Akatsuki no Yona: Overall Review
Title: Akatsuki no Yona (Yona of the Dawn, Yona of the Red Dawn, Yona: The girl standing in the blush of dawn)
Animation Company: Studio Pierrot
Genres: Action, Adventure, Romance, Fantasy, Shoujo, Comedy
Airing Date: Oct. 7, 2014 – March 24, 2015
Number of Episodes: 24
Summary: Yona is the only princess of the grand kingdom to which she was born. Thanks to her position as the only daughter she has been raised with great love and care by a doting father and protected by her childhood friend Hak. However on her 16th birthday her life is forever changed when her cousin Soo-won murders her father to claim the throne for himself, forcing Yona and Hak to flee to his hometown and Yona to begin a new life on the run. The question remains, why would her beloved cousin betray her, and how can she reclaim what she has lost?
Plot (*7/10): The plot is just as it says in the summary. Yona is the princess of King Il, ruler of the Kouka Kingdom. On her 16th birthday, the man she loves, who also happens to be her cousin, kills her father, and tries to kill her and her childhood friend. The two are on the run, presumed dead, and figure out what to do. Meeting others along the way, Yona sets out to find the 4 dragons of legend to aid her on her journey. The plot is pretty simple, but clear. It’s not the most impressive of plots, but the stories that take place in the course of the show are the ones that take the spotlight. The show is about Yona’s journey, but it’s also about the dragons’ journeys. The story follows the simple formula of finding a dragon, telling their story, and then moving on to the next. Each dragon’s appearance varies in length, and they each tell a different story. Of acceptance, freedom, shame, devotion, and much more. There are many emotions to each character and story, and some can be more gripping than others.
But other than the characters, another major theme is the condition of Kouka Kingdom. Throughout Yona’s journey, we see ourselves firsthand the lives of the people in the kingdom. We get a good sense of the world and the corruption in it, as well as make us question ourselves about certain characters in this sector of the setting.
With all of these components, they blend in together nicely. I always felt that the pacing was perfect. There may have been some episodes where they could have sped things up, or combined some episodes, but I felt like those episodes were important for the development of the characters. It gave us more time to appreciate the characters, but to some it felt as though the pacing was uneven, but I would disagree with it. In this whole season, we were able to knock out one of the objectives: the dragons. But the series ended with a lot of expectations at a standstill, and we’re left wanting to see more. Right now I would give this section a 7, but if there are news of a second season, I would raise the score of the plot to a 9.
Characters (9/10): In the beginning of the series, Yona is like any other princess. She’s spoiled, immature, and a little rude. But after having lost everything in a single night, she had to pick herself up and begin anew. Yona’s character development is the strongest of the bunch, and one of the highlights of this show. The person that she is in the first episode is the complete opposite of the person you see in the end. Once setting out on her journey, she tries her best to understand people and interact with them. Her growth comes gradually, and it feels so real. She takes the time to listen to others, learn new things, and to help others. It’s been so long since I’ve been so taken back by a heroine, and she has easily become one of my most favorite heroines. You really feel for her throughout all the sad times, but you feel proud for her when she succeeds.
Along with Yona, we have a whole cast of characters, such as Hak, Yun, and the dragons. Each of them has had some time to develop, some more than others. Each person in the main group has a different personality, so you’re bound to find one of them being your favorite. Hak is the tough and funny one, Ki-ja is the loyal and trustworthy one, and so on. They’re all so likeable that it’s hard to dislike any of them. But sometimes I felt like whenever we moved on to another dragon, the previous one before them would be kept to the side while we would focus on the current dragon. Such as Shin-ah remaining quieter than usual during Jae-ha’s little arc. And one character didn’t even get introduced until the very last episode, so we don’t know much about him at all, which was rather disappointing. But one thing I like about the characters is that they don’t completely fit the regular tropes. With Yona being the only girl in the group being surrounded by boys, you would think they would harbor romantic feelings for her. Except for one, none of them feel that way, so love triangles and such are nonexistent, which is a huge plus. Instead, they feel loyalty and admiration for her. The romance isn’t forced, and instead handled in a very believable and understanding way appropriate for the characters’ situation, which I also appreciate.
As I’ve mentioned that some characters may get more development than others, another major character isn’t explored as much in the series: Soo-won. We know just by reading the summary of the show that he kills Yona’s father. He seems to have goals set in mind, and also has the reason why he killed her father, but we never really get into that subject matter any deeper. Instead, he’s shrouded in some mystery, and we only see a side of him that we’ve already seen before, but we also question his actions in the course of the story. I just wish that they had spent a little more time with him, and we could have learned a little more about him. I’m intrigued to learn more because of the strong emotional attachments that he has towards Yona and Hak.
Art/Animation (8/10): Coming from Studio Pierrot, quality can be…whatever. Thankfully compared to their other works, the quality wasn’t so bad. It retains the typical shoujo art style and pretty colors. The backgrounds are usually what caught my attention. The characters themselves looked nice, but I did notice at times when the animation didn’t look as great. The comedic moments were done cutely with bright colors, though sometimes the transitions were awkward and didn’t fit into some of the serious situations. Though fight scenes were scarce, the movements in them were smooth. Closeups on the characters faces were done well, and they did beautifully when expressing different emotions. Though I feel like most of the budget went to drawing Yona’s death glares, which were just magnificent.
Just because this anime is from a shoujo manga, it doesn’t mean that there’s an overabundance of sparkly and bubbly backgrounds, like other shoujo anime do. Those are done well.
Sound (9/10): The soundtrack of this show is appropriate for the setting of this show. It’s the kind of music that you would hear in a historical piece set in Asia (I’m actually not too sure where the show takes place. China? Korea? Japan?). The songs fit each moment and help enhance the emotions in each scene. I actually have the OST downloaded, and it’s been a pleasure hearing it. They use the main theme of the show as the first opening, and it’s always rare to hear an instrumental opening, but it worked. Another song to mention is the second ending song, by Akiko Shikata. It perfectly fits the show, and the vocals are beautiful. I eagerly wait for the full release of the song in April.
This is also worth noting. In the first half of the show, I’m not sure what happened, but there were a lot of problems with the volume of the music. They fixed the problem later on, but what happened was sometimes the background music would be too loud during scenes and it would drown out the dialogue, so it would become distracting. I’m just glad that they did fix that problem, or else that would have lowered the score.
All in all, I had a blast watching this show. It lay under the rugs during the Fall season when it started airing, and I feel like it became an under-appreciated show. I would definitely recommend it to everyone. Don’t be unamused from the summary, or just because it’s a shoujo. If you like shows with action and adventure, a likeable heroine, and characters with lots of development, then I point you towards this show. It’s enjoyable in any way, and I’m sure you would find something to enjoy in it. I would easily give Akatsuki no Yona a 9/10, and anticipate a second season to continue this story.