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Comment: Akatsuki no Yona 153 — A rare Sunny Day

It's not the chapter we wanted, but it's the chapter we needed.

[WARNING!] Spoilers for Akatsuki no Yona 153 (duh!)

Quick Summary

Yona wakes up the morning after Hak's confession. She hasn't slept a wink, and she's still on edge around Hak.
Hak goes to see Shin-ah and Kija. Shin-ah is making wooden arrowheads for Yona to use, in case she runs out of arrows again during a battle. Hak is very impressed by his skills, and Shin-ah explains that as he was the one who defended his village against intruders he sometimes had to make weapons too. Hak takes the arrowhead with him and goes to see Yona, who freaks out when he comes near her. He shows her the arrowhead, and she is stunned by how well made it is. Hak says that Shin-ah has survived all this time relying only on himself, and that there are still many things he could learn from him.He then asks Yona if she'd like for them to train together, and they begin sparring.
Hak teases Yona, saying that she's been weakened by the fight at Xing, and Yona thinks to herself that she's too preoccupied over what happened yesterday to concentrate. Eventually she gets angry at the teasing and in one swing pinpoints his throat with the tip of her wooden sword. Hak smiles and says she's cool, but then laughs at Yona's dishevelled hair, saying she looks very unattractive right now. Yona tells him she doesn't need to look attractive to train and Hak agrees, saying that seeing as nobody's in line to marry her it doesn't matter anyway. All the while Yona wonders if what happened yesterday was a dream.
Then Hak drops a bomb by saying that HE wouldn't mind marrying her, and Yona blows up like a firework. But then says he's kidding. Confused and in a stupor Yona asks him if he was being serious yesterday, and he says he was. Then she asks him when he started feeling this way, and he tells her that he himself doesn't know when exactly it happened; he doesn't know where to draw the line between before and after. Yona hesitates a moment and opens her mouth to say something to him, but then he interrupts her by saying that he's not expecting anything from her and that she shouldn't let this weigh on her, and walks off happy as a rose, leaving Yona in a stupor.
Later that night Hak sits with Jae-ha, who's on guard. Jae-ha asks him how he feels now that he's finally opened up about the feelings he's kept hidden for so long, and Hak says he had absolutely no intention of ever telling her, not even when they were in the palace. Yona was, after all, a princess — he couldn't just carelessly tell her about his one-sided love for her, and at some point he stopped hoping for her to reciprocate his feelings. Jae-ha then asks him about what it was he told Yona he wanted to talk about in Xing, and Hak says it doesn't matter any more. He wasn't thinking straight when it happened... but he wanted to ask her whether she was really okay with letting go of the hairpin. Jae-ha asks him whether he wants the hairpin back, and Hak says he thinks it's a good thing that Yona got rid of it, if it means that she's moving on and the wounds of that day are becoming a thing of the past. He then remarks to himself that perhaps he's the one who hasn't yet let go.
Jae-ha thinks to himself that when Hak was at the palace he might've resolved himself to forever serve and follow Su-Won in the same way he resolved himself to serve Yona. He thinks that perhaps Yona is the only one who can save him.


The wait is over and the much anticipated chapter 153 is finally here! It looks like Kusanagi is taking route #1 of the possible paths I highlighted the series could take, but it's too early to close this case: 154 can still easily deflect the issue.
However before I dive into the star topics in this chapter, I'd like to make a small incision and comment on the little blessing Kusanagi snuck into these pages: Shin-ah. Or more specifically,

The Xing arc has worked miracles on this boy, and I believe we're starting to see the start of something new (♫). I feel that perhaps his resolution to use his powers to defend those he loves  in 134, and his murder-spree in 144 / 145, have helped him become more comfortable with his powers and feel more in control of them; after all, unlike Kija, Jae-ha, and Zeno —who have spent their lives using their dragon abilities— Shin-ah had beat himself so hard with the idea that his powers were cursed that when he used them it almost seemed as they were the master of him.
The issue of Shin-ah's fear of himself has been dragging since he joined the cast in the early chapters, but it was more properly highlighted and brought to attention in ch.51. Though we know from the Lushing Forest arc that at this point Shin-ah is only keeping the mask as a memento, I still felt that there was a part of him that still relied on the comfort it provided. Who knows whether with this the mask will bow-out of the show — it is Shin-ah's only keepsake of Ao after all, so we can't blame him for wanting to keep it. Yet I'd like to think that even if the mask does stay he'll only wear it in towns and the likes to hide his obvious dragon eyes, and that he'll remain maskless in front of the gang.
I wonder if Jae-ha is secretly rejoicing somewhere behind the scenes, or whether his quest to take a look at Shin-ah's eyes has no value now that Shin-ah seems perfectly happy to let others see his face...
Yet for all the visible changes in Shin-ah, what shook me the most was the way Hak spoke about him. I may be wrong, but I feel that though Hak has expressed his admiration for the strengths of all the gang members (more recently towards Jae-ha in 147), little has been said about Shin-ah's capabilities. The sense I get is that every time his strengths are highlighted they come off as the praise of a proud parent, which may be a side-effect of Shin-ah's quiet, silent, and innocent nature, that does sometimes paint him in child-like light (albeit a child that can rip your head off, but that's irrelevant). Yet Hak here not only acknowledges how impressive the fact that Shin-ah survived all this time relying only on himself is, but openly says that there are many things he could learn from him. Suddenly the roles are reversed, and it's a slap-in-the-face reminder that Shin-ah is actually the same age as Hak. I cannot express how much I liked this one line in this chapter.

And now that we're talking about Hak, let's hit the major topics of 153!!
I feel that a lot of people might be disappointed at how these dense porridge-brained idiots still haven't unravelled all the knots in the multi-layered misunderstanding of 151 (Hak my beauty, my little peanut, you just stopped Yona from confessing you absolute dimwit), but there are a lot of screech-worthy moments in this chapter that were much needed.
Hak's lines in page 23 —that I translated as "We’re not alone any more; we have you guys with us, and she’s become a lot stronger. I don’t think telling her now will shake her as it might've before."— addresses the core themes of emotional and personal growth that are so present in the series. When the series began, Yona was so shaken by what had happened that she needed the comfort of the hairpin to stay alive. Any break with the past destabilised her immensely, and it's for this reason that Hak, throughout much of their journey, has kept quiet about certain things and avoided commenting on what happened. The reasoning he gives in 153 as to why he decided to keep his feelings to himself (despite his evident attempts at the beginning of the series to do so) makes a lot of sense. Yona wasn't ready to confront the changes in the reality around her, and in a sense was using Hak as her anchor — there was no way he could have broken the truth about his feelings to her in this context.
This is not, of course, a foreign revelation pulled out of nowhere: Hak's reasoning already came through in a less direct way during the famous honey scene in the Awa arc, where he decided he should be satisfied with the very fact that Yona is alive and well. It's good to see him actually voice these thoughts out loud, and while this scene says a lot about Hak and how ready he is to give up his own happiness for others (he's a good egg, protect this egg from harm), it also says a lot about how far we've come.
Yes, yes... I know I keep drilling this into your heads in every chapter comment and that ya'll already know the cast has grown up, har har har, I sound like a broken record. But we've really come so bloody far. The situation has changed; things are different now. Not only do Yona and Hak have Yun and the dragons with them, but Yona isn't the frail girl she used to be, struggling with PTSD. She's become stronger, and Hak's confession shouldn't shake her the way it would have at the beginning of her journey. Though clearly it's shaking her in other ways... (don't give up just yet Yona; you were so close!!)
Moreover, can we talk about how Hak insists that Yona doesn't need to feel like she owes him anything?? That he's not expecting anything from her and that she doesn't have to let this weigh on her???? Though there's a part of me that wants to scream up at the Heavens and tell Hak that for God's sake my boy it's okay to let yourself want something, a bigger part of me is awestruck by how A-M-A-Z-I-N-G this man is. This egg has MUTUAL RESPECT and HEALTHY LOVE down to a science. That's an A++++ and a free ticket to Heaven from me — if this boy doesn't get a happy ending, I am setting the world on fire.

(just kidding I don't actually think he'll die hahahahahaha haha ha...ha....)
((*sweats nervously*))

But let's address the elephant in the room, shall we? The hairpin. (I can already see people hissing and pulling out their claws.) It all spins back to the recurring presence of the hairpin, doesn't it?
I cannot stress how important it is that Hak is admitting out loud that he's the only one who hasn't let go of the past; the Xing arc has seen so much progress from Hak that I feel overloaded. Please refer to the fist GIF in this post for an accurate depiction of my feels ↑↑. (Also for my thoughts on that, my reply to this ask on tumblr and the comments people added are a good summary on Hak's recent progress regarding his inner turmoil.) But more than how gobsmackingly shocking and incredible this is, I'd like to talk about these feelings Hak is experiencing regarding the hairpin, specifically his immediate impulse to want to ask Yona whether she's sure she doesn't want it back.
It's become painfully obvious, particularly since the Water Tribe arc, that though Su-Won's betrayal affected Hak in a different way he is still not over it. Even though Yona has successfully broken with her past, Hak is still hung up on his feelings of loyalty towards Su-Won, which are weighing him down and stopping him from letting go of the bitterness he feels towards him. As Jae-ha very correctly puts it, he's still stuck in the darkness of the day Su-Won betrayed him.
Everything up until this point, including Hak's admission that he hasn't let go, makes sense. Given that in 125 his inner monologue told us he desperately wanted Su-Won to become king, even Jae-ha's conclusion that at some point Hak had subconsciously sworn loyalty to Su-Won also makes sense. Yet I sense that there may be something more here, hidden in between the lines. I had speculated the issue Hak wanted to talk about in 146 could be hairpin-related, but the idea that he could actually want it back hit me like a truck at 100m/h. The way I'm reading this, it almost sounds like the hairpin was an anchor for Hak as much as it was for Yona, and in a way shows that he might've not been as accepting of their new reality as he let on.
Personally, I'm still holding onto the hope that the hairpin will become a symbol of Yona's determination and belief that Su-Won is not an inherently evil man; that the kind Su-Won she knew was not a lie. In the larger scale of things in this idea of mine, the hairpin isn't something that Yona needs but something that she wants to prove a point. If the subtext in this scene in 153 is truly telling us that Hak wants the hairpin back —and I'm not saying he does; only that if he does— then this idea could play out in a very interesting and unexpected manner. We could well be very close to giving Hak's character arc a closure, and if he does indeed welcome the hairpin back, then the idea of Hak&Yona being the sword&shield in the prophecy by virtue of them putting their hatred aside and "awakening" as Su-Won's protectors could very well be on it's way towards sailing out.
Also, I just like the poetic irony in Hak being the one who now wants the hairpin back when he wanted it gone so badly when the series began.

Phew. Well my lovelies, that's it from me. I had a lot to say about this chapter... sorry for the extremely long essay, my comments have just been getting longer and longer lately. We came veeery close to a Yona confession today, but chapter 153's ending is the perfect place for a P.O.V. change, so I'm not going to get my hopes up too much. However the preview for the next issue on the Hana to Yume page suggests the focus will still be on our gang, so perhaps not all hope is lost!
Chapter 154 will be out on the 5th of February, and will come with a colour illustration. See you pretties then!

Make sure to read the About Kira Kira and F.A.Qs pages before commenting so that your comments may follow the rules of the blog!

Posted on: 20/01/2018

PS. Pixar's Coco finally came out in the UK yesterday and I went to watch it. Such a good film!!!

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  1. there's a preview? could you post it or tell us what it's about?

    1. Hello! It's just an image of a previous Hak-Yona illustration with the tagline "after the confession chaos, Yona&co will...?!". The particle used in the original Japanese suggests something will happen to Yona&co, but the subject in the sentence is omitted so it's hard to tell what it's on about. In any case, the fact that it mentions Yona's group has me thinking the focus will stay on them, but it could just be the magazine's way of saying "What will Yona&co. do now?!"

  2. Ahhh!!! you uploaded your comment today <333 I'm glad I checked :D

  3. I am honestly over the moon at both Shinah and Hak's progress throughout the Xing arc.... they progressed so dang far for themselves and I am so proud. But Hak....... Yona was going to confess back, you dense bean.

    1. A dense bean he is indeed.

    2. I don't think Hak is dense in the same sense that Yona is. He just has zero expectations for her to return his feelings and, because of his protective nature, he's going to try to save her the trouble of having to stress over rejecting him. And to be completely fair, while Hak is now honest and open about his feelings, it seems Yona is still struggling with how to be honest about hers. With how she's reacting(I get that she's embarrassed about being in love), it's coming off to Hak as if she's unsure, feeling pressured, or even obligated. Not only that but she had told him before that the kiss she'd stolen from him was merely some sort of farewell gesture. Hak still believes that to be the case. Yona's probably going to have to be a little more confident/aggressive and open about her feelings(she really has no reason not to be anyway now that she knows how Hak feels).

    3. @starlight -- "dense" is a word I trow around a lot for comedic emphasis; I agree with you in that Hak isn't dense the same way Yona is. It's just that the idea of Yona liking him back is utterly -inconceivable- to him, because of how long he's spent adjusting to the idea that she was 1) in love with Su-Won, and 2) Su-Won had to marry her if he was to become king, and we all know that was Hak's greatest wish pre-betrayal.

  4. Thank you for the summary! I think Hak has some baggage because he's a orphan. Maybe having someone like a brother was more important to him than having a lover. But he has the four dragons now.

    I wonder if Jae-Ha recognizes that he's in a similar predicament. I think he's started to have feelings for Yona and he is holding back because he cares about Hak. I don't really want the story to develop another love triangle though, so maybe the author won't make it go in that direction.

    So, if Hak and Yona get together, does that mean Hak could become king? I just started this series the other day and binge read the whole thing so I've got some thoughts on the prophecy stuff. My guess is that the priests prophesied that the next king would not be from the sky tribe, and King Il was going to follow the prophecy so he wouldn't allow Yona to marry Soo-Won. That would be a reason for Yu-hon to drive out the priests, and motivation for the sky tribe to conspire against the king.

    There's no obvious support in the story for my theory, but I started thinking about this when it was revealed that King Il knew that Yona was Hiryuu's reincarnation. Plus I don't think Soo-won and the rest of the sky tribe are on the same page. I think the advisor and the general are mainly concerned about maintaining the sky tribe's power.

  5. Please do not apologize for the long comments as I love them hehehe, I think that Yona's confession has to take some time, from a story telling perspective as one of the things Kusanagi-sensei's style is prone to is to give us big emotional impacts slowly build, so I think that Yona's confession is not going to be so soon or it will be under a very deep emotional circumstances. Also Shin-ah's and Hak's behaviours, the way they have open up to each other more and more is a beutiful reminder of how much a home is this for the happy hungry bunch, of how much even though the dragon blood is a tie placed by the gods, the ties that has been born out of living, fighting and being willing and ready to be on the line for each other are deep and beautiful... the ties of growing together like a forest grew out of the ashes that were their lives at some point in the past. Finally I have to say that Hak, Kija, Jae Ha are examples to all of us males, Kija and Jae ha are actively helping Hak and Yona to be honest! (they are the best!) and Hak respects, admires, cares for her hapiness, damn I expect to be at least half as good as they are :) Well Laura as always thanks a million for your time and dedication to this translations I wish you a beautiful day :)

    1. I'm glad long-time readers aren't tired of my nonsense yet :'D
      As for your comments on the characters; wholesome series like AkaYona are satisfying because they portray emotionally intelligent GOOD PEOPLE striving to become better versions of themselves. When I praise the character dynamics and their interactions, it's never flattery for show -- I really DO think Kusanagi portrays healthy human relationships in a way that is inspiring to everybody, regardless of their gender :')

  6. I came over to read your comment first before squealing at you about how many feels I have about Hak & Yona discussing Shin-ah, and I see you've already put it more eloquently than my EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE SO PROUD SO PROUD KYAAAAAAAAAA~~~~

  7. Thx laura, Always love to read your comment :)

  8. I need to express how much I love this chapter. There's so much to comment on. As a huge Hak fan, it's my favorite AnY chapter thus far in the entire manga. I'm so over-the-moon happy to see him unrestrained, open, and in good spirit after having unloaded so much emotional burden off his shoulders. I've never seen Hak this unguarded before and it seriously makes me want to cry tears of happiness for him. He slept WELL. He slept so well after getting his feelings for Yona off his chest...! All I've ever wanted for Hak was for him to be able to express his feelings, his frustrations, and his opinions openly without any shame or the fear that it would hurt the person he loves most, and that Yona come to realize his feelings and properly acknowledge them even if she couldn't reciprocate them. Those things were what I wanted most for my baby Hak so this chapter has been such a blessing. It didn't even bother me one bit that Yona couldn't/didn't really have the chance to confess.

    Also, I love how this chapter seemed to really show what a no-nonsense, honest, and open person Hak is when it comes to feelings. I've had the opinion all along that Hak isn't someone who naturally hides his feelings and that he'd been forcing himself to bottle so much for Yona's sake due to his protective nature towards her. It totally makes sense when Hak explained that because Yona had become stronger, he felt he could finally express himself. Once he let loose how he felt about Yona, he has felt so much more free to express everything else including feelings concerning Soo-won and the hairpin. Did I already express how happy I am for my Hak? XD

    As for Soo-won and the prophecy, I have no problem with Hak and Yona being the sword and shield to Soo-won and I think it's quite possible but I seriously hope the story turns out to be much more than the two of them merely forgetting and forgiving Soo-won then protecting him. There needs to some kind of consequence and hardship for Soo-won. Personally, I wouldn't be able to stomach the message that it's totally okay to hurt and betray those who love you, that those people will always stand by you and that there will never be any consequences as long as the terrible things you committed didn't have bad intentions attached. Even if there'd been some good intentions behind Soo-won's actions, there are certain lines in this world I feel any decent human being should never cross and betraying/hurting the innocent people who love and trusted you is one of those things. Anyhow, I'm not sure Hak is saying he wants the hairpin or to have it back. He has said himself in chapter 125, I think, that he honestly wanted to smash it. It's possible Jae-ha was only asking if Hak wants to get it back FOR Yona since Hak isn't sure if Yona is really okay with letting it go. Also, Hak answered Jae-ha's question in terms of Yona, saying that it's good if she's letting go of it. Seems to me like this scene is just reinforcing that while Yona is healing and has moved on from Soo-won's betrayal, Hak is still stuck/hurting from what happened because the betrayal was so deep for him(he'd committed himself to serving Soo-won forever). Yona even told Lili a while ago that Hak might never be able to forgive Soo-won because he was the one who had trusted Soo-won the most. The only real new thing in this chapter, IMO, is that it seems Yona might be the only one who can now save Hak.

  9. Hello, I tried to comment a few days ago but my internet connection keeps interrupting
    Thank you for your comments, I love reading them. The longer, the better :)
    I think for Hak, Soo-Won's betrayal reaches far deeper. He knew that there would be no future for him, loving the princess. So he made her happiness and her well-being his priority. Soo-Won was his friend whom he loved and he trusted. He saw Soo-Won's potential of being a good king. And that's why he locked up his own feelings. He believed that Soo-Won would bring Yona all the happiness that he himself couldn't give her because she was the princess and he was a servant. So he entrusted Yona and her happiness to Soo-Won. Soo-Won having the princess almost killed and framing Hak for King il's murder was a betrayal of his loyalty and his love in the people. Hak wanted them to be happy more than he wanted Yona for himself. Soo-won's betrayal shuttered his very core. I don's see how he would be able to ever forgive this. If he did ,that would truly make him the strongest across kingdoms. The hairpin became a symbol for both Yona and Hak. And I think that Hak is somewhat in disbelieve that Yona let go, for he can't (yet).

    1. Maybe once he sees that his fixation on making Yona happy was one of the problems. He was fixated so much on Yona’s happiness and making his little dream happen that he totally ignored the fact that Soo-Won is not interested and whenever Hak told Soo-Won to marry Yona, Soo-Won flat out refused and Hak seemed to dismiss it and never asked why. Even if Soo-Won didn’t have plans for coup, he might have simply been uninterested or he might have liked another girl.

      It was terribly boorish of Hak to keep insisting and thrusting Yona again and again onto obviously unwilling Soo-Won.

  10. No words, you described perfectly what i felt about Hak! and SHINHAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! <3 the dear boy has come a long way!! And true, i have read the manga a ferw times and Hak only speaks about him like: Fur monster, youkai, shy, and so on lol


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