The final episode of our 4-part watchalong of the fantasy epic Yona of the Dawn with Caitlin, Peter, and special guest Gabriella.
Date Recorded: Sunday 24th February 2019
Hosts: Caitlin, Peter
0:16:54 Yona’s development
0:26:44 Su Won
0:35:53 Yona and Hak
0:47:31 The kiss
0:52:03 Final impressions
CAITLIN: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. Welcome to the fourth and final 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 writer for The Daily Dot, and my own blog, I Have a Heroine Problem. I’m joined, once again, by Peter Fobian, and special guest, Gabriella Ekens.
PETER: Hey, I’m Peter. I’m a producer and editor at Crunchyroll and an editor and content creator at Anime Feminist.
GABRIELLA: My name is Gabriella Ekens or “Gabby.” I am an editor for Anime News Network, where I mostly do, or have done, Daily Streaming Reviews. I’m on break right now, but, I do reviews.
CAITLIN: All right, so, let’s look at our predictions from last week. So, last week, Gabby predicted that Jaeha was locked in a box. Not quite. But, actually, pretty close.
CAITLIN: ‘Cause he was chained up.
GABRIELLA: Oh, yeah.
PETER: We got that in a two-second flashback, that he had chains on his legs or something. And I was like, “What are they gonna do with this?” And then the flashback was over.
CAITLIN: Yeah, the manga doesn’t go too much into it, either. Although, it goes into it a little bit differently. But, you know, apparently, the manga mentions that it’s tradition. That’s just how it’s been for the Green Dragon.
PETER: [laughs] Chain their leg.
CAITLIN: They just got to jump!
PETER: I mean, it’s a dangerous power, I guess. If you’re a kid, you don’t know what you’re doing. You could just jump, fly 80 feet in the air, then land on your head and die. So, maybe it was a…
CAITLIN: Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Green Dragons gotta jump. It pretty much sucks for all the Dragons except for Kija, I guess.
GABRIELLA: Who’s like a Yoshi, I guess.
PETER: That’s true. Although, I haven’t seen anybody jump off of his back and throw him into a pit yet, so…
CAITLIN: So then we have, also: “the last scaly boy, who will include all the missing dragon parts.” Did this prediction come true?
PETER: Yeah. She’s got all the dragon boys. Is Yona how lizardmen romance became so popular in isekai? Do I have Yona to blame?
CAITLIN: [laughing] No, Yona‘s not isekai!
PETER: Yeah, yeah, but, I dunno… There’s lizard romance in every fantasy series I watch now. Is it ’cause of the scaly boys?
GABRIELLA: Yona’s just isekai without the “isekai” part.
PETER: Yeah, yeah.
CAITLIN: No, it’s because the lizard people took over anime production.
CAITLIN: They’re trying to normalize it.
PETER: Actually, I love that explanation, so I’ll go with that one.
GABRIELLA: That’s what Abe is, so…
PETER: Yeah. Lizard man. [laughs]
GABRIELLA: He wants to breed.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, it all makes sense.
CAITLIN: He’s trying to normalize militarism and lizard-person romance, so…
PETER: Yeah, lizard man.
GABRIELLA: He’s trying to farm, so…
CAITLIN: So, Peter also predicted that it would end with the last Dragon, and it would be setting up how dangerous the villain is and then the end.
PETER: I don’t really feel like it set up how dangerous Su-Won is. [laughs] We just had another scene where he kind of goofs off, kind of implies he might be dangerous, and then, end of series.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it was kind of the opposite, right? They met each other, and he protected her.
PETER: Yeah. I guess it did have a scene where they kind of established that he has some greater goal, and that he’s willing to… It kind of sounds like, “I’m willing to die for this,” or like “I cannot be king after I accomplish this goal, but I’m definitely gonna do it first.”
So, it at least set up his—what do you call it?—resolve. Close enough.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah, it didn’t show him being dangerous, necessarily, but it did show that he is… he means it. He means business.
Then, Gabbo predicted that Su-Won would actually fuck up, and force Yona to intervene.
PETER: No. I mean, well, if you wanna…
CAITLIN: Not really.
PETER: Kinda? I mean, it sounds like he was coming to the town to fix that problem anyway, although I guess that was really her father’s fault that it ever got to that point. So, she kind of beat him to the punch of solving the problem. So… I’m sure [unintelligible] help you out here.”
CAITLIN: And then, finally, I predicted that they would finally announce the second season. And they didn’t.
PETER: I mean, this podcast is gonna come up in quite a while—a month or two, right? So your wish might be granted by then.
GABRIELLA: How many volumes of the manga does this cover?
CAITLIN: Seven and a half. Actually, eight.
GABRIELLA: How many volumes are there?
CAITLIN: In English?
GABRIELLA: Or in total?
CAITLIN: In total, I think there’s 27 and it’s still running.
GABRIELLA: Oh, okay. So, they’re being lazy with it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, they’re… They could make three more seasons at the pace they adapted this.
PETER: Yeah, it’s not like that ran out of material or anything.
GABRIELLA: [sing-song] Read the manga!
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Yeah, and, at first, before, I was like, “They’re going really slow-paced.” But then I did a comparison. I had the manga out while I was watching the anime. And I do appreciate… A scene that would be a couple of pages would be five-to-ten minutes in the show, it’s true, but I appreciate that they let the manga… They let the scene breathe. They weren’t like, “We gotta get through this scene to get to the more interesting stuff.”
It was the scene in the last episode where Zeno and Yona are talking about the other Dragons at night. And that sequence was literally three pages. But they let the natural pauses in the conversation, and appreciating the setting… and so I appreciate their choice, even if it led to a slower-paced series and they couldn’t adapt as much of the manga as they could have. I think that’s part of what made the anime so special.
PETER: Yeah. I mean, with One Piece, you get a chapter an episode, which really causes some weird time distortions and they really have to find ways to fill time a lot of that time. So, I’d much rather they direct it in a dramatic way than try to keep to pace or anything like that.
CAITLIN: Yeah. So, do you guys have any other general impressions of these last eight episodes? —Not eight. Last six episodes?
GABRIELLA: I think they did a good job of updating the action for the last bit. It does have a non-ending, a “read the manga!” ending, but they did at least give you a good action show. They showed Yona at her most… taking a step up in badassery. Which had been coming for a while.
PETER: Yeah, I feel like the conclusion they wanted to reach was Yona killing her first man, so that was the kind of real conclusion to the story, then they’re like, “Oh, I guess she should get all the Dragons, too, since that’s been the quest,” and they threw Zeno in at the end and then wrapped things up. But our battle continues.
CAITLIN: For the record, Zeno’s entrance is just as abrupt in the manga.
PETER: All right. I believe it.
CAITLIN: Zeno’s entrance really is beat-for-beat the same as the manga.
PETER: I mean, I definitely believe it. It’s just I feel like they might have otherwise left that out if gathering the Dragons weren’t such a big aspect of the story, because it’s… Zeno’s entrance was abrupt, but then also the series ended right afterwards. So, it’s like, “Okay. Who’s this person?”
GABRIELLA: “Who dis?”
CAITLIN: See, I really like that it took its time to sort of wrap things up. The big climax was in the third-to-last episode, but at the same time, they had sort of the emotional next step of her journey to start on, and to talk about. But we’ll get to that.
First, let’s sort of talk about what happened in these 19 to 24 episodes. They all sing “Ya-yo, ya-yo.”
PETER: I love the One Piece rap. [singing] “Ya-yo, ya-yo. It is the One Piece–“
CAITLIN: [singing] “Ya-yo, ya-yo!”
PETER: Actually, I gotta interrupt, because the comparisons to… the similarities to One Piece just keep growing. That song is basically the One Piece rap. They have a womanizer who specializes in kicking people now. I mean, there’s just… It’s just… Are you sure this isn’t in the One Piece universe?
CAITLIN: Now, to be fair—
PETER: Is this East Blue?
CAITLIN: —Jaeha is not a womanizer so much as he’s an everyone-izer.
PETER: Yeah. True.
CAITLIN: Jaeha just flirts with everyone.
GABRIELLA: Would Hak be Zoro?
PETER: Yeah, I think he’d be Zoro. Yeah, he also doesn’t get along with the kicking guy, much like Zoro and Sachi. They have somebody who transforms body parts like Chopper. I mean, come on.
PETER: It’s the same thing. This is East Blue.
CAITLIN: Uh, so, when are the girls gonna… When is Yona gonna get her ribs removed and get implants?
PETER: Oh, ouch. Uh, I mean, it’ll probably be around season two, ’cause that’s when it really started leaning into that design, right? So, maybe after they visit Alabaster or something.
GABRIELLA: [unintelligible] —they’d do that to like, Gija, or someone? He seems like the Nami of the group.
PETER: Yeah, the one person that doesn’t really fit is Yona. I guess she could be Usopp, ’cause she shoots. [cracks up]
CAITLIN: Okay. I don’t like this line of discussion. I’m bitter about One Piece.
PETER: Fair enough.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Every shounen that has cool girls ends up sidelining them eventually.
PETER: Except Black Clover!
CAITLIN: Which is why we need more action shoujo.
PETER: Black Clover. I’m telling you.
CAITLIN: I don’t know about Black Clover.
PETER: It’s really good. Noelle’s the main character, actually. If you really think about it.
GABRIELLA: The only shounen I watch is Food Wars.
CAITLIN: I watch Kaguya-Sama: Love is War.
CAITLIN: That’s a good shounen. I like that shounen.
PETER: Is that shounen?
CAITLIN: It is shounen. Shonen Jump.
PETER: Oh, okay. Shonen Jump? Jeez. Okay. I guess I believe it. If freakin’ Nisekoi is Shonen Jump, then Kaguya can be Shonen Jump.
CAITLIN: But anyway. Yona is not immediately welcomed into the pirates, ’cause she doesn’t have a lot of useful skills, so she must prove herself and get a healing herb that only grows in a cliff off the sea, and she must walk along a terrifying mountain path.
GABRIELLA: Path. Path.
CAITLIN: She does so. She’s accepted into the pirates. Gi-gan is life goals. I want to be like Gi-gan when I’m old.
And Yona and Yoon volunteer to get kidnapped by sex slavers to save the city of Awa. This results in Yona being a stone-cold badass, and they defeat the evil lord, who is kidnapping girls for his own profit, and then everybody comes out for a big party. In the process of planning this party, she runs into Su-Won, who does not kill her and she does not kill him.
CAITLIN: And she must deal with the emotional fallout of everything that she has been going through for the past few months. Jaeha officially… They leave the pirates, who are no longer pirates. Now they’re just fisherpeople, because they no longer have to try to save their city from an evil pirate lord kidnapping women.
Jaeha joines, Zeno wanders in, and they visit the priest, Ik-Soo. Yona talks about the friends she’s made along the way, and the show wraps up. And it was very, very good.
PETER: Had some more combat sakuga there in the last fight.
CAITLIN: Yeah, a little bit.
PETER: This probably has the best fighting animation I’ve seen in any kind of shoujo anime that’s not magical girl.
CAITLIN: Well, it’s been such a long time since they’ve adapted any action shoujo series, too.
PETER: That’s also very true, yeah.
CAITLIN: What was the last shoujo action adaptation that involved fighting sequences like this, right? Twelve Kingdoms?
PETER: Yeah, I mean, I was just thinking–
PETER: I was just thinking fantasy in general, so thinking of Fushigi Yugi and stuff.
CAITLIN: I mean, Fushigi Yugi was the ‘90s.
PETER: Yeah. They had sakuga in the ‘90s.
CAITLIN: Yeah, but not for TV series. That was all in OAVs back then. I dunno. I’m gonna get 500 comments proving me wrong.
PETER: I think so, yeah.
CAITLIN: Pointing out all the ways I’m wrong.
CAITLIN: Fushigi Yugi had some good animation bits.
PETER: For combat? Or for staging and stuff?
CAITLIN: [hesitantly] Yeah. Don’t ask me to prove it right now, but it did.
PETER: All right, yeah. I don’t recall any in particular, but it has been a long time since I watched Fushigi Yugi, so… You watched it much more recently than I did, so I’ll take your word for it.
CAITLIN: It was uneven. It was very uneven.
GABRIELLA: Guys. Guys. I think we’re all forgetting Sailor Moon Crystal.
PETER: Oh, yeah? I didn’t watch that.
CAITLIN: We said “except for magical girl.”
PETER: Yeah, yeah. I did. That was my qualifier. Yeah, ’cause you always have frickin’ Pretty Cure, which is just a sakuga fest.
GABRIELLA: As we’re frequently told.
CAITLIN: But this is… Does Utena have any sakuga?
PETER: I’m sure it does. That’s one of the items on my backlog. I’m only a quarter of the way through.
GABRIELLA: What. What?
CAITLIN: I would ask about Saiunkoku, but like five people watched Saiunkoku, so…
GABRIELLA: Oh, I actually watched the sequel anime for Shelf Life. It was pretty dumpy.
CAITLIN: Wait, for Saiunkoku?
CAITLIN: Wait, they’re putting that out?
GABRIELLA: Wait, is that the one about the Journey to the West and they’re all boys?
CAITLIN: No, that’s Saiyuki.
GABRIELLA: Oh, okay, sorry.
GABRIELLA: Then I didn’t… Sorry to bait you.
CAITLIN: Oh, you got my hopes up!
GABRIELLA: I’m sorry.
CAITLIN: [faux crying] Oh, man!
PETER: Saiyuki Reload Blast, right?
PETER: Saiunkoku Reload Blast.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, that twenty-year-off immediate sequel to that stuff.
PETER: Yeah, no, that’ll definitely do.
CAITLIN: But yeah, no, there are some really good action sequences in this last episode. The whole fight on the boat had just… Things really landed. And the moments… I thought showing Yona with the literal fire in her eyes was a little bit cheesy, but I also think that it worked surprisingly well.
PETER: Wait, where he was grabbing her hair? Or when she shot the—
CAITLIN: Yeah, when he was grabbing her hair.
PETER: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that was good. I liked that scream.
CAITLIN: And it really is the culmination of Yona’s evolution as a character. She’s not taking shit anymore. She is… It feels like such a natural moment for her character, and it’s a big moment. And it feels so earned. Compared to where she was at the beginning of the series. It’s just really, really satisfying. I got chills at so many times in those last few episodes. That moment where she gives that guy that terrifying death glare.
GABRIELLA: I think my favorite scene overall were when she was climbing up the basically sheer cliffside, except for a footlong little ledge, and the extent to which Jaeha tries to convince her to stop but she is determined to keep on trucking; and also the scene where the sex trafficking warlord comes in being like, “Come be my pleasure woman!” And she manages to bow him out of it, and also convince him that she’s not the princess.
CAITLIN: Yeah. She really, really thinks on her feet in that part.
PETER: Yeah. She had to walk that back a little bit, ’cause she showed him her Emperor Haki, and then she had to convince him that she wasn’t Yona. So, it’s cool that she could do that but she’s got to learn to control it, I guess.
I liked that with the… I can’t remember the name of the dude with the bow. The bad guy. How it wasn’t her shooting him that stopped him from killing Jaeha; it was her killing intent. She pulled an Orochimaru thing where she was so intent on killing him that he froze in place. Just feeling, I guess, her decision to murder him. And then, of course, she actually murders him, which is something that usually doesn’t happen directly after a scene like that.
PETER: That’s some powerful stuff.
CAITLIN: ‘Cause the whole thing was they didn’t want to kill anyone in their battle. Gi-Gan told them, “No killing,” but Yona was like, “But that guy was getting away and he was going to keep messing stuff up, and sometimes it’s just like: You need to be gone.”
PETER: The reason, I think, for not killing anybody was ’cause they were just hired mercenaries and stuff, right? So, they’re just working for a bad guy. He was the bad guy. And he was gonna keep doing bad guy stuff, so there’s definitely… Maybe you don’t kill the hired muscle, but you maybe should kill the bad guy who’s been trafficking women for however long. That seems reasonable.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and I feel like in a lot of series, that moment would be like, “Oh, well she’s gonna put her bow down and show him mercy.” It’s like, “No! She is a warrior queen now. She needs to be able to fight and face down bad guys.” And she does it, and she takes care of it. And it’s such a good feeling when she does that.
PETER: It shows she’s willing to kill.
CAITLIN: She’s willing to kill if she needs to. She is not soft.
PETER: Yeah. Won’t hesitate.
CAITLIN: And I love… She’s an empathetic heroine, but her empathy has limits. And she is a protector before she is an empathizer.
GABRIELLA: Not just your pure, super-feminine-coded, “pacifism will save us all.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. No, that’s true. It’s not… She’s not just the feminine-coded pacifist. She does what needs to be done.
PETER: Yeah. Although, when they talk about leadership qualities, it does tend to lean toward feminine, I guess. Her dad was not, I would say, traditionally masculine. Neither is Su-Won. And then, I guess, the most masculine leader we’ve seen so far is probably the pirate lady, Gi-Gan.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Yeah. Yeah, this show definitely plays around with that. [quietly] Gi-Gan is the best. She’s so cool.
PETER: Is she gonna be a fisherman now? A fisherwoman.
CAITLIN: I don’t know.
PETER: I don’t know if that backstory was really important. Where she came from, necessarily. Where they… Women start disappearing, so they all were just a bunch of guys in the town who became pirates out of nowhere.
CAITLIN: These guys are her boys. Her many terrible sons are all going to settle down, marry the girls who are no longer getting kidnapped, have children, and she’s gonna be the world’s greatest grandmother.
GABRIELLA: [sing-song] Queen of the pirates!
CAITLIN: And then… Yeah, but this isn’t the only culmination of the story, right? And, like I said, I really, really liked the last two episodes and how it took the moment to sort of take a breath. Sort of see what is… Talk about what we accomplished, what’s the next step. And we meet… So, and the first part of this is meeting Zeno. How do you guys feel about Zeno?
GABRIELLA: He sure is there.
PETER: Yeah. Very mysterious. I did… I wanted to bring up that scene again… Zeno shows up ’cause they’re cooking deer, right? And then he feeds some of the deer to the squirrel. And I don’t know if squirrels eat large animals, or any meat besides bugs? Is that a thing?
CAITLIN: I think they might be omnivores.
PETER: That squirrel’s getting a little scary. Can eat a deer. I mean, if he…
CAITLIN: Yep, squirrels are omnivores.
GABRIELLA: Do squirrels hunt?
CAITLIN: Uh, Live Science says that they mainly eat fungi, seeds, nuts, and fruits, but will also eat eggs, small insects, caterpillars, small animals, and even young snakes.
PETER: Okay. Damn. Wow, snakes. I guess if—
GABRIELLA: Squirrels are more badass than I thought.
CAITLIN: Don’t mess with squirrels.
PETER: Big Game Hunter Squirrel was one of the MVPs this time, too.
GABRIELLA: Squirrel of the pirates!
PETER: Yeah, it’s hard to really have an opinion on Zeno, though, ’cause Zeno’s just like, “Oh, yeah, I’m here. I’m also a Dragon. I’m gonna join with absolutely no difficulty.” And then in the next episode, the series is over, so.
CAITLIN: Well, and I mean, he even says, “This is kind of anticlimactic.”
PETER: Yeah, yeah.
CAITLIN: [Laughs] Just, the other dragons are standing there, talking, and they’re like, “Um, I think this guy’s the last Dragon.”
PETER: Yeah, it should have been harder, right?
CAITLIN: ‘Cause they can sense the other Dragons.
PETER: Yeah. I wonder if he was watching them from nearby to see if they were worthy, or something like that.
GABRIELLA: He’s definitely the first scaly boy that I’d call a “boy” rather than a “man.”
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. I think he’s the youngest. In the eighth volume of the manga, which is the part that was connected to these episodes, she goes through the ages… Yeah, he is physically 17 years old.
CAITLIN: Physically 17 years old.
CAITLIN: [laughs] So, yeah. No, and it’s true. He doesn’t get a lot to do in this episode. But he seems like a really sweet boy.
PETER: I think his introduction really kind of takes a backseat to the Su-Won scene. It was more important, probably.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. And I think so. And so the comparisons to Fushigi Yugi are really easy, right? And in Fushigi Yugi, it was such a big deal when they got the final warrior, ’cause that was part of the point. You need all seven… Get the seventh warrior and then now you can summon Suzaku. You’ve accomplished your mission. And, here, gathering the Dragons… That’s not the point. That is a step along the way. And even Zeno is like, “Okay, well, now we’re all here. What do you want to do with us, Yona?”
PETER: I appreciate the question. He’s like, “So are we actually gonna lead a revolution? What’s the plan?” And I don’t know if we really got an answer.
CAITLIN: Well, she’s not sure.
PETER: I assume there will be revolting.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and that kinda answers the questions that you guys have had for part of the run, too, is… Well, it doesn’t really answer, but it accounts for… You guys have been asking, “Is this going back to the whole birthright thing? Is she going to be the rightful queen just because she was born, and because of destiny, even though Su-Won seems to be doing a pretty good job?”
PETER: Mm-hm. I guess they kind of called it out, but we still don’t know for sure. Ultimately, we don’t know what Su-Won’s motivation is, except that he definitely has one. He for sure has a greater plan in mind, but we weren’t privy to that by the time the series ended. Definitely very BOBC of the series.
PETER: “But our battle continues.”
CAITLIN: Yes! That was pretty much the last couple episodes.
PETER: I did find it interesting that he didn’t want to kill her, though. Because it seems like he’s very aware that she could cause him trouble. I was wondering if it’s one of those things where he’s like, “I’m gonna fix this thing with the kingdom and then you’re free to kill me and take leadership afterward” kind of deals. But it seemed like he was pretty intent on killing her when he was assassinating the shit out of everybody in the castle, right? His plan was to kill her, but I guess maybe that’s changed.
CAITLIN: Well, she hasn’t been trying to take the castle back so far. She seems to be… He came to this town, and, like you said, he probably came to fix it, and she is already there and it has already been taken care of.
PETER: Yeah. But, I mean, that also indicates that she was able to take down a warlord herself. I’m actually not even sure if he knows about the whole legend. It seemed like nobody freakin’ knew about that legend at the time.
CAITLIN: Or they think of it as a children’s story.
PETER: Okay. Does he know that she’s gathering together a bunch of Dragon warriors? [laughs] Does he believe in Dragon warriors? Has he heard of these Dragon warriors?
So, maybe he… I don’t know. He seems to recognize that she was the one who solved the problem, which is no small undertaking. Which would also mean that she could be a threat to him, right?
PETER: If he credited her that… I dunno, what do you call it? “Fixing the problem” [by] killing that guy. Then, implied in that, is that she may also have the ability to usurp him as a ruler as well.
CAITLIN: Well, so here’s my take on this. Before I give my take on this, ’cause, obviously, I’ve had several years to think about it and process it and multiple rewatches, I would like to hear your take on it, Gabbo, if you have one?
GABRIELLA: Is this on the ending? Sorry, I spaced out a bit.
CAITLIN: On Su-Won.
GABRIELLA: On Su-Won.
CAITLIN: Him not killing her.
GABRIELLA: I guess it’s sort of a wait-and-see thing. I mean, he’s still a bit of a cypher at this point. You know that he’s… I think we’re supposed to feel pretty ambiguous about him. There’s a lot of good stuff in him, where he seems to be a pretty good, smart king, mostly leading the kingdom right. But he’s also, personally, done nothing but shitty things to Yona in pursuit of that. But he still seems to have a soft spot for Yona.
And I don’t think… The question to me is whether his soft spot is just childhood affection that he’s struggling with, or whether there’s some secret thing that he knows about or has changed his mind about over the course of the series, and I don’t… If he has changed his mind about something about Yona, then we haven’t seen it. It would need to be revealed later.
I think he, so far, on the same conflict that we saw earlier on… or, his attachment to Yona and he’s pretty ruthless to accomplish things, but just sorta has consolidated his power.
CAITLIN: Right. All right, so this is my personal take on it. I think it has more to do with his own sentimental feelings towards [her], and it is something that both of them are still struggling with. Because he hides her away from the… What’s his name? The grumpy Sky Tribe general. [laughs] And… Because, if his men saw her, then they would perceive her as a threat, and probably try to take her out.
PETER: Or, say, “Oh, she’s still alive and she’s the rightful heir to the throne.” Can’t have that either.
CAITLIN: So, yeah. So… He does not want other people to know that she’s alive. I think he was feeling a lot of relief at the moment, at finding she was alive, because he thought she was dead and he was really, really shaken by that. So, he’s happy that she’s alive, even if they are supposed to be enemies. And both of them have a lot of really complicated feelings about seeing each other in that moment. You saw that after… He doesn’t hate Yona the way that she hates him.
CAITLIN: ‘Cause she never did anything to hurt… That is a one-sided sort of… She has so many complicated emotions towards him. She saw his sword and she tried to take it. And he stopped her, but he didn’t stop her super hard. She probably could have still taken him out if she wanted to. But she just has so many… She can’t just discard her feelings that she’s held for him for so long. And the bonds that they had.
And that’s something that I really love, is that sense of the really complex emotions that people can have towards each other; towards people who have hurt them in very serious ways. ‘Cause that’s very human, right? Even people who have been abused, they can have complex feelings toward their abusers. They can maintain relationships with their abusers.
That’s something that a lot of people aren’t getting about the “Kick Vic” thing we are currently in the throes of.
CAITLIN: For people listening in the future: “Why were they so chummy with this man who assaulted them?” Well, it can be complicated. And I really appreciate that this show really recognizes that complication. These are all very emotionally complex characters.
GABRIELLA: Maybe I’ll pick up the manga, if they don’t announce a second season in the next few weeks.
CAITLIN: You should!
PETER: By the time this is out… Is that your… You’re setting a deadline for yourself? If by the time this comes out, they don’t announce a second season, you’ll buy the manga?
GABRIELLA: If I’m also graduated by then. [laughs] And have time to do things.
PETER: Okay. Fair enough. I do think… I don’t remember if there was any sort of resolution to the scene afterward, though, ’cause you get back to the party, and she’s pretending everything’s fine very poorly. And then she kind of has… She gets gruel on herself or something, right? So she goes off by herself, and then I don’t know if anything really changed. She just kind of pulled herself back together after that, or something. I thought it was really weird that she was kind of freaking out, and then she was fine. Know what I mean?
CAITLIN: That’s how it goes sometimes.
PETER: I guess so.
CAITLIN: You sort of have to take a moment to gather yourself.
PETER: Yeah, although usually… I don’t know which stories… I think in real life, yeah, you gather yourself, but in stories, usually, I dunno… Something happens where you’re able to draw yourself back together again. A narrative event. But, that just didn’t happen. I thought that was… It kind of stood out because I sort of expected her to have to talk to someone, or even have a talk with herself, or something like that. But she just kinda changed her clothes, walked back out, and she was cool again. So, maybe that’s more realistic.
CAITLIN: Yeah. So, I also wanted to talk about Yona’s relationship with Hak. And sort of how that is evolving, because… Well, Yona’s relationship with everyone is evolving, because her fight with the pirates kind of proved that she is not the one who has to be protected anymore. She was the one who, when they left, everyone’s like, “Oh, you gotta protect Yona. If anything happens to her, then that’s gonna be real bad for you.” But then she was the one who ended up protecting him.
And that, I think, sort of signaled a change in Yona’s relationship with everyone else. She’s not that helpless little girl anymore. She can… They all have to defend each other, but it’s no longer a passive, one-way thing.
PETER: So is this about… Are we still talking about her relationship with Hak?
CAITLIN: Oh, well… I mean, that kind of significantly changes her relationship with Hak, right? He was very… He was her bodyguard. He was the one protecting her. And now he doesn’t always need to protect her. And he’s not sure how he feels about that.
PETER: Also, speaking as someone who… I would describe myself as an expert in missing signals when it comes to romantic interest, Yona’s some next-level shit.
GABRIELLA: Yeah… Poor girl.
PETER: When somebody’s licking honey off your hands… What kind of thoughts go through your mind there? “Oh, maybe he just really likes honey!” [flatly] No.
CAITLIN: He just really loves honey. It’s a precious commodity.
PETER: Yeah, I guess honey was rare back then, so… Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, you didn’t have beekeeping so much.
PETER: You’d lick that honey.
GABRIELLA: “He likes your honey, baby.”
CAITLIN: They also didn’t have processed sugar.
GABRIELLA: True. Apparently, honey—
PETER: After some point, though, you’ve got to wonder why he’s licking honey off your hands. Come on.
GABRIELLA: Apparently honey will keep for literally thousands of years. They found honey in the pyramids and it’s edible.
PETER: Yeah. So you’re saying it wouldn’t spoil, so she has no excuse?
PETER: Yeah, neither of them had an excuse.
GABRIELLA: I’ve got some honey on the table right here.
PETER: Yeah, she just entirely thinks of him as a friend, or something like that. Locked into that perception.
GABRIELLA: She has Protagonist Syndrome.
GABRIELLA: It won’t get better until the show finishes.
CAITLIN: Well, she has other things to think about, right?
PETER: [casually] Eh, maybe overthrowing a kingdom in the near future. Kind of throwing some plans together. That kind of thing.
CAITLIN: She’s got her priorities in line.
PETER: I guess I kind of understand why people don’t like Hak. He does mention tying her up a lot, but I dunno. It seems very… I dunno… He absolutely would not do that, and the only reason he’s saying that is ’cause he’s really afraid of her going out in battle and getting killed or something.
It always comes across as [him feeling] very helpless to me, so… But I mean, I get why people take umbrage with somebody making that statement at her. But, at the same time, I never really got the feeling that he was… I dunno… even kind of an asshole to her, or something.
GABRIELLA: I like the way you put that, actually, Peter. He feels helpless.
PETER: Yeah. ‘Cause he knows he can’t do that, right? He feels like there’s nothing he can do, even though he’s got all his combat prowess and stuff. She’s gonna jump into battle, there’s always a chance she could die. And he doesn’t like that idea, but he also can’t stop her.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no. Absolutely. I really like that wording. It really signals…
PETER: Yeah. It’s very masculine, too. “I can’t think of words to make her stop, so the only thing I can think of is literally to tie her up or something. But that’s not an option, so I’m just fucking lost.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. Well, and calling him “helpless,” it sort of reflects… not a feeling of him being controlling, but a feeling of him being…
PETER: Lacking control.
CAITLIN: Lacking control. He’s frustrated.
GABRIELLA: That’s a pretty hot anime archetype. He’s The Tough Guy, but he is the one who is submissive to the whims of the lady. Who’s not a mean, evil domme lady. She’s just the one in control, and he’s the muscle. But they still love each other.
PETER: Yeah. Right, I don’t get it. Are you saying they’re both switches?
GABRIELLA: I mean, yeah.
CAITLIN: Power dynamics are complex.
PETER: Okay. Yeah.
CAITLIN: But Yona and Hak’s relationship does have kind of a kinky element to it. I do agree with that.
PETER: Yeah. Once you tell somebody you want to tie them up enough, you start… That’s another thing I think Yona’s really kind of… It’s going right over her head. There’s some connotations there. Maybe I was wrong. That’s not how he means it.
CAITLIN: Or, “Don’t say that… ” What was it? What did she say? It was like, “It stirs my desire.”
PETER: Uhhh… All I can remember is when Jaeha said that when he saw her kill a man. He definitely… That stirred his desire.
CAITLIN: Oh! Yeah.
PETER: I know Hak said it, but I don’t remember what the context was.
CAITLIN: Jaeha is definitely a kinky motherfucker.
CAITLIN: Jaeha is just horny.
PETER: He’s… Yeah. Very AniTwitter.
GABRIELLA: He was born in that box.
CAITLIN: He wants a girl that can step on him.
PETER: He wants a girl that could kill him from 80 yards away with a bow and arrow.
GABRIELLA: He wants in on the Yona and Hak game.
PETER: Yeah. “Pierce my heart.”
CAITLIN: Um, and a lot of shoujo manga kind of has a kinky element to it. That’s not uncommon.
CAITLIN: [laughs uncomfortably] And I like how—
PETER: All of this stuff’s pretty free of a lot of the shit that’s usually problematic with this kind of stuff, where it’s like, I dunno, somebody locks somebody up in a room, or gets very handsy. That has… I think… Maybe I’m misremembering? I don’t think the series has really gone into that, right?
CAITLIN: No. I think Hak gets fresh a couple of times, but other than that, it’s generally pretty…
PETER: It didn’t have one of those scenes where the guy loses control or anything, right? ‘Cause, yeah.
CAITLIN: Right. And that’s actually something that I’ve remarked on, is that she trusts her Dragons and Hak and Yoon pretty implicitly. She sleeps in a tent with Yoon. And there’s never any… They’re camping together, and no one ever tries to pull anything. There’s no worry about that. They’re boys and she trusts them.
PETER: Yep. Hak respects women.
CAITLIN: That’s right. #RespectsWomen. And I like that. Whenever I’m like, “Well, shoujo manga depicts all these unhealthy things,” people are like, “Well, it’s shoujo manga. It’s gonna be kind of kinky.” And it’s like, “Well, we can have different things represented. We can have it in different ways. It doesn’t all have to be about the guy being controlling.”
GABRIELLA: Yeah, I think this one is the healthiest of the kind-of-bordering-a-little-bit-on-kinky relationships of this type. A lot of these types of shows tend to have that, like Kagome and Inuyasha, where Kagome could tell Inuyasha “sit,” and things like that. But also she was still super dependent on Inuyasha. They were more belligerent and annoying. Yona and Hak are more mature and reasonable and don’t act like small children at each other.
CAITLIN: Well, usually.
GABRIELLA: All the time? No.
PETER: Well, I mean, they act like—I dunno, like they’ve been friends for 20 years and they still do the same shit they’d do when they were eight. But the power dynamic is not bad. That’s what I’m saying. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It’s a lot more complicated than they usually are.
PETER: Yona’s just completely oblivious.
CAITLIN: And, like I said, it’s shifting, because it’s no longer… She’s the princess, but she is dependent on him to protect her. She can’t wholly protect herself, but she can carry her own. And that’s… I’ve always really loved that, and that’s something that I feel like this kind of series—these reverse harem shoujo fantasy series—very rarely have… The main exception I can think of is Twelve Kingdoms, which keeps coming up, which is a very different sort of thing.
PETER: Yeah. She’s got a ghost hunter that makes her kill people, though. So, you don’t get that scene where… I mean, we’ve already made it over the hump with Yona, where you get the scene where the girl’s got a sword or something but she lacks the conviction to kill, so the guy just grabs it out of her hand or whatever. Now you know Yona will just stab the shit out of him.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And then her conversation with Jaeha, where Jaeha’s like, “Oh, Hak probably wants to lock you away where no one can see.”
PETER: He said that to her? Did I miss that?
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah.
PETER: God, she’s oblivious. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Yeah, she’s like, “What? Why? Why would he want to do that? I don’t understand.”
CAITLIN: And Jaeha’s like, “Oh my gosh. Are you serious?”
PETER: Spending literally zero brain cells analyzing the meaning behind anything Hak does or says.
CAITLIN: Well, she… Why would she? They’ve been friends for their entire lives. She knows him. Right?
GABRIELLA: She just doesn’t know what sex is.
PETER: It is an anime and you never get together with your childhood friend, so…
GABRIELLA: [sarcastically] Yeah, no. That never happens!
PETER: Maybe she’s just more wise to the tropes than we are. She’s not even bothering, because it’s got to be the mysterious foreign exchange student, or something. Zero Two. Gotta be Zero Two. Sorry, Ichigo.
CAITLIN: But yeah. And the conversation in the cave, where he’s like, “I don’t want to lock you away. I want to show you to everyone. Say, ‘This is Princess Yona. This is the girl who you all thought was dead. Here she is. She’s gonna be a hell of a queen now.'” And I feel like that is also part of the shift, is that before he probably would have wanted to lock her away.
PETER: Yeah. Well, I mean, when they escaped, he was definitely going, “We have to hide somewhere forever,” right?
PETER: Yeah, I don’t think them taking back the kingdom by force was really on his mind.
PETER: Probably still isn’t.
CAITLIN: What do you guys think of the kiss that the series kind of wraps up with? When they’re in the cave. Because kissing someone while they’re sleeping is kind of a… yeah.
PETER: It was a forehead kiss, right? That’s more chaste.
GABRIELLA: I think that’s pretty iffy, but it’s not nearly as iffy as it could have been for the genre. It’s not good, but way worse stuff happens in the genre.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Well, it’s like, I see Sailor Moon… Mamoru kissing Usagi while she’s sleeping. And it’s like, “Eugh! Don’t do that!” But I thought this was… I thought it was… In this context, it was a sweet moment. I liked it. I liked it. I thought it was good.
PETER: I think looking at it… Did they actually show lips touching forehead, or something like that? I don’t remember that. ‘Cause I remember thinking it could just be him kind of putting his head against her head.
PETER: Incidental lip contact or something.
CAITLIN: No, he definitely kissed her on the forehead.
PETER: Okay. She was already leaning against him. I mean, I dunno.
CAITLIN: Here. I’ll show you a screenshot. It was pretty definitely… Well, her hair obscured it.
CAITLIN: But in the context, it definitely came across like a kiss.
PETER: Yeah, it’s very indicative of a kiss.
CAITLIN: Yeah. But, yeah. No, I thought it was sweet. It’s the sort of gesture that… It could also be familial. It’s intimate, but it’s not… Lip-to-lip serious kiss is sexual contact.
CAITLIN: But this is intimate, but it’s not sexual. It’s loving.
PETER: Yeah. Seemed more sibling-y.
CAITLIN: Well, I wouldn’t say “sibling-y,” but…
CAITLIN: No, I mean… It’s definitely… It’s romantic. There’s the different kinds of love, and then there’s romantic love, and sexual… And these two things can be linked, but they’re not the same thing. I dunno. Do you get what I’m saying, Gabbo? Am I explaining myself well?
GABRIELLA: Yeah, that’s a borderline thing. It’s like… A forehead kiss is something that you can do with someone you’re very close to that’s not necessarily romantic. If a stranger forehead-kissed you, that’d obviously be super inappropriate. But that’s a place where your relatives or close friends can do it. I think it’s probably not something you should do with a friend you have a crush on, but it’s still not totally out of line.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, like I said, it’s intimate, but it’s not horny.
GABRIELLA: It’s horny. It’s pretty horny, but it’s not totally out-of-line.
CAITLIN: It’s not necessarily horny. I dunno.
PETER: Not Rated-R horny.
CAITLIN: I dunno. I kiss kids on the forehead all the time.
GABRIELLA: Oh, that’s fine. The main… It’s horny when he does it. It’s not necessarily a horny act.
PETER: It’s only horny when Hak does it.
GABRIELLA: That’s what I mean. Yeah. Cheek kisses can also be horny or they can just be the thing that you do by default when you see your grandmother. It’s one of those “either way” ones.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, definitely. It’s just… It’s a really nice moment. It’s a really great way to sort of wrap up the series.
Speaking of wrapping up the series, we should probably start wrapping up the episode. How do you feel about the show as a whole? What did you guys think?
PETER: I liked it. I generally… I’m just trying to figure out how to describe what I mean here. I like… It was a very atypical fantasy series. I usually don’t… Usually we don’t get pseudo-Korean fantasy, so it was a very interesting setting. I feel like we didn’t get much ground as far as the direction is taking with the villain, but I am interested in what the hell his deal is.
And it definitely seems like it’s really expanding its scale. Whereas a lot of stuff like this kind of keeps very focused on the characters. I mean, there’s a lot of character focus, but it looks like it’s trying to also tell a big epic-type thing. So, I am… I enjoyed my time with it. I’m pretty interested in the… I mean, you’ve read it, right, Caitlin?
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Yeah, I’ve been up with the US releases.
PETER: So, you’d say it keeps on the course, quality-wise?
CAITLIN: Yes. Yes, it does.
PETER: Okay. I’d be interested in trying out the manga. I’m about to catch up with a couple series, so maybe I’ll try it the next volume. I dunno whether I should start from the beginning, or just figure out where it left off, though.
CAITLIN: Depends on if you’re buying it or if you’re getting digital or whatever.
PETER: I read digital if it’s free, but usually, I buy paper copies otherwise.
CAITLIN: Ehh… I would say you don’t have to read it. It follows the manga super-closely. There’s a couple of little things that you would be missing, but nothing major.
PETER: Okay. Okay. Is it one of those series that gets very limited print, so all the old volumes are very expensive?
CAITLIN: I don’t think so. I think it’s doing pretty well for Shojo Beat.
PETER: Okay. Then, I can probably see… Maybe I can go back and read it. Wouldn’t take too long. So, that is how much I enjoyed it. I’d be willing to buy all the stuff that I read already and read through it. I think that’s good, right? Yeah.
CAITLIN: All right. Gabbo, what did you think of the series?
GABRIELLA: I thought it was pretty fun. It sure is a blast to the past. We don’t get shows like this anymore, so that helps this one stand out, and it certainly feels like an update of the shoujo epic fantasy adventure, but sort of the gender politics made cleaner. And also cooler boys and things like that.
PETER: Yeah, couldn’t believe how recently it was made, actually, just ’cause it felt so ‘90s. Late ’90s, early ’00s.
GABRIELLA: I thought it was likable. The production values were surprisingly good after… The first episode wasn’t bad, but I think the show’s art style is a little deceptively dull, or…
CAITLIN: I love the art.
GABRIELLA: I like the art, but the first episode gives you the king design and the king is super generic. It shows itself once it gets more action-y. I think it’s a show that I could recommend to a lot of people who are like, “I just want some fun with a cool girl and some hot love interests,” just to have some fun for 24 episodes.
CAITLIN: It’s very low on the “anime bullshit” meter.
GABRIELLA: Yeah, well, it’s anime in mostly good ways. It’s high on the “anime goodness,” low on the “anime bullshit.”
CAITLIN: All right. And would you pick up the manga?
GABRIELLA: I think so. I think me and some friends, we have a little manga library, and I think we have it, so I can just go through the whole thing. So that sounds like fun.
CAITLIN: I strongly recommend it. It does stay good.
GABRIELLA: And now I’m like, “I need to read the manga to find out what anyone’s deal is.” Past Yellow Boy. Zeno.
CAITLIN: I will… This is not a spoiler, but a hint at what is to come. Yona has the best redemption arcs that I have probably ever read.
CAITLIN: I can tell you after we record. I don’t want to say on the show, just in case someone’s gonna be sensitive about spoilers out there. But, yeah. Read the manga. And do you guys have any predictions for the manga?
GABRIELLA: I stand by my… Su-Won will do something to mess up and Yona will step in and there will be conflict based on that, and then she’ll have a real, actual claim to maybe she’d be the better ruler, which she still needs. And we don’t have Zeno’s power, yet. And we’re still missing the rest of that Dragon body, so… I think he’s gonna turn into a giant dragon with human eyes and one human arm and one human leg at some point.
PETER: They all combine.
CAITLIN: Surprise! It’s actually a toku series the whole time!
PETER: Damn. [unintelligible mumble]. Uh, predictions… I think it’s gonna do something where… I don’t know if I want to say it does a “Su-Won did nothing wrong” type thing, but I think it turns out that her father was actually kind of a shitheel, or…
CAITLIN: I mean, he was definitely a bad king.
PETER: Yeah, definitely a very bad king, and Su-Won is doing all this out of a sense of altruism, which makes their wanting to take the kingdom back from him very emotionally complicated, because that makes for good drama.
CAITLIN: All right. Okay, then I guess it’s time to wrap this thing up.
PETER: Guess so.
CAITLIN: All right, so, thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed watching Yona of the Dawn along with us. I know that I certainly did.
CAITLIN: If you enjoyed the show, and enjoy our site, please donate to our Patreon, patreon.com/animefeminist. You can also follow us on Twitter, twitter.com/animefeminist, on Tumblr, animefeminist.tumblr.com—I’m pretty sure we have not been taken out by the purge yet—and on Facebook, @animefem.
Thanks for listening, and never be afraid to take out some pirates! Thanks!
GABRIELLA: [rapping] We are the pirates.