I've never posted on a forum before, but this is something I decided to put together. I am posting it at the encouragement of my friends. I did do a fair amount of research, using several of my textbooks to make this as accurate as possible. I put this into three parts based on concept.
Yang went through a lot at the end of Volume 3 and the duration of Volume 4. I was particularly drawn to her story arc since it focused on her recovery. I am an Occupational Therapy major and this arc got me thinking about her recovery and what it showed. In this I am going to try to explain what I saw in her arc from an occupational therapy perspective. Don’t worry: I’ll keep this as understandable as possible.
To start, let’s review who Yang is and what happened to her. This is helpful to form her occupational profile, which would be used to understand her as a client. Yang is a 17/18 year old female whose primary roles are that of sister, daughter, student, and teammate. She is training to be a Huntress and uses a brawler fighting style. Her Semblance is taking damage and returning it twice as hard, as well as being on fire. Her injury is a traumatic transhumeral amputation to her right upper extremity. In other words, she suddenly lost most of her right arm. She appears to show signs of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Important to Yang’s recovery is looking at her support systems. She is shown to have a very strong support system, particularly at home. She is shown to have a good relationship with her father, sister, and uncle. These relationships are shown to be stressed at times. First let’s look at her with her father, Taiyang. She acknowledges that she has gone through a lot and the result is her normal now. While this shows that she has accepted what has occurred it still strains her relationship with her father in that he is pushing her to move on, something she admits being scared to do. Next, and probably more telling, is how Yang reacts to Ruby when they see each other after Ruby wakes up. Yang is still hurting, from both the injury and losing her friends, and in the process snaps at Ruby.
We do not know exactly how much time passes between Ruby waking up and her leaving with the remainder of Team JNPR, but Yang is shown to be in her bed both times. It could be assumed that she is remaining in her room, isolating herself, keeping people out and overall appearing very unmotivated to do much of anything. These are all indicators of a depressive state. Further indication of Yang’s depressed state is the way she completes her daily routines. While we see she has adapted her lifestyle to fit the loss of her arm, she is just going through the motions. She is alive but she is not living. She does everything almost passively. Even when she is presented with the prosthetic arm, which is state of the art Atlas technology, she is apathetic. While it is unknown if she actually is supposed to have depression, she does appear to present symptoms.
Similarly is the case with PTSD: we do not see enough to know if she could have this condition. One of the common symptoms of PTSD is reoccurring flashbacks, which we see Yang experiencing twice (thrice if we include the intro). The first time is when she drops the glass in the kitchen and the second time is the nightmare she has. Unless they decide to show her experiencing any other flashbacks in Volume 5, there is no way of knowing if she is experiencing PTSD.
This part is going to be a little more technical but I will be as clear as possible. I want next to talk about the coping process. All of the following information comes from one of my textbooks. Yang’s injury can be put into two different physical injury categories: chronic disabling and acute onset. Chronic means that it is an ongoing condition while acute means that it occurred suddenly. Losing a limb often starts out as acute but becomes a chronic condition. I’ll start with chronic disabling coping. First is gaining an appreciation of the altered physical condition. Yang shows this in the lines “I lost a part of me” and “This is normal.” She acknowledges that her physical self has changed. Second is revisiting identity goals due to the change. I couldn’t really find any examples of this, but it does not mean it did not occur off-screen.
Third is accepting the changes and incorporating those changes into the concept of self. Again this is supported by Yang saying “this is normal,” but is also seen in how she spray paints the prosthetic arm to match Ember Celica and learning how to fight again.
Acute onset physical disability has a more complex series of stages for coping. First is Vigilance: Becoming Engulfed, which goes from when the injury occurs until the person gives themselves over to a caregiver or passes out. This is seen in Yang passing out following the injury to her being saved by Blake to her being taken from Beacon by the emergency personnel to finally being taken home. Second is Disruption: Taking Time Off, which is when the person seems to have a disruption with reality and is in need of a safe haven. This is seen in Yang being taken home to Patch and given support from Tai, Qrow, and Ruby.
Third is Enduring the Self: Confronting and Regrouping, where the person’s orientation to reality is improved and they realize the severity of the physical limitations that stand before them. This is shown in Yang being home and her conversation with Ruby where she says “bad things just happen.” While aware of her loss she does not fully accept what has occurred and is even transferring her fear to being angry at Weiss being taken back to Atlas and Blake leaving.
Finally is Striving to Regain Self: Merging the Old and the New Reality, where the person has to relearn what they do to adjust for the missing limb. This is mainly seen with Yang learning to fight with her new limb. This can also be seen in when she drops the glass in the kitchen. To me it looked like she was trying to pass the glass from her left hand to her right, an automatic action. Because she is now missing most of her right arm the glass falls to the floor. This is likely something that occurred for a while as she got use to the having only her left hand to perform all tasks.
I also want to talk about life satisfaction and quality of life here. Life satisfaction, as expected, is how satisfied someone is with the life they lead. Quality of life includes life satisfaction and involves not just how the person sees their life but also how they participate in activities. This are both low for Yang at first, but appear to improve as the volume progressed. Two examples of these lows are when she is just going through the motions of her routine with little satisfaction in completing them and that she is away from her friends.
Now comes to what I see as the most important part of Yang’s arc: her motivation to recover. As many know motivation can come from both internal factors and external factors. In occupational therapy something we talk about is intrinsic motivation, which is when someone completes a task or activity because they enjoy doing it. All of these types show up for Yang, but it is which is strongest that I feel will impact her most as her arc carries into Volume 5. There is evidence for each type of motivation, but I feel that she has the greatest impact from external factors, particularly guilt. It takes her a while to be motivated at all, evidenced by the fact that we see her in bed at the end of Volume 3 and how she completes her chores at the beginning of Volume 4. Even when Tai brings her the prosthetic arm she does not appear to be interested at all. We see the arm eventually ending up in her room, but it is unknown if she brought it there herself or Tai brought it up and still appears uninterested. The first change we see is after Port and Oobleck visit Tai. As Tai escorts them out they ask if he will go after Ruby. Tai responds that he cannot, having to “look after some things” at home. Yang overhears this and sees him glance toward her room. The next morning Yang has on the arm and begins training with her father. I do not feel that this sudden willingness to try the arm is completely Yang’s decision. She did not decide to does this for herself, but because it will allow her or her father to go after Ruby. She is being motivated by guilt, guilt that she is the reason her father has not gone to find Ruby and that Ruby (and the others) are unprotected because of that. Now this does not mean that Yang herself does not have the motivation to get better, it just means that she might not have been as ready as it seems. I also feel that with this being her motivation she is going after Ruby and will be looking to reunite with her, not going after Raven.
Now, the lyrics of “Armed and Ready” seem like Yang is fully recovered and raring to go, but a lot of the song is addressing her adversaries, both past and present. The question is how far with this fire take her. Once Yang reaches Ruby will she relapse at all with either the flashbacks or the depressive state? And what will happen if she comes across Adam? The song seems to indicate she would be ready to get back at him for what he took from her, but will that actually occur or will she show any of the fear shown in her nightmare? To be honest, I would hope that we would see Yang continuing to struggle with her recovery in Volume 5. Rooster Teeth has done a good job at being realistic with her arc, and having her still learning and coping would continue the realism.
There is still so much I could go into, but I think this is enough. I tried to keep this as an analysis, using only what we definitely saw in the episodes. While I tried to read between the lines, I worked to keep this from becoming a theory post. I hope that this is understandable, especially since I know I used some uncommon terminology. Thank you reading.