Akatsuki no Yona – 05

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The beast awakens.

Which one?  Take your pick.

Things developed just a bit differently than I expected here, in that I figured tragedy was going to visit Akatsuki no Yona – and Fuuga – this week.  But apart from several hearts melted by shota-moe, the capital of the Wind Tribe averted disaster, and the impetus to move the story and Yona’s character arc forward came from a slightly different direction.  But in a very real sense, it was still the spirit of the people of Fuuga that was the catalyst for change in the Princess.

One thing has been absolutely certain from the beginning, and would have been even had we not been shown flash-forwards that prove it – Yona was going to transition from the passive, helpless child utterly dependent on Hak to the avenging angel of death determined to save her kingdom.  It’s just that sort of story.  The two questions were when it was going to happen, and what that transformation would look like.  We got the answers to both this week, and while Yona transformed a bit too comprehensively and quickly to be truly believable, it more or less worked for me.  And of course, it frees the story to move onward to the next stage.

The key to all of this is Yona’s realization that letting Hak leave alone would mark a continuation of her prior existence – living a life wholly dependent on others, and watching others suffer on her behalf.  It’s the matter-of-fact determination and courage of the Wind Tribe (not least Tae-Jeon) that provides the example.  I find myself hoping both that Fuuga avoids catastrophe and that its residents remain part of the story – From Son Mundok on down they’re an extremely likeable bunch, totally straightforward and lacking in extraneous ceremony.  With a cast of pretty big names (last week I forgot to credit KENN as Hang-dea’s buddy Tae-woo, who’s apparently next in-line to head the tribe) perhaps there is a role for this bunch in the future.

The degree of familiarity between Hak and Yona is quite endearing, and it could only be possible between people who’ve been friends for as long as they have.  Hak’s response to Yona’s insistence that she join him in exile is to ask her if she has money to pay him, now that he’s resigned his position and name and owes her no allegiance – he does this knowing full-well she doesn’t – and then, to ask her if she intends to “pay with her body”.  There’s no stock anime moment of outrage on Yona’s part here, as she gamely takes this joke that isn’t-quite-a-joke in stride.  This is clearly going to be an ongoing dance between these two, and at this point it’s not fully clear to what extent Yona understands that Hak’s actions towards her are colored by his romantic interest.

The thing is, Hak has earned enough credibility at this point to where we understand that he’d be taking the actions he is even if he wasn’t in-love with Yona (which he obviously is).  He’s doing this because he is who he is, and it’s his nature to try and shoulder the burdens himself without much complaint.  That’s up to and including taking a (poisoned) arrow aimed at Yona when the two of them come under attack from Kang Tae-jun’s Fire Nation Tribe forces.  Kang says he “doesn’t care about the Wind Tribe”, and it seems that’s true as he does bypass Fuuga and go after Yona and Hak directly.  For him this appears to be strictly personal – he doesn’t care about politics or Soo-won becoming King, he just wants revenge for the way Hak and Yona humiliated him.

The first five episodes of Akatsuki no Yona have been terrific, but there’s no escaping the sense that they’ve been prologue – that the real story began when the fire in Yona’s eyes came alight and she decided to seize control of her own life.  For the first time now we’re going to see she and Hak interacting on more or less equal terms – he’s already established himself as one of the best and most admirable characters of the season – and while there’s no reason to suspect that won’t make the series even better, it is going to represent a huge change.  The “Thunder Beast” is proving to be truly superhuman in battle, but even he isn’t enough to stand against the machinery of an entire kingdom on his own – and that, presumably, is where Yona and the rest of her ragtag group of rebels come in.

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  1. S

    That was SOOO satisfying. I don't care much for realism here, as the character progression was clear enough and there was a good sense of "last drop" here – Yona simply couldn't take it any more. She pent up pain and fear for five episodes straight: now she's going to dish those out tenfold. You show'em, princess.

    I watch this show putting it in the same frame of mind as I would with those semi-legendary tales of actual historical characters who are too far off in the past to be remembered clearly and only have a mythos built around them. It's not realistic nor original (myths and epics seldom are); it's just a well made retelling of a tale as old as time. Works for me, bring it on.

  2. e

    i glad they taking their time with yona character progression and not rush it by become archer without any training

  3. B

    I think the relative "suddenness" of Yona's transformation is really well set up ; this is her making a stand in the heat of the action, and the preview suggests this isn't a total 180° turn either. It sure made me pump my fist though. Go girl!

    But man am I so grateful for this show. I don't frequent forums or have stats, but I'm bracing myself for shit sales and shittier otaku opinions on what should be an obvious crowd pleaser.

  4. T

    Something was going to be the straw that would break Yona back eventually and I think the realization that she is a burden to Hak and is endangering his life really made her finally take a stand. Seriously you Go girl!!!

    I love that she called on Tae-jun bull shit and that if he knew the truth all along why did he pressure the Wind Tribe. I disagree with you Enzo that her "realization" came too fast, We got 5 episodes of viewing what her life was like both before her father death and her grieving over his death. As of right now I think being aware of her short comings is a great start for her and that at the very least she is no longer afraid anymore. The rest of her awesomeness will come in time.^_^
    Also I'm surprised how well balanced the comedy is even in the midst of a serious battle (hehe looking at nature was more interesting then Tae-jun speech) Oh Hak you are amazingly funny~~~

  5. I never said her realization came too quickly – I said her transformation came too quickly. And IMO it did, but I also said it basically worked for me.

  6. Z

    I think this show would be so much better without the misplaced chibi anime bullshit. It kills the mood.

  7. H

    Yup, know exactly what you mean. I dug the episode for the most part. -__-

    Don't want to sound sexist, but it's something you see a lot in female mangaka adaptations. Is it endearing? funny? cute? I don't get it. I'm a dude just trying to watch tense battles!

  8. Z

    It probably works better in manga form? But in animated form I find it to be a real flow breaker.

    This show still has the best OP of the season. Kudos for that.

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