled their little SDCC it made a mad sort sense given the events that had occurred in the last few weeks. I don’t think a year and a half ago most people who have guessed:

A. Anyone would license such an old shojo manga.
B. Anyone could get such a tricky prestigious shojo manga.
C. That it would have ever been from someone like Udon.

That summer of 2015 was interesting as most of the titles I mentioned had some major hiccup that changed the way people saw that string of miracles. The Last Guardian was sort of good but it sort of got overwhelmed by expectations thanks to years of dreams so it mostly exists in this limbo state between a dream come true and an utter disappointment. Shenmue III got really bad reviews but everything I have heard seems to say that it deserved every thumbs down it got. Final Fantasy VII has taken a long time to come out and since it is now being released in parts it has yet to be seen how the final product will be especially since there have been some major changes in the first part. It seemed like everyone of those wishes was made on a monkey’s paw. Not every wish ended in disaster but no one really got exactly what they wanted.

The Rose of Versailles manga seemed to have been a wish made on the same cursed monkey’s paw. As delayed as the Final Fantasy VII remake was at least there was occasional news updates even if they were few and far between. Udon seemed to just license The Rose of Versailles and then completely forget about the series. The was some speculation that Udon had just bit off more than they could chew and the license and they were just waiting for the license to lapse. But then beyond all odd Udon actually released the manga and it was in a super amazing premium format that lived up to most expectations and often exceeded them.  It was a long wait but it was very much worth it. Continue reading

Anime NYC 2019: Weathering With You

hisui_icon_4040_round If you were to pick from a list of top 10 worst self-inflicted ways to watch Weathering With You I might have accidentally picked the worst one by accident. I also picked the one that most seemed like something out of a mediocre sitcom. If you did not already know Weathering With You involves a Tokyo that is besieged by constant rain therefore falling and flowing water is a constant visual metaphor throughout the movie. Since Weathering With You was the last event at Anime NYC I was running out of steam and only had a small breakfast. Therefore to wake myself up to properly review the movie I got a quick coffee. Getting the coffee took much longer than I anticipated, therefore, I then forgot to go to the bathroom since I had to sit in the back even with my guaranteed press ticket. Anyone well versed in my Zetsubou-Sensei like fortune would realize the obvious outcome. I spent most of the movie in absolute discomfort since I could not leave the theater and get back in but I also did not want to miss out on what could have easily been the highest-profile premiere at the convention. So I suffered through the aquatic film and still had a wonderful time which is quite the accomplishment. If that is not a major endorsement of the film I’m not sure what is.

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