「選んだ扉」 (Eranda Tobira)
“The Chosen Door”
This episode is pretty much everything I could ask from a good writer.
Though not as action packed or necessarily central to the story as this episode is, it does something fairly important that not so many anime are interested in doing nowadays. Way back when, it was usually expected that most, if not all, of the characters in a show had some kind of backstory; you were supposed to know at least something about how the character became who they were, and what that meant about the kind of person they would be in the midst of the plot. True, some stories overdid it a little and perhaps you can think of a few where the focus was lost a little because of it, but I think Yona is doing a solid job with Yoon and Ik-soo’s story.
In the first place, not that many narratives today are all that interested in fleshing out parent-child relationships unless there’s some shock factor or negative twist, and while that’s fine, it’s nice to see a positive relationship between a child and their parent-figure. Parent and child or brotherly, the fact is that Yoon and Ik-soo are a family of sorts, and they look out for one another in their own special way. We already knew that Yoon looked after Ik-soo’s clumsiness, but now we also see that in exchange, Ik-soo provides companionship and care for his intelligent and capable charge.
For the first time, we’ve also been exposed to the state of Kouka outside of Yona’s palace and the Wind Tribe. Yoon grew up in abject poverty, so much so that he lived in a desolate and run down village, constantly on the verge of starvation. The fact that Ik-soo traveled around giving away (and being robbed) his worldly possessions to the needy also seems to imply that at least in the not so distant past, Kouka was suffering terribly. There’s not a whole lot said about the cause, but we can definitely wonder at the state of the country and whether or not this had to do with King Il’s reign.
Yoon becomes attached to the traveling priest after an attempt to rob him goes awry, and after giving Ik-soo medical attention, Ik-soo teaches Yoon how to make straw sandals. Though the boy lives alone and in poverty, he’s a gifted child; not only does he learn the craft quickly, he is also literate, and as he tells Yona, he can remember a book after reading it only once. When Ik-soo leaves, Yoon takes it upon himself to earn an honest living as a seller of sandals, but when the priest returns sometime later, he realizes just how lonely he had been since Ik-soo left. Yoon ends up accompanying Ik-soo into hermitage, where Yona and Hak have now found them.
The relationship is simple and sweet; Yoon is an amazingly smart kid who longs for companionship and Ik-soo is the overly kind and rather useless person who ends up taking him under his wing. Simple though it is, it’s quite heartwarming, and it makes the fact that Ik-soo wants Yoon to leave with Yona all the more saddening. Clearly Yoon is going to be important to Yona’s destiny (and personally I find their relationship to be quite great, they’re a bit like siblings), but that doesn’t make leaving Ik-soo behind any less sad.