This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Stained with Snow White's Poison. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to gossiping, possessive and controlling partners, age gap, drink spiking, drugs, power imbalance, manipulation, cheating, BDSM, self-loathing, and rape, as it appears in the manga.
Takumi is a college student. He hasn't had much success with dating, often putting his partner's wants above his own, only for them to assume he doesn't care for them since he isn't jealous and doesn't ask anything of them. Disillusioned with what love means, he settles into the monotony of college life and hopes to one day understand. He has the perfect opportunity when he catches sight of the famous Mimori twins on campus, a set of fraternal boy and girl twins that look nearly identical. The sister is adorable, of course, but Takumi is drawn to the brother, Yukiya.
Yukiya is cold and gloomy, but Takumi can't help but be interested in him. After being paired up to work on a project in their class, Takumi finally has the opportunity to get closer to the cold Yukiya. But, as it turns out, Yukiya isn't cold or gloomy but shy, considerate, and kind, with a deep love for his sister. Unfortunately, it also turns out that Yukiya has a crush on an older man with whom he has a physical relationship, but nothing official. Takumi longs to take that man's place in Yukiya's life, but Takumi worries he won't be able to show him the love and care he needs.
I actually prefer the art style of this one over the other Ship Hita work I read, Raveled Tightrope Knot. It's not as consistent, but it has a really sweet quality that I liked more than the other work. Once again, the bottom Yukiya's longer hairstyle isn't the best. Sometimes he looks stunning, which makes sense seeing as he is a model, but he doesn't look great a lot of the time, with his hair being extremely round and forming around his face. It just looks really unnatural. Their faces are often too wide, too, but it's not bad overall. I'm, admittedly, pretty picky, and this is far better than anything I could do. Just note, if you expect the cover art quality throughout, that isn't here.
On the other hand, I really like the story. Unfortunately, it doesn't have much depth to it, so if you are looking for a lot of background on the characters, it's pretty sparse here. What we do get is rather poignant, though. One excruciating part is when it shows where Yukiya's simultaneous love and jealousy of his sister developed. His mother introduced the siblings to someone and casually commented that she wished they were both girls so she could dress them identically. Yukiya recognizes it was just a joke and that his mother loved them both, but that set him up for a life full of inadequacy and self-consciousness. He loves his sister and doesn't blame her, but he also wishes that he was her or that people would choose him over her, which establishes how he ended up in the toxic situationship he has with the photographer Takaaki. Takaaki chose Yukiya as his model over his sister, who he happened to be with when he was scouted. If not for that comment and other moments in his life where it was clear that his sister was the preferred one, his self-confidence might have been high enough to resist Takaaki's cruel obsession.
What was a bit surprising to me was how big of a red flag Yukiya is. Usually, if there is going to be rape or dubcon (dubious consent), the top is almost always the perpetrator. However, we actually get a scene where Yukiya is the one to force Takumi. While, of course, rape and dubcon aren't good, it was interesting to see it from the other side, where the top is the one to be forcibly dominated. I wasn't a fan of Takumi feeling like he deserved that. That hurt me deeply, and I hate that he equates his being raped to the time he and Yukiya had a drunken fling a few nights before. It's not the same, and I hate that Takumi feels such immense guilt for that night that he thinks he deserves to be taken advantage of.
The ending is a bit lackluster. There is a really somber scene of Yukiya mourning over Takaaki's engagement announcement mid-way through, which lays the foundation that Yukiya is emotionally reliant on his relationship with Takaaki. Then, when it turns out Takaaki is being arrested for sexual assault or worse, he doesn't seem all that bothered. I think the intent is that his emotional ties to Takumi have grown so much stronger that he doesn't care much about Takaaki in the end, but it all happens in such quick succession that it doesn't seem realistic to me. I would have liked to have seen Takumi comforting Yukiya when it is revealed that Takaaki was actually with other models and for another of Takumi begging, “choose me,” but that's just my preference. Seeing a college student win out over a predatory and asshole adult was still very nice.
This was fine. I wouldn't say it's a favorite, but it was a good time all the same. It's a perfect little snack between longer and ongoing work. If you're cool with the dark content and the red flags from pretty much everyone, then I don't see why you shouldn't give this one a go. Again, the art isn't my favorite, but it's still a pretty good time.
Have you read Stained with Snow White's Poison? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!