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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.