Episode 3 of our 4-part watchalong of the fantasy epic Yona of the Dawn with Caitlin, Peter, and special guest Gabriella!
Date Recorded: Sunday 3rd February 2019
Hosts: Caitlin, Peter
0:00:45 Checking predictions
0:11:38 Su Won
0:17:48 Gun Tei
0:19:43 Jae Ha
0:27:43 Yona’s development
0:30:11 Yona’s dad and more divine mandate
0:34:58 Heroic epics and the isekai connection
0:37:31 This one’s for the BL fans out there
0:41:01 Obligatory tragic backstory
0:41:45 Pirate grandma
CAITLIN: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. Welcome to the third episode of our watchalong of the shoujo series Yona of the Dawn. My name’s Caitlin, and I’m a writer and editor for Anime Feminist, as well as writing for The Daily Dot and my own blog, I Have a Heroine Problem. I’m joined today once again by Peter Fobian and our special guest Gabriella Ekens.
GABRIELLA: Hello. I’m Gabriella Ekens. I’ve been a mostly Daily Streaming Review and occasional reviewer for Anime News Network for the past two years. Recently, you may remember me for my Pop Team Epic reviews last winter.
PETER: And I’m Peter Fobian. I’m a producer at Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist.
CAITLIN: Yeah. “Producer.” Title change. Sweet.
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] Exciting.
PETER: Yeah, big time. Oh, we’re doing this? Thank you.
CAITLIN: All right. Today, we’re going to be covering episodes 13 to 18. First, let’s check in our predictions from the last episode, which I actually wrote down this time. Gabbo predicted that Yona is not the reincarnation of the Red Dragon but rather the Chaos Dragon, à la the [chuckles] terrible anime series that was based on a D&D game between Kinoko Nasu and, I believe, Narita and Gen Urobuchi. Ryohgo Narita.
CAITLIN: Yep. Did that come true?
GABRIELLA: Not yet, but I’m still holding out for it.
PETER: [laughs] Just got the episodes wrong, but it’s gonna happen.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] And Peter predicted that it would actually be the Thomas Harrison [sic] Red Dragon.
PETER: I don’t remember this. Do they say it like from the Hannibal series? The Great Red Dragon?
CAITLIN: Yes. Yes.
PETER: Okay. Oh, wow. I said even a red dragon, actually. [laughs] Is that one of the colors that’s available? I might have screwed up there.
CAITLIN: That’s the lead dragon. That’s the Yona dragon.
PETER: Okay, nice. So, once again, in the future.
CAITLIN: And the chipmunk would be voiced by Ryan Reynolds.
PETER: See, I’m watching the sub, so is anybody watching the dub? Can they confirm?
GABRIELLA: Yeah. It was actually Johnny Depp.
PETER: Johnny Depp? Wow. Okay.
GABRIELLA: You feeling the pirates thing?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Ah, I’d rather have…
PETER: Mm, kinda problematic?
GABRIELLA: Yeah. Unfortunate.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] Okay. All right. And then, Peter also, in seriousness, predicted she would finish collecting the boys in this stretch and it would examine the idea of the divine mandate of rulership.
PETER: Hm. Well, I’m definitely wrong on the first part, but I think with the Green Dragon, it’s starting to explore that a little bit. I guess we’ll get into that. So, maybe I was right about something.
CAITLIN: Maybe. Gabbo said something about JRPG classes and going into what it means to be reincarnated as a dragon.
GABRIELLA: I guess the second part is mostly the prediction, and it’s starting to go there with… Jae-Ha is his name?
GABRIELLA: But that part hasn’t really been resolved yet. But it’s inching that way, which is promising.
CAITLIN: So, outside of the predictions, what do you guys think of this stretch of episodes?
GABRIELLA: I think this is where you can really tell that the pace has slowed down. I liked the set of episodes with Gae-Ta, but it’s kind of taking a while. It’s taking a long time to collect all the boys.
CAITLIN: Gae-Ta. Do you mean Gun Tei?
GABRIELLA: Gun Tei, yeah. Sorry about that.
PETER: At this rate, she might just finish collecting them when the anime ends or something, and then our battle continues.
As far as my impressions, I have some mixed feelings about the things that happen in this episode. It kind of got to where I wanted it to, but I don’t know if I like the way that it’s doing it—oh, on both fronts, because they’re also examining what’s going on with Su-Won. But I’m not sure if I like that too much either, but I will probably elaborate as we go on to different points. So, it’s doing the things I want. I’m not sure if it’s doing them in the way that I would like it to be done.
CAITLIN: So, in this stretch of episodes, they acquire the Blue Dragon and name him Sinha or Shin-Ah, depending on how you romanize it. There’s a little bit of romanization shenanigans because it is going from Korean to Japanese to English, which gets a little wacky because those are three languages with very different sound systems. But it’s romanized as Sinha. I might revert to the old romanizations just out of habit because they changed them while they were subtitling them.
GABRIELLA: Oh. Awkward.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Su-Won… We have a little Su-Won two-episode aside where he goes and hangs out with the Earth Kingdom general, Gun Tei. And Gun Tei is not impressed at first but figures out that there is more to Su-Won than meets the eye, as Su-Won sets up a festival for them and Gun Tei just really wants to fight.
And then Yona and her boys go to the city of Awa, which looks lively on the surface but is actually very troubled because it is run by a corrupt group of city officials who kidnap girls and beat up people who resist them. And they meet the Green Dragon, Jae Ha, who works with a group of pirates who are opposing the corrupt city government.
And so, we meet a lot of new friends this week, including learning more about the Blue Dragon, who gets the name Sinha and is a very sweet boy.
GABRIELLA: Yeah. He’s a puppy boy.
PETER: I’m a little confused. Do they describe… His power basically makes you freeze in place, right? Or have they not told us what it is, actually, because we kind of see what happens back in his flashback, right?
CAITLIN: Right. It’s kind of implied. So, since it is more magical than a physical power like the other dragons, it is a little ambiguous. But basically, he can see really far distances, and very well. And he can paralyze people with his eyes.
GABRIELLA: And it’s not on all the time, right?
GABRIELLA: He wears a mask because he’s comfortable with it.
CAITLIN: He’s not like a Gorgon. He’s not like Medusa. Yeah, he’s just more comfortable with the mask on.
PETER: Or afraid that he’ll randomly turn people to stone, I guess, is the thing that they’re trying to portray.
CAITLIN: Well, when people treat you like a monster, you kind of feel like you’re a monster. So, yeah, he’s afraid of being what they thought he was, even if he knows that he’s not.
GABRIELLA: That’s totally understandable. Anyway, he’s a cute boy.
CAITLIN: He’s traumatized. I actually really love his character. I love specifically how he is written. You can see the effects of the isolation on him in pretty much every aspect of his personality. He’s so shy and timid, and he’s quiet because he’s not used to talking to people. And when he does speak, he’s very… haltingly and almost childlike speech patterns.
GABRIELLA: Oh. I think he has one of the best designs of the crew.
CAITLIN: He does.
GABRIELLA: I think the designs in the show are kind of mid-range. I like the art style, but they’re a little generic, and he has one of the more distinct ones. Like, this would be a cool character to get in a Fire Emblem game.
PETER: [chuckles] Stickin’ with that, huh?
CAITLIN: His eyes are so beautiful.
PETER: Some Mononoke thing going on, too.
GABRIELLA: I just like the color of his hair. It’s a nice shade of blue.
PETER: Like Lancer?
GABRIELLA: It’s a little lighter. I actually like this shade of blue better.
PETER: Okay. All right.
CAITLIN: Hak is the Lancer.
PETER: Yeah, that’s true. I guess… Some of the ambiguity… I do like the way he’s weird, given that he’s never left his cave before. I think that’s pretty funny. I’m wondering if there was more to that arc in the manga, though, since it seems like they never really bother to talk about… that everyone was afraid of him, because I guess there was some sort of bad experience in the village where they thought his eyes were cursed, but it never really gets into it.
I would assume at some point, somebody accidentally used his eyes on the village or something and then came to fear him and then stuff happened, but I guess their prejudice or their fear of him was never really… I guess maybe it doesn’t really need to be written out. It just felt weird.
GABRIELLA: Didn’t they say that it’s because there was a history of people coming to the village to try and get the magical eyeball eye?
PETER: Did they?
GABRIELLA: That’s what I remember, which, again, feels a little weak. I mean, how often has that happened? Wanting to just tie down the magical eyeball guy or something? It seems kind of hard to kidnap him. I don’t know. But I think that’s the explanation.
CAITLIN: Gija talks about how in his village he was revered, the people of the blood of the dragon were considered almost holy, but he realizes that that’s not necessarily the case everywhere, because these people are powerful and that’s really scary. That’s really scary! Even if someone isn’t necessarily malicious, wouldn’t it be terrifying to have someone who, if they felt like it, could use their eyes to totally paralyze you to the point that it’s deadly, when no one else can do anything like that?
PETER: Mm-hm. Hm… I don’t know. Yeah. But it seems like all the other dragons, at least so far, have knowledge of the kind of situation, and I’m not sure why the one with the most apparently magical power would also be the one whose history regarding the dragon power was lost to time.
‘Cause even the Green Dragon who appears… he’s not in a village; he’s just off on his own. He is specifically avoiding Yona because he knows about the connection thing and wants nothing to do with it, which is something we’ll talk about. But I guess I wanted something like there to have been an event where you learn how the village got so screwed up, rather than just… There was a lot of insinuation, I guess, is what happened.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, they started living in mountain caves. Like, why didn’t they just ditch the guy if they hated him so much?
PETER: I feel like there’s a huge backstory that’s not really… I mean, I’m okay with stuff being implied. That’s cool, but I think there was maybe a design here and we just don’t get to see it. Maybe that was in an associated light novel where they talk about how screwed up the Blue Dragon village is or something.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Or maybe that’s something that, if you felt inclined, you could write about yourself.
PETER: Oh, yeah? Some fanfiction? Oh.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Transformative fandom
GABRIELLA: Some hurt-and-comfort fic?
PETER: I’ve never done a fanfic before.
CAITLIN: Fanfiction isn’t just for girls, Peter. Anyone can write it.
PETER: I’ll think about it.
PETER: We’ll see if I get any inspiration.
CAITLIN: And then we also meet Gun Tei, who is the opposite of the Blue Dragon and also my husband.
GABRIELLA: He’s a rowdy man. He’s not a boy. He is very a man.
CAITLIN: He likes to fight. He doesn’t like to dress up.
GABRIELLA: He has big, big crunchy hair.
CAITLIN: There are two things in this world that he loves: fighting and his wife.
PETER: I kind of didn’t get what Su-Won was doing there. I think everybody in the kingdom kind of knows that he killed the last king, right? But they don’t have anything on him, so they’re just going like, “Well, I’m not going to be the one to stand up and get cut down.” But now, Su-Won’s playing like he’s a kind of idiot, I guess.
Something I like that you get in these kinds of shows is they have men who are strong or ingenuitive in nontraditionally masculine ways. And normally I like that kind of thing in a series like this, but I don’t see how that connects to Su-Won’s character, especially because it seemed like he killed the king because the king wasn’t a strong enough presence and military personality to defend the kingdom.
And now he’s making himself off as an even weaker person than the original king. And even if he’s trying to make the military strong, you gotta imagine that the enemies of the country would hear that this new king is even more foppish than the old one, and they would think, “Oh, maybe it’s time to attack.”
So, I almost feel like acting that way is inviting foreign invasion, and I have no idea why he’s doing it, especially when everybody kind of knows that he murdered the last dude. I just can’t identify the reason for him to act this way.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, playing stupid is something you do when you’re in a position of weakness and someone could root you out. At this point, strength might better consolidate his forces and immediately just get the crunchy-hair guy on his side.
PETER: Yeah, he could’ve more easily won him over if he’s just like, “Oh, no, we’re gonna go to war. I’m gonna take out all these guys who invaded our country, and I’m gonna defend our borders.” He could’ve won the guy over just as easily that way. But instead, we had a whole episode where he pretended to be clumsy, embarrassed himself in front of all of the foreign nations’ people, and won the guy over because the guy realized he was smart anyway.
GABRIELLA: The schemes are at least cool. And who knows? Maybe he’s trying to look weak to bait an invasion or something.
PETER: Yeah, I could think of two reasons to do that, either to find out people who would be willing to try to overthrow him or to actually encourage an invasion to justify him striking back militarily so that he’s not the first person to attack. That’s why I could imagine somebody doing that. But in absence of those two reasons, I’m like, “Why aren’t you just getting the military together and going to invade all those places, because obviously things suck right now. People are starving to death.”
CAITLIN: Well, playing harmless has kind of always been his thing. Even when he was a child, he acted like he was sweet and harmless so that no one would expect that he had his eyes on the throne. He told Yona, “The Su-Won that you knew was never real,” which I don’t think is necessarily true. But he is used to operating on that level of not having people take him seriously.
I don’t know exactly his motivations for acting that particular way. I can only guess. But it was effective, and he puts on this festival, and in doing that, even though Gun Tei was like, “Why are we being so silly and doing this ridiculous thing?” he accomplished several goals through doing it.
He found two new economies for the Earth Tribe: the gems and his wife’s tea. He got something for the people to be fired up about. He got it so that Gun Tei’s people could see their leader and get excited for their leader. So, I don’t know why he pretends to be ineffective, but also, he is effective.
PETER: The whole thing about the tea and the stones themselves I think was smart. And he could have had the war games, taken them seriously, and still engineered his own loss without making it look like he’s a fucking idiot, I think.
PETER: But on the other side of that, his schemes have also proven that he’s actually a way more effective king than the last king, because it took him like two days to improve one of his vassal economies dramatically and almost zero effort. All he did was visit them. He’s just like, “Oh, these are two commodities that no one’s taking advantage of. Let me make a market for them.”
And so, things aren’t really looking good for Yona’s daddy, as far as that’s concerned. On that note, at least economically this guy’s a lot better than her dad, and I’m starting to wonder about the whole divine mandate thing. That was how that worked into it.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, basically the only perk of Yona’s dad is Did Not Like War.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And then, even then, the Did Not Like War allowed the other countries around them to nibble at their borders. And also, I feel like when someone wins the throne through violence, through usurping it, like Su-Won did, it can be an advantage if people don’t take him seriously and they underestimate him, because he’s gonna have enemies through doing that and he doesn’t want his enemies to know exactly what he’s capable of.
But anyway, I like Gun Tei.
PETER: Gun Tei’s good. I definitely like Gun Tei.
CAITLIN: He’s not the kind of character I generally like, but he’s attractive. [chuckles]
GABRIELLA: As I enter my mid-20s, I am getting more excited for the older anime men.
CAITLIN: Right? [laughs]
GABRIELLA: Before, I was like… There’s an ojisan character in the game I’m playing, and he’s like 35, and I’m like, “What?”
CAITLIN: [chuckles] Right?
GABRIELLA: I’m like, “I want an adult!”
CAITLIN: The pretty teenagers… Whatever. Moved past that. The older guys with the tans and the crow’s feet… That’s where it’s at.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, can we have the harem of that, with like a 29-year-old protagonist?
CAITLIN: I mean, there’s Ristorante Paradiso.
GABRIELLA: That’s a little too old for me.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Just a bunch of Gun Teis and Kotetsu from Tiger & Bunny. [chuckles] Just give me a harem of that. And he just has a really sweet relationship with his wife.
PETER: Yeah. Good wife, too.
CAITLIN: She’s adorable. She just keeps calling him adorable. [chuckles]
GABRIELLA: That’s what I’d do if I had a crunchy husband.
PETER: [chuckles] Crunch it up. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: Just calling him “kawaii” all the time. [speaking through laughter] “Crunchy husband.”
GABRIELLA: That’s what someone’ll call Peter when he gets married.
CAITLIN: Yeah, exactly. I was gonna say, is that what Peter’s gonna be someday?
PETER: [crosstalk] I knew we were gonna go in this frickin’ direction.
PETER: I can only hope. One day.
CAITLIN: Someday you’ll find a crunchy woman to make you a crunchy husband.
PETER: That means I would be dating an employee, which I’m pretty sure is a bad thing, right? You’re not supposed to date coworkers. Is that right? It’s a bad thing?
CAITLIN: It is complicated and has a lot of potential complications.
And then, in the last two episodes, we meet Jae Ha, who is also my new husband and also Hak’s new husband.
GABRIELLA: He is one leggy boy.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] I mean, it’s true.
PETER: Them legs.
CAITLIN: Jae Ha, the Green Dragon, who has the dragon’s leg and can jump really well.
PETER: [chuckles] Which lets you jump.
CAITLIN: And kick. Jump and kick.
PETER: Did they say it made his kicks… Does he have just really ridiculously strong legs? Is that how it works? Or can he fly? Or both?
CAITLIN: I think he can jump so well that it’s like he’s flying.
PETER: Okay. It’s muscle power, which also means he can kick the shit out of people. Right?
PETER: Okay, okay. Cool.
GABRIELLA: It seems way more awkward to just have one of these and only having one of the arms. Why not just give him both? With a leg, if he’s landing and he kind of messes it up and he lands on the other leg, that leg’s gonna be really fucked up. And is one longer than the other? Does he have weird, mismatching shoes? Those seem like serious issues.
PETER: Serious questions to ask about his legs.
CAITLIN: It looked like he had decent-fitting shoes that hid his dragon legs away nicely enough. But yeah, I like Jae Ha a lot. He’s only in two episodes this stretch, but I really like his arc of being like, “I like my life, and I like the people around me, and I don’t like the idea of just because I have this leg, I have to be in service to this person. This destiny shit is bullshit.”
PETER: Yeah. I mean, this is definitely coming up with the whole weird imprinting thing. I think, with his character, it’s right out there that… It’s almost like when you meet her, your other self comes out and says, “No, you’re her servant and you don’t get a choice in the matter,” which is honestly some kind of scary shit.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, it’s like Twilight imprinting. It’s pretty messed up.
PETER: Is that a thing in Twilight?
GABRIELLA: Yeah, the worst part of Twilight is that the werewolf guy, who is Bella’s number two, who loses, his—
PETER: Yeah. Mister Abs?
GABRIELLA: Yeah. His consolation prize is that he imprints on her newborn baby, who will grow super fast into a teenage vampire kid.
CAITLIN: Yeah, she’ll be an 18-year-old within like three years, and then she’ll stop aging.
PETER: Oh, like Raphtalia?
GABRIELLA: Yeah, unfortunately. Werewolves have imprinting true loves, and he does it to this newborn baby, who, because he’s half-vampire, will age super fast so they can be together. It’s really, really gross!
CAITLIN: Twilight is very strange. But I don’t think it’s totally analogous, just because—
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s not that bad.
PETER: Yeah, I don’t think a lot of those elements are possible here.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s just that he feels like he needs to serve her. And it’s interesting because this series gets compared to Fushigi Yugi a lot, and in Fushigi Yugi, none of them really ever… You know, because it’s the same: destined warriors, going around and collecting them. But in Fushigi Yugi, none of them ever question their destiny.
PETER: Well, I assume it’s a similar arc pattern where they meet new people and—God, I can’t remember what the main girl’s name in Fushigi Yugi is.
PETER: Miaka, that’s right. If I remember correctly—I know I watched at least the first 12 episodes—she wins each of them over in her own way and it never becomes a huge plot point as to whether or not they would have reason to not want to do shit with her, but they see something in her that makes them want to follow her, right?
PETER: Yeah. So, I think it’s less on the face of it. Whereas in this one, this guy’s like, “Actually, serving somebody is kind of antithetical to the way I want to live my life.” But it seems like he’s not gonna have much choice in the matter. I assume she’ll win him over so that it’s at least framed as kind of a free will thing, but it’s kind of scary, nonetheless.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, this is where I’m hoping the show explores a little bit and where there might be some Fruits Basket influence, because Fruits Basket is a show that’s totally all about the horrible emotional ramifications of being the reincarnated version of this animal—not those parts that’re just ridiculous—-and being magically imprinted for this person forever.
CAITLIN: Yeah, you’re just having your destiny tied to this person whether you want it to be or not.
PETER: I can’t wait till after next season when I can understand these references.
GABRIELLA: Is Fruits Basket next season?
PETER: I think it’s next season.
PETER: Yeah, it’s April, right?
CAITLIN: I know. I’m so excited.
PETER: This is going to come out when Fruits Basket is already out, I bet.
CAITLIN: Well, yeah, probably. Oh, well. As of recording, Fruits Basket is next season.
GABRIELLA: I guess there’s a little bit of Fruits Basket influence here. I haven’t seen much Fushigi Yugi, but this show seems to be leaning more into the angst and the trauma that these boys have gone into thanks to their status as chosen ones.
PETER: Yeah, except for White Dragon.
GABRIELLA: And that’s a Fruits Basket thing.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Gija was raised with the concept of “This is your life’s purpose. This is what you’re destined to be doing. This is what we are training you for.” And he’s like, “Okay. Yeah, this is what I’m here to do.” And Sinha was like… they were basically rescuing him from a life alone and being hated. And Jae Ha’s like, “No! I like my life.” He likes being a pirate. He has this city that he’s trying to protect.
GABRIELLA: He has a pirate grandma. He has pirate buddies.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, he has an awesome pirate grandma, who I want to be when I grow up.
GABRIELLA: When you grow up.
CAITLIN: Yeah, when I grow up. I’m not grown up yet. But yeah, it makes sense that he’s resistant to the idea. Sorry, spoilers: he does end up going with them. Is giving him a motivation to go with her antithetical to the idea of not wanting to be dictated by destiny, or is it—?
PETER: I’m sure what it’s gonna come down to is, he’s gonna say, “Well, I’m choosing to follow her, and therefore it is my will, and therefore I am doing it freely.” And therefore, there’s no problem.
GABRIELLA: She’s gonna win him over with the force of her personality and her…
PETER: Yeah. And even with all this imprinting stuff, I think each of the characters has grown to respect her in a different way, so they think that she is a good person to follow, separate from their genetic impetus to do so. I don’t think it’s really been a problem so far, but it definitely is something that they have really put to the forefront each time she meets somebody. They see her, their dragon genes activate, and then they’re just like, “Oh, this is my master.” [chuckles] That’s like, wow.
CAITLIN: Well, like I said, both of them had perfectly good reasons to not really resist going with her. She is growing as a person and as a leader. We see that she is staying up way too late practicing her archery, trying to shoot things with it.
PETER: Yeah, when the pirate lady said, “Isn’t there anything you do well?” why didn’t she say archery? She’s been practicing for weeks. It’s even combat related.
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] I don’t think she considers herself that good yet.
CAITLIN: Yeah, remember, she knows Hak. Hak is a fuckin’ prodigy at everything involving fighting, so…
PETER: Eh, just say you can shoot a bow so the lady lays off.
GABRIELLA: “I’m good at being the reincarnation of this dragon.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. “No, I’m a motherfuckin’ princess.”
PETER: Yeah. “I’m literally, through my bloodline, your queen, and there’s nothing you can do about it. How’s that?”
CAITLIN: That’s right. “I’m the rightful heir to the throne.”
GABRIELLA: “I’m the main character.”
PETER: Yeah, also the main character. That’s pretty important. Yeah, she’s got Haki, too! Actually, that was a joke, but that’s true. She straight-up looked at people and they freeze, before. It’s almost like she has Blue Dragon’s power. The way it happens seems supernatural. I’m not alone here, right?
CAITLIN: She’s got the death glare.
PETER: Yeah, she’s straight-up got Haki. I think that is actually a magical ability in series. She gives them the royal eye and they bow down or freeze in place or something like that.
GABRIELLA: That’s what I figured in the first bunch.
PETER: So, that feels like a power to me. That feels like something she specifically can do.
CAITLIN: I don’t think it’s been treated as something supernatural, at least not so far, even in the manga. I think she’s just developing that much force of personality. She is the destined ruler. She is the Crimson Dragon, so I wouldn’t say that she specifically has powers to freeze people with her eyes, but—
PETER: Oh, that’s right. She’s the Red Dragon. That’s right.
CAITLIN: Yeah. But I don’t think it’s a specific power. I think she just has that very natural charisma and can use that to intimidate people. She gets a look at what the world is like outside of the palace, outside of these villages, which is the level of starvation and corruption that her father let happen because sometimes pacifism is not always the best answer.
PETER: Yeah. I think it’s becoming apparent that her dad is actually a bad king.
PETER: Unless there’s some huge extenuating circumstances. I don’t know why he’s getting scenes where they’re just like, “Actually, he was a good guy.” Maybe they’re trying to make him out… it’s supposed to be complex or something.
But they make it sound like he has some sort of hidden face where a lot of him being a nice guy was probably natural compassion but also hiding the fact that he was kind of a badass. But then you get scenes where it’s just like, “Also, all his people were starving, so he was actually really bad at his job, probably.”
GABRIELLA: Yeah, what does pacifism have to do with entire villages starving?
PETER: Yeah. And once again, Su-Won just walked into a village and improved their economy in two days, so…
CAITLIN: Yeah. [chuckles]
PETER: She might have to face the fact that her dad’s really shitty at being king and her heritage actually isn’t all that great, despite the fact that it has a divine mandate. And if that’s the case, what does that say about her reclaiming the kingdom? Because essentially—
CAITLIN: Well, she’s going out and she’s learning about the kingdom. She is seeing the damage that her father’s policies are doing, and so she’s talking to people and learning about people, so hopefully she’ll be able to do better.
PETER: I guess, but what’s the message there? Every good royal line needs to be overthrown once in a while so it can reestablish its roots with its people and then take its rightful place as the leadership again? Royal blood atrophies until it has to fend off a revolutionary attempt by the people? At this point, it feels like Su-Won justifiably killed that guy and should justifiably be king.
GABRIELLA: I think it’s that you have to make room for a cool princess to rise up and collect boyfriends every once in a while?
PETER: Yeah. That’s cool. I’m down with that. But also, if it’s her destiny to be the queen because of her bloodline, when you see what the last of her bloodline was like, then it’s like, “Okay, well, maybe that bloodline’s not that great. Maybe we shouldn’t be trusting a single genetic line with leadership of this country.”
CAITLIN: I don’t disagree, and I think the manga is thus far grappling with that, where it’s like, “Yes, Yona is the rightful heir and she’s the Crimson Dragon, but Hak is a good king.” Or not Hak.
CAITLIN: Yun— Su-Won. Thank you! God, I got there eventually. No, I didn’t. I only got there with your help. Su-Won is a good king. He’s an effective leader. He’s intelligent. He sees opportunities. And I think the manga is dealing with that reality.
PETER: That’s really cool, but I also have no idea how you could reckon that. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: And ultimately, Yona and Su-Won, even though they’re enemies, they want the same things. They want to set the kingdom right, as Yona sees more and more of the damage of her father’s policies.
GABRIELLA: I think the story should head towards Su-Won doing something stupid, like probably going to war against someone he shouldn’t have or following his father and becoming a shitty warmonger. So, Yona has to be the resolution between her dad, who was pacifist to the point of not being able to do anything, and a more vicious king.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that could be a direction for it to go.
PETER: I mean, it was assassination that got him where he was, so that’s kind of a not-great way to have started things off.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And Yona’s out there learning empathy for the people. She’s not just fixing things, but she’s talking to people and seeing so personally the effects of what’s going on. She saw the child that got killed. That was because her father was such a weak leader that the city officials were able to run rampant and do whatever they want and take advantage of their people.
GABRIELLA: Is this the town where they’re turning into Drugville?
CAITLIN: Yeah. And human trafficking. It’s a big trafficking hotspot.
PETER: Wasn’t his whole speech regarding overthrowing the king, though, related to the fact that the people were suffering and he wasn’t handling the problem?
PETER: Okay. So, it seems like Su-Won’s aware of this, actually taking steps to fix it.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And they’re both traveling around and seeing the country, so I don’t know how it’s going to shake out between the two of them. I honestly don’t. The manga is still running and it’s a long-running series and the US releases are behind. So, I sincerely don’t know where this is going to go.
But the fact that Yona is doing this is, I think, really powerful and really makes this manga special, that she is working so hard to learn and to not become self-sufficient, necessarily—because as ruler, she has vassals, she has people serving her—but learning to be a leader and be strong and learning how to fix things. And I think that’s really awesome.
And the fact that she is taking her own protection into her own hands more and more is really, I think, uncommon for a lot of these kinds of series, because most of them that I can think of, the girl is being protected 100% of the time.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, this really feels like a 2010s update of this sort of very similar story, like Fushigi Yugi but Miaka isn’t annoying and learns to stand up for herself, to an extent.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I mean, it’s not an isekai, but it has a lot in common with a lot of that sort of isekai. Also, it’s like Red River or From Far Away.
CAITLIN: Inuyasha. I mean, in Inuyasha, Kagome could shoot a bow. But a lot of those series, the girl is more or less helpless, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s fine to have a noncombatant protagonist. But it’s really cool to see a heroine who is taking things so much into her own hands.
GABRIELLA: I’m excited to see her when she finishes leveling up.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] She hits level 100.
GABRIELLA: And gets to class change, and she gets a horse out of nowhere, and now she can use swords.
CAITLIN: Princess has leveled up into Queen.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, these are all Fire Emblem jokes.
CAITLIN: So, circling back around to Jae Ha, do you—
GABRIELLA: He’s up in the boyfriend rankings.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Do you guys think he is bisexual?
CAITLIN: Do you think he’s genuinely into Hak?
GABRIELLA: I mean, I have no idea what the writer meant, but they’re really playing up his flirtatiousness. I don’t know if they meant to actually portray a bisexual or just really, really playing into… I know this one’s for the BL fans out there, but I read him as probably pan; he just likes beauty.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. He just likes pretty people?
CAITLIN: Because the first thing he says to Hak isn’t “Oh, you look really strong.” It’s “Oh, you’re handsome!” [laughs] And that is what a lot of his pursuit is. Like, yes, he wants him for the pirates. He thinks he would be helpful. But yeah, a lot of it is “Oh, you’re really hot. Come join me. Come hang out with me, hot guy!”
GABRIELLA: “Yeah, be my battle boyfriend.”
PETER: “Let’s be pirates together.”
GABRIELLA: That’s a great first date. “Let’s go be pirates.”
PETER: Nice pickup line.
GABRIELLA: Jae Ha’s like the Lancer of the game to me, from Fate, in personality. Hak is the one with the lance.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I think they may have the same voice actor. Hold on. I’m gonna look this up.
PETER: It’s very important.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, it’s very important.
CAITLIN: It is very important.
GABRIELLA: Speaking of voice actors, I’ve been listening to the English dub and it’s not terrible.
PETER: Glowing endorsement.
GABRIELLA: I know Caitlin has a problem with Yona’s voice.
CAITLIN: It just doesn’t—
GABRIELLA: It’s very affected, I’d say. I could listen to it, but I see what you mean.
CAITLIN: Oh, no, he’s not the same as Lancer. He has the same voice actor as Archer.
GABRIELLA: Oh, that’s much worse.
GABRIELLA: Not dissing the VA, but that is a step down in husband material.
GABRIELLA: That is a hard step.
CAITLIN: Junichi Sawabe.
GABRIELLA: So, my big problem with the dub is that Gija’s voice actor is Ian Sinclair. And I’m normally a big Ian Sinclair fan, but the type of character he voices is like Space Dandy; Zapp from Blood Blockade Battlefront. He has a very strong and deep “I’m a rowdy rapscallion” voice.
GABRIELLA: And that doesn’t suit Gija at all, so imagine Space Dandy’s voice coming out of the White Dragon guy.
CAITLIN: It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work at all.
GABRIELLA: They should’ve just switched Green and White because Jae Ha has a much softer, higher voice that’s a little too soft for him, I think. That’s not as bad. But mostly, Gija is really off in a funny way.
CAITLIN: Jae Ha, he doesn’t have a particularly deep voice in the sub, but it would work better than having a really deep voice would work for Gija. And also, Ian Sinclair can turn on the charm, which is Jae Ha.
GABRIELLA: He can turn on the “I’m a smarmy lad.”
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Smarm. That’s a good way to put it.
GABRIELLA: “I’m a smarmy rowdy boy, and you want me.”
GABRIELLA: That shit.
CAITLIN: [singing] Turn on the smarm. [Returns to normal speaking voice] Okay. Anyway. Sorry. But yeah, no, I can’t imagine that really working. That’s weird casting.
GABRIELLA: Otherwise, I’m curious about where Leggy Boy is gonna hop next, in terms of his damage.
CAITLIN: And learn his tragic backstory. [speaks dramatically] Why is he like this?
PETER: Does there need to be a tragic backstory to just wanna have fun kicking people with pirates; kickin’ back?
CAITLIN: Kickin’ it?
GABRIELLA: I bet he was locked in a box or something. These types of stories also have one where it’s like “Boy who was locked in a box.”
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, shit. Yeah, you’re right.
CAITLIN: [laughs] All right, I’ll put that under predictions.
PETER: [dramatically] “I was imprisoned and I’ll never be imprisoned again.”
GABRIELLA: Yeah, “I was born in a box, and they put a baby chain…”
PETER: [crosstalk; laughs] “Born in a box.” That is tragic. [speaks dramatically] “I escaped my mother’s womb, and I will never be held again.”
CAITLIN: A very traumatic birth.
GABRIELLA: I mean, it seems like it’d be traumatic to give birth to a scaly boy.
CAITLIN: I just wouldn’t blame him if he just didn’t want to leave Gi-Gan, because she’s amazing.
PETER: Pirate mom.
GABRIELLA: I bet he just saw her once and was like, “I know where I want to be.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. I would follow her to the ends of the earth.
PETER: Yeah, she’s got it together, especially because I assume she’s constantly smoking opium but is able to stand up and give orders. That’s impressive.
CAITLIN: No, no, she’s a romanticized anime pirate, so I’m sure she does not allow drugs on her ship.
PETER: Well, I mean, she doesn’t allow killing, which in this series is kind of a very fanciful idea, so… I was like, “Oh, that’s cute. That’s very Disney. I wonder how they get away with that.” [chuckles] Probably because they have a god guy who can kick people.
CAITLIN: Yeah, just subdue them.
PETER: I mean, you literally had a child get beaten to death in the same episode where they introduced a bunch of joyful pirates who are just like, “We’ll never kill anyone! We’ll just rob from the rich and give to the poor.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. I mean, it’s definitely a romanticization, but it does make sense that if the city government is so corrupt, then the people who are defending it are the outlaws and rebels.
PETER: But not killing is very optimistic.
PETER: Especially from her, because she seems like the hard-ass type.
CAITLIN: Livin’ in that hive of scum and villainy?
PETER: Well, and she’s like, “Oh, Yona, you can’t do anything? Well, then, get off my fuckin’ ship.”
GABRIELLA: “Uh, I can look pretty.” Well, that’s why they have Jae Ha, so…
PETER: Yeah, there’s a lot of pretty people in that group. I don’t know if she stands out in that regard, unless you’re into redheads, which, I mean, seems a lot of people are in this world.
GABRIELLA: Well, because she’s the Crimson Dragon.
PETER: The whole White Village had a type.
GABRIELLA: They definitely did have a type there!
CAITLIN: Well, red hair is very uncommon in that universe, and for them it was a sign that the Crimson Dragon had arrived.
PETER: I’m just saying, if she were in My Little Pony, she’d be Rarity.
GABRIELLA: Is that the rainbow one?
PETER: I don’t know. I just know its name is Rarity and red hair is rare. That’s my joke.
GABRIELLA: No, wait, that’s Rainbow Dash. Is Rarity the purple one?
PETER: I don’t know.
CAITLIN: Yeah, Rarity’s the purple one.
PETER: I’ll take your word for it.
CAITLIN: All right. Do we want to do some predictions? I think we’ve covered pretty much everything we wanted to talk about.
PETER: I’m down.
CAITLIN: All right. So, Gabbo is predicting that Jae Ha was locked in a box.
CAITLIN: Anything else? This is gonna be for the last stretch of the anime.
PETER: Yeah, I think we kind of have to predict an ending here, right?
GABRIELLA: Predict we’re gonna meet the last scaly boy and he’s gonna have all the body parts the other ones don’t have.
GABRIELLA: So, he’s just gonna be a lizard with a…
PETER: He’s a dragon head? [chuckles]
GABRIELLA: He’s a lizard with no eyes, a human arm, and a human leg.
PETER: Wow. That’s extreme. Maybe he’s got a tail.
GABRIELLA: He has one of those lizard-like necks where it goes in and out, in and out.
PETER: Oh, he’s just the girl from Mysteria Friends, Grea.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] All right. Okay. Got that one written down. What else?
GABRIELLA: He’s gonna be more of an orange color.
PETER: I mean, we saw him in the old opening, so…
GABRIELLA: Oh, true.
PETER: I think in the new opening, too. I think they just actually give everything away in the opening sequence.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah! I forgot to talk about— What do you guys think of the new openings and endings?
GABRIELLA: I actually kind of like the song.
CAITLIN: [suppressing laughter] I hate them.
CAITLIN: I thought they were a major step down.
PETER: I like them in isolation, but, yeah, I think the other ones were more thematic. I think the first one hits the kind of setting that the story is trying to do more, because it reminded me of the Twelve Kingdoms opening, which was very similar in the way it did its music and showing things. The new one’s just kind of like—
CAITLIN: The music also sounds like it’s like 15 years old.
PETER: I mean, isn’t it?
CAITLIN: I don’t think so. No.
PETER: Yona of the Dawn?
CAITLIN: Yona of the Dawn’s not that old of a series. It’s only like four or five years old.
PETER: Yeah, I guess it doesn’t really feel that old. 2009… No, that’s the manga. 2014. Holy shit, that was pretty recent. I have trouble believing that was that recent, actually. God, we really got a female-led reverse-harem fantasy series with decent production values in the last five years?
GABRIELLA: Yeah, this show is, like, super a throwback.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. This is like hella early ‘00s.
CAITLIN: People were saying that when it came out.
PETER: Yeah, in regards to predictions, I can’t honestly… I think it has to end with them finally getting the last dragon, maybe setting up how dangerous the villain is, and then it’s just gotta end, right? It can’t really show a final conflict because I guess the manga’s continuing to go, and this is probably just an advertisement for the manga, basically, as is most anime.
GABRIELLA: I predict that Su-Won is gonna do something fucked up that shows that Yona’s gonna need to intervene. So far, we’ve mostly seen him as the king doing all the right shit. But we’re gonna see why he’s gonna be a villain to Yona.
PETER: That makes sense.
GABRIELLA: More than just killing her dad.
PETER: Yeah, he does something that shows that he’s not in fact the better option for the kingdom, maybe. [laughs] Yeah, framing him as a villain would be good, because, yeah, there was that first scene, but after that, the country’s improving under his leadership, so you’re just like, “Hm. Well, I have complex feelings about this.” But, yeah, maybe him showing some villainous credentials along with her getting her squad together and then going like, “Okay, and now we overthrow the kingdom,” and then the credits roll.
CAITLIN: Yeah. All right. I’m going to predict…
PETER: [chuckles] Do you get to do that?
CAITLIN: …that someday, someday, they will make a second season.
PETER: Oh, shit. Okay. The meta-prediction.
PETER: Okay. I believe it.
CAITLIN: [sighs softly] Someday. Please.
PETER: [crosstalk] I actually don’t know how it did.
CAITLIN: I don’t either. It’s a long-running manga that I think is fairly popular.
PETER: Yeah, it’s been going since 2009. 28 volumes. Damn. I wonder, how deep in the story are we right now?
CAITLIN: I don’t know.
GABRIELLA: I can see this getting an audience. Women like anime. This is just classic lady fantasy of the isekai type without the actual isekai, with a slightly more active protagonist, which is fashionable now.
PETER: Magic redheads has been doing… We got Snow White with the Red Hair, Ancient Magus’ Bride. It’s a genre. It’s still working. They gotta hit while the iron’s hot.
GABRIELLA: Give isekai back to women!
PETER: You hear that? —Oh, this was Pierrot, too? Wow! Okay. You hear that, Pierrot?
CAITLIN: Give isekai back to women. Give us more cool action fantasy shoujo stories! Aaaah!
GABRIELLA: Yeah, no more Slave Hero or Goblin Slaver.
PETER: [amused] Goblin Slaver?
PETER: That series was many things, but I don’t think it had slaves in it.
GABRIELLA: Oh, okay. That’s the one thing it didn’t have.
PETER: Yeah. If slavery’s not your thing, if you’re one of the rare people where slavery’s not your thing, then Goblin Slayer’s safe material.
GABRIELLA: [crosstalk] Oh, you like everything else about the genre.
PETER: Yeah, pretty much.
CAITLIN: All right, we’re hitting the hour, so I’m gonna play us out.
GABRIELLA: All right.
PETER: Fair enough.
GABRIELLA: Good luck.
CAITLIN: If you enjoyed this episode, check out our website at animefeminist.com. And if you really liked this episode, donate to our Patreon, patreon.com/AnimeFeminist. Every little bit counts. We have a lot of projects that we want to do for the site that we need more cash to do.
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Thank you to Peter and Gabbo for coming on, and thanks for listening. Thanks, AniFam!
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