Yona, the sixteen year old protagonist of Akatsuki no Yona, is the only daughter of Kouka Kingdom’s peace loving monarch. Blessed (or should that be cursed) with a head of ginger locks, she lives a pampered life at the palace where she spends her days swooning over cousin Soo-won. Their potential romance ends one fateful night however when Yona visits her father’s chambers only to discover that Soo-won has assassinated the king, with a well placed sword blade through the chest. After witnessing the murder Yona flees the castle pursued by forces loyal to Soo-won, who are eager to silence the royal teen – lest she pose a threat to their master who has now taken over Kouka’s throne.
Based on Mizuho Kusanagi’s manga, Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy series set within a world modelled after ancient Korea. The twenty-four-episode anime has been adapted for the small screen by Studio Pierrot, whose previous work includes the filler-tastic Bleach. Yona stars the titular princess turned fugitive who is on a quest to recruit the aid of four Dragon Warriors (not to be confused with the deck currently dominating Hearthstone.) She hopes the fabled fighters will help her oppose Soo-won’s rule, although only time will tell if that is a wise move. Despite being guilty of a despicable act there are hints suggesting that Soo-won’s actions may be motivated by justifiable revenge and a desire to protect his impoverished homeland from the threat of neighbouring nations.
The dozen episodes collected in Part One deal with the aftermath of Soo-won’s coup d’etat and the start of Yona’s countrywide journey. Accompanying the princess is her protector, childhood friend and potential love interest Son Hak; a mighty general who (even under the effects of poison) can singlehandedly decimate an entire battalion worth of troops with a single swish of his spear. The pair eventually team up with an orphan named Yun who happens to be an accomplished cook, apothecary and sandal maker. For fashion’s sake I hope that Yun’s patrons refrain from wearing socks with the shoes he weaves – if you ask me there’s nothing more ghastly than someone who sports a sandals/socks combo on their feet.
My rating for Yona of the Dawn (Part One) is a four out of five. Thus far the show has been a treat to watch thanks to its entertaining cast of characters, which includes a strong female lead (who on the DVD box art resembles Himura Kenshin.) Yona starts the series off as a spoiled rich girl, but as the storyline progresses she matures into someone who no longer wishes to be dependent on the generosity of others. She has even acquired a bow, during one of the later episodes, which she intends to use in battle. How much assistance she can offer her companions during combat remains to be seen though. Due to a lack of training Yona is unable to hit stationary objects with an arrow, much less kill living targets; be they enemy soldiers or adorable woodland creatures for food.
Hopefully the show’s quality won’t dip in the second half. One concern I have is that the plot has slowly begun to transition away from a character driven political tale to a goofier reverse harem, focusing more on the antics of the effeminate hunks who have banded with Yona. For the most part I am okay with the comedy provided by Hak’s banter, but I could have done without some of the silly slapstick. Another complaint, which may dissuade buyers from picking up the series, is that Amazon is selling the Blu Ray/DVD combo pack for a little over £40. That’s rather extortionate for a half season set containing a mere twelve episodes. I pray that future Funimation UK releases will be more generously priced. Much like Yona’s hair colour, over costed anime makes me see red.