Akatsuki no Yona Series Review

Overview:

Yona has lived the sheltered life of a Princess but when her father is killed she is forced on the run with only her childhood friend (bodyguard) Hak for protection. Together the two are forced to seek out the four dragons from legend, and that’s all I’ve got.

Review:

Definitely spoilers for the anime here.

Here’s the thing with this anime: it’s amazing. The story is compelling and the characters are fascinating. There’s some rich world building (of an admittedly slightly clichéd fantasy world) and it is full of history and feels compelling. All of this should leave you with a near perfect anime. However, what is Yona going to do once she gathers the dragons? Um, we don’t know (from the anime) and having gathered them and being asked by one of the dragons what her intention is we then conclude the final episode with her fighting an external enemy to the kingdom. But what is her long term plan? What happens next? Don’t know.

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I am writing this review after a re-watch of the series but I’m left with the same impression as I was after the first viewing. This whole series feels like an introduction to a much grander story that currently does not exist as an anime. Just as you finally meet the last of the dragons, the story ends. Nothing is done with them.

That said, if you view this as a story about Yona moving beyond being a sheltered princess then her character is realised very well. She has a catalyst for change that is about as genuine as it comes and her character change is slow and not without setbacks. In fact, every development she has is as a logical response to events in the story. So from this point of view you could view the ending as adequate because she has now become who she was supposed to be.

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For me though, I still felt Yona was incomplete. She’s come a long way and it has been a joy travelling with her and seeing her fail, succeed, grow and second guess herself. But without knowing what her future plans are it is almost impossible to know if she’s reached the end of her transition as a character and whether she now can face her future.

The other thing that really bothers me is that so much of the story was triggered by the King’s decision to not take up weapons. While this is a central part of the plot and the King’s character, we never get to find out what made him act in this way. We know he wasn’t a coward or a fool (that is made clear) but we don’t know what actually made him tick or what his motive was. Because of this, we don’t really know whether the coup was justified or not and we don’t really know if Yona taking up weapons is ultimately going to be a massive slap in the face of everything the King tried to create.

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However, with the exception of the ending feeling totally unfinished, this is a truly beautiful anime.

The opening themes are striking and really set the tone. I particularly liked the first opening as it kind of felt like the story was being told entirely through the music and I could just close my eyes and really get drawn into it.

The characters are all really interesting and the biggest flaw is that some of them do not get enough time on screen for us to really know them the way we’d like to. The dragons (particularly the blue and yellow ones) really feel barely fleshed out but you want to know more about them.

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Hak and Su-won are both great characters and you get to know quite a bit about them, but at the same time you still feel like their is a lot unresolved between them. Their connection to each other and to Yona is really well portrayed and one of the strengths of the series (outside of having an interesting story, giving the characters a sense of purpose and just being entertaining). Hak’s motivation is all too clear throughout the series and you honestly feel bad for him sometimes when things don’t go his way. Su-won is more of an enigma with hints of a greater purpose but no explanation.

The mix of character development, human drama, adventure and fight sequences works well in this. The supernatural elements are tied in seamlessly with the world building and never feel like they are added extras or cheats to get around a villain. Actually if I was going to raise any further complaint it would be the lack of a central villain and that’s mostly because I’m still not convinced that killing Yona’s father was such a bad thing.

There really isn’t a lot more to say. This one is hard to recommend as is because it lacks any kind of resolution. If you watch a lot of anime, you’ve probably already watched this. Otherwise, you will probably be better off watching something that is finished. That said, it’s certainly an enjoyable watch so if you go in knowing it is going to leave things open then maybe it won’t be such a problem.

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21 thoughts on “Akatsuki no Yona Series Review

  1. When it comes to character development, this is probably the best anime I’ve seen. Yona was some spoiled little princess of a minscule kingdom. Yet watching her go from that to some semblance of this rebel leader they kept showing, it was amazing. The same goes for Su-Won. They made it so there was so many layers to his decision and he wasn’t some simple villain who just wanted the power of the king.

    As for the father, I thought he didn’t want weapons because he didn’t want their country to seem like a threat or it had something to do with his brother? It has been years since I saw this show so I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was one of the two right?

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    1. The other characters gave the explanation about the country being a threat but it doesn’t really make sense given the king still had all these tribes of people with weapons. There is definitely more to the reasoning than what we are told within the show (or at least their should be) and I keep coming back to the conclusion I need more information on this.

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  2. I came home very late yesterday, so am running behind on a few posts. (But am doing my best to catch up 😊). This sounds like a great series, but seeing as it is unfinished I am not really in a rush to see it yet. I have seen a lot of great shows (both Anime and Live Action) that I liked very much, but than got cancelled. Even though I had a great time watching the shows themselves, the lack of a resolution left me feeling a bit hollow at the end. That said, this was a great review, and the story itself appeals to me a lot, so I might give it a try one day 😊 Great post!

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  3. Definitely a show that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I didn’t care for a lot of the blatant reverse-harem gags and tropes being thrown around but between the soundtrack and Yona’s own character arc, I’d put this above Arslan which I think attacks this same story and genre far more head-on but succeeds to a significantly lesser degree. Thanks for the write-up and for the most part I agree with where you think the strengths of the show lie. It really does just kind of end though, as you’ve said.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. If you enjoyed the subject matter of Yona than Arslan’s story should meet your expectations just fine. They’re practically the same show. It comes up pretty short in the art department though and can feel pretty aggressively formulaic in places. Might be worth a short anyway.

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        1. It’s already been added to my watch list but I may need to move it up a bit if I’m ever going to actually watch it and I’m getting more and more interested in trying it.

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  4. I’ve never thought the Kings stance on weapons was ever a thing that needed further explanation on my watch through. For the most part, I figured the King either put down weapons as an atonement for past misgivings, was setting an example and acting in accordance to his pacifist beliefs, or both. Although when you brought up that Yona taking up weapons might undermine the King, now I do get a slight want for an explanation. Overall I don’t think it hurts the series.

    On the other hand, I defenitly would’ve liked to see more of Su-Won after the Kings death, as he was the central antagonist. Sadly he ended up playing more of a background role pulling the strings, which totally makes sense, but is ultimately unsatisfying. So here I sit holding out for a season 2, as season 1 ends right when we get the full group together (as shown at the very start of ep1).

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    1. Yes, they take us on a long road to get back to the inital scene but it is quite enjoyable.
      About the king, it bothers me when someone does something because they did in a story. I know it real life pepole are pretty arbitrary but in stories I kind of feel that they should have an actual reason for their actions, particularly ones that the whole plot sit upon. If he hadn’t given up weapons Su-Won’s father wouldn’t have died (? I forgot what actually happened) and then Su-Won wouldn’t have decided to kill the king and even if he had Yona might have been able to defend herself if she had taken up weapons earlier and so on and so forth. It’s kind of a major thing to the story so I’d really like to know why.

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      1. Oh yes, it is entirely enjoyable. I get what you mean, but I feel the plot sits more on Su Wons killing of the King as revenge for the King supposedly killing his father. It’s totally out of character for the King, but explains Su Wons actions. That’s why I feel having no explanation for the Kings anti weapon sentiment is fine for the plot. Even if the king was for weapons, it doesn’t mean Yona would have learned how to use o ne, it just would have left the possibility of her doing so open.

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  5. ive only ever read the manga for this and im not sure the king’s no weapon thing is explained yet even in the manga. and yeah, the incomplete feeling makes sense, but adaptations will do that. it’s not a bad series, though…im still following it

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  6. I’ve seen this recommended in a lot of blogs but had no idea that it had an inconclusive ending. I might still watch it though if only because I’m a sucker for good fantasy and characters.

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  7. SCREECHES
    YONA YES, OMFG YES, I’M SO HAPPY RN AAAH
    I’m looking forward to either the series getting a S2 to continue her journey, or for the manga to continue on, because I just know this is gonna be so much better once we can have the continuation /sobs
    Did you see the OVA? The yellow dragon got center stage and I cried myself to my early grave because so sad, precious cinnamon roll needs protection 😭😭😭
    Su-won is a fuckboi and he gets no welcome to my village, let’s not forget he tried to kill Yona…
    It is so beautiful, everyone needs to see it ;_;

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    1. Su-won did try to kill Yona but we never got to find out why and what his overall motive is so I’m still on the fence about whether or not he was justified. I’d like to think there was some reason for his actions given he doesn’t seem irrational at other times.
      No, I haven’t seen the OVA but now I kind of have to. Thanks.

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      1. True, he’s been very strategical about the coup.
        I think he might have tried to kill her because she would have been used by his opposer’s as a trump card, tough cookies for him that his tough opposed IS her 😻😻😻👌✨
        YOU NEED TO SEE THE OVA AAH, don’t forget tissue case, you’ll need it :’D

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