What They Say:
Shirayuki’s story continues in the beautifully animated second season of Snow White with the Red Hair. After Zen confessed his feelings for her, the young herbalist continued her studies and the prince doubled his efforts to keep up with her pace. But just as everything seemed to be falling into place, Shirayuki’s happily ever after is put on hold.
An old enemy has resurfaced with grave news that a mysterious boy has been searching for a girl with apple-red hair—but his intentions are unknown. With the kingdom of Clarines on high alert, an invitation arrives from Tanbarun that Shirayuki is to be the guest of honor at Prince Raj’s upcoming ball. Preparing for the boorish prince’s ball is one thing, but nothing could have prepared Shirayuki for the grander adventure to come. When the mysterious boy finally catches up with her, the beautiful maiden is swept into a harrowing journey that will put her face to face with her past as she determines what her future holds.
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 2016, 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 around them set with a kind of lightness and naturalness that works well. 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 and Kazuki 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 clearly 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 the 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)
The first half of the two-cour run for Snow White with the Red Hair worked well for me, though a lot of that came from the fact that it wasn’t really trying to do a big story. There were big moments along the way but it was more intent on telling character stories and bonding themes between the range of core characters introduced. I also went into the show with eyes wide open in that the manga is still ongoing so I had hoped that with the style of the first season that the second would continue the same, building more of what we had without trying to become epic. Which, thankfully, it does. The series serves as a wonderful introduction to the world the manga is building and its own end goal, which is unlikely to ever be animated, so it likely served its point in Japan of boosting sales of the manga and ancillary items.
What this half does is admittedly a lot more of the same, but it works well in further establishing who these people are and giving them growth over the run in addition to stories that make them the prominent character. Shirayuki’s a quick study and seeing her grow in what she’s understanding with the herbs and the like is definitely fun but they don’t make it so that she’s a suddenly indispensable character. She’s learning and others are coming along with her in that regard and growing to like her all the more. Zen’s obviously becoming more attached as well as they spend more time together as can be reasonably done, though he’s still finding his place in everything with how his brother is running the kingdom. That continues to be one of the strangest parts of the show for me as I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop on it but you keep getting that nagging sense that there’s a real method to what his older brother is doing that will pay off well for Zen down the line.
This season has a bit of travel as the group gets out and about in different ways, especially with word that someone is coming looking for Shirayuki since she stands out. There’s some uncertainty about this that’s fun early on since there’s an element of threat about it, and there is with one particular opponent looking to score points, but I enjoyed the fact that the story takes a turn to introduce us to the Lions of the Mountain. This ragtag group is pretty well off all told, not castle-living by any means but not early days of a Robin Hood style group of merry men, as it introduces us to her father and the kind of bond that can exist between them. There’s plenty of room for drama but we know that drama is not how Shirayuki lives her life. Getting the backstory on why he did what he did, the way that it feels right for the time and place this story exists in, and then shifts to give us some really meaningful small moments between them gives the show a maturity most others lack. There are no outlandish moments here, no raised voices and angry demands or accusations. Just people trying to figure out a way to live to their fullest but keep and grow the connections that they have.
One area that worked better than I expect with the show was with the focus on the supporting cast at different points in time. While Kiki feels like she’s underserved in a lot of ways, seeing her before she became who she is now was interesting as was the first encounter with Mitsuhide and how there’s so much to explore with a potential relationship here. The bigger part was with Obi throughout the season though as his loner side is given more exploration and we see just how closely drawn into this group he is thanks to Shirayuki and her open and easygoing ways. Characters like Obi tend to grate on me a bit since they aren’t able to fully grow and move on but you get the sense that in the original manga Obi will be one that will break that cycle and have a life ahead of him.
Snow White with the Red Hair is the kind of series that I wish got the treatment that a lot of shonen series used to get in that it would just run for a long time. But with the quality of the production that we get from the two split cour that we have here, which makes it impossible. The series is not about big moments but rather about the people and the bonds between them that grow over time, which can lead to some tension down the road. This is relatively early on in the overall run of the manga so it’s about building it all up and beginning to toy and play with it. There’s a lot to like with this season as it expands on things and allows our characters to grow, meet new people of importance, and admit feelings because life is too short – especially in the days this takes place in. While I would have loved to see certain elements move forward more, what we get here is just delightful as it builds upon the first season in all the right ways. Definitely recommended.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 16 Commentary, Episode 23 Commentary, Promotional Video, Commercial Collection, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, and Trailer
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 25th, 2017
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.