I like the return to the episodic structure, where each episode has a clear and pretty much atomic story based on some fairy tale. This week’s episode was a very obvious Snow White parody, and though the story was too overdramatic, the twist of how Ringo entered the story and the good visuals and aurals more than made up for it.
By the aurals, I mean Yukari Fukui. I can’t get enough of her voice. She was Himeno Shirayuki, the stand in for Snow White. If the 7 little siblings didn’t tip you off – male quadruplets and female triplets apparently – that her name is shortened to “Hime” – Japanese for princess – by her siblings should have. Anyway, Shirayuki was portrayed as being little miss perfect, which works out, because Yukari Fukui has played perfect characters before.
Maybe I’m guilty of fetishizing actors’ voices too much. But with Fukui, I do it with no shame or reservation. The soft lisp that defines her voice is always a pleasure to hear, regardless of her actual acting skills (which I, not knowing Japanese, would be unqualified to write about, anyway). She alone made memorable for me the very minor side character Junko Miyaji from FLCL. I’ll admit that it was odd hearing her as a very young Shirayuki, because her voice, while innocent, still feels too feminine to belong to a young child.
The actual story – and the drama it tried to instill with Ringo’s back story – was ho hum. Everything went exactly as expected, down to the near downing sequence which showed the Mermaid Pool to be criminally understaffed when it comes to life guards. What I did like was how seamlessly Ringo was integrated into this story.
For those who don’t know, Ringo’s full name – Akai Ringo – means “red apple” in Japanese, the same type that poisoned Snow White in her story. The red apple is not a conscious being, of course, and it’s Snow White’s evil stepmother who uses the apple. In this case, that was Ringo’s mother, using her to steal away Shirayuki’s life for Ringo. Sure, it was out of left field that she had a half sister (or rather, at least 4 half sisters and 4 half brothers), but I like the dynamic created by having Ringo unwittingly being the poisoned apple that stole Shirayuki’s life and the overwhelming guilt that that burdens her with. Again, the way things actually played out was very plain – Shirayuki, perfect to the end, forgave Ringo and told her she was happy with her life – but it was nevertheless a creative way of inserting Little Red Riding Hood into the Snow White story.
On the visuals side, I mean the fanservice, of course. This was a swimsuit episode, after all, and Shirayuki was the winner to that pageant in episode 3. There was plenty to oggle at here, including our crazy witch Majolica, who remains as much a mystery as ever. I was also a fan of Ryouko’s sports type swimsuit, which reflected her minimalist, efficient attitude as an athlete. The continued use of the “You fell on me, so I’ll punch you!” trope was uninspiring, though.
But the real fanservice was in the seven “dwarves.” They were adorable. Not in the loli or trap kind of way, but just as little kids. No wonder Shirayuki was happy to be with them. I haven’t written much about the art and character design in this show, but that’s one aspect that I feel has been consistently solid throughout this show’s ups and downs. There is a sense of palpable softness in the characters thanks to the roundness with which all their angles are drawn (with the notable exception of Alice). It translates to some very cute children when they’re around.
You might notice I haven’t mentioned the narrator at all. That’s because there was nothing notable about her yet again, except being almost absent for the last half. At least, that’s how it felt. With 3 episodes to go, she better do something epic lest she end up as the single greatest disappointment from the early episodes.
This was a solid, fun episode, and I tried my best to ignore the melodrama. This and the previous one were exactly the sorts of things I was hoping for when this show began (except, again, the disappointing narrator). But with time running out, I’m guessing it’s time for the real melodrama to come in. Though we’ve had more than a glimpse at Ryouko’s somber past, a lot remains to be revealed. The preview image for the next episode featured that girl we last saw hanging out with our main bad guy Shirou in episode 5, so hopefully the show is ready to dive in to the serious business and get it done.