Yona of the Dawn is an incredible Anime and I’ll try not to spoil any story moments while I vaguely review it. For starters, let me say that Yona has the greatest Princess-turned-Warrior story line of any Anime I’ve seen up to this date. It is incredibly refreshing to see a woman not slap on some armor and swing a giant sword around, but instead, recognize her own femininity to succeed and conquer the world around her. All of the women (okay all of, like, two) in the show are fantastic and realized characters and I urge you to stop reading and watch this show. It’s so good.
The premise for Yona and the Dawn may sound a little strange. When placed in the context of Legend of the Twelve Kingdoms, the mythology and power plays are a bit easier to understand. Below is a bullet list of events that all transpire in the first episode, along with some story seeds that drop in from time to time throughout the series:
- Crimson Dragon Castle of the Kohka Kingdom is the seat of power. King Il reigns and has outlawed weapons and warfare. In doing so, he’s pissed off a great deal of people since wars don’t happen: the king simply gives the land away to his enemies.
- Yona grew up with two childhood friends: Su Won and Hak. Su Won is the song of the King’s brother. Hak is an adoptive son of a famous general. The childhood of the kids (Yona, Su Won, and Hak) was super fun and lovely.
- Fast forward to when Yona is 16. Yona loves Su Won and asks for his hand in marriage. Su Won declines. Hak is stunned. Yona is stunned.
- Su Won assassinates the king in front of Yona.
- Hak and Yona escape the castle.
So begins the crazy journey of a 16 year old princess turning into the next ruler of a struggling nation filled with sexual tension, crazy emotions, colorful characters, and fantastic action sequences.
Yona and Hak’s adventure takes them to meet an Oracle where they learn the general creation myth of the kingdom: The Crimson Dragon loved humans so much he became a human, and tasked the Four Dragons to protect him/them. The four Dragons (on the bottom row of the photo above) are Gija/White Dragon, Shinwa/Blue Dragon, Jaeha/Green Dragon, and Zeno/Yellow Dragon. The dragons also have their own powers: Gija has a giant dragon arm, Shinwa can see long distances, Jaeha can float, and Zeno has an invulnerable body.
Note: The characters on top are Yuna, Hak, Su Won, and Yun. Yuna is the Crimson Dragon. Hak is the Lightning Beast (a term used because every time he swings his spear it sounds like cracks of lightning–an obvious nod to Guan Yu), Su Won (the villaine), and Yun (the protector of the Oracle and self-proclaimed beautiful genius).
Throughout the journey, Yuna see’s how her fathers laws and regulations have hindered the country. Indeed, a country cannot survive on peace alone. The lands often dried up while the wider population starved. Bandits and unsavory men began controlling ports and other towns, and so on. While Yuna may be dense and not quite understand that she is the Crimson Dragon, it is implied whenever she meets one of the four other dragons (they immediately kneel and they hear a booming voice across the ages of time, telling them who she is).
The combat is superb. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, BAM, it’s incredibly and well choreographed. The plot is driven by trying to gather all four dragons for something which is asked at the end of the season. This is only the real drawback: the first season has Yona collect the four dragons, but there is no moment of ‘YEAH NOW KICK SU WONS ASS!’ I’m not really sure if this is the point of the show, or if its a show about an ex-princess becoming a mercenary leader, protecting the people from a regime which doesn’t truly have their best interests at heart.
My favorite part of the show is actually watching Yona and Hak’s relationship grow. Long story short, they both love each other and through profound reasons, cannot be together. Or rather, Yona would rather Hak always remember who she is and remember her father, whom Hak greatly respected. They never kiss (romantically) and as the first season progresses, the two grow closer and closer together. I think it’s really well down even with the premonition that for Yona to finished her mission, Hak will die. UG, I’m really into seeing where this goes. I’ve never really rooted for two characters to finally kiss in an Anime before.
In the end, Yona of the Dawn is a solid, solid 8/10. I am so hoping a second season is in the works.