Akatsuki no Yona: Sono Se niwa (OVA)

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OVAs like this are the very epitome of mixed emotions.

This certainly isn’t the last time this year I’ll be writing about Akatsuki no Yona, a series I’ve come to love unreservedly.  But it may be the last time I’ll be writing about new anime for the franchise, which is an exquisitely sad thought.  Yet the act of reuniting with these characters for 22 short minutes is an absolute pleasure, the kind of effortless enjoyment very few series can aspire to.  That’s why OVAs for series we love are such an emotionally complicated proposition.

It hasn’t been a great couple of years for anime generally, but it has been a good run for shoujo fantasy – especially at Pierrot, the studio that’s more closely identified with the genre than any other.  As fond as I am of the likes of Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii and Akagami no Shirayukihime, I think Yona is the best of the bunch (though Akagami still has a cour to make its case).  The combination of fascinating plot and superb cast here is truly special, and the humor is an underrated part of Yona’s appeal as well.  Simply put, this is a terrific series.

As OVAs go, Sono Se niwa is a fairly representative example – it covers two bonus chapters from the manga, “On That Back” and “Kija”.  As canon material that’s not essential to the main storyline this is good material for an OVA, but it should be noted that it’s a pretty important bit of character development for Kija (and to an extent Jae-ha as well).  Kija isn’t among my favorite characters in this series but there’s no one in the main cast I don’t like, or that doesn’t make an interesting subject for character study.

The A-part is Akatsuki no Yona’s take on an onsen episode, and as you can imagine it’s done with considerably more dignity and class than the typical example.  Set sometime after the final episode of the anime, the story sees Team Yona stumble (thanks to Sinha’s eyes) across a derelict old onsen ryokan deep in the woods, and decide to take a little break for some R & R.  Much to Jae-ha’s disappointment there are no Konyokuburo (mixed-gender rotemburo, quite the norm for these rural hot springs actually).  But that gender segregation does settle the question once and for all – Ao is in fact a girl (how I’ve missed that “P’kyuu!”).

There’s some funny stuff here as the gang interacts in the onsen environment (I loved the bit where Ao rode on Yona’s shoulder and blinked at exactly the same rate she did, and the way Yoon just can’t stop being a nurturer even in the bath) but things get a bit serious when Kija refuses to go into the bath with the others.  Jae-ha assumes it’s because of the scars on his back, which Kija says he received from his father, the previous White Dragon, and endeavors to protect Kija’s secret (though it turns out Kija was just afraid of a spider).  It’s especially interesting watching Jae-ha and Hak – the two alpha males in the group – get into a semi-serious rutting match, even as Jae-ha is putting on a show for the purpose of protecting what he thinks is Kija’s painful secret.

The B-Part – “Kija” – is basically the Hakuryuu’s memories of his time as a child in his village, and how he got that scar on his back.  It’s emotional without being overwrought – which is this series’s specialty – and serves as a reminder of just what those who’ve been “blessed” with the blood of the dragon have been forced to give up for the privilege.  The matter of the Dragons and their free will has always been one of the fascinating subtexts of Akatsuki no Yona, bubbling forever just beneath he surface, and this storyline again teases it out in a very interesting way.

Will we see another season of Akatsuki no Yona?  I’ve certainly asked that question in this space before, and while I still of course don’t know the answer, I will say that the more time passes without one the less likely the eventuality becomes.  The anime ended up selling decently for a shoujo (especially considering how absurdly delayed the releases were), and the manga received a very solid boost – but my guess is that it just wasn’t enough.  I’ve been holding off on reading the manga, hoping that announcement would come, but it may be time to face reality and start reading.  I’ll be excited to do so, but make no mistake – this is a very special anime, and it’d be a real shame if we don’t get any more of it.  As always with shows this good and non-commercial, though, the best thing to do is be grateful that it was produced in the first place, and appreciate how lucky we were to have it.

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ED: “Egao no Rensa (笑顔の連鎖)” by Cyntia

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9 comments

  1. S

    It's too early to lose hope, but yeah, manga it is for me right now. It's just nice to see them again after many months, and there's still definitely a lot to tell. Perhaps after a year or so?

    On another note, have you seen Kamisama Kiss past arc OVA? It was out this August/September. Will you review it too? It has a pretty score in MAL so far and the PV seems interesting.

  2. Y

    Shit, how I've missed this. It's such a shame that we probably won't be getting a second season; the story only gets better and better, and I would have loved to see some of the more recent chapters animated. But hey, no can do; gotta suck it up and feel grateful, I guess. Also, are we sure Ao's a girl? Make no mistake, I have read this chapter in the manga, but if I recall correctly, the only reason why Ao was in the same bathing space as Yona was because the guys didn't want her to be alone, and Ao isn't a human, so… that happened. I don't remember any gender confirmation being done? Might be just me. Anyway, I wanted to ask you if you'd be willing to blog the manga chapters now that you plan on reading them. Not gonna lie, I'd be delighted if you did — especially concerning all the events that occur past chapter 70 and from then onwards.

  3. T

    Kusanagi confirmed on her twitter account that Ao a girl

  4. H

    I agree. It would be a shame to miss out your impressions in all those wonderful scenes that are to come. If you could do reviews, I'm sure we all would appreciate it.

  5. H

    I would love too to read your impressions in all the content of the manga, and I'm sure we aren't the only ones. I just can't help but to think that it would be a shame to miss out your thoughts on some scenes and I'm sure that I'm not the only one.

  6. K

    I'd say go for the manga. I am caught up now and it actually made me want the second season of the anime even more because there are so many wonderful scenes I want animated. I read these two chapters for the OVA beforehand and I still enjoyed them just as much animated (and there were a few nice added touches not in the manga)

    Of course the anime is great but it almost feels like an appetizer to the main course. And trust me the whole story on the manga is a wonderful meal.

    Although I am trying not to get my hopes up there is going to be a seiyuu event for the series on October 4th. I don't know how many second season announcements happen at those but just maybe….

  7. T

    Well there is the seiyuu event that is happening in October so there is hope yet, but I'm not really holding my breath. If anything the news of the stage play really surprised me. (I mean who saw that coming?). If anything Enzo I was wondering if your going to do a manga review for each chapter like you do for otoyomegatari? I really would love to hear your opinions about where the manga is at now and it would be a shame for the discussion of AnY to end in the year end review.

  8. P

    I gave up hope awhile back and started reading the manga, it's good with lots of characterization. But I don't foresee a second season for the reason that it's pacing is on the slow side, it does well for the narrative but not sure how it would go over for a mainstream anime.

  9. r

    Argh, want … to see … Tae-jun's arc animated. Ah well, I guess with shoujo, one has to take what one can get.

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