By Sorata Akiduki. Released in Japan as “Akagami no Shirayukihime” by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Caleb Cook.
When I mentioned this title in Manga the Week of, I compared it to Yona of the Dawn, but on reading the first volume the two are more different than similar. Both have red-haired heroines, and they start out much the same, with a haircut and our heroine leaving her home. But Yona has rich backstory to detail right up front, while Snow White with the Red Hair is a typical LaLa series, meaning the first volume is essentially a bunch of one-shot tryouts that eventually resulted in a full series. This does not, however, mean that I did not fully enjoy Snow White with the Red Hair, as its heroine is a lot of fun, and the references to the fairy tale/Disney cartoon are also cute. Moreover, Yona is out to save the kingdom, but she has a lot of help from the guys around her. Shirayuki, however, is very much Herbs Over Boys, and despite the constant presence of Zen, the prince (there had to be a prince, it’s Snow White), this does not appear to be a romance. Yet.
I almost laughed at how fast the plot kicked off. By the fourth page Shirayuki has been told she’s been chosen to be the prince’s concubine (different prince), responds with a hearty “hell no”, cuts off her hair (which is highly unusual in this kingdom), and sets off into the woods. She finds a house and sleeps up against the side, but luckily is found by some dwarves… OK, no dwarves. Instead we mete Zen and his friends/bodyguards Mitsuhide and Kiki, who take her in and get to know her. Unfortunately, Shirayuki tends to stand out, so is discovered almost immediately, and gifted a present of I Can’t Believe They Aren’t Poisoned Apples. After a series of reversals, we discover that Zen is ALSO a prince (he’s one of those “I’m constantly under cover so I can see how my kingdom really works” types) and Shirayuki is safe… for now. This leaves her free to chase her dream of being an herbalist… and maybe one day she can be herbalist to Zen.
As you’d expect given the source of this story, Shirayuki tends to be in peril an awful lot. The good news is that the author takes pains to show Shirayuki doing her damnedest to get out of this peril herself, particularly in the second chapter, where she’s kidnapped and brought to a nearly escape-proof house, which she escapes from nevertheless. And then there’s the arrows being fired at her, and the Marquis who doesn’t trust Shirayuki and dislikes Zen’s attention to her. As I said earlier, this isn’t a romance yet on Shirayuki’s end, but we can see that Zen is already getting pretty smitten with her, and the two have a nice friendly bond and are both clever but overworking people. We didn’t really get to see quite as much of the supporting cast, however, two of whom I thought were simply bishie-looking men but are apparently women.
That said, the series is 20+ volumes in Japan, and so I’m sure as the cast expands everyone will get plenty to do. For the moment, I take pleasure in reading a series with a heroine who’s down-to-earth and nice, and a hero who is much the same.