Akatsuki no Yona – 19

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Akatsuki no Yona just keeps upping the ante, with no end in sight.  How can this show possibly not get a second season?

It’s not just the remarkable consistency that impresses about Akatsuki no Yona, though for a show to be this good virtually without interruption is indeed impressive.  It’s also notable that this series can be outstanding in so many different ways, with so many different combinations of characters.  The cast is fabulous, that’s a given, but there’s a great thematic range here too.  As with the old fantasy titans of anime, this series is telling a complete story –  as intimate as it is epic, as heartbreaking as it is hilarious.  There’s room for the entire emotional palette on this canvas, and Yona uses every color in the rainbow.

As usual lately, I hardly know where to begin to talk about this episode because it’s operating simultaneously on so many levels.  Just a portfolio of Yoon’s facial expressions would be more entertaining that most series, but then you have the rodent too – and Ao had his best week yet (my favorite moment was definitely the fish scene).  Seriously, that bushy-tailed rat is a scene-stealer – an animated example of why there’s an old actors’ expression “Never work with kids or animals”.  In lesser hands this could be insufferable, but even such a simple thing as a cute animal is masterfully written and animated here.  We all know that the real battle in this series is not for to rule Kouka, but the death match for the adorableness crown between Ao and Yoon.

In main, the focus of the episode was Yona trying to carry out her mission to gain Gigan’s trust – to retrieve Senjuso, a rare medicinal plant that’s invaluable in treating wounds.  The catch is that it grows only halfway up a sheer cliff above the surf, accessible only via a nauseatingly narrow ledge.  This was played out in harrowing and frightening terms in its own right, but there was so much more to it.  You can even start with the fact that Gigan assigned Jae-ha to accompany Yona (though only to show her the way), because events later in the episode suggest Gigan had an ulterior motive here.  It’s never spelled-out for us – Kusanagi-sensei trusts the audience to make the connection and ponder it (bless her).

Jae-ha’s real contribution as a character generally and a Dragon specifically really shows through here.  He brings the question of free will to the forefront and forces us to contemplate it.  This is the disturbing side of Yona’s quest – these men have no real say in their fates.  Even as Jae-ha watches the “weak girl” Yona struggle to overcome her fear and complete the quest, he cannot trust the growing respect and admiration he has for her – is it his genetic imperative talking, or his heart?  And it goes without saying that this event is also a showcase for Yona to again display those qualities that Jae-ha finds himself admiring – not to mention for some of Ao’s most hilarious antics, including snatching a fish when Yona is nearly tossed into the sea by a huge wave.  It’s Jae-ha who saves her from that wave after she barely manages to snag a vine and prevent herself from falling (he was prepared to dive in after her if she had), and that’s enough to convince Yona that she’s failed Gigan’s test.

As this is happening Hak, Yoon, Ki-ja and Sinha (one assumes) are growing increasingly agitated about the danger Gigan’s quest has put Yona in.  Yoon, in fact, is in tears when she and Jae-ha finally return, and is the first to greet her (with a bear hug), further proof of the emotional bond that’s grown up between them.  Yona refuses to heed Jae-ha’s suggestion that she make no mention of his help – it’s the first thing out of her mouth after she delivers the Senjuso.  Her notion that she’s failed is rather a silly one, and Gigan agrees – she could hardly have expected Jae-ha to allow a girl to be swept out to sea without intervening.  And Yona did complete the task after all – she retrieved the plant herself and with no help from Jae-ha apart from the comfort of his voice in her ears.

Again, we see Jae-ha sliding into an important niche – as a catalyst to move things between Yona and Hak forward.  His teasing of Hak is clearly double-edged, and it forces Hak to confront his own feelings.  And his “joking” confession of possible interest himself is clearly no joke.  Jae-ha is the first credible threat for Yona’s affections since Soo-won obviously took himself out of the running – he’s more a peer to Hak than Yoon or the other Dragons, of about the same age (actually a bit older) and quite experienced in the ways of the world.

This unsettling development for Hak comes to a head when he finds Yona nursing her scratched and bleeding hands (she’s tried to remove thorns with an unheated needle – I suspect Yoon would have killed her on the spot) and proffers assistance.  His prescription (after hand-washing) is to apply honey to draw the thorns out (apparently this is a real thing).  We may see Ao rolling about on the ground with his head inside the jar, but I promise you the squirrel isn’t the only one thinking about diving into the honey pot…

This is an electrically-charged scene – erotic in its own right, but loaded with significance.  Hak’s actions can only be taken as an outright admission of his physical desire for Yona that not even she can misinterpret – and it’s clearly way more than she can process, and she quite understandably wigs out and flees the scene rather quickly.  Alluring as it is, this idea of romance between Hak and Yona is a difficult one, full of enormous obstacles, and I wouldn’t expect anything to happen quickly or easily.

While that drama is sure to linger on for long after this season has run its course, the storyline of Gigan’s pirates is clearly nearing a head.  Gigan’s conversation with Yona reveals that she’s already thinking of the future – a future where she no longer gives men cause to fight and die for her, and where Jae-ha can have a new support system to cling to.  And we learn the unsettling truth about Yan Kumji – he’s s slaver, and a huge transaction in human traffic is about to go down.  He’s massing his ships for an attack on Gigan as a result, and it seems next week is going to see Yona go on an undercover mission – and that something you had to figure was going to happen sooner or later is going to happen

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ED Sequence:

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  1. S

    I think the best aspect of the Dragon's side of the story is that there isn't necessarily a contrast between their fate and their free will. If we take the story at face value, fate preordained that they reincarnated and set the scenario for their meeting, but it's their own free will that brings them to admire and follow Yona: it couldn't be otherwise, because that's just what they are, what made them admire and follow Hiryu back in the day as well. It's just weird and confusing to them because it comes in the form of instinctual/atavic memories, I suppose.

    On another note, THAT HONEY LICKING SCENE. Eat your heart out, 50 shades, there's a new kid in town.

  2. m

    wow, that's a great point, perhaps the revelation comes when they realise their fate and their will is one and the same.
    Ki-ja (prompted by Jae-Ha) is probably going to ponder the very same thing as well – to take away his innate loyalty and decide to follow Yona for who she is as herself.
    I love how every character changes the dynamics of the group so naturally.

  3. R

    GE you make me sad constantly reminding us of the possibility this won't get a second season…..
    If would just feel so anticlimactic if they just left it off and the journey continues with Yona and crew…

  4. l

    No second season for now because there isn't enough manga chapters for it?

  5. K

    There is 100+ manga chapters, more than enough for a 2nd season.

  6. I doubt that. The manga is at about 102 chapters, and the anime just adapted through Chapter 32. That means we're likely to get about 40 chapters this season, which would leave more than enough for a second 2-cour season even if there was no break (which there would be).

    What gives me some hope is that the manga seems to have gotten a pretty decent bump from the anime – somewhere around 50-75%. Maybe it's enough.

  7. H

    Have you seen numbers for a manga bump? I was wondering about that the other day but had no idea where I could look them up.

  8. ANN's weekly sales charts are how I track it. Before the anime AnY seemed to chart for 2 weeks and average about 60K. Last volume was at 108K after 2 weeks.

  9. T

    Ieongsh the manga has currently 102 chapters. There is more than enough material for a second season.

    As for this episode yup I loved that Yona is according to her "getting closer to the kind of strong person she wants to be" and she is well aware of the sacrifices her comrades have made for her in order to get where they are at now. Especially Hak since he gave up everything to stand by her, but I do like that the show takes its time and shows that even Hak can be utterly human sometimes. He loved Yona ever since he was a child so for him to acknowledge that he has suppressed his desires for her many times is I think a healthy way for him to be honest with himself. I find that Hak is the kind of guy who keeps everything inside and in the mini flash he had with Su-Won and Yona in this episode showed how much he loved Su-Won enough that he was willingly going to step aside in order for them to be together. I do worry that he has not really dealt with his feelings of betrayal like Yona has in the earlier episodes because it could have negative consequences later on.

    As for the dragons what can I say? I love the examination of their free will vs. the preordained destiny they were born for. Regardless if they were born to serve they still have the free will to ultimately decide if they want to follow Yona or not. I like that Jae-ah backstory was indirectly explained in a flashback sequences (he was chained up in what looked like a prison) its safe to assume he was not treated any better than Shin-ah was at his village. So its understandable why he values his freedom and ability to decide his fate himself.

    The next episode looks good~~~

  10. That's a hint at future manga events no matter how you slice it.

  11. G

    If there is one thing I'm a sucker for is endings that start before the episode ends or get inserted into the episode and with Shikata Akiko being one of my favorite singer ever that ending gave me so many chills. The scenes with jea-ha and shin-ah being pretty nice by themselves helped too. I can't wait for what's to come.

    Also, the squirrel really is awesome(we all know all the cast is so I don't think I need to point it out any more then this). I love how he has so many silly animations for every scenes he is in, so much attention to detail. It's understandable he got so many votes in the polls.

  12. Yeah, I love that ED technique as well. Nagai Tatsuyuki is a master at it.

    I've read some of the chapters the anime has already adapted, and Ao is definitely a case of the adaptation making the material even better because they've added a lot of his antics themselves. They also added the bear-hug between Yona and Yoon, which I thought was a nice moment.

  13. K

    For this episode: yes, God bless. The episode director upped the antics. Huge contrast to the previous episode where they actually toned down its antics.

  14. w

    I've decided that if there is no second season, I'm going to be very annoyed with Yona and Pierrot. You can't adapt something this patiently and skillfully and then at the end go "Okay, now read the manga!" It's not fair, I tells ya! I mean, it still feels like we're in prologue mode of a series of 70 episodes.

    I'll admit the last couple of episodes haven't quite landed right for me though. I wanted this weeks to be a Big Moment for Yona (which wasn't really what it was about) but it all felt a little undercut by Jae Ha's presence. I hate that I thought this, but it felt very 'harem-y' for the first time. However I AM very excited for what's to come, and I expect Yona will have a moment to really shine in the next couple of weeks.

    something you had to figure was going to happen sooner or later is going to happen…
    Yoon in a dress? It's gotta be Yoon in a dress. *clicks link* Yep, Yoon in a dress. Deadly.

  15. J

    Well he hasn't been karping on about how good-looking he is for nothing. They (author and studio) have taken their sweet time setting this one up.

  16. K

    Sometimes is sucks not living in Japan and being able to read Japanese. The manga is not licensed here so to get the full story I have to rely on scanlations .

    I desperately want a 2nd season but even a 2nd season is not going to get us the full story. So While I want the anine to continue for another 24-25 episodes I am also praying some company picks up the manga.

  17. r

    For my money, these 20+ episodes adpating the first 40+ chapters of the manga are the prologue, more or less. I mean there really isn't any suspense regarding the question of whether Yona is going to assemble her own team of supporters or not. It's what happens afterwards that I found interesting. Which is why I'm super bummed that the chances of getting anything more than this one season seem so slim at this point. I freely confess that I was an indifferent reader for the first 40+ chapters, because I also went into this series with a lot of the same prejudices that one hears so often with regards to AnY. It's what happens afterwards that dispelled a lot of these worries for me.

  18. O

    Enzo: Out of curiosity, what anime series are you referring to when you mention "the old fantasy titans of anime?" Love the series and your reviews.

  19. Moribito. 12 Kingdoms. Things of that nature.

  20. r

    Concur that Jaeha is really the only dragon that can possibly be construed as a viable romantic interest for Yona. I mean Kija and Shinha are impressively even more naive than Yona, so yeah…

    And yes, like Enzo said last episode, Hak is probably the only one who truly had a choice about whether he wanted to follow Yona or not. I mean the whole blood of the dragon compulsion aside, the Four Dragons are, to be blunt, freaks of nature. I don't think there are a lot of places they can go where they will just be understood and accepted, no questions asked. Jaeha definitely lucked out with the pirates here. That and he is less conspicuous than Kija with his hand and poor Shinha.

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