Akatsuki no Yona – 20

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AOkatsuki no YOONa is still going strong.

For a series with as great a main couple as this one has, it’s amazing how a couple of supporting characters can mount an insurrection and steal the show week after week.  But that’s exactly what the tensai bishounen and the squirrel are doing as far as I’m concerned, and for the latter you can thank Studio Pierrot at least in-part, because a lot of Ao’s antics are anime-original (I checked).  It’s quite natural that the comedic possibilities for a cute animal are much more expansive with the benefit of sound and movement, but kudos to Yoneda Kazuhiro and his team for taking advantage of that.

Here’s the first thing I noticed this week – when one of the pirates made reference to the new “powerful allies” Gigan’s team now had, right after showing Hak and the Dragons the camera panned to Ao.  Coincidence, or some kind of foreshadowing?  I’m only half-kidding, but even if it’s all a lark Ao just keeps getting off the signature moments.  Seeing him join Yoon (and Ki-ja, much less successfully) in cross-dressing was certainly one, but my favorite was easily when he slipped into that false moustache.  Why?  Because not content with that image, Yoneda-sensei then gave us Ao putting his paws behind his back and looking GAR.

Not to be outdone, Yoon gets in his attacks this week, even before his signature moment.  It occurred to me that anyone who knows anything about naval history would already have had some concern about Yoon being on a fighting ship full of lonely men, and that was before he proved to be a great cook and perfectly at-ease in a dress.  When one of the old salts gets a taste of his “pirate stew” and proposes marriage, Yoon’s comeback is a memorably hilarious one – “I’d never marry an old deadbeat like you.”

This is all building up to a major plot development that’s also a major character milestone for both Yona and Yoon, predicated on the bombshell that Yan Kumji (whose face we finally see this episode) is a slaver.  Jae-ha takes Yona to town on a reconnaissance mission (much to Hak’s chagrin) and, after some bonding where Yona says she feels “much closer” to him now, they spy Kumji’s carriage rolling through town.  The reaction of the townsfolk is telling, and one of the ones in hiding is a young woman in a false moustache (which will end up you-know-where).  Turns out Kumji is using a shop as a front and advertising good jobs for women – women who disappear (literally, through a trap-door in the floor) if they’re deemed beautiful enough.

It’s not hard to see where this is going, and it gets there in short order.  The battle is coming, and with it an opportunity for Gigan to use her newfound strength to land a decisive blow against Kumji.  But without knowing which ship the women intended for slavery are being held on, her hands are obviously severely tied.  That Yona should volunteer to go undercover and reveal the location of the ship – via fireworks – is hardly a surprise, as she’s been itching for a chance to try and start making amends for the sorrow and hardship she feels responsible for.  Neither is the resolute opposition of Hak, the Dragons and Yoon, all of whom see this as the freakishly dangerous mission it is.  But Gigan is the ultimate practical thinker, and she’s seen the merit – indeed the necessity – in what Yona suggests.  She’s also seen that in order for the plan to have a chance to succeed, there’s a missing element that must be added.

As is so often the case with Akatsuki no Yona, the best moments are the quiet conversations that follow up the “big” moments.  The first comes as Hak confronts Yona – and his own feelings for her – in rather forceful terms.  “How can I convince you not to do this?” he demands, but at this point it’s clear he already knows the answer – he can’t.  This isn’t the same Yona, but the truth is that it isn’t the same Hak either – this Hak embraces Yona and makes no attempt to hide his crushing anxiety for her safety.  And he’s self-aware enough to realize that even though he hates that Yona is putting herself at such terrible risk, he loves this new Yona – the one who’s left behind the shelter of her father’s castle and of the lies he told her and decided to face the world head-on – even more than he loved that sheltered princess.

The second is the brief meeting between Hak and Yoon, the two who have chosen to be with Yona of their own free will.  As I’ve said before I love the fact that Yoon possesses a fierce dignity and honor despite his own lack of physical strength – indeed, probably even because of it.  “You think I’m pathetic because Yona’s so brave and I’m shaking?” he asks quietly.  “I’m the perfect choice.  I’ve lived more carefully and wretchedly than anyone else.  I’m proud of it.”  As the old saying goes, courage isn’t not being afraid – it’s being afraid and doing what has to be done anyway.  I think this is a moment of real significance between these two, as Hak not only realizes that he must trust Yoon with Yona’s safety, but that he does.   I don’t believe Hak was thinking less of Yoon because his hands were shaking (and not just because his own were, too) – I think he’s come to realize what a formidable boy Yoon is, and how much he truly cares for Yona.

The funny thing is, that statement about “living wretchedly” is only one of several interesting clues here.  There’s the casual way Yoon replies to the jokes about becoming Yan Kumji’s lover once it’s obvious how good he looks in a dress – he replies with “You know it.  I’ll best his actual wife.”  There’s the admission that this isn’t the first time Yoon has posed as a woman, and the expert way he slips into seductress mode once he and Yona reach the bogus “shop” in Awa.  It makes me wonder just how wretchedly Yoon was forced to live in order to survive until he met Ik-soo – if what we saw in flashback was only the tip of the iceberg, as hardscrabble as it was.  I know this much – hard as this experience is for Hak, I don’t think his trust in Yoon is misplaced.  Especially when it comes to defending Yona, I think we’ve only seen a small hint of just how fierce Yoon can be.

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  1. Some spoilers at the end of that comment. Here's the rest of it:

    As great as this review is (yours always are), I'm genuinely surprised you didn't mention anything about the "mother" scene between Yona and Gi-Gan. That moment is one of my favourite in the entire series, and I felt it was executed wonderfully — indeed, it almost brought a tear to my eye, which I certainly didn't expect! Or, maybe I'm just being overly cheesy and dramatic. XD In any case, as I've said before, I'm very happy you appreciate Yoon's character as much as you do.****

  2. Thank you. I did 8 paragraphs as is… Gotta make choices.

    TBH, that moment did kind of feel, well, cheesy and dramatic to me. At least by this series' high standard. Different strokes I guess.

  3. Y

    Sorry, didn't realise I let some spoilers slip in there…

  4. A

    Yoon's girl voice was kind of a spit take moment for me… There are so many male characters in this series that I completely forgot about how the industry works. Japan is a scary place…

  5. Well, Minagawa Junko has been one of the best female seiyuu in the business at playing boys for a very long time. She makes it pretty easy to get lost in the character.

  6. ~

    I always find it cute how Enzo dedicates a good portion of his reviews to our adorable mascot.

  7. And the squirrel is cute, too.

  8. K

    I love all the main character in this series so they all have moments that steal the show for me but I have to admit Yun was my favorite this episode. He's an adorable guy or gal.

    Although special mention has to be made to Kija and the apples.

    I also loved the little Yona and Hak moment with Yona showing her resolve and once again Hak being conflicted about wanting to keep the "princess" safe but also wanting to see the strong woman Yona is obviously growing into.

    So while i think Ao is adorable and in a lesser show he would be stealing the show with such a strong cast for me at least the squirrel has a lot of worthy competition.

  9. f

    I just really, really cherish the friendship between Yoon and Yona. I know that male/female friendship isn't necessarily rare in anime, but something about their dynamic *feels* rare to me. It's just evolved so naturally, even in spite of their relative social positions and backgrounds, and carries so much honesty.

    I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Yoon is one of the few who really approaches Yona on "equal" footing – he isn't bound by the Dragon's blood, and he isn't bound like Hak is to the memory of the dead king. He's there simply because he wants to be, and to grow, and his journey mirrors hers in that regard.

  10. O

    Every once and a while a perfect line is delivered in this series at a perfect moment. I felt that Yoon's quip – "I've lived more carefully and wretchedly than anyone else. I'm proud of it" – was such a line. Great stuff.

  11. I couldn't agree more.

  12. T

    Don't forget enzo Yona finally learned what a pervert is in this episode too lol.

    This was both Yona and Yoon beautiful moment to shine. It allowed Yona to devise her own plan on how to save the women on those boats and even though Yoon was against it at first later agreed to go with her and created the powder for the fireworks. I'm just glad these two are being given the room to show off their skills since often times they can overshadowed by the physically stronger characters. Another good episode~~~~~

  13. T

    Oh enzo it seems a japanese blogger has translated the lyrics of Akatsuki no Yona ED2 with Shikata Akiko and its beautiful. I thought I would share them with you:

    Modoranai hibi ni namida koboshite (Tears spill for the days you can’t return to)

    Miageta sora akaku, akaku moeru (The sky you looked up is red, burning red)

    Jibun no tsuyosa yowasa kizuketa no nara, ima (You have realized your own strength and weakness, so now)

    Kimi yo! Osoreru na kokoro omomuku mama (You follow where your dreading heart guides you)

    Kaze wo kiri susumu, sono tabiji wo akatsuki ga terasu (Cutting through the wind, the dawn illuminates the journey)

    (Tsudoe, takeki no ude, senri no hitomi) ((Assemble! The valiant arm, the eyes of long distance))

    Sora wo kakeyuku ashi (kuon no tate) (The legs that soar through the skies, (the eternal shield))

    Inishie no chikai, ima hatashite yoru yo aketeyuke (The ancient pact, now for sure, the dawn will break)

  14. Thanks for sharing that.

  15. r

    another great episode… As much as I feel attracted to Kiseijuu, Death Parade or Tokyo Ghoul in terms of thematic ambition, for me this is the best of the series I am following this season, in pace, character development, dialogue, emotional coherence, even the quality of the animation… And it is all so smoothly done, it's simply awesome

  16. m

    I agree with you on the part of Yun possibly having harrowing experiences before having met Ik-soo. Maybe he was shaking precisely because he has an idea of how terrifying it can possibly get, and that insight would make him the "best" choice to protect Yona.

  17. m

    Is anyone else becoming a bit concerned about how they are going to wrap this up? They still have a pirate battle to fight, another dragon to find and for Yona to convince to join her, which has taken a couple of episodes minimum for the others. With four (?) episodes left it seems like any confrontation with Su-won will have to wait for a theoretical second season.

    I haven't heard any news of a second season, or even know if there is enough material from the manga to even do one at this point. I just hope that TV ratings and sales are strong enough for one to be produced eventually. Other than this site I haven't seen the series getting much love.

  18. T

    Well the manga has 102 chapters so far and its still ongoing. There is definitely enough material for a 2nd season, but that remains to be seen. The manga ratings have gone up so there is a chance of that happening. As for the last dragon I would not worry about him otherwise why would he be in the opening and ending theme songs ^_^

  19. R

    The main reason I'm holding out for the second season is at this rate there's NO WAY they'll be able to introduce the fourth dragon, but he's BLATANTLY IN THE OP AND END. Like, it's not even a subtle sort of foreshadowing, he's thrown in the viewers' faces. So unless they're pulling one of the cruelest troll moves in anime opening history, I think there'll be another season

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