Comic: Akagami no Shirayuki-hime (Red-haired Princess Snow White), by Akizuki Sorata
Status: Ongoing (12 Volumes, 61 Chapters)
It is rare that I actually like shoujo manga, and rarer still for me to give a 10/10 rating for any manga, but dang, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime exceeded all my expectations.
At first, I was hesitant to give this a chance, because my track record with shoujo series is terrible, and all but one shoujo heroine (that one is Haruhi, who I personally don’t headcanon as female anyways) make me want to bash my head against sharp rocks. But one of my friends on Tumblr was singing its praises and the art was pretty, so I decided to check it out… and fell completely in love within the first chapter. Seriously, the entire time I was reading it, I was just sort of sitting there in awe like “how can this be so much perfection??????” Yeah. It’s amazing.
The story starts with Shirayuki (yes, her name is literally Snow White), a young pharmacist who lives in the kingdom of Tanbarun. She has apple red hair that catches the eye of the prince, who tries to make her his concubine. And so Shirayuki does what any sane person would do; after the messenger leaves, she immediately cuts off most of her hair, packs up, and crosses the border into the next country. In the forest, she meets Zen, Mitsuhide, and Kiki, and after she provides some medical care to Zen’s injured arm, they all become friends. The prince of Tanbarun, angry that his potential concubine escaped, sends poisoned apples to the group. Zen ends up eating the apple and collapsing, so Shirayuki goes to get the antidote. She would have been successful all by herself too, if Zen hadn’t interrupted and introduced himself as the second prince of the neighboring kingdom Clarines. But anyways, stuff works out and Shirayuki decides to accompany them back to Clarines to apprentice as a court pharmacist.
What I love about this manga, and what sets it apart from most of the other shoujo manga, is that Shirayuki is a very sensible and independent person. Before the group gets to Clarines, Shirayuki randomly gets kidnapped, but instead of waiting around for Zen to save her, she escapes by jumping out of a second floor window. And while part of the reason she’s becoming a court pharmacist in Clarines castle is to stay with her new friends, she’s mostly doing it so that she can further her own skills and not depend on Zen’s rank to get into the castle every time.
Even after she gets together with Zen (because come on, this is still a romance story), Shirayuki and Zen are both mature and actually communicate with each other properly, as opposed to being part of cliché shoujo miscommunication plot devices. Both have their own goals and don’t let the relationship dominate their lives. There’s kind of a love triangle with another guy named Obi, but because all three of them are genuinely friends with each other, and Zen and Shirayuki are already together, there’s no weird misplaced jealousy or indecision. Basically, every character is great, even the ones I don’t like very much.
Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is like a breath of fresh air in the cesspool of trite, redundant shoujo manga. If you only ever read one shoujo manga in your life, make it this one.
So far, 12 volumes have been released in Japan by Hakusensha. The manga is not licensed in the US yet, but you can buy up to volume 10 on Amazon. The series is currently ongoing in Lala magazine, with chapter 61 being the most recent.