Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy,Fantasy, Romance, Shoujo
“When you protect someone you want to keep safe, do you always weigh your own life against theirs?”- Hak Son
It has been quite some time since I have been able to watch a show that has had me quite so interested in the majority of its characters. Atatsuki no Yona in this respect, is one of those shows where once you start, you will find it very difficult to not just watch it right the way through in a single sitting. This show is adapted from the manga series with the same name which is currently still ongoing.
Yona of the Dawn is a reverse harem, shoujo anime which revolves around our main character Princess Yona, the daughter of King Il, who rules over the Kingdom of Kouka. King Il is a peace-loving king who does not believe in war and the use of weapons. Instead of going to war with neighbouring countries, he instead tries to placate them with land. As a result the once strong Kingdom of Kouka begins to lose its fearsome image as a battle ready kingdom and there is disapproval as to how it is run. Many people see the free, peace-loving king as a foolish king instead.
Now, Yona herself is what you might expect from a princess in such a show. She is fairly weak, sheltered and as a result of her upbringing, rather naïve- she hardly knows life outside the castle. She used to spend her days with her two friends when she was a child -Hak and Su-Won. Hak was the son of one of the tribe leaders and Su-won was the first cousin of Yona. Yona took a liking to Su-Won from a very young age and always hoped to marry him when they grew up. Hak himself becomes the bodyguard of Yona and takes a fancy to her himself, although he also understand it is Su-Won she must marry and thus sticks to his rather sarcastic personality to keep to his own duty. Hak however did gain his position as a bodyguard on merit- as he is a fearsome swordsman and has grown up to become one of the most feared generals- nicked named the “Thunder Beast” owing to how fast and hard he strikes. These three have grown up together and are incredibly close-knit. However one day Yona walks in on Su-Won killing the king and declaring he will usurp the throne. This sudden turn of events takes her by surprise and when her own life is in danger, Hak turns up and escapes with Yona. Together they travel out to new lands while gaining new companions on the way and try to figure out how they can fight back.
From what you have read I can imagine you have already decided this is an incredibly clichéd show with an incredibly clichéd plotline and clichéd characters- one of the three friends is the bad guy and the others have to run away and take revenge. You might think you’ve heard it all and seen it all before and there is no way this show could really interest you. However you would be pleasantly surprised. While I would agree this show plays upon its own fair share of clichés, it is also brilliantly written and developed over the course of the show. The show possesses one of the best set of characters I have ever seen in an anime and perhaps one of my favourite female lead characters. This is not your Disney style princess show that you may have seen over and over again- Yona develops into more of a “Katniss Everdeen” sort of character over the course of the show. She slowly builds up her personality to become more understanding and steelier and it is really refreshing to watch her grow. This show might have a plot that just has you rolling your eyes at first when you read all this, although right from episode 1, it is anything but.
What helps to really make this show what it is, is the strong pool of characters. Yona’s life has been turned upside down after all the events that have taken place and she now has to adjust to a completely different lifestyle- most people would be tempted to give up. However, Yona, rather surprisingly at first, does not cave in. She really does all she can to put herself together and move forwards, it really is quite admirable. Her fiery, red-pinkish hair is what defines her. As far as appearances go to suit personalities, her red, unruly hair really does reflect the type of person Yona grows into- she is the girl on fire and fights with determination. There are times when she just looks so fierce that you can’t believe it’s the same Yona from before. She eventually goes on to take a bow, so she does not have to stand back and do nothing, she can aid her allies from the back lines via some form of support.
While Yona has her own bodyguard, she does not simply want to depend on Hak for protection. While most characters might sit back contented to have such a person protecting them, Yona instead wishes to grow stronger herself so she does not need to be protected all the time and with this in mind she tries her best to change. As the show goes on, Yona gains many powerful allies with varying abilities however she wants to be able to rely on herself more than anyone else. She does not want to be protected, she wants to protect others. She is not a damsel in distress, she will do all she can to fight side by side in her own way. Hak’s funny and witty personality, mixed in with a lot of sarcasm brings out new sides of Yona to see as well and he himself is a character with whom many can probably identify. He is a very devout person, despite all the mean pranks and comments he passes just as a joke to keep Yona’s mind feeling more at ease.
Side characters often get a bit more attention than usual too and in some cases one or two of them get a whole episode to themselves.
Aside from just the characters in this show, what else is really pleasing are the emotions that are portrayed. A lot of the time the characters will not act on impulse and often show very life like reactions and restraint in many situations- which is satisfying since they don’t just react predictably to everything.
There is a lot of light comedy thrown around in this show, which generally lifts the mood during the more serious times and can make normal scenes seem quite funny. I personally, liked the humour in this show although it can go over some people’s heads. Most of the comedy comes through one-liners, a single scene with something silly going on or just some comic action. Given how grave the underlying situation actually is, such comedy is welcome.
The fight scenes in this show aren’t thrown in all willy nilly, every fight has some reasoning behind it and they are often quite pleasing to watch.
A criticism of the show could be that some people find the middle section a little bit slow. There can be a few occasions where the story might seem to drag on a little bit and given how fast paced everything generally is, you really want it to move on- personally I did not find this a problem. The second problem as of now, is that there has only been one season created since the manga is still ongoing, as a result they cannot finish the story in season 1 in some way that gives a sense of closure. Instead, you left craving for season 2- where the main action will most likely get going.
The art-style of the show was pleasant- it was as you would expect for this day and age. However the one thing that really stood out was the character design for Yona. There are certain scenes where her hair and eyes really stand out and make an impression.
Where the sound track is concerned, it is enjoyable and gives a fantasy-esque feel to the show. The first OP has no words to it and is purely instrumental, however the second OP is really fast paced and fun and has lyrics this time around.
Overall this is a very enjoyable show that on the surface might seem clichéd but in reality does not play by the rules- as a result you get one of the best shoujos you will see for a while.
Final score: 8.6