The first of our 4-part watchalong of the fantasy epic Yona of the Dawn with Caitlin, Peter, and special guest Gabriella!
Date Recorded: Friday 30th December 2018
Hosts: Caitlin, Peter
0:03:09 First impressions
0:06:16 The first episode
0:18:39 Complex villains
0:33:02 Yona’s dad
0:52:07 Final thoughts
CAITLIN: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist Podcast. Today, we’re starting our watchalong of the shoujo series Yona of the Dawn.
My name is Caitlin and I’m a writer and editor for Anime Feminist as well as writing about anime for The Daily Dot and my own long-neglected blog, I Have a Heroine Problem. today, I am joined by our own Peter Fobian and special guest Gabriella Ekens.
PETER: I’m Peter Fobian, I’m an Associate Features Editor at Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist.
GABRIELLA: Hey, I’m Gabriella Ekens. I write for Anime News Network, most recently for the Thunderbolt Fantasy season two daily streaming reviews.
CAITLIN: Yeah, all right.
PETER: Doing God’s work .
CAITLIN: And I gotta say, some of the most interesting and high-concept preview reviews on the site have been from you. Your Pop Team Epic reviews were just like… I’m gonna take this show’s weirdness and throw it right back.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, those review nearly killed me. It was fun doing university while writing those ’cause I had to come up with something, then I had to format it. But people seem to like them. It was fun.
CAITLIN: Yeah, you did some pretty incredible work. This is a little bit more straightforward than Pop Team Epic though.
CAITLIN: Yona of the Dawn is a shoujo action-adventure series that has been running in Hana to Yume since 2009. The Japanese release is currently at 27 volumes. The English version is being put out by Viz’s Shojo Beat line and it started not long after the anime broadcast in the US. And the anime ran from Fall 2014 through Winter 2015, animated by Studio Pierrot.
It doesn’t really have a particularly interesting or storied history as far as I know, it’s pretty straightforward, but I have been a big fan of it ever since the anime started running and it was just like… this is my shit. Just inject this directly into the veins.
This is the sort of series that got me into anime that unfortunately, they don’t really make a lot of anymore. They don’t make a lot of adventure shoujo shows anymore, which is too bad because I love them so much. And Yona of the Dawn was exactly what I’ve been craving and what I have never stopped craving and what I continue to crave.
And after the anime ran, I started buying the manga and I still buy the new releases every two months when they come out. It’s not particularly interesting or exciting history like we have with some of the watchalongs, but… oh well.
Peter and Gabbo, do you have any… Did you go into this with any prior knowledge or expectations?
GABRIELLA: I guess for me I watched the first episode when it first came out, was it like, two years ago?
GABRIELLA: I thought the first episode was kind of generic, so I didn’t watch any more, but as a season went on, my friends got more and more into it and I was like… This seems cool, but I never just started watching it again. But I’ve been hearing great things about it.
PETER: It is a rough first episode.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, it’s a little—it sort of undercuts, undersells to show a bit.
PETER: I, for a long time, got Yona mixed up with Snow White with the Red Hair.
GABRIELLA: Oh, easy mistake.
CAITLIN: I can see why. Because they are both about—they’re both fantasy series about redheads, and they’re pretty contemporaneous. I think they came out were very close to each other.
PETER: I very much liked Twelve Kingdoms, and so I am interested in both Yona and Snow White with the Red Hair as other adventure shoujo series. Neither is isekai though, are they?
CAITLIN: No… Snow White with the Red Hair isn’t really an adventure series.
PETER: Dee’s been trying to sell it in a variety of ways to me, so; but yeah, if it could capture any of the magic of Twelve Kingdoms, which is probably one of my favorite anime, then I was definitely interested. So that’s the extent of my knowledge.
CAITLIN: So do you feel like so far it has it’s on track to do that?
PETER: Mmm, I would not… We’re early yet, but I feel like it’s gotten kind of a more—it honestly reminds me more of Fushigi Yugi than Twelve Kingdoms, so far. I think there are definitely some similar elements, and there’s that flash-forward. So I’m eager to see what happens when it gets into it.
But I think Twelve Kingdoms had a very unique start and kind of this really grim feeling about it. Whereas Yona is a lot more of that kind of “set up social relationships” and has that alternating normal character designs, and kind of like the goofy joking around character designs that I’m much more familiar with in shoujo series.
CAITLIN: I think the Fushigi Yugi comparison is really fair. A lot of people made that, myself included.
Now, I think the comparison is unfair to Fushigi Yugi because it does some different things, but I’m not gonna get into that whole thing right now; but definitely when Yona came out, it was like, “Oh this is doing the same thing as Fushigi Yugi but better.” And it’s definitely a less messy show. But I love both of them a lot, so… So, shall we get into it?
PETER: Sure, sounds good.
CAITLIN: So the show did have a really, really slow start. I feel like that first flash-forward in the first episode is almost like, “Hey, we know how this looks, we know how Yona comes across, but bear with us.”
PETER: [crosstalk] Stick with it, please, you’ll get some.
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] She gets better pretty quick
CAITLIN: She does a lot of growing.
PETER: Yeah, through the first episode I was really concerned, but then it was dramatic the increase. ‘Cause even the dialogue was just like—I think she and Hak got in a fight and then her father’s like “You shouldn’t treat [each other] that way. Both of you being childhood friends and him being one of my top five generals, of course.”
It was like, geez, that’s the most elegant way you could throw in all that character information. But yeah, after two, I was like, okay, that was just them trying to get right into the meat of things as quickly as possible.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, my, my general rule is that if you start doing super-deformed antics before you’ve established the stakes in the show, like in the first episode, or who anyone really is… That’s kind of a bad sign and that’s what the show does. And that’s why I was turned away, but that dropped really, really quick and got right into the drama really fast.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it almost spends a lot of time, I think, on the character set-up, not just in the first episode, but the first few episodes; like the third episode was like two-thirds flashbacks to their childhood, and I get what they were doing, but… I think they didn’t need to do that much with it. They say, “Show don’t tell,” but it was a lot of showing in a 24-episode show, when you could be getting to the actual plot.
PETER: Well, I kind of sympathize because it’s obviously trying to tell a story where Yona, Hak, and Su-Won are really close childhood friends, have a lot of history together, and you really need to establish that because of what happens. But you also… What happens is the hook that drives the plot in, the adventure and all the interesting stuff. So you have to balance the actual events of the story that are the appeal with showing people why his betrayal is so significant and traumatizing to Hak and Yona.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and I don’t know, I have really mixed feelings. Because the first episode in particular—Gabbo, you said it drove you away and I think it had that effect on quite a few people, but I also think like a lot of that setup does drive a lot of the emotional payoff. They put a lot of work into establishing that Yona is a very silly, spoiled, kind of shallow person at the beginning. She gets everything she wants except for Su-Won.
And it’s not dismissive of her feelings. It strikes a really good balance between—she is spoiled and all she really thinks about is really just like superficial things, and her father is incredibly indulgent—without being like, “Oh you silly girl! You’re just in love with this boy who you can’t have… And that’s ridiculous.” ‘Cause her love for Su-Won is really, really important to the show .
GABRIELLA: And it’s not like a shallow infatuation. Well, I think it’s a young infatuation, but they do—even beyond the romantic angle, they do care about each other deeply, so it’s not just like a crush sort of leading her in this way, which helps.
PETER: And it wasn’t just ’cause he’s hot either, ’cause he’d been nice to her and helped her overcome her mother’s death and stuff. So he was definitely present and there were aspects of his character that she loved, not just like “that’s the hottest guy around.”
CAITLIN: And he’s sweet, too.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, yeah, he’s a nice guy, until…
PETER: [laughs] He seems like a nice guy. Even Hak likes him too. they’re all best friends so it’s obvious he’s like, a really stand-up cool dude, especially when there’s a lot of apparently shitheels in court trying to suitor.
CAITLIN: Like there was… So there was that one flashback later in the episode, where Su-Won was like… “I don’t want everything, Hak, I want you.”
GABRIELLA: Whooooa yeah, I noticed that. I was like, hmm.
CAITLIN: But anyway… And Yona’s the kind of show where it doesn’t feel like silly shipping to get that passion too.
GABRIELLA: I’m curious to see where that will go, whether they’ll play into it a little more.
CAITLIN: Yeah, yeah, and the show is just like… Like I said, it is everything that I ever want in an anime… well except for a conclusive ending, which the manga’s working on, but it is perfect.
Like, Yona’s such a great heroine, she does so much growing during the show and you kinda start to see that in the… towards the end of this stretch. All of the character relationships are really satisfying and well-thought-out. The world is really well-developed and there’s a lot of… We don’t get into this yet, but I will say, sort of the socio-political elements of the world is really, really well-thought-out and researched and considered, just like the character growth and the character relationships.
[passionately] It’s everything I want in a fantasy series. Why can’t we have more shoujo like this?!
GABRIELLA: They should do Red River with MAPPA.
CAITLIN: God, yeah, and I have literally been hollering for exactly this: MAPPA Red River series directed by, if not Sayo Yamamoto—
GABRIELLA: Do Utsumi.
GABRIELLA: Do the Banana Fish director; the Free! lady?
CAITLIN: Yeah, Utsumi would be great for—like a female director, although Yona doesn’t have a female director—but a female director who really gets the bodice-ripper appeal of it. But we’re not talking about Red River. Maybe someday we’ll talk about a Red River anime, but today we’re talking about Yona.
GABRIELLA: I was wondering how much of the manga does this anime cover.
CAITLIN: Let me pull a random volume off of my shelf.
PETER: It’s interesting to hear it’s so long.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s still running and it’s at 27 volumes. It’s definitely an epic. I don’t have any random volumes on my shelf because I lent them to my friends.
PETER: Like shoujo Kingdom.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and it is… this setting is a little bit different. Most sources I looked at said it takes cues from a lot of the East Asian setting of the time period, but the most obvious one is Korea. They have Korean names and their clothes—Yona wears a hanbok. By the way, to any Korean-speaking listeners, I apologize if I mutilate any of the names.
I saw people having a discussion online when they were trying to figure out what the name Yona means. It’s like “I can’t find anything about it, and it doesn’t have kanji, so I can’t just look up the kanji.” Like guys, it’s a Korean name, it means Lotus.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, those names are all super Korean if you’ve ever known a Korean person.
CAITLIN: Yeah, which I did know a lot of Korean people in high school, ’cause I went to a gifted program in LA. So, but how do you guys feel about Yona so far?
GABRIELLA: What I really like about her is that she feels like a balance between… There seems to be two types of generic heroines for this type of show. There’s the super-girly damselly who’s like—there’s the princess type and there is a warrior type.
And I think Yona’s a good balance between the two, because we are watching the development of the princess type into the warrior type without sacrificing, so far, her feminine qualities or repudiating that, And it’s not Mary Sue-ish. She’s not like a fainting damsel or the ultimate “badass princess who was taught all martial arts by my dad.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s never really presented that she’s wrong for caring about her clothes or her hair or like—she does because she is so spoiled, and she was never really given anything else to care about… She never had any other reason to care about things, but not that she is a bad person because she is interested in these things, or [that] being girly is a bad thing for her. That has been her life, so far, ’cause that is sort of what she’s been set up to do.
PETER: Yeah, I think they kind of portray it through the light of: that’s the type of life that her father wanted for her, which is why he avoids international conflict and stuff like that. He wants his people to live in peace, so she is able to live in a setting where she doesn’t need to worry about an opposing army or something like that. At least at the beginning. So I feel like that was kind of part and parcel to that. The lifestyle was kind of part of her father’s ideal.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and she’s not going to be queen. Whoever she marries will become king. She will be queen but it’s sort of the implication that she doesn’t need to worry about it, because she’s gonna be set up to marry someone who knows how to run the country. Well, we’ll see how that turns out. I do think, Peter, there’s some parallels between Yona and Youko in Twelve Kingdoms at the start.
PETER: Mm, you think so?
CAITLIN: I think so. Not totally, but they’re both sort of thrown—obviously Youko didn’t have a Hak figure—but they’re both sort of torn out of these lives that they’ve known, and thrown into this terrifying, totally unfamiliar situation where they kinda have to survive and the whole world just seems hostile to them.
PETER: Yeah. Well I guess Yoko couldn’t really defend herself. It was mostly her—whatever that ghost guy was. God, why’d I forget his name? So, if Hak is kinda the allegory for that, there’s definitely kind of… And I think this is pretty common of isekai, even though Yona is not an isekai, where you’re thrown into the traumatizing experience, and maybe the first half of the first season is just literally coming to terms with where you are and that this is your new life and you have to make the best of it. Which is why right at the end, we got her big moment.
By the way, you didn’t tell me that Yona was based in the world of One Piece.
PETER: I mean that was obviously Emperor Haki she was using to make the guys unable to attack her.
GABRIELLA: Oh, I thought she was using the Mystic Eyes of Medusa, from Fate/stay night.
PETER: It could be a Fate series too. Yeah, Emperor Haki makes people foam at the mouth and fall over or unable to attack. So I guess that guy was strong-willed.
CAITLIN: It’s been a very long time since I watched or read—well, I’ve never watched One Piece, it’s been a very long time since I read One Piece.
PETER: I do think that was interesting, by the way, that Fire General who was introduced in that flashback earlier, is sort of coming after her. He actually was very upset that he believed that he was responsible for her death and didn’t wanna kill her. I think in most series, they probably would have just made that guy a cackle-fiend.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, yeah, that’s what I was thinking, they had the scene for him.
PETER: He was really upset and wanted to get some sort of punishment for getting them killed. He was obviously ambitious and an asshole. But I think it kind of made me wonder if the series—well that and with Su-Won—how much the series is going to try to sort of portray everyone, especially the villains, as complex individuals who aren’t entirely evil.
‘Cause you can definitely go that way with a shoujo like this, too. Like the bad guy of Fushigi Yugi, if I recall correctly, he’s just kind of straight-up evil. There’s not too much complexity to that
CAITLIN: The thing with Nakago is that by the end, when this show sort of gives the tragic flashback, by that point it’s kind of like “cool motive, still murder and rape and all of that sort of stuff.” And Yona definitely goes for something a lot more complicated than that.
GABRIELLA: I guess to me, those scenes really exemplify how Yona’s biggest strength is that it’s very much this type of show, but it takes enough—more effort to the characterization to give it a lot of extra “oomph” so far. Like other moments like that or how seriously it treats the friendship between Yona, Hak, and Su-Won. It could have just made him like “hahaha I am the traitor, I fooled you all these years,” but no he’s really torn up about it. Or even the retainer guy who dies in episode two. I forgot his name.
PETER: Oh yeah, he got murdered. That was pretty gruesome actually. The one who pretended to be her and ran off and just died from eight arrows getting shot into him.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s Hun-Tsu. So yeah, and there is—even though he’s such a minimal character, there is a sense of loss there. She just saw this person who genuinely cared about her sacrifice his life; instead of him being just like this random character who gets killed to show the stakes in the first episode, it’s like a real moment of realization for Yona that this is happening, people are dying, people are dying for me.
PETER: Yeah, and there’s gonna be mortal consequences later on, for sure. It definitely sets the tone.
GABRIELLA: The production gives us a good sense of gravitas too. I think that’s the point where I realized like, “Oh the first episode was weak, but the show does have some chops once it sort of sets them up.”
PETER: Yeah, I think that was the moment. Well, the whole… Her walking in on the murder scene and that scene kind of like where my first…what would I call that, my recovery breath when I was going, “Is this actually not good?” But then those two scenes, I was just like, “Oh okay, okay. It’s definitely doing some cool stuff.
CAITLIN: And then, we haven’t talked a lot about Hak…. Who is kind of—
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] You mean the boyfriend? My boyfriend.
PETER: Mr. Boyfriend.
CAITLIN: [laughing] He is your type. In the Fate universe he would be a Lancer.
GABRIELLA: What would—Yona would be an Archer, I guess, from the spoiler flashback and the opening.
CAITLIN: But when I started to do my stuff about abusive boyfriends in shoujo, Hak comes up a lot and you can sort… I don’t necessarily agree, but you see the sort of stuff that sort of gets to that.
GABRIELLA: I can see how he’s seen as that in these episodes. The worst thing he ever does is, I think it’s in the fifth episode, he’s like, “I’m leaving you, unless you can pay me with your body.” And I think it’s pretty obvious to me that that was just an attempt to drive her off rather than a real thing.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it was posturing.
GABRIELLA: He’s just kind of broody and bickering. To me it’s nothing serious, just like they’ve known each other forever. This is how you act with someone you’ve known forever.
PETER: It just seemed like that was the kind of friendship they had where they are always fighting and making up and it’s never really… never came across as like serious stuff.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I just had a friend who moved to Seattle who I knew in college, so I’ve known them for almost ten years. It’s like we just hurl insults at each other constantly, that’s just their…
GABRIELLA: But when the going gets tough, they’re all for each other. No hesitation.
CAITLIN: So, yeah, I like Hak. I think it is important to have someone like him by Yona’s side, and I think that if it had been someone who was just kind to her, it could have been a little bit saccharine. Does that make sense?
GABRIELLA: Yeah. Also, girls like that. Let them have the fantasy of the gruff, slightly rude boy.
CAITLIN: Some girls like that. Yeah, I don’t normally like that, but like Hak… I don’t know, Hak is hot.
PETER: He popped off too. He got some serious sakuga two or three times, especially in episode six. I was like damn, this is the best fight animation in a shoujo series.
CAITLIN: That fight scene where he’s fighting the fire tribe is incredible. I didn’t remember it from the first couple of times I watched it, but just the way there was real weight to how he was swinging around his—what would you call that kind of weapon?
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] It’s a type of lance. Or a glaive. Probably like a Korean name for glaive.
PETER: [crosstalk] A big… halberd… A glaive, yeah. I’m sure it’s got an actual name. somebody’s gonna tell us.
CAITLIN: I’ll look it up in five minutes, when the episode is done. But there’s a real sense of weight to it, ’cause that looks like a heavy weapon. Or when he’s stumbling ’cause he got shot with a poison arrow and it’s starting to take effect. You feel like every bit of impact to it.
PETER: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking watching it. They kinda do these really interesting… and we’re just talking about animation right now, I think. The beginning of the swing is really slow, and then he suddenly snaps out and then it takes a long time to recover again. So I get the feeling like it’s just this really heavy bladed object that he is somehow moving supernaturally fast, and that’s why people get knocked away when they get hit by it. So I think they really kinda conveyed the reason why… What do they call them lightening something.
CAITLIN: Yeah, yeah, Thunder Beast.
PETER: It kind of gave a good visual indicator as to why he was called that, which I think was pretty nice. You don’t usually get… I don’t wanna say you actually get… It’s cool when they can include a thoughtful visual representation of something that is just portrayed verbally in the manga and I think they kind of sold that really well.
CAITLIN: Oh, the part where he swings it around his neck, ohh, so cool. It’s just such a good fight scene.
PETER: Yeah, that’s kind of set my expectation for future fights. So hope they keep it up.
CAITLIN: Well, I looked it up. And that is the only episode that animator worked on… Because somehow I ended up in a sakuga Discord channel. I’m not sure exactly… literally by accident.
PETER: We’ve all been down that black hole.
GABRIELLA: Did you just click a random spam link. And it was like, you were buying your erectile dysfunction pills but it was a thing to the sakuga blog Discord?
CAITLIN: [laughing] I’ll tell you that it later but I… I don’t regret being in there so far.
PETER: Yeah, I mean it’s not bad… It’s just, it’s very data-full, once you start trying to find out some sort of important piece of saku information. Next thing you know, you’re looking at 30 different people’s names and trying to find out who did what cut in which episode.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s just kind of a scary road to go down.
PETER: Yeah, it’s a time commitment.
CAITLIN: It’s very curative, and I’m generally more into transformative fandom.
But anyway, Hak and Yona have a really good relationship. I think we were talking about how they’re obviously close friends. He’s the obvious love interest, too.
GABRIELLA: He’s a good version of, I guess, the gruff love interest archetype. ‘Cause his meanness is pretty mild, it’s just playful and also he seems to already like her.
CAITLIN: He’s rude, he’s not cruel. He’s rude to her, and she’s rude back.
PETER: [overlap] He’s being tsundere. That’s what it is.
CAITLIN: The part where she’s trying to convince him to let her go with him and he’s like, you know, he’s doing this whole thing like, “Oh well, maybe you should pay me with your body.” And eventually she just stands and she looks at him, looks him in the eye, she’s like, “I want you, Hak.”
GABRIELLA: Yeah, that was a good moment.
CAITLIN: And he just sits down on the ground. It’s like, “Oh, he’s turned on by this, huh.” He is turned on by Yona bossing him around.
PETER; Maybe that’s why he’s always picking on her: so that she’ll hit him or something. That’s the objective, is the response.
GABRIELLA: I think I follow a bunch of Haks on Twitter.
PETER: Yeah, lots of Haks in the anime fandom.
CAITLIN: Jesus Christ.
PETER: Yeah, I don’t… You definitely get that a lot. I’ve seen that a lot in shoujo where Gruff Dude is just like, when you step back and think about it, they’re just fucking abusive. But I think he’s just kind of very short and mostly it comes off as him trying not to act like he has the hots for her, which is pretty obvious. They basically said he does already, so that’s just his way of maintaining his distance and it’s kind of just a back-and-forth that they’re very familiar with and neither one has a problem with.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, it’s definitely not necessarily equal. ‘Cause she’s the princess and he’s her retainer. But—
GABRIELLA: Mostly harmless. Again, the worst thing he ever says was pretty transparently a lie to get her to back off.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s mutual… It’s a lot of give and take between the two of them, which I don’t have a problem with.
PETER: Yeah, that’s interesting. And just before that, he was getting a short sword and a bow and arrow, then he’s like, “I’m gonna leave by myself,” and I’m like, “Who’s the short sword and the bow and arrows for… who would possibly use it. Since you have a lance. Are you gonna start shooting people?” Well, he doesn’t. I feel like he just was hedging his bets or knew that he was gonna get owned or something.
CAITLIN: No, yeah, no, he definitely knew that was going to happen. I never thought of that; that’s a good point.
GABRIELLA: Good observation.
PETER: You see her shooting the bow later and I was like, “Okay, I guess that’s where she gets it, although I don’t know why he’s playing it now,” and now we know.
CAITLIN: And then we have the third part of their childhood friend trio, Su-Won.
PETER: I love X/1999.
CAITLIN: What the fuck is with Su-Won?
PETER: I actually think I really like the set up that they had. Because I feel like we don’t know everything about his backstory and what motivated him to betray the king yet, although it seems like maybe the king—I think, like Su-Won was probably lied to about the king killing… was it his dad or mom?
CAITLIN: His dad.
PETER: Her dad has been pretty friendly established as like… I guess, more could be revealed later, but even in his character design that he’s very unassuming, but in a way where he is very dedicated to his peaceful way that’s not really respected. Actually, I like her dad a lot. So, it’ll suck if it turns out he was an asshole.
But I feel like [Su-Won’s] lied to and being manipulated, and he honestly feels like this is the only way. Not making excuses for him or anything, but in effect, I feel like the story is trying to set up to show that he actually really fucked himself over, because I feel like if he did nothing, then she would have convinced her dad to let her marry him, ’cause that’s literally what she was trying to do right then, and then he would have gotten everything he wanted without murdering his best friend’s dad and basically not being friends with his childhood friends anymore.
GABRIELLA: So it was just dumb blood-feud nonsense, like it ruined the whole thing. Although I’m curious to see more backstory. That guy looks like a doofus, but clearly something is going on in the background, whether it’s good or bad, I don’t know, he clearly has some motivation and everyone thinks he’s an idiot. But he knows something.
CAITLIN: I like how Su-Won’s dad looks like a character out of Kingdom or some other sort of very military anime or manga.
PETER: Yeah, actually when he was introduced as in… I was kind of like, I’m not doing this intentionally, but I was kind of making up a list in my head of things that were concerning me about the series. And one of them was her dad’s characters design, who’s just so fucking basic and bland. “He seems like an important character. Why does he just look like somebody who should be standing in the background?”
But it really, once you find out more about him, it’s almost perfect for the type of person that he is? His whole deal is, you don’t think much of him, but he’s actually kind of a strong guy when it comes down to it, and you can see why people think that of him both in the way that he acts, and the way that he looks like literally a background character wearing a crown. I thought that was… I actually really respect the character design now.
CAITLIN: Yeah, Mizuho Kusanagi is very good. Oh, I forgot to mention the name of the original manga writer, Mizuho Kusanagi.
PETER: That’s a kickass name.
CAITLIN: Oh yeah, well she probably picked it herself. I’m pretty sure most manga writers don’t write under their real name.
PETER: Most people probably aren’t named Kusanagi either.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, that’s like almost a Ghost in the Shell name. And isn’t it one of the three imperial prizes or something? That you get to the Imperials, gachapon machine
PETER: Only three options, a 33% chance. You get the sword, the mirror, or the gems.
PETER: It’s the Imperial regalia.
GABRIELLA: You know, in Sailor Moon the outer planets, like why they have the gem, the sword, and the mirror?
CAITLIN: I haven’t watched Sailor Moon…
PETER: Oh, shit.
GABRIELLA: Well, there were three Imperial objects for the Japanese Imperial crown thing.
PETER: Yeah, there’s the mirror that Amaterasu saw herself in and got scared… A sword, and I don’t remember what the gem has to do with anything.
GABRIELLA: I think it’s the moon. I think for the… Susano’o was like the sword or something.
PETER: Yeah, that would make sense. And then Tsukuyomi had the gems. Moon drops.
GABRIELLA: I may be completely wrong, by the way, so don’t cite this on your Japanese culture final.
PETER: I love going off topic.
CAITLIN: Darn, I do all my research through off-the-cuff comments in podcasts.
PETER: Oh, that’s why I knew it: it’s Zelda. ‘Cause you have the Master Sword, the Mirror Shield, and then you collect the gems. People always talk about the kind of parallels.
CAITLIN: All right, well this is a tangent.
PETER: Yeah, little bit. I don’t remember how we got onto this.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no… Yona’s dad is a really good example of how they do a lot of development with a little. They do a lot of showing about the kind of person he is, clearly he has a strength that people don’t really give him credit for. But at the same time he has spoiled his princess rotten, he never married again or produced another child even though, arguably, as the king, he should because he didn’t want anything to happen to Yona or to anyone else in his family.
Like, “If this is the risk that you are taking by being part of my family then I’m not gonna have anyone else be in my family.” But at the same time, he’ll grab a sword to stop people from getting out of hand, and hurting each other in a fight over, well, over his daughter’s honor. He is a complicated person.
So yeah, you do kind of learn more about him as the series goes. The manga as far as I’ve read—and like I said, I’m up with the US releases—they haven’t really explained why, exactly, Su-Won’s dad was passed over to inherit the throne and why King Il was chosen.
PETER: So they’re still fighting Su-Won in the manga now? Damn.
CAITLIN: Oh yes. Well, it is an epic. The manga is an epic and that is sort of the big thing that is happening in the—not “background,” but they are slowly working towards that.
PETER: Yeah, it really reminds me of—what’s the thing Hiromu Arakawa is doing right now.?
PETER: Yeah, it’s like female Arslan, female Korean Arslan.
GABRIELLA: The Korea setting is cool. I wish… the show looks mostly pretty good, but its art design is really generic, which is one of the things that sort of held back the fifth episode before the cool scenes kicked in. I wish we could get a really nice Korea fantasy lavish show.
CAITLIN: Well, I know that in that time period, it’s like the Three Kingdoms period of Korea. There was a lot of sort of cross-cultural influence between Korea and China, and Japan to a lesser extent. So there was like, if I were more educated in East Asian Art History, it’s entirely possible there would be a lot of cool background details that I’m not picking up on, but I don’t know.
I know that they’re wearing hanboks—or well, hanboks are the dresses—but I can identify Yona’s clothes as being Korean. I haven’t seen more traditional male Korean clothes, but I assume the same thing—I think the Wind Tribe’s look is really cool, with the beads and the feathered headbands.
PETER: Yeah, I could sense that it was going for—the names are kind of a dead giveaway. But I felt like it was kind of a hybrid Korean aesthetic, that it was going for.
GABRIELLA: I like the tiny crown thing that the black-haired general who works with Su-Won was wearing. It’s like does he have a… does he have a hairband under there and pin it there?
PETER: Yeah, it’s interesting that they’re still going—that’s encouraging to know that they’re still fighting Su-Won in the manga, ’cause I feel like there’s a lot going on with him. Even the small scenes you get with him, even though he murders her dad. It definitely seemed like he felt it was a necessity and all of his attention since then has been not on, like, killing them to erase the evidence of what he’s doing.
But he wants to consolidate power, and it doesn’t seem like he wants to do that so much to solidify his rule as to make sure that he can protect the country. So it seems like he kinda wants to be a good ruler at the end of the day as well, which really, probably means that there’s a lot more to be revealed with Yona’s father as well.
So you can definitely see it’s hinting that there is either a really huge misunderstanding or some big manipulations going on that drove Su-Won to betray Yona and kill her father. ‘Cause he still seems like a fundamentally—maybe a good person who feels like this had to happen, he had to do these things, there was no choice or he had to make the hard decision.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and it’s interesting, ’cause he stands there and says, “The Su-Won you knew never existed.” He says that he has always been plotting this in the background and his friendship with them and his bond with them was entirely fake. But the flashback to his conversation with Hak didn’t really give that impression, it was very authentic and his reaction when they think that Yona is dead is like—he’s shaken.
PETER: Yeah, to me that really came off as him trying to distance himself from them, maybe to save their feelings instead of his—so that they wouldn’t feel like they were betrayed by a friend, or they wouldn’t try to reach out to him, but they could think of him as an enemy and that would make things simpler.
CAITLIN: Yeah, maybe. Sometimes, I say “maybe” to imply I know what’s coming, but I don’t want to spoil things, and sometimes I say “maybe” because I genuinely don’t know. Which is it here? Who knows!
GABRIELLA: I’m excited for them to start recruiting the party members in the opening.
CAITLIN: There’s at least one party member, Gabb, I think you will like.
PETER: The chipmunk? Where’s the chipmunk, what episode does the chipmunk appear? I’m curious.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I am not sure off the top of my head.
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] Well, you know I love Rescue Rangers.
PETER: Oh damn, same. Is it a Rescue Ranger?
GABRIELLA: Do they wear a Hawaiian shirt?
CAITLIN: [deadpan] No, she—the chipmunk’s a girl. That’s sexist making those assumptions.
GABRIELLA: I apologize—
PETER: To all chipmunks.
CAITLIN: How could you? You’re excommunicated.
GABRIELLA: You’ll have to erase this podcast. Oh yeah, didn’t you just record a podcast before this? So you must be really tired.
CAITLIN: Yes, I did. No, it’s cool.
PETER: I’m not quite sure [how] I felt about it showing her squad in the beginning. I think I definitely feel like they did it because they wanted you to know that there was gonna be lots of fighting stuff later and that she was gonna shoot people with her bow and arrow and stuff. But I almost feel like in this kind of set up that giving that away—I don’t know, I’m not sure what the way they would hook you in the beginning if not that. It’s kind of unfortunate.
CAITLIN: I mean, I think that’s sort of the standard for this sort of series. I don’t wanna say reverse-harem—the sort of series where it’s one central female character gathering a group of people as part of the series’ plot. Those, generally, all of the characters are in the opening theme song. Fushigi Yugi did it. It just, there’s a lot more to it than just: “Who’s the next one going to be?”
PETER: Yeah, but in this one, it was kind of like, “Is Hak gonna die?” Well no, there’s a scene where he’s with the squad later on.
‘Cause it kind of shows it in context of an event as opposed to just showing all the characters that will be in the show at one point in the opening sequence, you know what I mean? ‘Cause in Fushigi Yugi, there are character deaths and those people are in the opening but you don’t know who’s going to die because it doesn’t show them all together necessarily in a scene until they’re all together in a scene chronologically.
So Hak and Yona fall off the cliff, but you know they’re both gonna be fine ’cause she shoots a dude with a bow and arrow later, while all of them are leaping into a raid and killing those guys. I mean that doesn’t necessarily ruin it or anything, but I feel like the story could have kept some more dramatic tension by not doing that. I say this, but I can’t really think of a better way they could have done it.
GABRIELLA: Honestly, what I’m really curious about, referencing Yona’s badassary is like… are her eyes magic or is she just that badass, that she could prevent several people from killing her just by staring at them?
PETER: I’m telling you, it’s Emperor Haki. It’s a known power system.
CAITLIN: No, Hak is the boyfriend.
GABRIELLA: He will be Emperor Hak eventually.
PETER: It is the OTP.
CAITLIN: I think I can say right now that is pretty much just, like, charisma. It’s not like a special super power as far as I know. The manga is still going so it could be something supernatural, who knows. No, it is not supernatural as far as I know.
PETER: I’m not sure how I felt quite about that. I did like her interfering just by literally running up and tackling the guy so he fell into the ravine. I thought that was a cool way of surprise-attacking them. I’m hoping that, I don’t—just staring people down seems like kind of a weird thing, but I definitely know she shoots people later, so I’m down for that. I ran that.
GABRIELLA: I’ve gotta say this is the best Fire Emblem anime I’ve ever seen. I wanna play the game, but I like the anime. Oh, was it tactical or do you just press a button to give the boys gifts?
CAITLIN: Oh, the Fushigi Yugi game is a visual novel.
GABRIELLA: Oh, that’s not what I want. I wanna play boyfriend chess versus dragons.
PETER: It’d probably be Go in this case.
GABRIELLA: That’s my favorite phone app. I actually just take pictures of guys I like, and then put them in a file in a folder in my computer.
CAITLIN: Isn’t that what that game is about?
GABRIELLA: Yeah, it’s Boyfriend Go. I gotta capture all the boyfriends.
CAITLIN: I mean I want to play Awakening because I think Chrom seems like my type, so no shade.
GABRIELLA: He does seem like your type.
CAITLIN: Thanks for the confirmation… I lost my train of thought. So yeah.
We finished up this this stretch of episodes with Yona getting the plot-significant haircut, falling off a cliff, avoiding a panty shot because traditional Korean clothes, where dresses have pants underneath.
PETER: When would that happen, when she was falling off the cliff? You get an upskirt ’cause she’s diving headfirst towards stone? Okay.
CAITLIN: You know there are anime that are classless enough.
PETER: Yeah, yeah there definitely are anime that would have taken advantage of that horrific moment to show panties.
GABRIELLA: There’s like one nudity scene, but it’s like, she’s bathing afterwards and Hak gives her her clothes, and it’s not gazey, but it’s clearly supposed to be like, “Oh he’s respectful of her while also there is tension between them.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, and then he’s like, “Oh wait, she’s naked.”
PETER: The leeches were kind of one too.
GABRIELLA: I did like that he didn’t also just be like, “Ohhhhhhh, naked” when she was injured and needed his help like that, so it was a… as far as naked scenes go, it helped the dynamic and was just tense enough to help the romance while being practical.
CAITLIN: He’s very respectful when it counts. I’m sure he got that all beaten out of him by World’s Greatest Grandpa, Mundok. Who is awesome.
GABRIELLA: Moon Dog, that’s my favorite.
CAITLIN: I mostly wanted to bring him up ’cause I wanted to call him the world’s greatest grandpa.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, who doesn’t sell you out to the bastards who’ve taken your throne.
CAITLIN: I really, really like his last scene with Yona before she leaves where he just gives her a hug and he’s like, “I can’t believe another grandchild… Two of my grandchildren are going off to do this.” Clearly he loves her a lot and he just sort of takes in every orphan child that he meets. He adopted Hak, he adopted that little kid, he kind of adopts Yona. It’s very sweet. this show has really good father figures. Not a lot of maternal figures, but.
GABRIELLA: It has a lot of gentle fathers. Some of them are badass and other ones, they’re just beanie babies like the king, but they’re both badass in their own way.
CAITLIN: And Yona is scared of Su-Won’s dad, but obviously they love each other. Su-Won and his dad, they love each other a lot.
PETER: Is Su-Won’s dad still around? I thought he was dead.
CAITLIN: No, he said the… it was in the flashback.
PETER: Ohh, yeah, yeah, he showed up when she was sick. That’s right.
CAITLIN: That flashback did not need to be that long. Like the flashbacks, I really do—I respect what they’re doing for setting things up, but I think even if they weren’t cut entirely they could be made a lot shorter.
GABRIELLA: I was okay with it ’cause I was like… I like these characters, I wanna see a little more about their history together. Although they were a bit oddly placed. Like, they just were betrayed; okay, we’re gonna start the next episode with an extended flashback to them being friends as kids.
PETER: That was a very Black Clover move.
CAITLIN: To just sort of the show the impact, the level of the betrayal. I can’t believe Han-Dae is fuckin dead.
GABRIELLA: Oh, RIP.
CAITLIN: RIP Han-Dae.
PETER: Wait, which one was he?
CAITLIN: He was the Wind Tribe… you’re ruining the joke, Peter. He’s the Wind Tribe guy who they kept saying was dead, who was not dead.
GABRIELLA: But one day the bishounen nation attacked, and the five tribes: up, dirt, wet, hot, and air.
CAITLIN: Now Yona must gather warriors of all four elements. Hands, eyes, legs.
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] She must gather hot guys from all five elements.
PETER: So, it’s Avatar except boyfriends?
GABRIELLA: What Avatar should have been.
CAITLIN: I love Avatar and I will not hear anything ill about the first series. Korra, there are fair criticisms and I never finished watching it, but the first series of Avatar was incredible and I will not let you slander it on…
GABRIELLA: I apologize, Caitlin.
CAITLIN: [laughs] But yeah, so… Is there anything else that we need to cover that we should talk about that hasn’t come up so far?
PETER: Feel like we kinda hit all the big character stuff. Yona just got her a big moment so I guess we’ll see which way she starts growing into soon. Obviously, we’re gonna start collecting boyfriends in the near future and I think we’re kind of in agreement about there being a lot more to Su-Won’s betrayal. So we’re probably… I expect we’ll get a lot more—I don’t wanna say he’s gonna be sympathetic, but you’ll learn a lot more, like why he’s doing what he’s doing. While Yona gets ready to kick his ass.
GABRIELLA: I’m really curious about, I think, we met the two brothers at the end of episode six, right? The blond ones.
CAITLIN: The ones who saved Yona and Hak after they fell off the cliff? They’re not brothers. Yun is the younger one and he’s just a random passing bishounen. No, he’s an important character; that’s what he calls himself. And there’s Ik-Soo, who is the priest who Mundok told Yona to seek out.
GABRIELLA: They mentioned a prophesy. Did we learn what prophesy was, and did I forget it?
GABRIELLA: Okay, so I’m curious about that.
PETER: Yeah, you knew they were gonna show up because he is able to see into the future, I guess.
CAITLIN: You can tell because you can’t see his eyes and all blind characters are prophets. Just like Jared.
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, like X/1999, nothing specific.
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] I suspect—is oracle guy gonna be a boyfriend? I wasn’t paying attention to the opening.
PETER: If I were gonna make a prediction, I’d say yes, he is a boyfriend too.
GABRIELLA: The opening is pretty good too. It’s not super original but I like the sort of epic storytelling, “let’s list all the boyfriends we’re gonna get with action scenes.”
PETER: My prediction is the chipmunk will appear in the next six episodes, and that we find out that they’re in the country of Wano, and that she in fact does have Emperor Haki.
GABRIELLA: Are they gonna play hockey? They’re gonna be Emperor Hockey.
GABRIELLA: Ice hockey?
CAITLIN: I had a co-worker named Haki who spelled her name like that, but that’s neither here nor there. Okay, so I think that wraps us up. So that’s been our show. Thank you to Gabbo for coming and talking to us about Yona.
GABRIELLA: Thank you for having me, guys.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and we’re looking forward to the next episode. So if you enjoyed this episode, go ahead and give us a rating and/or review on iTunes and also you can help support our site on Patreon and help us get that good good both podcast and written blog entry content in your eyes and in your ears.
GABRIELLA: Do it, do it!
CAITLIN: We have a lot of projects. We just had our first successful Indiegogo game—our successful first Indiegogo campaign—and so now that helped raise money for a lot of one-off things that we needed to do and that we wanted to do and now we need Patreon money for the recurring costs. We want to get money for some really big projects, including paying our freelancers more and getting into video content, all that sort of stuff.
So go ahead and if you are not already we would really appreciate if you could donate to our Patreon at Patreon.com/AnimeFeminist. You can also check out our site. Animefeminist.com, you can find us on Twitter @AnimeFeminist, you can find us on Tumblr at AnimeFeminist, and you can find us on Facebook as AnimeFem.
I did it! All right, thanks for listening and insert witty closing line here.
PETER: Happy New Year. Although you won’t listen to this until halfway through January.
CAITLIN: Oh, more than that, ’cause we still gotta get through Escaflowne.
PETER: Oh God, yeah. Happy New Year from the past, people in February-March.
CAITLIN: Happy Valentine’s Day or Saint Patrick’s Day, whenever this comes out.
GABRIELLA: Hello people of the future, I hope things have not gotten more… [fades out]