Yona has made a stand against hatred, rescuing the Blue Dragon from his segregation by the people of his village, who will doubtless go on believing that the power of his paralysing eyes was a curse. In giving him a name, Sinha, for ‘moonlight’, she stands at the centre of the cycle of feminine power – maiden, mother, and monarch. Developing its themes from the previous part, this season of Yona of the Dawn has grown into the weight of its themes, where before they were touching, but little more than touched. What is the true power of a name, or a title? What is courage, when it’s so diverse from soul to soul? What defines the human will against the pull of destiny, and when can we reconcile the two; feel assured our path is our own, not just stranded in circumstance?
As the characters come together – Dragons, princess, retainer and healer – they find that the curses and glories of fate and free will can run together, especially after we’re introduced to rebellious Green Dragon, Jeaha. Flying where he wills as a brigand protector of the port town of Awa, his is another heart in desperate need of Yona’s love, though he would hate to let it show. He sees the idea of love as a shackle, and when he utters the word it’s with a great sigh of responsibility. His lesson, as each of the Dragons bear, is that love is not and should not be slavery.
As the Dragons have joined her journey, Yona has taken her teachings from each one, but here a thread of fate appears where none was visible before. It appears they are here to teach one another that love comes in many forms, and that some of them are harmful to us, where others will lift us up to new possibilities in strength. Yona has been affronted with how her father, King Il, failed her kingdom in his life. His unwillingness to acknowledge, let alone fight the evil in his lands, meant the common folk suffered while Yona was sheltered in the royal palace. She is sickened by his weakness, something she only hated in herself before. But to honour the love for him that makes her want to better her kingdom, she will bear the burden of correcting the damage wrought by her father’s naive kindness.
Yona is becoming more assertive and courageous all the time. The Crimson Dragon spirit rises and scorches her within, eyes burning with the fury of a proud beast when captive. For all that, she’s still fragile, but it’s become even more integral to her strength than before. It’s a shame the rest of her band is yet to enjoy the same attention. While the guys learn to work together even in their jealousy over Yona, Hak allowing some time for self-discipline while opening up to his true emotions, nobody else develops beyond that. At least the moments of comedy between them in their fierce protection of Yona are better blended into the narrative this season, and not nearly so prodding or mistimed.
The silly harem humour taking a step back from the big picture, Shinichi Otsume’s scripts now have both hands on the meaning of the show, and what it should inspire in viewers long after we already twigged it for ourselves. Though the female characters are underestimated by men who would otherwise keep a domineering grip, they are the most powerful souls, binding people together in love. When Yona joins Jeaha with his fellow Pirates of Awa against the corrupt lord Yang Keum-ji, she has to prove herself on double the level a man would be expected to in her situation. Keum-ji kidnaps women to traffic as “merchandise”, and stowaway Yona flourishes into a leader who inspires them to rescue themselves. She has all the authority of a general going into battle, but can still cry when the fight has ended and she can let down her princess armour. The focus is on the fact that she can pull herself back together, and carry on the fight when she’s cared and wept for her comrades’ wounds.
Yona the princess is the weak, the fragile, the defiant, self-assured and powerful. She is a princess through the most rewarding lens, in archetype and yet with a grip on the boundaries of how this archetype has disempowered women. Instead of transforming from damsel in distress to Strong Female, her reconciliation of the princess and warrior is far more nuanced. She becomes battle-glorious, honoured by her soaring, delicate war song, even as the tears shine in her eyes.
Check out our review of Part 1.
Extras: English dub; episode 16 & 24 commentary; clean opening/closing animations; promos & trailers.