[9] -akagami no shirayuki-hime: steadiness-

In defense of a “boring” romance.

Akagami no Shirayuk-hime

This post is the fourth of my entries into 2016’s rendition of the 12 Days of Anime aniblogger project. For more about the project, read appropriant’s introductory post. For a spreadsheet containing the work of all the bloggers participating, go here. For my previous 12 Days posts, go here.

Zen and Shirayuki’s love for each other is not one of wild chasing or thrilling uncertainty. Both narratively and for the characters of the show, it’s clear where that they are ordained for each other by the author and have chosen each other as characters. By the end of the first season of the show, they have effectively pledged themselves to each other, but the exclusivity and devotion of their relationship has existed long before this. Thus, their love is characterized not by desire for that which is yet unpossessed are, but by steady devotion to that which has already been gained.

The small dramas of Akagami no Shirayuki-hime (we expunge the pirates arc from this discussion on principle) are largely those of two people who have made the commitment to be with one another, but are still in the process of discovering who they are, what they want out of their own lives, and how those two elements intersect with their partner. Love is a give and take (“I don’t know if I can give back everything I take from you,” Zen tells Shirayuki immediately before he asks her to stay by his side), but it’s not as if internal personal or external forces vanish at the moment of Shirayuki’s assent.

Through it all, the steady undertow is love, that which motivates both Zen and Shirayuki to tackle their personal and social circumstances in the interest of finding their way to each other. It is constant. It is unfaltering. And it is valuable for all those reasons, and also because it is not easy. In a world of beautiful sunsets and gorgeous flowers, time after time the characters are seen through windows that serve as representations of the obstacles they face. Whether it is Shirayuki’s worries about establishing herself as her own person enough to be able to stand by Zen’s side or Zen’s struggles with the implications of his status (and his own insecurities over those), windows appear as the show’s primary motif—a barrier that allows the outcome to be seem, and perhaps as such allows the one who encounters it to find their motivation to overcome it.

Once more, though—at the heart of it all is the steadiness of love. As the famous verse from Corinthians begins, “Love is patient…” The conventions of traditional narrative romance are ignored, the excitement of it all is exchanged for the quiet and small decisions to be faithful, kind, and constant. The togetherness of it is important as well. Ultimately the effort of steady love is a personal one, but two must walk in the stream together for either’s efforts to bear fruit in the relationship.

For my part, I am glad to have seen it, to have been guided away from the thrills of pursuit of a lover to the gentle eddies that are Shirayuki-hime‘s small depictions of a steady love. In the end, this is a love that will last, because Zen and Shirayuki want it to do so. I also want it to last, and when the time comes in my life that I make the choice to step into the stream with another, I hope I will remember this.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime

5 thoughts on “[9] -akagami no shirayuki-hime: steadiness-

  1. One of my favorite YA books is “The Big Crunch” by Pete Hautman, and it’s pretty much about exactly this kind of relationship – two teenagers who meet and start building towards something together long before either of them even recognizes it. It’s a totally character-driven story, often understated, occasionally very funny, and one of the most enjoyable teenage love stories I’ve ever read. What I really appreciated most is that the kids were written like normal people, like when minor issues came up between them they actually knew how to sit down and talk them over and get them resolved, instead of suddenly forgetting how to communicate and letting things fester for the sake of Drama. If you appreciate that kind of story, then I definitely recommend it.

    Your highlighting of Shirayuki-hime also offering this kind of relationship is pretty much the strongest argument you could have made to eventually get me to watch it (someday…). That kind of relationship isn’t too common in fiction, especially in more teen-oriented types of fiction like YA novels or anime, which usually tend more towards melodrama and extreme emotional highs and lows since that’s how teens themselves tend to react to the world. Oreki and Chitanda might be the closest comparison that I’ve seen in anime to the kind of gradual, mostly drama-free relationship development like you’re describing here, but of course we never actually got to enjoy the payoff in that series.

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    • Well, Shirayuki and Zen are adults (not sure what their canon ages are, probably late teens or something, but in their world they’re both adults), so perhaps it makes sense they are less teenage about their emotions towards each other.

      Regardless, this is still a shoujo anime/show, and I think that’s a good thing. More younger folks could benefit from this kind of modeling in their fiction.

      I sincerely hope you do check it out—aside from this, Michiru Oshima’s score is divine and Masahiro Ando’s direction is superb. Lots to love about it.

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  2. Honestly, quite apart from enjoying everything else this series had to offer (and for me, there was a lot), it was really refreshing just to see a romantic relationship that wasn’t based on resentment, jealousy, or emotional exploitation for a change. Because while I get that no relationship is perfect and there are always bumps in the road, anime seems to have a particular Thing about couples that are just flat-out unhealthy. I loved Shirayuki-hime for, among other things, portraying a romance that was for once openly caring and genuinely selfless.

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    • Yeah, for sure! And it’s not even like everything goes totally smooth and fine for Shirayuki and Zen, but the struggles they encounter, they deal with together. It’s pretty special.

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