Yona of the Dawn – Season 1

Yona of the Dawn – Season 1

IMG_1160.PNGOn her sixteenth birthday, the cheerful Princess Yona intended to tell her doting father of her love for her childhood companion Su-won, but her life was turned upside down after witnessing the man she loves assassinating her father. Heartbroken by a painful betrayal, Yona flees the palace with her loyal servant, Hak. Now, she will take up the sword and the bow on a quest to gain new allies and protect her beloved people.

We first see Yona as a spoiled, flighty princess. Though she is the sole princess of the kingdom, expected to inherit everything after her father, the king, she hasn’t even set foot outside of the castle grounds into the country that she will one day rule over. However, this all changes when she sees with her own eyes Su-won killing her father. For her own safety, she is forced to flee the castle with her personal bodyguard. The rest of the anime I expect will be an explanation of her coming-of-age journey in which she goes from pampered royal to the ass-kicking vigilante that we see in the opening sequence.

The story here is vaguely reminiscent of a traditional Asian drama, set in an ancient past that is meant to be somewhat equivocal to ancient China. The temples, artefacts and statues are stylised and detailed. So much so that sometimes I found myself distracted from the plot. The backgrounds are certainly rich in colour with a palette that is obviously meant to compliment the opulence of ancient Chinese dynasty.

The one thing that bothers me about this anime is that it’s a bit of a slow starter. It makes me wonder how many episodes there are going to be in this series as it seems to be taking its sweet time to get anywhere. I understood the reason for the slowness in the first episode: it’s always best to establish the major characters in as much detail as possible before all the other characters arrive and things get a bit crazy, but the pace hasn’t increased since. For a runaway princess, Yona seems to be taking her sweet time doing any actual running. Hopefully, now we see have seen her cut off her hair (an anime plot device that basically tells the viewer in no uncertain terms that shit is about to get real) she will start being a little more pro-active. Having said that, Hak has had some awesome action scenes, which are wonderful to watch. Everything is so fast and fluid, and the animation is very impressive. I hope that his battle with the Fire Tribe is an indication of things to come.

IMG_1168.PNGThis story also has all the classic makings of a reverse harem, which is something that peaked my interest. Reverse harems are sadly thin on the ground compared to their counterpart, and I’m not quite sure why this is. No female anime fan has ever said “I could do with less bishounen”. Personally, I don’t think there’s a thing as ‘too much bishounen’. The last two reverse harems I saw were Amnesia and Neo Angelique Abyss, so it will be interesting to see if Yona of the Dawn has any developments on these.

As for character designs, all of the harem seem pretty typical. The men are all defined with certain colours and a particular hairstyle, which helps the viewer separate them all ready for when they make their grand entrance and start establishing themselves as an individual. Even Hak and Su-won lean to this arrangement despite a couple of episodes looking into their past and the different ways in which they handle situations – Hak being tough and mischevious, Soo-won being a quiet and pleasant diplomat. Of course, the character that really stands out here is Yona with her deep violet eyes and purple hair which are perfect for extended close-ups, especially if she’s sad or angry – she is the main character, after all.

One thing that I have noticed about the harem genre is that when the main character is male they often have a very average appearance and minimal personality. However, with reverse harems the main female character always seems to have a bit more definition (at least aesthetically) and doesn’t fade into the background as much. I have high hopes for Yona and her future character development. It is something that I found sadly lacking with The Heroine and Angelique, but the amount of drama featured within Yona of the Dawn promises that this particular princess won’t spend the whole series hopelessly reliant on her ever-growing following of beautiful men. The depth of the plot is also a positive as it’s an indication that this story won’t be completely focused on angst-y romance, which is often a pitfall in this particular genre.

For a series that started off quite serious, I find that some of the slapstick anime comedy that they have tried to filter in seems a bit disjointed. It seems so horribly out of place with the style of artwork and the amount of violence that features in this story. For Yona to suddenly go into ‘chibi’ mode for no apparent reason often ruins the mood and completely obliterates any kind of tension that the plot was trying to build. Since it has reverse harem elements, it can’t take itself too seriously because of it being what it is, but it would be a shame for it to fall victim to some tired, old anime cliché. I think a balance needs to be found soon.

Overall, things look promising. An interesting plot, a compelling main character, an unusual setting and (finally) plenty of battles and action. The anime world needs more shows with reverse harems – particularly ones that have strong female leads and male characters that have a complexity about them and aren’t easily put into harem stereotype boxes. I am expecting big things here, so I hope Yona of the Dawn delivers.