What They Say:
Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Tanbarun, there lived an independent young woman with beautiful red hair. A skilled herbalist by trade, Shirayuki used her knowledge of plants and medicine to heal the people of her city. But when her apple-red hair drew the unwanted attention of the devious Prince Raj, she was left with two options become his unwilling concubine, or leave her home forever.
In the dead of night, she cut her hair and escaped to the neighboring kingdom of Clarines where she was found by a kind young man named Zen. The mysterious stranger turned out to be none other than the dashing prince of her newfound kingdom. And with his protection, Shirayuki was finally free to chase her dreams.
Now, she’s set her sights on becoming a royal court herbalist and it will take a lot more than poisoned apples, scheming lords, and challenging exams to stand in her way. Special Features: Episode 9 Commentary, Episode 11 Commentary, Promotional
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with a new English language track done in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless format. The series is one that does have some action from time to time, but not really in the traditional sense and not in a really big and bold way. It’s a quieter show with warmer moments that come through well with what it wants to present and that comes through really well. There’s a smoothness to the dialogue that’s appealing and the blending with the instrumental score definitely helps build the show as a whole well. The 5.1 mix takes these elements and boosts them up a bit without it going badly, making the end result one that’s definitely strong and engaging without becoming overpowering or distorting the original intent.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Bones, this series has a really great look about it with its color palette that’s soft but with some distinctive colors and an almost illustration style approach to the line work of the character designs, particularly the eyes at times, that lets it stand out well. The encoding of the series works a solid bit rate for it and there’s a great solidity to the backgrounds as well as within the character designs. The show isn’t a high motion one for the most part but it definitely has its moments and those shine really well when the characters get active and run with it. Bones typically has a strong look for their shows and this is no exception and the encoding for it delivers with a solid and very pleasing result.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the four discs from the two formats on hinges. The set comes with an o-card that replicates the cover artwork but with just a touch more pop thanks to the cardstock. The front cover for both is definitely appealing with the familiar but really well done key visual for this season that has our two leads and some of the supporting cast behind them set within the landscape of the castle itself. The colors are great and the flourish of the icon material along the bottom is definitely a big plus. The back cover goes for a white background approach with a welcome piece of the Japanese home video cover artwork of Shirayuki along the left while the right has the summary of the premise in white against deep red, which is pretty readable overall. There are a few shots from the show along the bottom that are decent and we get a solid breakdown of the extras included. The technical grid lists through the details cleanly and accurately for both formats as well. While there are no show related inserts we do get artwork on the reverse side that uses the Japanese covers for Zen and Obi in the illustration style that looks great.
The menus for this release are definitely up my alley since they have some great pieces to work with as we get static menus for both discs. Each of them does a blending of different characters from the Japanese artwork, such as Shirayuki and Zen on the first, while adding in some soft illustration elements in the background to blend it all together. The colors look great with the brighter approach of the home video side while the navigation ties into the design of the premise box on the back cover with the deep red and mild framing. That’s a simple navigation as to be expected but it functions smoothly and easily both as a main menu and as a pop-up menu.
The extras for this release bring the familiar out from the Japanese side where we get the always welcome clean opening and closing sequences as well as the various promos and commercials that were made to promote the show. We covered most of those when they aired but it’s great to have them in this form. On the new side, Funimation has a pair of English language commentaries with the cast that digs into their views of the show alongside some obviously colorful commentary and they’re definitely fun for fans of the dub to listen to.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series Akagami no Shirayukihime from Sorata Akizuki, Snow White with the Red Hair is a twenty-four episode two season series that we get the first season of here. We’ve seen a number of Snow White themed episodes over the years and a few variations on the concept as a series as well, but I was definitely intrigued to see what Bones would do in handling this under the direction of Masahiro Ando and series composer Deko Akao. What we do get is a show that’s visually highly appealing while the story works a slow burn to introduce everything in this half to set up what’s to come. There’s some decent payoff toward the end but you really have to think of it as just laying the foundations and introducing everything without rushing it.
The basis of what happens here is simple as we’re introduced to Shirayuki, a herbalist from Tanbarun that stands out in the kingdom because of her red hair. That’s pretty unique and is something that could be setting up for something down the road but isn’t explored here much directly. Because of this, she’s done her best to lay low and not draw attention but she ends up doing so from Prince Raj, who does his best lordly best to make her his. Since she’s definitely not up for that she ends up chopping off most of her hair and makes a run for it into the woods to the nearby kingdom of Clarines where she ends up accidentally befriending Prince Zen when she comes across him and his main companions, Mitsuhide and Kiki. The apple from the fairy tale comes into play, put into Zen’s hands instead, and Shirayuki saves his life thanks to her skills and the two end up beginning a long new journey together because of it.
It’s a busy first episode that establishes much of this but it’s engaging to watch how Zen handles Raj and the way that makes an impact in later episodes when Raj ends up in Clarines. With Zen being the second born prince he has his responsibilities in Clarines and he really does take a shine to Shirayuki while not going after her, instead respecting his station and position. But she is extended courtesies others aren’t, such as access to the castle in ways that others aren’t able to, and there’s an ease and familiarity between them that bothers some of the other aides that work in the castle. This causes a little dissent in the ranks but serves to show how Zen handles things but also the forward approach of Shirayuki herself as she’s drawn to Zen and dislikes the idea of being separated from him. You know the basics of the romance that will come yet there’s something really engaging with how it’s presented because it doesn’t rush it, instead letting it build slowly but surely while exploring what both characters lives are like in this moment and their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Where the tension in this series comes from, as there must be tension, is the return about halfway through this set of the first prince, Izana. Izana’s definitely one that gives you the impression of a cold and calculating type and what we get of some of his past here only serves to reinforce that. He’s a hard ruler that has a distinct approach to how a kingdom must be handled, possibly because of how the King is, and you can see how Zen wants to emulate aspects of it but is considered “soft” by his brother because he has compassion for not just the people of Clarines but also the soldiers when things happen out of their control. Izana may feel too blatant and obvious for what he is, but it’s more the norm for this era and place in a lot of ways whereas Zen is the exception. Viewing all of this through Shirayuki’s eyes makes him seem even colder than he already is and we see some shades of that in Zen as well, which is interesting
The first season of Snow White with the Red Hair is a charming work that captures things really well when it comes to the pacing of it, the buildup of how everything works and the dark times ahead that the characters will face, and just the overall world design. The animation team did a fantastic job of building this world in both the castle areas and the places outside of it while also giving us some appealing looking character designs that are almost fanciful in some ways yet still grounded enough. This is largely setup but it’s well done setup that establishes things well and never feels like it’s just going by the numbers. Funimation’s release hits all the right notes as well with a great encoding, a solid dub, and a good package that makes me wish it got a bigger limited edition release with a chipboard to hold it all and a good booklet with more of the design work. So close!
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 9 Commentary, Episode 11 Commentary, Promotional Videos, Commercial Collection, Textless Songs, U.S. Trailer, and Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 1st, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.