Akatsuki no Yona – 16

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If Akatsuki no Yona doesn’t finish telling its story in anime form, what the series is doing right now is rather cruel.

As mentioned earlier, I’m facing a serious time crunch over the next few days so the posts – even for a series at the top of my interest list like this one – are temporarily going to be on the short side.  And while this episode certainly isn’t an absolute top of the line effort by Akatsuki no Yona’s high standard, it continues to lay out a remarkably interesting and nuanced story featuring a cast of extremely complex characters.

As mysterious as any of those, of course, is Soo-won.  And he gets an entire episode more or less to himself here, dedicated to his efforts to win over the Earth Kingdom and General Geun-tae (Aizawa Masaki) to his side.  It’s obvious from the start that Soo-won is playing the jaded Geun-tae here to some extent (though not necessarily just how much), seeing in the General a sleeping giant who, if roused (and recruited) will be an invaluable ally in the trouble the young ruler is sure is coming.

There’s a lot going on here, most of it under the surface.  Sky Tribe general Joo-doh (Nakaya Kazuhiro) may outwardly commiserate with Geun-tae about his frustrations with Soo-won, but he clearly knows him better than Geun-tae does – and berates the Earth general for dismissing Soo-won as a “rabbit”.  Everything that’s happening here is part of a larger plan by Soo-won – the war games, the wardrobe, the tea arrangements for the general’s wife Yuuno (Kayano Ai), and the results of the mock battle.  Soo-won is clearly playing the long game, and anyone who sells short either his vision or his determination to see it through is clearly going to pay a heavy price.

We’ve known for a while that Soo-won is not a stock villain, and that his decision to murder King Il was not the setup for a simple game of good versus evil.  But the extent to which our loyalties are going to be tested is still unclear.  Right now one would be hard-pressed to say that Soo-won doesn’t look the part of a better king than Il – perhaps much better.  The war game with Geun-tae (beautifully staged with the first OP as background music) shows off a man with physical prowess, strategic genius, patience and – perhaps most importantly – a sufficient lack of vanity to allow him to avoid undermining his own success as a result of pride.  Not only does he clearly win the mock battle and then engineer a conclusion to allow Geun-tae to look like the winner in front of his own people, Soo-won also single-handedly revives the Earth Tribe capitol’s economy.  It’s a neat bit of kingsmanship by any standard, and even Geun-tae is impressed.

In the end, though, this is still that man who murdered the lawful king – and the father of the girl he loved – in cold blood.  And the endgame for Soo-won here is surely war – that’s why he needs men like Geun-tae, fools in peace but geniuses in battle, at his side.  That war may simply be one of “self-defense” to protect his stolen crown, or it may be a return to the days of Kouka as an imperialist and warlike nation.  As Akatsuki no Yona prepares to return to Team Yona next week along with the introduction of the next Dragon, it leaves behind an ever-more intriguing and difficult figure in Soo-won – the biggest enigma in this cast, and one who still holds most of his cards close to his chest.

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10 comments

  1. B

    I'm kind of happy to see the focus return to Yona and the gang. I won't deny that Soo-Won is a very complex character, but it felt like this mini-arc was, in part, rehashing stuff we could have easily inferred from his earlier appearances. Yona's the heart of this story, and her coming of age is its best- and most essential- part

    On an unrelated topic… I take that you've decided against committing to Junketsu no Maria? I was half-hoping to read your thoughts on the latest episode.

  2. I'm still watching. The last ep struck me about the same as the first two – pretty good, not great. I won't rule out picking it up but for now it's on the bubble.

  3. s

    hey enzo, i know you love this show a lot so you should look into this but supposedly i heard rumors that another cour of Akatsuki no Yona would start somewhere later this year (I assume fall 2015). Take it with a grain of a salt because it was a comment someone made in an akatsuki no Video i watched

  4. R

    That would be awesome. While I have no complaints to the current pace, I do worry how the show is going to wrap up nicely.

  5. T

    "If Akatsuki no Yona doesn't finish telling its story in anime form, what the series is doing right now is rather cruel."

    Well Enzo the manga is still ongoing so I think its safe to say yeah it is cruel that the anime is building to something that we probably won't see in the anime. Anyways yeah Su-Won is the grey area and really its harder to contest why he should be overthrown since he is doing good things as a King. Plus he is also building his allies to will aid him when the time comes for war. I don't have much say about this episode really except Su-Won is interesting.

    About the rumor for a fall 2015 season 2 there are no news about it being in the works. I haven't seen kusanagi twitter account or the anime twitter account say anything about it. it would be nice if it was true though.

  6. G

    They don't seem to be in any hurry to get to the end (conclusion) so maybe the anime makers are planning a third season?

  7. F

    Please, please, please…the adaptation has been excellent so far and if they can keep this up I would absolutely love to see this series get further seasons. ^^

  8. R

    I got a Kingdom vibe. This is weird and too far-fetched to connect the two shows, but the thought of sacrificing something for the bigger goals comes to mind. Like Zheng, Soo-Won is really hard to judge — he's not into what's right or wrong but achieving the bigger vision that he has in mind. Perhaps killing King II isn't really about revenge but his desire to bring power back to Kouka.

  9. R

    In the end, it's really going to depend on how sales do. Either a large increase in manga sales or a surprisingly large number of disks moved. I don't keep track of manga sales, so I don't know how much of a bump the anime gave it, but Akatsuki no Yona is already a relatively popular shoujo manga, comparatively at least. It certainly does better than some other shoujo series that go animes as well.

    But I love the series to death and back so it would be great to get another season.

  10. K

    Well a lot of times second seasons are announced at the end of the first season so I am holding out hope.

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