Akatsuki no Yona – 22

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Man – how can you serve up a sundae that good and still have the cherry be the highlight?

I have no doubt that this episode of Akatsuki no Yona will prove to be among the audience’s favorites, and it’s certainly with good reason – it has a lot of everything that this series displays at its flashy best.  I happen to think last week’s episode was just as good (and it’s not the only one) but for straight-up entertainment, this series doesn’t get much better than this.  It was an episode that felt kind of like an ending, but the ending itself made it feel like a beginning.

Not to repeat myself (as if that horse hadn’t long since left the barn) but I really love the fact there’s room for a character like Yoon – not that there are any other characters like Yoon – in an episode like this one.  Battles aren’t just about the powerful and the fearsome – they’re also about people just trying to survive and do the right thing.  Yoon is a proud boy, but he’s not immune to insecurity about his own vulnerability – how could he be, when he’s surrounded by the most overpowered beasts and dragons mythology has to offer?  Again repeating myself, but I find courage by someone like Yoon far more meaningful than someone like Hak or Jae-ha, because of that very vulnerability.  When the chips are down, Yoon is thinking about only one thing – saving Yona, even if that means laying down his own life.

I think Hak and the Dragons appreciate that about Yoon, but it’s sort of sad that it’s only Yona who shows any real concern for him during the battle and its immediate aftermath.  For a princess raised in a palace full of sycophantic servants Yona is remarkably empathetic, and for a girl raised by a father who shunned killing (though Soo-won might disagree) she’s shown a remarkably steely spine. What’s kind of cool is that Yoon is inevitably overshadowed in a series like this one, but Kusanagi-sensei and the Pierrot team make it clear that they’re well-aware of that syndrome – which is really the first time I remember that dynamic existing to this degree.

This was an important ep for Yona, for obvious reasons.  She hasn’t been the traditional damsel-in-distress for a long time, but – while she (and Yoon) did need saving by Jae-ha and then Sinha (and Ao’s teeth) – she (like Nanami, actually) is ever-more entrenching herself as a formidable figure in her own right.  The battle is a long one, hard and bloody, and Gigan’s pirates are effectively fighting one-handed because they’re trying not to kill anyone.  We see in this fight that even dragons and thunder beasts have limits, and grow weary – and it’s a weary Jae-ha that’s shot out of the sky by the retreating (skulking, really) Yan Kumji.  But it’s Yona who does the saving this time, as Kumji is just about to put an arrow through Jae-ha’s heart when the bloodlust he feels from Yona (I’m convinced now that this is a Hiryuu-related phenomenon) pulls him up short.

To call this a crucial moment is merely to state the obvious.  It’s the climactic moment of the battle at-hand, and also of Yona’s journey up to this point.  What really happened here is somewhat uncertain – in anime, when you don’t see a body you never assume someone is dead – but there can be no question that Yona intended to kill Yan Kumji.  She seems like the least shocked person on the water when this happens – I would rank Hak and Yoon as the most shocked – but it’s hard to imagine that killing someone for the first time wouldn’t have an impact on her, even if she doesn’t show it.  Kumji has certainly given Yona just cause, and she’s certainly seen enough of the world to know just what a hard and terrible place it is, and what that demands of her if she wishes to survive,  But it’s still a big, big deal.

For the nonce, though, that takes a back seat as the episode culminates with a shocker I can freely admit I wasn’t expecting.  It’s fair to say Yona wasn’t either, but was Soo-won?  We don’t know what Soo-won was doing in Awa, much less walking around seemingly unguarded, but it can’t be assumed that he wasn’t there looking specifically for Yona.  Perhaps more likely, he was there because he’d heard what a monstrosity Yan Kumji was and was planning to put a stop to it himself – we’ve already seen that Soo-won takes the responsibility of being a good king seriously (which makes this all the more interesting).

So what now?  Who knows, but it’s certainly going to be fascinating to watch this drama play out.  We have only two episodes left and the fact that there’s no sign of the final Dragon anywhere is impossible not to notice – it seems likely we’ll meet him briefly in the finale, with his role left as a cliffhanger.  There’s hope here, perhaps a bit more than usual because this is Pierrot and they do sequels a lot more often than most studios.  If one reads anything into how much budget the studio puts into a series, it’s clear that Akatsuki no Yona is Pierrot’s highest-cost show in some time – thought in truth that’s a function of the production committee (though that itself might be a good sign).  It’s almost cruel for a show to so perfectly set up a sequel if there isn’t one coming, but anime can be a cruel medium.

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  1. i

    The timeline is pretty jumbled up here, but Port Awa is in the Earth Tribe's territory, as was Soo-won before we jumped back to Yona and her crew. The timeline is kind of fuzzy thanks to this arc being so long, but the long and short is that they were both in the same region at the same time & it's not surprisingly that they would both be drawn to a place where injustice is keeping down the people.

    Manga readers have told me the Soo-won's Earth Tribe adventure actually game directly on the heels of this week's cliffhanger in the manga to show how he got there, but Pierrot obviously made a deliberate change to move that earlier. I think both orders have their merit, but I really appreciate that the anime's version forces Yona directly from her capstone moment of killing Kumji to facing down the man who killed her father. We're going to see how much she's really grown now.

  2. Wow, two whopping manga spoilers in 10 minutes. Suspense denied.

  3. w

    You know, since a second season probably isn't happening (;__;) I can take consolation in that hopefully this Yona/Soo-won meeting will serve as a pretty good capstone to the series. And then an adventure continues style… ending… Ah, screw it! It isn't fair, Enzo! This isn't enough!

    I'm in total agreement with you about Yoon; I've always preferred characters who are 'weak' as opposed to powerhouses like the dragons and the thunder beast. It makes the moments where he stands up in spite of adversity all the more admirable. Same applies to Yona. I also reckon Yona/Yoon is by far the most interesting dynamic in the cast. And not to drag it down into shipping stats, but Yona/Yoon (Yoona?) for the win!

  4. T

    Well there is a seiyuu event happening in October and all the voice actors are confirmed to attend. Its on kusanagi twitter account so there is a chance maybe another season is happening.

  5. c

    Yona/Yoon! I thought I was alone! I'm not certain I ship them ship them, but their interactions are my favorite of the whole cast. We've seen them from their genesis, and it has grown into such a selfless and mutually loving relationship.

    >That Latin@ Chick PLEASE let there be a chance. I hear the first disk hasn't even been released yet, so there's still hope! ´д` ;

  6. A

    Not only that, last I checked there's not even any discs up for preorder. I have no idea how the sales for this series are going to work or if they even planned on making money via disc sales – a lot of Pierrot series don't.

  7. w

    Well, Enzo did express doubt in his post over whether Kumji is really dead or not. If someone who knows goes and confirms that for him, I'd consider that a spoiler. It's obviously not a massive spoiler, but it's still something an anime-only viewer might not want to be told.

  8. g

    Ah, I loved this moment in manga, because after the sheer shock went away, I understood Soo-Won won't be a simple villain. And I was glad.
    And the longer I've been in the AnY fandom, the sadder I've become, because I've observed the complicated relationship between Soo-Won and Yona was so misunderstood and reduced to "That b!tch has still hots for a murderer of her father!".
    And don't let me start about how complicated relationship between Soo-Won and Hak is mostly completely ignored in the fandom and I can count on fingers of a hand people, who has ever brought it up.
    Now I'm even more sadder, because it begins in the anime part fandom too, even if people don't know, what will happen in the next episode.

  9. T

    THANK YOU we need to talk about the complicated relationship between Soo-Won and Hak. I agree I don't get why people reduced the relationship between Soo-Won and Yona as "OMG SHE STILL LOVES HIM" shit that relationship is so complicated too. bless kusanagi heart for refusing to give the audience an easy answer to several questions in the series.

  10. k

    Oh my god YES the Yona/Soo-won/Hak relationship is so complicated and it's not just a matter of Yona in the middle of a love triangle. Any of them could be the centre of this triangle, they all care for each other equally and were all equally affected (in different ways) by what happened. It's a shame to see people disregard or downplay any aspect of the trio's relationship.

    (AnY has compelled me to delurk and comment for the first time)

  11. r

    Yes, yes, and yes. Their relationship is complicated, but it's not THAT hard to understand. I mean I think Enzo here is pretty spot-on in his analysis of most everything even without the benefit of knowledge of what happens later on in the manga. I guess most people have just been conditioned to regard all male/female relationships through a romantic lens, to the exclusion of all other relevant aspects of the relationship. The Hak/Soo-won confusion I can sort of understand though. As readers, we are rarely ever privy to the internal thoughts of either Hak or Soo-won, so much of the intricacies of their relationship is conveyed through subtext – mainly in the form of flashbacks and dialogue-free, but pointed panels/shots. Perhaps the younger fans would prefer to have things spelled out more clearly?

  12. T

    Its not hard too understand but your right I feel that younger audiences need for things to be spelled out to them more clearly. Not that all youngsters are like that but it does not leave room for more conversation other relevant issues in the series.

  13. C

    We've seen the fourth dragon since the very first OP, as well as in the flash-forward that ended episode 2, so his entrance won't be a complete surprise.

    Su-won and Yona (and Hak)… Su-won made clear in episode 6 that he had wanted to be with Hak ("my right hand") and Yona ("the girl who gave me warmth") but regarded their supposed deaths at the hand of Kang Tae-jun as part of the terrible price he had to pay to rule. Yona and Hak, in turn, have seen at first hand the costs of King Il's passive ruling style, and Yona has now broken decisively with her father's principle of non-violence.

    This still leaves one essential and perhaps unsolvable mystery: why did King Il forbid Yona to marry Su-won? Guilt over Su-won's father? Concern over Su-won's suitability? It doesn't make sense; Su-won is the only other male in the royal line. Had they married, the entire tragedy would have been avoided. But now, there's no one left alive who knows… or at least will tell.

  14. K

    I want to note how the anime added info about Yu-hong banning the dragon legend IN ADDITION to banishing the priest(s) from the castle. There could have been a prophecy about their children that led to Il killing his brother and forbidding Yona to marry Soo-won/touch weapons.

  15. Make sure you repeat your spoilers at least twice in case someone misses them the first time.

  16. R

    Timelinewise, there is NO WAY we would see the fourth dragon within 2 episodes unless they're going to throw a flashforwards, but I'm going to sit here and pray to the anime gods for a second season BECAUSE DAMMIT good series don't get adapted often enough, much less good shoujo.

  17. B

    I think we will be seeing the fourth dragon before the series ends. He's already got a voice actor assigned to him (Shimono Hiro), and I doubt they'd ask him to come to the studio to say only two or three lines.

    Apparently there's a voice actor event in October. Let's all keep our fingers crossed. There are a several chapters I want to see animated very badly- even if they're technically not part of the main story.

    On another, semi-related note, whoever animates Yona's eyes when she's giving her killer glares deserves a pay raise.

  18. r

    Yes, the Yona Glare is one such area where the anime improves upon the manga, methinks.

  19. n

    wow so much spoilers being removed. hope no one spoiled you too badly. I'm been spoiled unintentionally by well-meaning friends who like certain characters -_-|||

    from how this episode ends, it's very likely that the 4th dragon may appear before the season ends since this season is more of an introduction arc?

  20. Enough that I'm considering leaving the comments as a Max Max zone of unpatrolled lawlessness from here on out with AnY.

  21. J

    Allow me to offer a non-manga reader's opinion (and not a particularly astute one at that) – it's was obvious that this would happen. We've been waiting for a character with no redeeming qualities and Yan Kumji is that person. It will be an important step, albeit one that leaves me slightly disappointed; it seems like the easy way out to go for someone who either cannot or will not be saved. The "Hiryuu's eyes" we've seen in the last couple of episodes leave me similarly hollow, but to be fair that's a plausible explanation and fits in with everything else we've seen.

    At least Yoon was as always a shining example of true courage (I can only agree with every sentiment you have on the importance of such a character in this series and anime in general), and Ao was much more useful rather than typically distracting. The Soo-Won development looks like a good one to end the series on as well.

  22. w

    I tried thinking of events that might prevent Yona from killing Yan Kumji (she misses, she hesitates, someone else does it, etc). It's not that I didn't think her murdering him was a possibility, but it was… unexpected. Yona is an innocent girl who honors her peace-loving father's memory, after all, so this was a major shift in her development–she no longer fits the mold that viewers (well, maybe just me) and characters in the show have cast for her. It's kind of unsettling, since there's no turning back for her now. I have no idea why I'm hung up on this.

    Also, the tonal shift when Yona shot Yan was kind of jarring… the universe was frozen and everyone looked on in awe and horror, someone told Gigan that Yan is dead, and then–*boom*–party.

    (And dammit Yona, you'd try *real* hard to kill Su Won next episode.)

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