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.