「紅い髪」 (Akai Kami)
That was some fantastic action animation.
I think it’s fair to say now that if you’re not watching Yona, you’re missing out on one of the best shows of the season. Even without the great action this episode, this series has been consistently good and often great. It’s sad that there isn’t much of a following, but I’m not surprised. There’s a lot of stigma associated with the shoujo genre, which is an interesting topic in and of itself. In an extremely simplified view, you tend to either get something good with shoujo themes, or something along the cage route. Unfortunately the cage route is prolific. Whether or not the stigma is justified is irrelevant; the point comes down to the fact that shoujo anime tends to have to “prove itself”, for better or worse, and I think Yona has done a great job of doing just that.
Setting aside the fact that the action was great this episode, there is something even better happening as far as characterization and narrative go. We are witnessing a change in Yona, and as we all learned in middle school, dynamic characters are always better than static ones. But Yona is not the only one undergoing a metamorphosis. Hak and Soo-won are also being depicted as increasingly interesting people whose lives have also been irrevocably changed. But while Hak’s resolution to protect Yona and Soo-won’s ambition to take the throne have strengthened, Yona is still discovering who she is and what she wants outside of her role as a princess. She doesn’t have a lofty ambition, or a particular dream. All she wants is to survive at the moment, and she absolutely doesn’t want to lose Hak in the process.
That’s an interesting dynamic we have here; Yona isn’t just interested in supporting Hak, or in being content to let him protect her. It isn’t really about expressing herself either. She genuinely cares for Hak, and she selfishly (or selflessly, depending on your perspective) doesn’t want to see him die before her eyes. Though he seems a lost cause, surrounded by merciless soldiers and poisoned at the precipice of a cliff, she takes matters into her own hands in the form of Tae-jun’s sword. She doesn’t hesitate for a second to slash off her own hair in order to save Hak (keep in mind that this is a pampered royal girl we’re talking about; if you’ve ever had your hair cut with a blade you know it HURTS), nor does she hesitate to use the sword to show she means business. The fire in her eyes is very real, and she’s mesmerized everyone around her with her newfound ferocity.
Of course, ferocity isn’t a proper replacement for strength or training, and it was pretty clear that even if Yona did get Hak back up, he was never going to survive the Fire Tribe’s attacks. That they fell together was almost a stroke of luck. Injured they may be, but they are still alive and now they have no pursuers. Even more luckily, they’ve been found by the very people they were searching for in the first place, The Priest Ik-soo and his assistant/caretaker Yoon. The latter introduces himself as a self-proclaimed bishounen, while the former proves himself an incredibly ditzy but powerful spiritualist who claims he can speak with God.
In the meantime, Soo-won has been told of Yona’s supposed death, but while his inner self is clearly pained at her loss, he refuses to let the knowledge undo his determination to become king. Whatever Soo-won has done, it’s clear that he has some very strong views on how to be a proper king, and it looks like he’s dead set on seeing them through.