Welcome to Anime Rants’ review of Yona of the Dawn, AKA Akatsuki no Yona. It’s a 2014 anime of 24 episodes by studio Perriot. Here, five categories will be discussed which help determine my rating of the series. These are visuals, audio, story, characters, and personal enjoyment. With that, let’s get started!
Sometimes an anime series will go a little too far with distinctly colored and somewhat simple character designs; take Akame ga Kill for an example. With other anime, it works out wonderfully, as is the case for Assassination Classroom, and indeed, for Yona of the Dawn. Character designs are bright and colorful, as well as a bit more detailed with the old-timey Asian clothing. The vibrant appearance of the characters and the visuals in general also work well because they suit the tone of the series, which is more PG-ish level than the violent and dark Akame ga Kill.
There’s a few more things to mention. Yona of the Dawn is set in a fantasy world which resembles the Korean kingdoms of the first century in reality. This comes across in the visual style, such as clothing, weaponry, and decorations. It all helps makes Yona more memorable. As for the animation, it seems fine to me, rarely awkward or lacking in detail. The face expressions for the characters are always on-point, which is something I appreciate a lot in anime. I love the way the eyes are drawn in this series, especially Yona’s– they are captivating.
Excellent character designs, bright colors, pretty nature backgrounds, interesting anime eyes, and the ancient Korean theme all add up to a marlevous visual experience.
Yona is a somewhat spoiled, red-haired princess of one of the three major kingdoms. Her life changes forever after her cousin Su-won kills her father, King Il, and usurps the crown. Guarded by her faithful servant Hak, Yona must adventure through the land to gather the help of allies to fight Su-won. There’s a certain legend that says four “dragons” will gather around a savior-figure with red hair who will lead them to change history. As Yona and Haku encounter these “dragons,” the pampered princess grows into a woman warrior.
The story of Yona of The Dawn is very straightfoward, but rather than seeming too simple, it just seems “classic.” There are elements like traveling, fighting a usurper king, and gathering strong allies, which occur in many classic stories. Even if it is a bit predictable, the plot is still compelling. For the most part, it’s structured well, but it would have felt smoother (especially toward the end) if there had been another episode to shift focus to the last dragon. The first three episodes are great, but by comparison, the series drags a bit here and there.
The main recurring theme in Yona of The Dawn is Yona’s change over time. And it’s a powerful and inspiring theme for sure. There are few things more important to present in anime than strong female characters who have nuanced personalities and aren’t just there to show breasts. But there are not a lot of other story themes, psychological elements, or thought-provoking aspects beyond that. I usually prefer my stories to run a bit darker and deeper. Yona of the Dawn is an adventure show and not a psychological one. There’s nothing wrong with that, other than it’s not my favorite kind of story. However, I still enjoy it a lot. consider
MyAnimeList.net classifies Yona of the Dawn into six genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, and Shoujo. In case you aren’t aware, Shoujo means “young girl” and Shoujo animes are primarily targeted at female children and teens. There are numerous tropes associated with the Shoujo genre, some of which are highly annoying. But next to none of those are present in Yona of The Dawn. For a Shoujo anime, it’s original, exicting, and inspiring, which makes it one of the best of its genre. It may be the best shoujo of its decade, in my opinion.
The main reason Yona is regarded as Shoujo is because it fits into a plot/character pattern called a reverse harem. That’s when there is a central female character and several male supporting characters who stick with her. Despite the word harem, there doesn’t necessarily need to be any sexual or even very romantic elements. In Yona of the Dawn, the male characters traveling with Yona feel a special bond with her because she is the prophecied hero and they are the dragons destined to serve her. The only one who feels romantic and sexual attraction, Hak, is not one of the four dragons. Anyway, it’s time to end that tangent and on to the next category.
The music in Yona of The Dawn is gorgeous, with an orchestral and inspiring main theme. Flutes and woodwinds are used generously. The score also includes a few oriental-type sounds. It’s so good that they used a variation of it as the opening for the first half of the season, rather than adding a song with vocals like most anime. For the second half, a vocal song with a completely different style is used, called “Flower of Dawn” by Cyntia. It sounds great besides being a little jarring when it first switches over.
The other scores in Yona of The Dawn are not as memorable as the main theme, but they are still beautiful. “Road to Kouka Kingdom” has an upbeat, oriental-sounding tune that’s perfect for scenes of walking and adventuring. “Yona’s Decision” is an uneasy build-up to an exciting, freeing climax. “Power of The Four Dragons” is a fast-paced piece great for action and battle scenes. Those are just a few examples. The two ending songs, “Yoru” by vistlip and “Akatsuki” by Akiko Shikata, are both good. I prefer the second one, which sounds like old, traditional oriential song. Shikata’s voice is amazing.
Now then, the voice-acting in Yona of The Dawn is also excellent. The cast includes Junichi Suwabe as Jae-ha, Tomoaki Maeno as Hak, Chiwa Saito as Yona, and Yuusuke Kobayashi as Su-won. There are other voices I know, too, such an Junko Minagawa as Yun and Hiro Shimono as Zeno. I believe the biggest talents here are Chiwa Saito and Junichi Suwabe. I don’t hear Saito’s voice in very many anime series, but when I do, she always does a good job. While her voice may not be melodic, it can be quiet and strong, hesitant and cute, or very emotional.
There wasn’t a particular scene where someone’s performance struck me as especially amazing. That being sad, the acting certainly isn’t bad. I think I was most impressed with Chiwa Saito’s overall performance. Yona is a sheltered and unsure character, but she grows into a strong woman, and Saito captures this well. All in all, the great instrumental music, songs, and voice-acting are magnificent.
There’s nothing wrong with the characters in Yona of The Dawn, but I don’t think their presentation and development was as noteworthy as other elements such as music. Plus, there was at least one character who annoyed me throughout the series. That would be Hak. Fan-girls, go ahead and try to execute me, but I’ll still express my thoughts. Hak is a very hot anime man, but his personality is the farthest thing possible from attractive. He’s begruding of Yona’s change instead of welcoming it. He’s possessive, stubborn, and too physically forward with Yona. Plus, compared to other characters, Hak is noticeably more sexist.
Putting Hak aside, all the other characters were likeable or interesting enough. I won’t say that they were one-dimensional, but they did each have a defining series of traits or attitudes. It would have been nice to dig just a little bit deeper into their personalities and histories, but what they did show was still satisfactory. And every good story needs a believable antagonist. Su-won and his motivations were presented well so as not to make him a shallow, typical villain.
The lack of supporting female characters bothered me. The only other thing to mention is that none of these characters became truly interesting to me, or I couldn’t connect with them. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but sometimes you “bond” with certain characters more than others without a clear reason. Looking at the big picture, the character category for Yona of The Dawn is a solid 7/10, good.
Personal Enjoyment: 7/10
There’s so much to enjoy in Yona of the Dawn. To begin with, the visual and audio components help make for a fantastic experience. It’s always a treat to hear Junichi Suwabe, a well-known and distinctive seiyuu. Hearing Chiwa Saito was great, too. It surprised me because before that, I only knew her from when she played Homura in Madoka Magica. The two are very different characters and use different tones and pitch of voice.
The characters, the main theme, and the battle scenes were enjoyable as well. As mentioned, I dislike Hak, and that did bring down my personal enjoyment some. My favorites of the characters are Yona, Yun, and Jae-ha. The theme of Yona becoming courageous, independent, and reliable is of critical importance. In anime, there is still far too much casual sexism, in addition to a general lack of original, well-written female characters. So it was a breath of fresh air to see Yona and her journey. There were several battles, such as the ones on the pirate ship, that entertained me greatly. I also love the scene where Yona fires her arrow at the leader of the slavers.
Yona of The Dawn had many light-hearted, cute, and funny moments. These, too, raised my enjoyment of the show. But as mentioned earlier, this is not really my preferred story genre, and lacks the psychological and philosophical depth that I look for. That’s the main reason I didn’t give this category an 8/10. Well, that and Hak. It may not be perfect in my mind, but I had fun watching Yona of the Dawn and I plan to watch it again.
Overall Score: 8.0/10.0
The overall score is calculated by taking the average of the 5 categories explored above. On my scale, anything in the 7s range is good but not great. Anything in the 8s range is excellent. As you can see, Yona of the Dawn came out with a fine score. I recommend this anime if you’re looking for an adventure story with a female lead and a relatively light tone. Thanks for reading and please enjoy your day. Sayonara until next time!