Akatsuki no Yona Ep. 6: Spice up your life with a fancy new haircut!

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Alright, let’s see if I annoy anyone with my views on the show this week. Of course, I don’t set out with the goal of being a contrarian. It just always turns out this way. I also find it funny that someone thinks I curse too much. These aren’t reviews; I have no interest in sounding professional… unless, of course, someone wants to pay me to be professional. But that’s neither here nor there, so let’s get started on the episode already.

— Hak ends up taking a lot of punishment just to protect the princess. She gets all the benefits of standing up for herself, but takes none of the punishment. And this isn’t an equality thing, i.e. men are getting hurt so women should get hurt too! I just think she can’t really be empowered if she’s coddled like this. Part of gaining agency is that you get to make your own authentic choices in life after carefully weighing the pros and cons. But there are no consequences here, so likewise, there are no choices for her to make.

— Or to put it another way, we still make our characters fall into carefully-defined gender roles. Yeah, Yona gets to look cool by asserting herself just a tiny bit. But at the end of the day, it’s Hak’s job to take her punishment for her. It’s Hak’s job to bear the brunt of the physical pain. We won’t dare lay a finger on dainty, lil’ Yona because she’s the princess. Her skin must forever be soft and perfect with nary a scar to be found. I mean, look, if you want to be a warrior princess who reclaims your kingdom, you’re going to have to let yourself get roughed up a little bit. It’s fucking lame that the guy ends up getting cut in ten places while Yona just cries his name then slides down a slope to save Hak. That’s not empowerment. That’s patronizing. At the end of the day, her biggest loss is losing some of her hair. That’s weak, man.

— And I’m not saying Yona doesn’t feel any pain whatsoever. Obviously, she had to suffer through the death of her father, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But the end of the day, we are still confining ourselves to the same, familiar roles. Women are supposed to feel great emotional pain because that’s just how it is. Men are supposed to feel great physical pain because that’s just how it is. Again, this is why I wanted Yona to spend some time alone and truly, truly step outside of her comfort zone. Losing a chunk of your hair — in a very perfect way, I might add — is not stepping outside of your comfort zone. It’s a joke. It belittles the idea of true empowerment. Like when Elliot Reid from Scrubs becomes a new person because she got a sassy, new haircut. Are you fucking kidding me? I’ll assert myself by getting a fancy, new ‘do! And shit, her hair looks perfectly fine. The story can’t even get that sacrifice right.

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— It’s pretty funny that these soldiers are proud to defeat Hak. All it took was outnumbering him 200 to 1, and also weakening him with an arrow laced with poison. Real honorable. And hey, there’s no such thing as fairness in war, but I just laugh at the notion that these guys think they’ve accomplished anything.

— Anyway, Yona and Hak end up falling from those cliffs and into the valley together, but we know they’re okay. Remember that guy they were supposed to find? I bet he finds them instead, then nurses our heroes back to good health. Everyone else thinks they’re dead, of course, and this is probably the best thing that could’ve happened. Yona and Hak can thus go about their business until the former is strong enough to mount any sort of resistance against Soo-won and his allies.

— This bit of news nevertheless hits Soo-won hard. Probably shouldn’t have murdered Yona’s father, then.

— Oh hey, what do you know? That important someone finds our lovely couple.

— Ahhhhhhhh, more flashbacks! Plus, it’s the type of flashback that would make an inclined audience want to ship Hak and Soo-won. Yeah, that’s right. Hak and Soo-won. After all, the guys are talking about important, kingly matters… like Hak being Soo-won’s invaluable right hand, wink. As for Yona, they make her sound all whiny and childish instead. I mean, I thought he’d despair some more over Yona after hearing about her death, but it feels like he’s more hung up on the fact that Hak won’t be by his side.

— Afterwards, Soo-won officially becomes the king. He hardly feels secure, though. He knows he has enemies on all sides. He nevertheless hopes to unite the fragmented clans under his rule. But through all of this, there is never any talk about the people. Why does Soo-won want to become a king? Why does Yona want to reclaim her kingdom? What does it all mean if none of the focus is on the people that you rule? He pays lipservice to the idea that he’ll wield the power of the people, but I see nothing being done on that front. It’s just a power struggle between the leaders of the various faction, and the people who truly suffer are the ones we barely get to see. At the end of the day, it’s hard to be too sympathetic towards any of these characters.

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— Haha, sure.

— Man, fuck the smile. What will the new ruler mean for the peop–… meh, nobody really cares.

— So Yona wakes up to find Yun tending to her. He’s also a self-proclaimed bishounen. Hak, on the other hand, hasn’t fared too well. In the end, he still protected her during the fall. Hilarious.

— Then we get silly comedy out of nowhere. I also think it’s sad that people think there aren’t any alternatives between comedy and grimdark seriousness. Like really, this is going off-topic, but people think my objections to the pathetic comedy in Your Lie in April means that I want the show to have a grimdark atmosphere. Talk about a straw man. Likewise, I don’t feel as though these comedic bits from Akatsuki no Yona enhance the storytelling whatsoever, but that doesn’t mean I want the show to be grimdark.

— Then this clumsy idiot shows up, and… well, it’s just distracting. I want a shoujo about a princess empowering herself and becoming the people’s champion. Not some formulaic reverse harem, which this anime might become if it keeps throwing all sorts of bishies at us. But anyway, this guy is Ik-su, and he’s the priest that Yona and Hak were originally supposed to locate before they ran into the Fire Tribe. Yay. End episode.


5 Replies to “Akatsuki no Yona Ep. 6: Spice up your life with a fancy new haircut!”

  1. I always expected a reverse harem. I mean, it’s pretty much right there, in the opening. I was surprised about how much they got right. For example, I thought they portrayed Yona’s shock pretty well. I don’t think you’ll get the empowerment you’re hoping for; this is going to play out in the usual gender constellations: the empowerment is going to happen, but only in the confines of the usual gender stereotypes. Twelve Kingdoms this isn’t. (Speculation. I do not know the source material, nor even if there is source material for this.) I also don’t think the comedy works, but I don’t mind it too much. I suspect I enjoy the show more than you do, but that’s it. I’m not sure what’s supposed to annoy me about that post.

  2. I really hate when in any history (but I have the impression that happens more often in anime) promises a character development for the heroine, the empowerment plot and this truly never happen. Yeah, you can make your heroine look totally bad ass, say a lot of epic catchphrases and as many encouragement speeches as you like but in the end it doesn’t matter if she ends being the Faux Action Girl or doing nothing important by herself.

    I really hope that the end of empowerment process of Yona doesn’t end not happening at all or even something really disappointing like the ending of Mulan. Yes, Mulan saved the day, the China and honored her family, but in the end of the day she submits herself to the old and sexist gender roles that she had to break in order to save everyone. But, hey even if Akatsuki no Yona ends sucking really hard I will always have The Legend Korra, a show which not just the protagonist is empowered but almost every woman/girl in the show, and it have more than two.

    Ps: The Faux Action Girl concept: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FauxActionGirl

  3. I mainly started watching Akatsuki no Yona to contrast it with Cross Ange. While the two are from different genres, their both aiming for the same character arc. In that an oblivious princess is betrayed by a close male friend or family member, loses their main parental support and is forced to learn the harsh ways of the world. They even both do the hair cut of determination. The fact that Akatsuki no Yona delayed the hair cutting to episode six while Cross Ange does it in episode three says a lot. Specifically about the goals of each show.

    Akatsuki no Yona has focused on making Yona a sympathetic character. Her shock & despair at the death of her father and the betrayal Soo-won are palpable in the first few episodes. Yona is surrounded by characters that are looking after her well being, especially in the Wind Clan. Even her enemies mourn her supposed death. So the message ends up being that you should love Yona and root for her success. This sounds simple but when you look at Cross Ange which appears to actively hate Ange, it becomes a big difference. When I say the show hates Ange, I don’t mean that bad stuff only happens to her. Ange’s character is presented in such a way that it’s hard to empathize with her.

    For all it’s faults, Cross Ange does ask a lot more of its heroine. Ange has had to adjust to living in a Norma facility, fight dragons on a regular basis and one on on, dealt with bullies and carry her comrades tomestone to their graveyard. In each scenario, Ange has been an active participant. This is on top of dealing with the emotional strain of losing her mother and the identity crisis of discovering she is a Norma. All things she’s been told to deal with on her own. In comparison, Yona has been a passive entity in her own journey up to this point.

    1. I think what you have here is the two extremes of a spectrum. Cross Ange uses and abuses Ange for our titillation. On the other hand, it really feels as though Akatsuki no Yona coddles the hell out of its princess. In the end, I’ll pick the show that doesn’t try to rape its heroine, but meh… nothing here is stellar.

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