Akatsuki no Yona, Episode 11

I know when I usually say, “This will be a shorter post,” it’s not, but I actually expect that to be true this time. As enjoyable as this episode was to watch, there wasn’t really that much going on, as most of the stuff with depth involved Ki-ja and simply expanded on the issues he has managing external expectations of his destiny and his internal desires to be useful to Yona. His dragon nature and his status as the hope of the White Dragon village both influence the ways he thinks about Yona and his role by her side. I’ll try and unpack his particular emotions from this episode a little more, but if you really want to see what I believe the core of Ki-ja’s character is built on, I encourage you to read my post from last week.

Akatsuki no Yona

Of course, now that I say that…I think I’m more interested in talking about Hak. There’s obviously a sort of macho competition between him and Ki-ja over “protect the princess” rights, but some of the things he said this episode made me think his eagerness to tease Ki-ja is more than just his hobby or his protectiveness of Yona. I almost wonder if Hak holds some insecurities about Ki-ja joining the party, as he’s just a man among dragons with divinely ordained power. Much of his interactions with Ki-ja feel as if he’s testing the dragon, but not to see if Ki-ja can protect the princess—but to gauge his own power and see if he still has a place by her side

Because Hak’s devotion to Yona is of a different order than Ki-ja’s. Where Ki-ja follows and serves her on the orders of heaven and because of the expectations of his people, Hak protects Yona for what can only be described as personal reasons. From Ki-ja’s perspective, Hak does indeed possess the power to stand on equal ground as he does—and that while injured. Hak pushing himself to the point of injuring himself again also says a lot. Certainly, faced with mere bandits, there was no reason for him to push himself that hard. But Hak isn’t just fighting bandits: he’s battling the heavens for a place at Yona’s side, to prove he belongs there.

Akatsuki no Yona

Yun, too, is in an interesting place as a young man without any sort of fighting capacity, but he seems to be finding his place by Yona’s side by using his head, as is appropriate for him. It’s nice to seem him occasionally acting as the voice of reason, occasionally acting as the main planner for the group, occasionally acting as the healer, and occasionally prompting Yona’s growth and asking her to question her own desires. He’s actually probably the closest to her in terms of their respective places in the party: much less of a soldier and much more of an aide. Neither of them can rely on their physical strength to make them useful, so while Yona trains, Yun makes use of the tools he has.

Which, somewhat illogically, leads me to Ki-ja, who is pained by his inability to makes use of the tools he does have. There’s almost a look of self-loathing in his eyes as he anguishes under the starry sky about Yona’s exhaustion and fights his own guilt. It’s also interesting that he turns to the Blue Dragon, calling out and invoking the same destiny that drives him to follow her. Even after discovering that Yona is fighting in her own ways to protect the things she holds dear, all he can do is wish that he could do more himself. It’s really interesting to see Ki-ja, in that, find identification with Yona that moves him beyond simple devotion to her as his destined king into a place where he sees Yona as someone similar to him.

Akatsuki no Yona

And what better place is there to end than with the princess herself? Hak’s comment sheds some light on Yona’s earlier statement that “nothing could terrify me more than that night.” It’s not dying that she fears; it’s being powerless and unable to protect the people important to her. What I love most about this, though, is that Yona doesn’t lose her greatest strength—her desire to understand others—even as she struggles to train herself in the techniques necessary to take lives. And there’s a newfound confidence in her eyes that appears as she tells Ki-ja that she needs him. He reacts as if lovestruck, but Yona’s face says nothing of love—no, there’s a certainty of purpose there informs the way she speaks to him. She may not see him as a tool, but she’s going to demand all of the unique abilities he has.

So, that’s our brief check in with each of our characters! Hopefully next week presents us with some more of that interesting mythological stuff that I so dearly love Yona for.

Akatsuki no Yona

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