I have a pretty long list of manga I need to recommend, but after an unexpected marathon of Akagami no Shirayukihime, I figured that this one should be top priority.
I am going to avoid talking about spoilerific events, but sometimes, just talking about character development or their relationships is enough of a spoiler. So, you have now been warned of possible minor spoilers. If you must avoid any hint of a spoiler, then just go read the manga. It is really good and likely at least worth a look but the beginning is a bit slow so you need to give it some time.
The manga has a bizarre start. It starts of with a blunt Snow White (and a little bit of Red Riding Hood) parody. When I say blunt, I mean that the mockery is incredibly apparent and your expectations are completely flipped. Also, the title translates to Red Haired Princess Snow White.
While the manga retains some connection to Fairy Tails throughout the story (or well to the newest chapter anyway), the blunt parody mentioned above only happens in the first two chapter or so. After those two or so chapters, the manga falls into a limbo of sorts as it tries to figure exactly what it is.
This limbo part is arguably the most confusing part of the manga and probably turned away quite a few people. Fortunately, it doesn’t last that long.
By the 5th or 6th chapter, the manga establishes a foothold. A short while later, you realize that the manga now also has a hold on you and that escape is impossible.
Before I forget, here is a MangaUpdates Link.
There really isn’t much of a plot to Akagami. It is about a girl and boy living in a fantasy world (with no magic, mind you) who have dreams. The boy and girl, accompanied by other boys and girls work towards those dreams.
If you like this manga, you won’t love it because of the world these boys and girls have to live in, no you will love it because of the girls and boys themselves as well as the growth they go through.
Characters whom you used to hate because they were villains will become likable and characters you liked will become lovable as their characters are revealed and built up. From lowly minor characters to minor characters to major characters, the cast is incredibly solid and well built.
I am only going to talk about three characters here, but hopefully you will believe me when I tell you that the other characters are all lovely as well.
Shirayuki stands out as a bright star in the murky city sky that is Shoujo.
Her confidence, go get it attitude and resolve make her a joy to watch.
Unlike other “strong” shoujo leads, she isn’t physically strong, nor is she capable of doing everything, but she is capable of most things (that includes having a good amount of common sense) and more importantly she actually asks for help and doesn’t just sit there and cry.
Her optimism, passion for her goal and her earnest efforts at pursuing her way of life make her a joy to watch.
Zen is not as much of a contrast compared to his shoujo counterparts as Shirayuki is to hers but there are some subtle things about Zen’s character that make him great.
Zen did not fall for Shirayuki for no reason whatsoever but because he adores and admires her. He genuinely enjoys her company, does his best to get more and loves everything about her personality. Zen defies years of Shoujo tradition by refusing to lock Shirayuki down in any way.
Simply comparing him to other Shoujo leads might not be enough to convince most rational folk of his character, but trust me, when you learn of Zen’s lineage and responsibilities, you will be surprised at just how genre defying his nature can be.
Leaving aside his sweet love for Shirayuki, Zen is an incredibly likable character.
He respects his friends, his subordinates and everyone else. He doesn’t take anything for granted and works really hard for the greater good. He knows his place, his responsibilities and he does not let anything get to his head.
Like Shirayuki, he works incredibly hard for his dream and watching him do so is as heartwarming as it is inspiring.
If I was to make a top X characters list of all time, then Obi would likely be on it.
I love him so much.
Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that Obi and the main characters did not exactly start on the right foot and he became their companion after he was caught for his misdeeds. Out of this self-imposed subordination, comes about one of the greatest displays of loyalty I have ever seen.
I don’t mean a single event or two, no, I mean that Obi is in general, incredibly loyal. He does whatever it is Zen wants of him, he does whatever he can to make Shirayuki happy and more importantly, he does whatever he feels is best for those two.
If Zen needs something, he knows he can rely on Obi. If Shirayuki needs something, she to can rely on Obi.
I know exceptional loyalty is a common trope, but Obi’s loyalty is not one born out of tradition or expectations, it is one born out of love.
He loves both Zen and Shirayuki.
What do you normally get in a romance manga when you introduce a second guy?
A love triangle of course.
Obi is obviously infatuated with Shirayuki, but unlike a lesser character who might try and sneakily win her over, he does no such thing. Why? Because his love and loyalty for Shirayuki and Zen is much too great.
He knows whats best for them and he prioritizes it.
On top of that, he is an excellent tactician. He knows how to win fights and more importantly, he knows how to guard Zen and Shirayuki from the shadows.
He is also a kickass ninja.
Even though this manga has many, many great things going for it, I would not blame you if you read it solely for Obi.
I want also take this time to point out that it isn’t only Obi who cares so much for Zen and Shirayuki. There are other characters who care just as much if not more, but Obi is a perpetual badass, so I had to include him in this post. 😛
I alluded to the quality of the romance earlier, but I will talk a bit more about it. The romance in this manga is lovely.
It isn’t developed through misunderstandings, accidental gropings or love rivals. It is developed by the characters simply spending time with one another. That’s it.
Both Shirayuki and Zen love each other in a genuinely sweet way. They love the small individual traits that they each possess. They understand each other incredibly well and will go out of their way to learn more if necessary (I don’t mean that in a stalking kind of way).
It is an incredibly cute romance and one more than worth picking up this manga for.
Oh and the best part is that the manga doesn’t end when they get together. It goes on and their love only gets deeper.
Often when I marathon a piece of fiction, I end up feeling some regret afterwords. There is always some regret that comes from staying up so late reading a manga, but in many cases, my regret goes a bit deeper than that.
Often when you are done marathoning, you realize that the marathoned piece of fiction isn’t all that good. Sure, it is good enough to grab your attention and force you to read more, but as you lay in bed, you realize that not everything made sense or the piece is actually kind of shallow.
When I caught up to the newest chapter of Akagami on a Tuesday night at 3 Am a week or two ago, I of course had some regret about reading so late into the night given that I had to get up for work at 8.30. And yet, I had no other regret. Even after I was released from the clutches of cliffhangers and other suspense creating techniques, I still thought the manga was excellent.
That doesn’t always happen, but when it does happen, I know that I have found something truly great.
Akagami no Shirayukihime is an excellent manga. You should really do yourself a favor and trudge through the slightly confusing first couple of chapters to read the excellence that follows.
Oh and the art style starts of kind of fuzzy but it quickly becomes a lot better and it looks really nice, clear and clean in the latest chapters.
p.s. You see that first image in this post? I didn’t want to put a caption on it because I didn’t want to ruin it, but good heavens I love that image so much. The various shades of green, the posture of the characters, everything about that picture is excellent. It is very beautiful.