Last month I started a post on Yona of the Dawn, a fantastic manga by Mizuho Kusanagi. I mentioned that Yona, the heroine princess-turned-vigilante, impressed me with her character growth and Christ-like attributes. But a good hero needs an equally good villain in order to truly shine.
In the case of this series, that villain is Su-Won, Yona’s childhood friend (and the man she’s fallen in love with). Readers quickly learn to hate him when he murders Yona’s father in cold blood within the first few chapters. Yet, as the series continues and Su-Won becomes king while Yona wanders the countryside with her dragon warriors, that hatred starts to fade.
We see Su-Won do things that are… good, considering he’s supposed to be the bad guy. He single-handedly helps stimulate the earth tribe’s failing economy. He strengthens their kingdom’s borders and works to defend their lands against invaders. Through the changes he enacts, we start to see the shortcomings of his predecessor, a pacifist king who sought peace above the good of the nation. Su-Won even works with Yona and her friends to end slave-trade in Awa and combat the drug trade that’s affecting the water tribe. He doesn’t reveal that Yona is alive when he finds out, despite the fact that she is technically wanted dead on his orders. He doesn’t worry about taking credit for the work he does (he often participates undercover) and even admits that he doesn’t really care for the throne – it was just a means to achieve his goals of helping the kingdom. In short, he behaves very much like a hero, or at least like a good king.
And yet Yona and Hak struggle with his betrayal. After all, he did kill her father outright and has no regrets about it. He doesn’t seem to care for individuals – his focus is very much on the big picture and the overall good of the kingdom. He’s not a very emotional individual and doesn’t seem to get attached to others. I got the sense that he didn’t feel the need to specifically pursue Yona to death, despite the fact that her very existence threatens the power he wields, but should she get in his way, I doubt he would hesitate to end her life. Yet he’s a good ruler and does what needs to be done for their nation to survive and prosper. With such a dichotomy, I found myself wondering, is he truly a villain after all?
Unfortunately, the series is not finished yet, and the library only had 31 of the 36 volumes that have been published so far (thus justifying my reasons for buying books instead ;-P). So I can’t quite say if Su-Won will remain a villain, or if he will ultimately redeem himself in some way. But any series that features such compelling characters – such as a princess with the true heart of a servant, or a man who makes a better king than the one he murdered – is well worth the time to read. And I can only hope that I am able to create characters with such depth for my own books!
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Until the next time, keep reading!
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I have two passions: reading and writing. You can't write good stories without first reading good stories - that's my theory, anyway. So this is where I'll share with you the depth of those passions: background on what and why I write, as well as talking about the books that I read and how they impact my writing.