So, I realized that, as far behind as I was, if I tried to write individual posts for these episodes I would never ever ever catch up. I’m also not sure I could really make full episode posts out of each of these episode (14, I could have, I think), so it’s nice to be able to just focus on a few moments from each and then move on to the next one. In any case, we’ll be back on schedule next week. Woo!
Following up the power of the Blue Dragon’s backstory was never going to be easy, but Yona’s confrontation with the Blue Dragon in his cave carried a lot of power all on its own. Here, we see Yona at her most fearless, because she is at her most certain. Having met Ki-ja and having felt the warmth of the Blue Dragon’s hand, his sword seemingly means nothing to her. It is not a threat, only an expression of his pain.
But I do very much appreciate that the Blue Dragon refuses to go with Yona at their first meeting, and that she accepts, at least for that moment, his decision. Yona seems to understand instinctively that she cannot bully and she cannot force these people to bend to her will—she can only convince them through the strength of her conviction.
The other big moment in this episode, as always, was one of Hak’s non-trolling moments, as he desperately tears at the cave in with his bare hands, drawing blood without regard to his own safety or health. What’s even more powerful is to see him beg the deceased King Il not to take Yona from him, to preserve his duty and his orders. It’s a moment deeply revealing of Hak’s potentially conflicting reasons for protecting Yona—is she the girl he loves, or is she the daughter of the king he served? Can she be both to him? And what are the implications for him with either or both of those? Hak has chosen a hard path; in a lot of ways, he reminds me of Chihayafuru‘s Taichi, always taking the most difficult route because that’s where his heart leads him.
Well, that was a knockout episode from Akatsuki no Yona in an arc that’s been full of them. The Blue Dragon has probably been the most sympathetic character we’ve yet met—although sometimes I feel Hak approaches Taichi-level suffering in his relationship with Yona—and pretty much all of Yona’s interactions with him are heartwarmingly generous on the show’s part. I talked a lot in my earlier posts about how I thought one of Yona’s defining goals was her desire to understand other people on their own terms and to do it better. We get a lot of that in this episode, of her generosity of spirit, and not only with the Blue Dragon. Yona’s line about the villagers, “I’m glad they aren’t people who would abandon their families,” I think, speaks to a deep grace that Yona has chosen to show to everyone she encounters, whether they be friend or foe. This could very well end up being a weakness for her—indeed, I expect that it will—but I think it’s better to trust and regret, rather that reverse (10 points to anyone who knows what anime I’m referencing there).
But we don’t just get generous Yona this episode. We also get a chance to see driven, demanding, and selfish Yona—the necessary counterpart that allows her to be so good to others. Except Hak. Poor, poor Hak. No matter how beautiful the moments with the Blue Dragon were, including Yona’s naming of him (such a hugely important scene), the headliner this episode was Yona’s brief encounter with Hak at the lakeside. Her two commands to him: “Call me Princess. Remember my father and his daughter.” Despite how often Yona reiterates that she wants to eventually protect Hak, she still has to lean on him right now. And this request asks Hak to deny his own feelings for the sake of his duty. What a brutal distinction for him to have to make, when the two have more or less been in sync this entire time. That moment floored me. It was amazingly tough to watch, and yet Hak kneels before his princess and tells her that it was King Il he prayed to in the tunnels. Man.
And then we got this episode. Oh, boy, does Akatsuki no Yona like to mess with its audience or what? For me, this episode seems like a blatant middle finger to all the people who are complaining about the show’s overall pacing—a leisurely, mostly comedic episode away from our main characters. “Oh, you don’t like the way we’re taking our time with the progression of the plot? What if we spent an entire episode on set-up for episode 16? How do you like that, ha!?”
But, of course, if all you saw in this episode was a cheery diversion from the “serious” plot, you’re missing practically everything of importance. Soo-won isn’t at the Earth Tribe capital to sightsee and he certainly isn’t there to play games. He’s there to find out who is truly loyal to him, whose loyalty he can gain, and how he can get it. We have the privilege of knowing what Guen-tea does not: that Soo-won is willing to do anything he needs to in order to achieve his goals. Masked by a deceptively naive disposition, Soo-won has discovered a powerful weapon in the form of the Earth Tribe’s leader and an even stronger one in the form of the Earth Tribe’s love of Guen-tea. When Guen-tea inevitably rides into battle at Soo-won’s command, his entire tribe will follow him.
The preview for next episode confirms exactly what Soo-won’s gambit has been. He will find out exactly the nature of the men he rules and he will master them. This episode was disturbingly peaceful. I’m ready for the next week. (Oh, and the new OP would be great if it was for any show that wasn’t Yona.)