At last, I have caught up with Akatsuki no Yona. This is a fun fantasy adventure, despite the faults in pacing and overabundance of flashbacks. *Spoilers from here to the end.* Soo-won’s claim that he assassinated King Il in order to avenge his father fascinates me. He pretends to the justness of his action, but refuses to declare his filial piety openly. Why? Does one meting out justice act in this manner? Did Orestes deny his killing Clytemnestra and Aegisthos? No, one acting in the light of justice does not hide his deeds. Soo-won’s conduct makes me think that his father was in some way culpable for being slain. After all, if King Il had been vicious enough to commit the crime of kinslaughter in the case of his brother, then why did he not kill Soo-Won? Decimating a family line was not unheard of in ancient China, where this anime seems to be set.
The coronation scene in episode six answered some of these questions for me. Soo-Won rejects being crowned by a priest. Then, he denies that he needs Heaven to maintain his throne, saying that, even if Heaven is against him, he means to triumph over his enemies. (Crunchyroll translates Ten (天) as god or gods, but 天 literally means Heaven.) And, this elicits loud cheers from the crowd, which prompt the new head of the Wind tribe to ask Son Monduk if they can leave such annoying people at once! I am forcibly reminded of when a crowd of people during Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign broke out into a loud cheers and applause after hearing a speaker proclaim: “Vote for my Colonel and he will lead you just like he led us: like sheep to the slaughter!”
Indeed, I myself should prefer to cheer the second speaker over Soo-Won. The ancient Chinese in particular would not have known what to make of Soo-Won’s declaration to rule in defiance of Heaven. The emperor ruled by the Will of Heaven, which he was supposed to follow. Discovery that the emperor had lost the Will of Heaven was sufficient grounds for revolt. (Natural disasters, famine, and pestilence might be adduced as evidence for this.) For a Chinese emperor to claim that the Will of Heaven is immaterial to his reign is to deny all legitimacy.
In Soo-Won’s heart of hearts, he knows that he cannot justly claim the right to rule. His throne is built upon treachery and maintained by tyranny. He has gained the whole world at the loss of his soul, shown very well by him trampling the memory of Hak and Yona prior to being crowned. But, it is impossible that a ruler can maintain the throne without the Will of Heaven. The first six episodes reveal the vanity of Soo-Won’s actions and foreshadow his downfall. Tempus incerta, sed finis certa. The builder builds in vain unless the Lord builds with him, and Soo-Won has rejected God in his quest for power.