Yona of the Dawn – Anime Review
Synopsis: Upon her sixteenth birthday, the cheerful Princess Yona intended to tell her doting father of her love for Su-Won, but her life was turned upside down after witnessing him cruelly assassinating her father. Heartbroken by this painful betrayal, Princess Yona fled the palace with her loyal servant Hak. Now, she will go on a quest to gain new allies and protect her beloved people. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Yona of the Dawn is one of the better, if not the best, reverse harem anime to emerge in the last few years thanks to a story and cast that has a fair chance of appealing to both male and female audiences alike as well as offering a female protagonist who grows into an admirable young girl. Yes, it does have a fair amount of similarities to older harems but Yona manages to make itself feel fresh and non generic. Which is something I feel also arises from having a strong heroine with interesting character growth and development. But for that growth to be there, Yona starts with our titular heroine, being somewhat annoying and spoiled, something that could be a deterrent to people who fear she remains that way.
Tom: Yona may initially be annoying; a meak, weak willed princess who’s never faced much hardship in life, but she quickly evolves into a strong female character that I think most audience members will find likable and a far cry better than more painfully whiny, boy crazed heroines of the likes of Fushigi Yugi. Yona’s characterization only adds to a show that is engaging throughout its entire run, with few episodes that feel boring or uneventful. The animation helps to sustain this and remains satisfying for the entire run. Another great plus is the show’s use of villains. Few characters are one dimensional, although such villains do exist, which greatly helps with the suspension of disbelief. Su-Won, Yona’s first love and cousin who murders her father and gets the story going, is a great example of a villain who you can both hate for his wrong doings but understand as we explore his background and greater moral compass.
Linny: Su-Won’s moral ambiguity indeed makes him an interesting villain and one of the best parts of the show. He lends an air of intrigue and depth to the story. But moving onto more shallow matters, Yona checks off one of the ‘vital’ characteristics of a harem anime; offering plenty of eye candy in the form of the many male characters that fill up our cast to ensure that every viewer finds one to take a liking to. Also, the show has some rather eye catching and unique designs for its cast, making for a interesting aesthetic in general that helps it to stand out even more, all boosted by its first opening which is purely instrumental and very unusual for anime openings.
Tom: Not only do the four dragons, Yona’s growing harem of tough, yet handsome fighters, have excellent character designs but also wonderfully varied personalities. While some may fall into classic anime tropes and cliches, they’re still a lot of fun to watch, particularly as the group begins to play off each other with playful banter and butting heads. Another note for the show is that while these four do indeed have special “dragon” powers the show is otherwise minimal on the fantasy side, opting for a more “Game of Thrones-ish” take on incorporating fantasy into a medieval/feudal Asian setting. The Fantasy elements are there, but are relatively minor compared to what one might expect from other fantasy based anime.
Linny: A critique one might have about Yona of the Dawn is that it feels somewhat unbalanced when it comes to introducing and exploring the back stories of the ‘dragons’ and other lead characters. It’s not a major nor off-putting flaw but it might make the show’s flow feel a little rough and uneven. And of course, as mentioned earlier, if you’re hyper critical of cliches, Yona of the Dawn still suffers a fair share of them. It manages to make it work but maybe not enough for the most critical of viewers.
Tom: Yona of the Dawn seems a fairly faithful adaptation of the manga, although some minor changes were made, namely one particular arc was pushed forward so that it would be included in the anime, as in the manga it takes place several chapters after the events that conclude the series. If you’re looking for where to continue the story, the manga continues from the anime’s final episode around Chapter 48 in Volume 9, which doesn’t give you a lot to dive into, as Volume 10 only releases in North America on February 6th this year. The anime does skip at least one or two chapters from the manga, especially in the final couple episodes as the show struggled to wrap itself up in a satisfying manner. Despite its attempts, the show doesn’t actually reach a satisfying conclusion. That said the ending does allow readers to pick up the manga without too much fuss or diving backwards in the story for skipped over content.
Linny: The conclusion of the series is definitely Yona of the Dawn’s biggest weak point. It feels unsatisfying as it doesn’t come anywhere close to addressing or resolving the major events that kicked off things off in the first place and ends at a point when it feels like things are actually about to pick up steam. Of course this is a result of the source material itself being nowhere close to complete at the time of the anime’s production. Unfortunately, thanks to no signs of a Season 2 and the western manga releases only barely catching up to the anime content, it’s going to be a while before one can really continue the story. That said, Yona of the Dawn is definitely worth the watch, particularly if you’re seeking a show featuring multi-dimensional characters, light political intrigue, and enjoy a feudal Asian fantasy setting.
Tom: Yona of the Dawn remains one of the stronger fantasy anime in the last 10 years. It held itself high as a faithful adaptation of an outstanding manga, with a strong female lead, gripping events, and high quality animation. While it may not have had a strong ending, or ever gotten a much needed second season, Yona remains one of the best and one of my highest recommended anime from the last five years.