Anime Review: Yona of the Dawn Part 1 (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 20.02.2017

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Yona of the Dawn Part 2 (UK Rating: 15)

During the first part of the series, Princess Yona's life changed dramatically. Her peaceful life was snatched from her by her beloved childhood friend, Soo-Won. The innocent looking lordling didn't look quite so innocent as he impaled Yona's father, the king, upon his sword, and Yona was next. That is until her other childhood friend and guardian, Son Hak, spirited her away from the treacherous army of usurpers. While she escaped, she became a fugitive, while Soo-Won stole her kingdom. The pair escape to Son Hak's village and there met with an oracle who set them on the path to find the legendary "Four Dragons" and use them to win back her kingdom. This second part of the series comes courtesy of Funimation, via Anime Limited, and is available from 20th February.

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Yona's journey has been a challenging one thus far, but it has paid off. After escaping from Soo-Won's forces and meeting the Oracle, Ik-Su, their party grew by adding the Oracle's disciple Yun and, soon after, finding the first of the dragons, the White Dragon, Ki-Ja. Ki-Ja was waiting for Yona and was happy to join in their quest, proving to be a valuable asset as Ki-Ja is able to sense the other dragons and lead the party straight to them, and he does just that, bringing them to the home of the second dragon, the Blue Dragon. Meanwhile, Soo-Won is playing through a masterful plan to unite the clans and return the kingdom to the strength it once had.

This new season picks up at the end of Blue Dragon story, with his torturous past finally fully explained and his addition to the team complete. The majority of the season is spent around the Green Dragon, Jae-Ha, a womanising rogue named Jae-Ha who fought to escape his imprisonment within the Green Dragon village and his destiny as a Dragon Warrior and carved a life out for himself as a pirate. These aren't the rape and pillage kind, though, more the Strawhat kind, as they battle to save a town under the boot of a corrupt official and recruit Yona's team to help in the endeavour. Finally, the Yellow Dragon bursts onto the scene, too, although he has far too little screen time before the series comes to a close.

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That is the worst aspect of this adaptation - it feels so short, even at two seasons and 24 episodes. The anime is an adaptation of a manga series that is still running today, an impressive eight years after its launch. Since the anime concluded in 2015, it obviously suffers from the same fate as many other anime series in that it leaves much of the story left untold. The anime adapts the first eight volumes or so of the currently 21 released thus far. Fans can't even jump over to the official English manga releases yet either as they are only just reaching volume four - hopefully, a third season will be forthcoming soon, as there's an amazing story here and it's awful to have it end so suddenly.

The first part of Yona of the Dawn already had plenty of great characters and this new season gives a deeper look into each, along with developing the bonds between them. Of course, the heroine is the star of the show, and watching Yona transform from the previous little princess into the brave young leader she becomes is fantastic and, even with the odd moment of cliché fawning, Yona is a wonderful three-dimensional character. There is a strange love triangle between Yona, Hak, and Soo-Won. Even after Soo-Won killed Yona's father, she still has feelings for him and this season shows there's more to Soo-Won than it seems. Soo-Won is nothing like the typical villain he seems to be - to the masses he puts on a naïve and airheaded front, but beneath the façade is a cunning and powerful warrior. That in itself, though, is a somewhat overused archetype. Thankfully, Soo-Won has more to him than this and his reasoning for killing the king and his plans for the kingdom make for a truly compelling antagonist. The new dragons added in this half of the season fit right in and add great new dynamics to the party, too. Jae-Ha is a great foil to Hak and sparks fly whenever he and Kija clash. The Yellow Dragon doesn't get enough time to develop but there's clearly more to his quirky happy-go-lucky personality than it seems.

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The quality of the series is really top notch - the shoujo art style looks beautiful and the animation is absolutely fantastic. This release is available in dual audio - the Japanese cast is superb and, equally, there is a particularly good cast on the English dub, filled with veteran stars, including the fitting reunion of husband and wife pair of Vegeta and Bulma, as Christopher Sabat and Monica Rial take centre stage as Yona and Hak. They are complemented by a tremendous soundtrack filled with classical orchestral strings and booming drums. On the extra features front, there are the usual promotional videos, trailers and clean openings / closings, yet also a commentary track for the final episode. Sadly, the OVA episodes that give a glimpse into the past of each of the dragons, and the Yellow Dragon, especially, are not included with this release.

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
This second part of the Yona of the Dawn season builds fantastically upon the first and continues to set up a grand story that is filled with promise. It's disappointing that it may be some time before Western fans can see how it develops. Thankfully, even without a third season on the cards, this is a fantastic tale worth seeing.

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