Akatsuki no Yona, Episode 20

Well, not my favorite episode of the show, following up an episode I also didn’t think was all that great. Akatsuki no Yona‘s had slow pacing throughout the show, but these recent episodes have slowed down the progression of events to a pace that is starting to work against my enjoyment of the show. I think I said this last week, but Yona‘s never been as good at externally motivated conflicts as it’s been at character-driven conflicts. We’re kind of in full plot mode right now, and the action is driving our characters, rather than the other way around.

Akatsuki no Yona

The most obvious indication of how much the pacing has slowed down can be found in the simple exercise of looking at where we were at the beginning of the episode and where we ended up at the end. At the episode’s start, we had Captain Gigan establishing that the pirates needed more information before their attack, but by the end of the episode Yona and Yun had just barely started their infiltration operation. Now, this is slow pacing no matter how you look at it, but in prior episodes such slowness was often augmented with the little bits of characterization that made Akatsuki no Yona such a standout show early on.

We aren’t really getting those moments anymore, at least not in the depth that we used to be. Right before the break into the OP, Yona reflects that she’d like to see Port Awa after it’s healed from the scar Kumuji has left on it, but such reflections are a far cry from the more insightful and compassionate desires that drove the young princess to seek out change in the first place.

Akatsuki no Yona

But, we have what we have and it’s good to see Yona jumping at a chance to help as soon as she sees one. It’s actually kind of a cool moment for her character beyond just the offer to infiltrate and make herself useful—it’s a plan she, some details aside, constructs on her own, with herself taking the bulk of the risk. In other words, not only is she taking action, but she’s created the opportunity for herself to do so. The initial protests of the others on the ship indicate pretty clearly that no one else would have suggested this plan, so it’s Yona’s plan and Yona’s plan alone—one she compels the others to accept, despite their reluctance.

As always, it’s interesting to see the way the other characters react to Yona. Yun, as expected, opposes the plan with expected logic (he’s the first to point out practical flaws in her scheme) and more than just hint of emotion. Hak initially states that he wouldn’t “recommend” it, thereafter lapsing into a brooding silence and calm until his later confrontation with Yona. Ki-ja worries about the danger. And Gigan listens, understands that Yona won’t be dissuaded, acquiesces, and then does everything in her power to ensure that the operation will be successful.

Akatsuki no Yona

If anyone got good character work this episode, though, it was Yun. Although the core of his character was sketched out long ago for us, with the spotlight falling on him a little more this episode, we got some lines from him that went past his normal talking up of his skills or use of his various abilities. It’s been clear for a while, but Yun really cares about Yona a lot and, despite his reluctance to give his approval to the plan, his self-confidence (and, perhaps, desire to support Yona) causes him to utter one of his best lines, “I don’t fight losing battles.” Coming from a professed pacifist, the use of militaristic language is quite telling—battles of wits and skills and intelligence are the place where Yun belongs in this world. It also foreshadows his later conversation with Hak.

I’ve lived more carefully and wretchedly than anyone else. That’s what makes me the best choice.” Yes, Yun has lived a life of being careful and being safe, and he knows it. And, for once, his lack of physical strength is not a barrier, but an empowering state.

Akatsuki no Yona

Although Yona’s converastion with Captain Gigan is touching (her manifesto to Yona is compelling for framing Yona as a protector, rather than the protected) and beautifully accompanied by an alternate arrangement of the first OP, it did feel a bit out of place to me. After all, we’ve not really ever heard Yona or anyone talk about her mother before. It’s the beginning of a new relationship more than it is a reflection of the past, so to reference a melancholic past of emotion we’ve never seen before feels a bit odd.

Furthermore, that particular scene is followed up by what is easily the most emotionally charged scene of the episode—Hak’s confrontation with Yona. Between the shadows and moonlight and the intensity with which Hak is drawn, there’s a sense of uncomfortable distance (to say nothing of the yandere vibes) that seems to have arisen between Hak and Yona, a distance that Hak eventually puzzles out after she’s left. There’s some nice, if indefinite, growth displayed by both of them in this scene, as Yona verbalizes for the first time her uncertainty about her father’s rule, and Hak finds himself further torn between his romantic desires/bodyguard duties and his wish to see what Yona can do without him.

Akatsuki no Yona

So, yeah, that’s that. I still think the episode was a bit lacking as far as engagement goes, but as I’ve come to expect with Yona, writing about the episode pulled out a lot more good stuff than I originally saw in the episode. But it’s really all about that character work. That’s where Yona excels, so I hope we continue to get more of that, even in the midst of the plot-heavy events of the current arc.

14 thoughts on “Akatsuki no Yona, Episode 20

  1. Well the manga is ongoing and its unfortunate you say that but Yona actually does conflict (battle mode) really well later in the series (the opening scene of the first episode indicts to that). The series is all about building up to the big moment and when it does it definitely delivers. But without a doubt this was Yona and especially Yun time to shine in order to show everyone and themselves what they are capable of for the greater good.

    As for Hak i will not defend him but I understand why he was upset, Yona is putting herself in a dangerous situation where non of the physically strong characters will be there to defend her. Keep in mind Hak has known her since she as a child so in a way he still has that fixated view of “princess Yona” so this episode was more like finally realizing that Yona is now a force to be reckoned with. Its great this is the first and last time we see Hak have this kind of attitude with Yona ^_^

    Its great this arc is almost drawing to a close.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is kind of cool to see Hak starting to understand that the Yona at his side now is growing farther and farther away from being the spoiled princess he once knew. Sometimes her eyes seem like a seasoned warrior’s eyes now, but soon enough she will actually be a seasoned warrior. Yona’s growing pains inevitably will cause Hak growing pains, but they’ll both be okay at the end of it all.


  2. Yeah not my favourite either, but definitely a step-up for me from the last couple. It might be that I got a good kick out of all the Yoon-related stuff, because I wasn’t fond of either Hak or Gingas solo scenes with Yona. Mai husbando is getting creepy, and not in a hawt way ;__;

    I disagree about the plot stuff not working though. That was all great! Well built up and paced, and plenty engaging as I watched. I can imagine that the entire episode would be a slog if you didn’t care for it though.

    The most important thing was Yoon in a dress, though. Definitely a season highlight. In fact that whole scene was great, got plenty of laughs this week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I willtake a little different outlooks on this episode. I have been waiting for that moment when Yona becomes a leader / warrior and this may or not be it but it’s a big leap long overdue! If the result takes out good then a plot Arc is worth it!
      I agree that Yona gets that her father was not the best ruler. Whether of his own doing or even forced to keep the peace!Happens everyday in the real world!
      Yes Yun gets some front page time. After Hak Yun is as close to Yona maybe more in some instances.
      The Hak / Yona moment was a big scene too. The whole relationship has changed!
      I like Gigan tuff but supportive . I just wonder who she really is! I threw that out ti be thought about!


    • Now that you mention it, maybe it’s less that the plot isn’t working for me and just more that some of the intervening scenes are making the plot feel slower than it ought to be. I still think that the plot distance we moved in the episode was less than it ought to have been.

      To be entirely honest, I preferred Ao in a dress to Yun, although Yun declaring that he would best Yan Kumji’s wife was pretty hilarious.


  3. For a moment during the episode I wondered what if only Yun was chosen for the ‘work’ instead of both him and Yona. Just because Yun looked a level more beautiful than Yona there. Lol.


  4. This episode confirmed it for me: The squirrel is this show’s best character. Who’s Yona? What Dragons? I only see Ao the squirrel.

    (I actually think AnY has an excellent cast, but that rodent is still the show’s best character. :D)


  5. I definitely agree with you that Yona does a better job with its character dynamics than it does in regards to actual plot. And I’m pretty okay with that, because when it comes to anime (and I guess most other fictional mediums), I tend to get far more engaged in the cast themselves than the external action. That said, I don’t think this episode was bad. I also don’t think it was especially good, but for me it felt like a major step up compared to the previous episode, so I’m a lot happier this week.


    • Overall, definitely, this episode was better than last week’s episode. I’m just wishing for more of those character dynamics, but right now the story isn’t really in a place to indulge them all that much. As I wrote at the end, there was a lot of good stuff in the episode that I didn’t notice until I wrote the post—it’s just that it isn’t doing a great job with me on an engagement level right now. Hopefully that’ll change next episode, though!


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