Akatsuki no Yona – 23

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That wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Let me just start out by noting that last week’s comments section was a disaster – a minefield of manga spoilers.  The damage is done, but I’ll ask everyone to please give the spoilers – disguised or not – a pass.  Don’t “clarify” with information that isn’t available in the anime yet.  Don’t say how long events will last, or when characters will appear or leave, or confirm or deny speculation from anime-only viewers.  I’m not sure why manga readers sometimes feel such a strong urge to do this, but nip it in the bud, please.  Being spoiled for a show you really love isn’t fun, whether you’re blogging about it or just reading about it.

In any event, we’re down to a week left, painful as that sounds. I’ve been trying to read the tea leaves about what might or might not happen.  What does one make of a final episode title like “From Now On”, for example – is that a good or bad sign?  And what of the fact that the Yellow Dragon is all over the preview?  I was sort of hoping he wouldn’t show up, because to me that would have suggested another season in the works – but who knows.  The discs are finally going to hit the market at the end of April but I’m not expecting much there, though thankfully I assume the production committee isn’t either.  More important are manga sales, and if I’m correct on the release dates the new volume numbers ought to be included in this week’s rankings (or next).  That will be a very interesting and important number to watch, assuming a decision hasn’t already been made.

As for this episode itself, it definitely amounted to a “morning after” episode, a breather after a very intense run-up to a major battle that had major character developments all over it.  Which is surprising, considering that it came on the heels of the mother of all cliffhangers (though Yowapeda is on line two), Yona literally bumping into Soo-won.  As conjectured (and later spoiled) Soo-won was indeed in town to investigate the rumors of Yan Kumji and, if necessary, put the kibosh on him.  Of course it didn’t turn out to be necessary, but it further cements the impression that the usurper is taking his responsibilities as a reformer ruler very seriously.

For a character who’s spent so little time on-screen, Soo-won sure has come a long way in 23 episodes.  He’s making it very hard to hate him, that’s for sure.  After his retinue shows up (we even get an acknowledgement of how strange it was for him to be unguarded, but apparently Soo-won is fond of sneaking off) he protects Yona to keep her from being discovered, shielding her under his cloak.  Clearly, he was relieved to see Yona alive – but her feelings are obviously much more clouded.  Those moments where she’s hiding under there, Soo-won pretending she’s a local wench, are intense – especially when Yona make a grab for Soo-won’s (actually her father’s) sword, and he closes his hand around hers.  The turmoil of emotions is written all over Yona’s face, and it’s certainly understandable – and her reaction after Soo-won leaves her side (without her saying a word) is too.

There’s a lot we don’t know here.  What was the “one thing” Soo-won referred to when he said he couldn’t die yet – and that the “preparations” for are finished (and what was the white dove’s feather foreshadowing about him)?  And did Hak realize why Yona was so distraught she was crying like a little girl, even without being told?  It’s a bit of a stretch even for two as close as they are, but I suppose one could argue that Hak realizes there was very little else that could cause this new Yona to break down in that fashion.  Indeed, one might see this ep as a kind of regression for Yona – from her apotheosis as a tough and hardened fighter, we now see the little girl that’s still inside her – but I see it instead as a healthy reminder that she is still a vulnerable child, albeit one who’s seen far too much darkness.

Really, though, the Soo-won encounter is a bit of a fake-out – it definitely ends with a literal and metaphorical whimper rather than a bang.  Clearly this was not intended as any kind of climax, only a diversion and a reminder of old ties, and the bulk of the episode is actually spent on Jea-ha’s decision and goodbyes with the pirates.  We certainly see the shell-shocked Yona through all of this, and get a healthy and emotionally powerful reminder of the depth of Hak’s devotion to her, but mostly this was about the transition from one phase of the story to another.  Clearly with this battle over, Yona is going to leave and just as clearly, all of the Dragons – Jea-ha included – are going to come with her.  So there’s no mystery involved in Jea-ha’s final moments with Gigan and his friends, only the bittersweet emotion of watching them play out.

With that said, Jea-ha’s decision is an important one – because he’s really the first Dragon who’s had a true decision to make.  It’s fun watching Ao bloat on Daikon and seeing Jea-ha flirt with Gigan (“You’re my ideal woman – if only I were 50 years older.”), and the emotions between Jea-ha and Yona’s band and this ragtag army have been well-earned.  But the real interest here is in seeing Jea-ha justify going with Yona as an act of free will, and pondering just how much truth there is in that argument.  One could argue, if one believes in fate, that all of us are to an extent pre-destined to be slaves to what our hearts tell us when we meet the right person or persons – so is what happens with Jea-ha or the other dragons really all that different?  It’s an interesting notion to ponder, one of many that would surely be part of one of the more compelling second seasons any recent anime would have received.  Here’s hoping.

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  1. D

    I really don't want this episode to be overlooked just because Yona didn't show her strengths this episode. Despite that fact, this is the most I've ever felt for Yona yet. I don't think I've ever seen such a wide array of emotions from one character in a single episode like this. She was a mindless revenge seeker under Soo-won's cloak, then a grief stricken child as reality sets in on her, and follows that up with being so in denial that she loses all situational awareness until she's had the time to muster up her strength and piece her thoughts together. AoY is genius series, and this just might be my favorite episode.

    A character doesn't need to be brave or strong to be intriguing and complex. I think she stole this episode, even if Jae-ha took most of the screen time.

  2. s

    why manga readers or anybody for that matter have such an urge to spoil things for people? Sometimes ppl are just trolls but legitimately speaking it actually comes from the desire for people to share how much they love whatever they are watching and as a result, they misconstrue their sharing as a positive thing when it actually may be having the opposite effect. On average, people spoil things by accident and more often than not, people spoil things out of a genuine desire to connect with others if that makes any sense. They are filled to the brim with the joy they felt experiencing such content and in an attempt to share that feeling, fail to realize that they might be taking away a person's ability to feel that joy. I say "might" because some ppl, like myself dont really care about spoilers, Im more into how stories are told, the way the medium brings out the best in those stories etc. Regardless of that fact, I am mindful of the fact that a lot of ppl do care about spoilers and so i do my best to never spoil someone when they are trying to enjoy something.

  3. T

    I don't know what I liked more the meeting between Su-Won and Yona or reading the tweets of Kusanagi sensei and Shikata Akiko fangirling about each other works. Its a genuine love that I have to see both things I like come together so well like this.

    I think Hak realized what made Yona break down like that by the eventual reveal of his bloodlust by Jae-ah. its really rare for someone so composed like Hak to show any kind of emotion so Jae-ah observation is spot on but he also adds it was such a sorrowful bloodlust. Probably Hak is just not ready to talk about Su-Won yet.

    Overall I like the theme of bonds in this episode. There are bonds that are forever broken but sometimes maybe the new ones might last a lifetime. Its also nice to see the relationships the dragons had outside of main group because it showed even if most of them came from harsh backgrounds there were still people there to love and care for them. Its because of them they are who they are now. They can now offer that support to their current comrades regardless if its the whole "destiny" thing since I think its safe to say they all have mutual respect and care for each other now. So seeing all of them regroup in the middle of the episode was so nice because now both Yona and Hak have more people in their lives that care about them.

    Oh and the CD of the first cour has been released Enzo in case your interested in buying the soundtrack.

  4. g

    Yeah, this is what I was talking about under previous episode. People don't remember about a bond between Hak & Soo-Won. Their love was a different kind than Yona's towards Soo-Won (I doubt Soo-Won has seen her in a romantic light), brotherly in the nature, but Hak has loved him with the same intensity as Yona did.
    I don't know about Soo-Won but he has held Hak in high esteem at last. I think, even if Soo-won has ever loved Yona, he definitely underestimated her. Well, he still does, he didn't see what she's capable now and saw her shaking as an autumn leaf under his gaze when they met.

  5. T

    I agree and the fact that hak bloodlust is becoming obvious to other people now shows the guy is clearly getting unstable at least in keeping his emotions in check. But I guess we have to wait and see.

    It sucks that Su-Won did not get to see Yona being awesome because even though we the audience know she is amazing Su-Won still sees her as the princess Yona he knew his whole life. I imagine how humiliating it must have been for Yona who just came out of an intense battle and won only to bump into the last person she thought she would run into and breakdown like she did. The girl still has a long way to go but its a nice reminder she is human thus like anyone she still has her own vulnerabilities.

  6. R

    Shikata Akiko and Kusanagi-sensei tweeting about each other's works WHAT WHERE LINK PLEASE? (I can't for the life of me find their twitter accounts)

  7. K


    TBH I would have preferred Shikata Akiko to compose AkaYona's soundtrack rather than Ryou Kunihiko. What we got in the end is solid, but not impressive (or ethnic enough) imo. Shikata was already a fan of the manga/Kusanagi so it would have been the best of both worlds if not for Cross Ange.

  8. A

    I was almost hesitant to scroll down to the comment section after last week's minefield but your opening led me here.
    Everyone including your review has been spot on. Loved how they truly made Su Won, someone hard to hate but not by the way of the usual scheming anti hero like LeLouch or something.
    I'm gonna go on record and say this is the most well paced 2 cour anime that I have watched in a long time.

  9. O

    We need another season of Yona!

  10. T

    There is an announcement that a 4th PV is going be released at AnimeJapan2015. There is going to be a panel and everything. The tweet does not say what the content will be but hey its worth sharing.

  11. K

    Likely nothing other than a Zeno PV since he's the only one missing. (I joked about them releasing a 30 second Zeno PV 12 hours before the last episode will air a while ago, and what do you know.)

    Also, discs have been pushed back to the end of May. At least the second ED hasn't.

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