In Volume 8 of Snow White with the Red Hair, the series began an ambitious new arc that saw Shirayuki and Ryu set out to the city of Lilias, to investigate why no herbalist reports have been sent to the castle. Shortly after they arrive, a mysterious ailment begins to break out and it proves a race against time to save the citizens from the illness.
Without Zen or Obi to rely on, Shirayuki and Ryu are forced to turn to Prince Izana, who is also visiting the city (albeit incognito). Together with Izana, the pair manage to get the guards to seal off the city, ensuring no one can enter or leave. Although this means there will be no help from the outside, it also reduces the risk of the illness spreading.
Inside the city, our heroes have the help of Shidan, a pharmacist and uncle to Kirito (a young boy the two met in the last volume). Kirito is distrustful of Shidan and the other adults after his friends fall ill, but if Shirayuki can get him to warm up to her, he may hold the answers to finding a cure…
Although Shirayuki does have some support in Lilias, this is ultimately one of the first times we’ve seen her tackle a problem without Zen or Obi (although Obi does appear toward the end of the book). For her growth as a character, it’s nice to see her take charge and save the day by herself.
This situation also leads to some meaningful interaction between her and Izana. Away from Zen and his role as a prince, Izana has the opportunity to see what Shirayuki’s personality is like first-hand. He’s impressed by her dedication to serving people in her role as a herbalist and also by the fact she wishes for nothing in return for the hard work she does. She’s successfully winning his respect, which is certainly going to come in handy as her relationship with Zen advances.
One minor thing that did disappoint me in this volume was how little we saw of Ryu. This story seemed like the perfect set-up to spend more time developing him away from the rest of the cast, but that sadly didn’t happen. Instead, the book focused on Kirito and Shidan, which was interesting but not quite what I’d been hoping for!
Both Shidan and Kirito feel like they have the potential to be recurring members of the cast, especially Shidan, since he is friends with Garak (the boss of Shirayuki and Ryu). Being closer in age to Ryu, Kirito seemed like a fitting companion for and counterbalance to Ryu’s unusually mature personality, so I’d love to see more of him too.
Characters aside, this has been a great storyline for Snow White with the Red Hair. Having the opportunity to see a whole new city is a good way to keep the reader engaged with the world. With such a big kingdom to explore, I’m always eager to see Shirayuki outside the confines of the castle.
More than anything else I think this arc also proved that we don’t need Zen or Obi present to tell a compelling tale because Shirayuki is more than strong enough to carry the narrative on her own. Even with some familiar faces in Ryu and Izana, ultimately this was a story for our protagonist to lead and she does that well.
Volume 9 of Snow White with the Red Hair comes to the West thanks to Viz Media and continues to be translated by Caleb Cook, who does a wonderful job. Extras in this release include some bonus illustrations and 4-koma pages.
Overall, Volume 9 of Snow White with the Red Hair gives us a chance to see Shirayuki face troubles without Zen and Obi by her side. With a new city and new characters, there is plenty to keep the reader engaged while our heroes work hard to save the day.