Snow White with the Red Hair has been one of my favorite romance anime for a while now. I love the characters, the slight fantasy setting, and how some episodes focused on Shirayuki using her herbology knowledge to solve problems. I’ve discussed both seasons of the anime at length before, so if you’re looking for a review of the anime, be sure to check those two posts out. There was one thing I’ve never gotten around to doing though, and that was read the manga. I recently watched back through the whole series on a day or so that I wasn’t feeling well, and finally felt the need to see where the story went after the anime ended. In doing so, I also discovered just how much Studio Bones altered and added to get it to the current anime we have now. The story is still pretty much the same, but I can’t deny that there are a few moments in the manga that I find to be much better in the anime. If I had to make a decision right now, I would say that while the manga has the advantage of story, the anime has the advantage of polish. For the purpose of this review, I’ve only had the chance to read up to chapter 34 in the manga, a little bit past where the anime ends.
Studio Bones has to be one of my favorite animation studios. They just have certain way of injecting energy and style into many of the anime’s they produce. Ouran High School Host Club, Soul Eater, Space Dandy and we can’t forget about Mob Psycho 100. With each of these adaptations, Bones took the source material and created something uniquely theirs, and they have used the same skill to create the anime for Snow White with the Red Hair. Bones straddles the line between keeping to the source material and adapting it in such a way that it makes sense for an anime. They do this through the use of enhanced action sequences, the addition of more theatirics or drama to a scene, some changes to plot’s pacing, and a great voice cast.
In many of these “Manga or Anime?” posts there has been a good balance between the anime and the manga, but — perhaps due to some bias on my part from seeing the anime first — I almost find that I’m gravitating more and more to the anime this time around. Of course the manga has its advantages when it comes to story and there are aspects of the comic format that cannot be replicated in anime. However, when we look at overall enjoyment and handling of the core story, the anime is edging out ahead. Much of this has to do with Studio Bones themselves and Director Masahiro Ando, and I think we can most clearly see this in Bone’s love of theatrics and fight scenes. The manga has a few great fight scenes in it, but with the help and expertise of Studio Bones, those scenes have been turned into a selling point for the show (at least for me).
Take the fight scene after Shirayuki gets kidnapped in the second season, where Obi is searching for her and runs into one of her kidnappers. It’s a short scene, but I would honestly say this is the best fight scene in the whole series. The animation becomes highly stylized and the movements of both characters become fluid and manages to convey Obi’s anger and absolute desperation and Itoya’s own fear after finding Kazuki missing as well. Honestly, any fight scene with Obi in it is going to be great, and I think that’s one of the main benefits of the anime when we come to Obi’s character. The basic fact that we are allowed a clearer picture of how Obi moves and how he fights creates this more complete image of him as this cat-like thief/assassin that we don’t really get to see in the manga because of the nature of a static medium like comics. Fight scenes can be notoriously hard to convey in manga format. The lack of movement means fight choreography is hard to display, and if the panels or flow of the page isn’t done right, the scenes can lose the sense of tension and action. What we get for the manga version of this fight scene is about one and a half pages of Obi throwing Itoya into a tree and talking. It lacks the full fight scene and it lacks the same kind of desperate and angry emotions.
In fact, a lot of the changes to the story center around Obi in some way. There are moments in the manga where Obi isn’t present or the actions he performs in the anime were originally performed by Zen. Take the moment in the anime where Obi is escorting Shirayuki pack to her room after being drunk, where he catches a spy who is throwing a message over the wall. In the manga, this action was performed by Zen. For the anime, I think the idea was to give Obi more of a chance to develop his character and his relationship with Shirayuki. It also feels more like an action the cat-like Obi would do better than Zen, giving us more moments to really see how agile and observant Obi is.
And I think, in some ways, Bones has improved on the manga’s base story through these little changes. The story itself doesn’t change all that much, we still have the same plot points being hit, just sometimes in a different order or with more characterization and theatrics added. We see this a bit with Shirayuki’s character in the beginning of the series when she meets Zen. In the beginning scenes as she’s preparing to leave Tanbarun, she prepares extra medicine for her patients, leaving them out on her counter for them to find should they need them while she’s gone. During the poison apple scene in the anime she rubs the apple on her bandaged arm to try and determine the kind of poison, looking through her bag to see if she can make an antidote. None of these little actions happen in the manga, which is a shame because from those small actions that we get a clearer sense of Shirayuki’s knowledge and passion for herbology.
Some of these changes also help improve pacing and the emotional weight of a scene. The biggest instance of this is with the flashback to Zen’s childhood and his history with Atri. In the anime we see this flashback initiated when Zen hears Obi ask Shirayuki if she wishes Zen weren’t a prince. The flashback itself explains the trouble Zen has had to go through to find people who accept him for the whole of who he is and how being a prince has affected his personal relationships. We see this bit of history before Zen and Shirayuki commit to their relationship so that, in the end, that moment has more emotional weight. In the manga, this flashback is after this ending scene, denying us that weight behind this pivotal moment in Zen’s life. I feel like this kind of scene though really benefits from the anime format simply because of the nature of space and directing. It’s harder to switch between characters and scenes in manga than it is in anime because of how confusing it may become on the page.
However, there are some things that an anime adaptation can’t replicate, and I do have to say that I like a lot more of the quiet moments between Zen and Shirayuki in the manga than in the anime. This is mainly due to the nature of panel layout and the use of white space. There are a lot of instances where I would say black and white comics thrive and that is with their use of white space and page-turns. White space allows moments of quiet emotion like love, sadness, and regret to get a full sense of impact and weight just by the amount of unused space in relation to the characters themselves. For page-turns, the kind of impact that is felt through this technique is a sense of suspense. Small panels are placed right before the reader is supposed to turn the page, with small clues or character reactions that key the reader into what may come on the next page. When you turn the page, the reader will either get a large full page spread, one-page splash, or dramatic character reaction or event. Sometimes these moments can only be felt because the nature of turning a page. I do also really love the art style of the manga, but I don’t know if I can say the art differs that much from the manga since Bones did a great job capturing the mangaka’s style and character designs. It is worth noting though that through the manga, we get to see the gradual improvement of the mangaka’s skills as an artist. It’s something that I almost always find enjoyment in.
I really do love Snow White with the Red Hair, and I think through the process of both reading the manga and watching the anime, I find that while the story is the same in both, I get a little more enjoyment out of how it’s presented in the anime. Both mediums have their strengths and weaknesses in how directors and artists can craft and present a story and its characters. However, I think the difference I see here in comparison to the other series I have examined, is just how Bones and Director Ando have tried to use the advantages of the animation medium to…well…their advantage. The character of Obi will always be a great example of this fact. Bone’s did a great job displaying and expanding on the little intricacies of his personality more so than I think the manga accomplished.
Let me know in the comments if you have any scenes from the manga or anime that you thought were better in one version or another. I’d be interested to see if anyone else matches or feels differently about the differences in these versions.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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