Some anime fans have probably dismissed Akatsuki no Yona (Yona of the Dawn) as a typical shoujo anime, closely similar to Fushigi Yuugi. Over the years since its first airing in 2014, it slowly gained recognition as shown in MyAnimelist site. However, I feel like this anime is far from the recognition it deserves and here are just the 3 reasons why without revealing too much of the plot:
- Yona’s character development is admirable. Yona is initially portrayed in the series as a sheltered princess who knew nothing about the kingdom her good natured father is leading – until she witnessed her crush and best friend Soo Won kill her father. She left the castle with her loyal guardian Hak and was presumed to be dead by the whole kingdom. She vowed to find the four dragons she heard as a legend and seek their help to reclaim leadership of the kingdom her father died for. In her search for the four dragons, Yona learned how to live out of nothing, to fight, and accept the betrayal of one of her most trusted persons. Most of all, she experienced and personally saw how her kingdom is suffering from poverty, drugs and other hidden political tensions that made her see the real status of the kingdom she wants to protect. While hiding and pretending to be dead, she met allies and enemies along the way that taught her to be stronger while holding on to the hatred she has for Soo Won. As you go along the series (especially in the manga), you will no longer recognize the princess in episode 1 of the anime or chapter 1 of the manga and be proud of how far Yona has come.
2. The plot is more complex than it seems. The plot is not just about the dead princess and the four dragons. The series will keep you hanging on why Soo Won did what he did and what his real intentions are to the point of betraying his best friends, Yona and Hak. Is it for a greater purpose, are these all for Yona and the kingdom, or is he just evil deep inside?
The plot also incorporates issues on prostitution, human trafficking, drugs, poverty, capitalism and slavery. In every town Yona visits, she personally witnesses how deep the problem has come and that there are persons working from the shadows, which until now, is not yet revealed in the manga.
The speculation that Yona is the reincarnation of the Red Dragon is also shrouded in mystery. While there are hints along the series, such is not yet confirmed which will keep you hanging.
3. The bonds and relationships among the characters.
Yona and the Four Dragons
As hinted in the series, Yona may be the reincarnation of the red dragon reason why the four dragons (white, blue, green, and yellow) are attached to her. However, the dragons’ reincarnations follow her voluntarily because they were fascinated by Yona’s character and conviction. The four dragons were revealed one by one, each has unique stories and background you cannot help but sympathize with. Their brotherhood is very strong and they have saved each other many times in the series. When not fighting enemies, they bicker and tease each other (the comedic timing and tone of this series is excellent) and even compete for Yona’s attention sometimes, though they are not oblivious to Yona’s romantic feelings for Hak. You cannot help but laugh, cry and fight with them.
Yona, Hak and Soo Won
The story of this three is heartbreaking, full of tension and one of the foundations of the series. The three are childhood bestfriends until they were teens and even promised to protect each other. Yona likes Soo Won and Hak secretly likes Yona. The betrayal by Soo Won at the beginning of the series weighed heavily on Hak and Yona. A long time will pass before the three see each other again and you will anticipate that long-awaited moment when Soo Won finds out that Yona is alive and is no longer the sheltered princess he once knew.
Some fans root for either Hak or Soo Won (I am for Hak all the way) and you will probably do the same especially that some fans hope that Soo Won did what he did, all along, for the sake of Yona. If you root for Hak, you will share his pain for seeing Yona cry over Soo Won’s betrayal and you will wait for the day when Yona lets go of her infatuation for Soo Won.
There are a lot of characters in the series that you will root for I do not even know from whom to begin. The author of this manga did a great job in creating background stories that will make you attached to the characters. Some allies become enemies but many enemies become allies.
This series is a must-see. This is actually the first anime that made me crave for the manga after finishing the anime adaptation. The 24-episode anime adaptation ends in around chapter 70 of the manga. The manga was even tagged as one of the best shoujo mangas in the past decade and you would not want to miss it.