Akatsuki no Yona, Episode 22

Let it never be said that Akatsuki no Yona can’t do cliffhangers when it wants to do them. I thought last week’s cliffhanger was bad. HA! Laughable! Child’s play! The easiest of easy modes compared to the cliffhanger Akatsuki no Yona dropped on us this week! I almost don’t want to review the other events of this episode and just talking about that, but I’m sure if I tried to do that now it would come out as a blast of incoherent ramblings—so let’s see what this episode had for us.

Akatsuki no Yona

From the moment the firework launched, as if signaling changes in the stars it mimics, Akatsuki no Yona turned into a different show. You can see it in the way Hak strains towards the princess too far away for him to reach. You can see it in the defiant glare Yona gives Kumji’s officers even after being thrown to the ground. You can see it in Yun totally forsaking his own welfare in his desperation to protect Yona. You can see it as Jaeha looks more dragon-like than ever before when he comes to save Yona, no more a charming ladies’ man—the monstrous, mythical beast that sleeps inside him has been awakened. In her unwavering quest to change herself, Yona has ended up changing the people around her, too. You know what we call that? We call it power, or strength.

Sure, Yona fired only a single arrow, but this was an arrow shot in defense of others (including Jaeha). Which got me thinking. All along, Yona’s refrain has been that she wants to protect Hak, protect her other friends. Never once have we heard her express a desire to protect herself, except as it relates to keeping others safe. The scene she has with Yun immediately after Jaeha appears is, I think, indicative of this. Yona’s strength doesn’t simply reside in physical prowess, but in the ways she’s learned and trained herself to think about other people. The princess who once thought only of herself has become truly selfless: she fights for others, worries about others, protects others. Which why I really liked what she said to Yun as he’s beating himself up over not being able to protect her. “You really are a genius,” she smiles at him—and that line tells Yun it’s okay that he’s not Hak and not Ki-ja. Yun did what he could do, and that was more than enough.

Akatsuki no Yona Episode 22 You Really Are a Genius

I should also note that I have nothing but praise for the execution of this episode. Although we didn’t get action on the level of episode 6’s sakuga fight, the editing was dynamic and energetic, complementing well the bursts of animation we got. Pierrot really does deserve a lot of credit for the quality of Yona‘s production—even when we’ve had episodes without much animation, the show looks consistently good and the animation we do get (like in this episode) is crisp and conveys the motion of the fighting characters nicely. And most of the more interpretive creative choices have been excellent, like the grating sound effect overlaid across the shot of Yona realizing that Kumji is going to escape.

And then, of course, there was the beautifully done sequence of the Yona’s shot at KumjiYona seems to revel in juxtaposing Kumji’s vision of past Yona with the reality of who she is now, an understanding nowhere better expressed than Kumji’s line “She’s just a little girl” contrasted with the striking image of a Yona prepared to shoot him down. Once again, Kumji reflects on the princess he glimpsed through the window at the palace, the first OP recalling the first half of the show. I especially loved the black and white still shots we got immediately after Yona fires, with the final shot of Kumji falling into the ocean gradually fading back into color.

Akatsuki no Yona Episode 22 Kumji Dead

But perhaps the most impactful moment in that sequence is when Yona looks up at the sky and recalls her father, the man who hated violence to the point of taking on pain himself to prevent it. And it’s to King Il that Yona directs her plaintive refrain: “Father, have I become stronger?” The answer lies in Hak’s eyes as he stares at the Yona who can know shoot to kill and kill to protect—Yona is strong beyond all the strengths she’s shown up to this point. She has the power to save the people she wants to save.

But what will she do with this power? Su-won’s appearance in the killer cliffhanger is the incarnation of this question. Will Yona seek revenge for her father? Will she choose another path? Coming on the heels of Yona’s reflections about her father, the man who killed her father appears before her—and his appearance will demand she give answers. The light in the center of her eye fades out as she recognizes his voice, but they don’t go completely blank. I think the old Yona would have been left in total shock, but this is the new Yona. Su-won’s presence before her is yet another chance for her to demonstrate the power she’s been cultivating within herself.

Akatsuki no Yona Episode 22 The Meeting

But, man, what a cliffhanger! This is the culmination of twenty-two episode’s worth of tension: all that stuff about Yona’s divine ordinance versus Su-won’s channeling of the people, all the contrasts between King Il and Su-won, the primal pain of betrayal…all of that is behind the force of this meeting. And remember that while we the audience have been seeing Su-won act as king, Yona hasn’t seen him since the night he stabbed her father with a sword and ordered her killed. To her, she’s the man she loved, who killed her father—not the gracious king we know him to be.

A order on the manga order: I heard that, in the manga, the Earth Tribe arc came after the pirate arc, leading directly (I presume) into this meeting. Frankly, I think it was a brilliant choice to move it earlier and let us forget for a bit that Port Awa was in Earth Tribe territory, that Yona and Su-won were in such close proximity. But, more than that, I think moving Yona from a huge character moment into direct contact with Su-won was a brilliant move. We’ve seen so much growth in her over the last few episodes—now it’s time for her progress to be put to the test.

Can’t wait for next week. I don’t really feel like I did an adequate job on this episode, so my recommendation here is just to go watch it again.

 

Akatsuki no Yona

19 thoughts on “Akatsuki no Yona, Episode 22

  1. Ahhh I was wondering if Soo-Won was why you guys were squawking on twitter, I seem to recall violently swearing when I got to that scene in the manga. XD And since you brought it up, I will now give my defense of the manga order of events!
    As you alluded to, here in the anime the viewer has seen Soo Won much more recently than Yona has, both at his coronation and in the Earth Tribe. For the anime, especially considering it’s pacing, that is a smart choice and the line they transitioned into it was a great one as well. However, in the manga Yona hasn’t seen Soo Won in months now and the reader hasn’t either, we along with Yona have been seeing the terrible state of the country and how, even though Soo Won has declared that he would be a different king, nothing seems to have changed yet, that there is always this disconnect between those who rule and those on the ground. And this arc marks when Yona begins to try and change this, she’s gathered her self-confidence back and assessed what she can do and how to best help others, she (like Soo Won) has assisted not lead and to great results.
    And then suddenly BAM, FATHER’S MURDERER shows up and that throws everything she’s done into disarray, will it all be for naught, will she die now instead of a few nights ago? Why is Soo Won even there, if he wanted to enact change, why wasn’t he there sooner? (I know he’s just crowned but you get the point) It makes the shock even greater (especially when you don’t have the OP spoiling all the best shots :< ) and then it goes into what Soo Won is doing which is the story’s way of saying “oh, he’s not just a villain, he’s actually the duteragonist”, it’s a very graceful transition.

    TL;DR: I think the manga version of events was more “epic” and poetic in scope and style so I wish that had been preserved however I think the anime made a good call in regards to it’s own particular situation (especially since both ways really highlight how similar Yona and Soo Won have become in many ways)

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    • “Squawking” lol. & great! I was hoping you’d stop by and give your perspective on the order of things.

      You certainly do make a good case for the manga order of events. If I’m reading you right, Su-won’s little trip the the fire tribe occurs right after this arc—kind of as a flashback to show how he got to the point where he meets Yona? It definitely sounds like that would be more shocking, but I’d argue the anime’s version is poetic, too (although maybe not as “epic”). I really like the parallels between Yona and Su-won that this order highlights, but I suspect the manga version would be great, as well.

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      • Exactly, also, to speak vaguely of future story structure, the yellow dragon arc is shorter and then the story transitions into a frankly massive arc that involves Yona and Soo Won so going to Soo Won for a bit was a nice “break” from Yona’s party for a bit.

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      • Well, not really actually, the argument of “well this version focuses on plot but this one focuses on characters!”, as a defense for why an adaptation that differs is the better one, is an argument that I have particularly detested for a number of years since it always comes across as quite dumb. The manga is also very focused on it’s characters as well as the plot, there’s no but here. Watching the anime has actually made me realize just how “epic” this story is, Funimation’s translations are better crafted than the scanlators and the character’s lines have so much more weight behind them here.

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        • What I meant is that the anime order gives the reunion scene much more impact, as we follow Yona’s journey without a break. We go straight from one big thing about Yona to another.

          While the manga order let us experience the larger picture of the story (scope) and gives off a stronger comparison between Yona’s journey and Su-won’s governance as a king.

          Comparatively, it would seem that the manga order would have a stronger big picture feel. As you said, in the manga, the audience did not know a thing about Su-won’s way of governing a kingdom. Hence when we first meet Su-won again for so long, we get thrown into another plot line.

          If it makes sense, manga order would be an ‘added shock from the plot (why the hell is Su-won doing here?!)’, anime order would be an ‘added shock from the characters (Yona can’t catch a break?! They just fought their hard-earned victory!)’.

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  2. All of anitwitters and aniblogs probably exhausted all the good points to talk about this episode. Its really amazing how many people can agree on something of a medium (anime) that has a lot of abstract and subjective factors. It’s a really positive and empowering feeling, much like this episode.

    The changes to the orders of the arcs are really well done, now that you’ve analysed it. I agree that the anime order set up the Yona and Su-won surprising and coincidental meeting really well. Just when you feel relaxed after the victory and everyone is having party with bottomless plates drinking sake, you have this burst of emotions and tensions from the contact between the two characters that we didn’t really anticipate. The anticipation for the fourth dragon helped in springing the surprise, too.

    Special mention: AO YOU ARE THE BEST. Even though Ao is so small compared to the party of princess, genius, superhuman, and half-dragons, AO STILL DO AO’S BEST TO HELP OTHERS.

    Ao, Aoi, BEST CHARACTERS?!

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    • Oh, man, oh yeah—the roller coaster of emotions that you go through from “Yona did it!” to “Alright, time to chill out now” to “OH MY F— SU-WON” is craaaaaazy.

      Cheers to Ao! Ao is SQUIRREL STRONG. I like how he’s like a creative way of getting through plot points that could be solved other ways (like they could have smuggled in a knife to cut their ropes inside the ship—but no, use a squirrel!).

      You make an interesting connection there between Ao and Aoi…must consider further.

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  3. We all said the cliff-hanger this week was going to make go “NOOO” LOL.

    This was Yona’s big moment most people assumed her crew was going to give the final blow to Kumji, but nope it was Yona that killed him. Needless to say it left everyone shocked and its reflected in Hak eyes that Yona is no longer the pampered princess he knew at the castle. She is even better than before!! I’m actually happy the anime has changed the arcs around because the anime is able to show us early on the kind of King Su-Won is now meanwhile Yona is not aware of those facts and she is going to have to confront the major questions regarding what she will do now after seeing Su-Won again.

    Also in Hana to Yume the creators said there is a seiyuu (voice actors) event happening in October. So there is hope for another season~~

    You need to read the manga after this!!!!!

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    • You guys all told me and I was like, “Nahhh…” You guys were right. You were.

      Yeah, I know VA events have played host to second season announcements before. I would love, love, love to have another season of Yona.

      If I go on with the Yona manga, that will mark two “girls” shows (Chihayafuru as a josei being the first) that have caused me to want to read the manga. Pretty sure Yona’s super close to compelling me to read the manga at this point.

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  4. I have been waiting for Yona to take that big step. She did quite well but you knew the moment arrived when she took out Kumji! All those nights of practice paid off. But the Dragon inside came to life!

    So the Name Yona of the Dawn was coined by Gigan.

    Nice action all over the place but then Su-won cliffhangar

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  5. Man, what a great episode! Probably the best since the couple that revolved around Shin-Ah and his backstory, and definitely the best so far in terms of action. Now excuse me while I go fangirl some more.

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    • I about died on Twitter over this episode—I thought it would happen. Idk if it was fanboying or fangirling or what, but it was crazy and hot damn this episode was good.

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  6. Just to clarify, but Soo-won actually went to the Earth Tribe capital after he went to Awa. The small arc wasn’t a flashback or anything in the manga.

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  7. I suppose one can be a cold-blooded murderer and a gracious king, but I’m getting much more Richard III from Soo-Won than Henry V.

    Will there be another cour? We haven’t met the Golden Dragon yet.

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  8. Yeah … the Earth tribe arc takes place after the Awa arc in the manga … in real-time, not as a flashback. In other words, Soo-won shows up unannounced in Awa first before proceeding to Chishin, the Earth tribe capital.

    I definitely think the decision to shift the timeline in the anime is a smart narrative choice. To end the series after the Earth Tribe arc would be awkward. And the juxtaposition between Soo-won’s visions for the kingdom and Yona’s coming face-to-face with those who suffered under her father’s governance is a strong and powerful moment. Not to mention, I think it was necessary to re-establish Soo-won’s presence and importance to the narrative. I know people were annoyed by the shift in focus from Yona’s journey to Soo-won, but the point is: Yona’s journey isn’t the only thing happening here. Soo-won is also making moves at the same time with significant consequences to follow later on (which we will never see, sadly). It’s easy to dismiss the interlude with Geun-tae as superfluous or redundant, but … it really isn’t. There are plot payoffs later on, so I think it would be a mistake to excise this bit too.

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    • Oh, that’s interesting. I’m even more interested in what’s about to happen between Yona and Soo-won now that I know Soo-won’s actions in the Earth Tribe come after his meeting with Yona. Clearly, there’s some rearranging going on, but that’s a really interesting recontextualization of events that the anime’s done.

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