Cartoons with strong female characters and strong as in wellwritten not emotionless fighters who do nothing but kill people and look cool were a rarity back in the old days. But now more and more of them are popping up all of them being well received. When I was young and discovering the true nature of anime I was amazed by animes boldness in wanting to show things that most American cartoons wouldnt dare touch. Even the kids shows were mature and sophisticated and that really appealed to me. As I expanded my anime repertoire I began to learn more and more about Japans standards on cartoons and I eventually came to a realization why I love anime so much: the Japanese do so much more with animation rather than just limit it to kids shows or grossout adult comedies from horror and love stories to questioning humanity and the progress humanity has made over the years. I even took some classes on Japan and how circumstances such as World War II and the various earthquakes it had influenced many anime we know and love from the old ones to the contemporary anime of today. However the growing cynic in me is aware of the anime industrys gravitation toward bad harem moe wish fulfillment anime and catering to otaku rather than telling ambitious passionate stories full of heart that everyone can love. But not all hope is lost as there are still quality anime that pop out in modern times. One of those anime is Yona of the Dawn. Seriously where has this been all my life? It makes me feel like Im 12 years old again discovering the true nature of anime for the very first time TEN years after the fact Yona is a lovely princess who lives a wonderful pampered life in the Hiryuu Castle nestled deep in the Empire of Kouka with her father King Il her childhood friend whom she bickers with Hak and her cousin SuWon whom she has a crush on. Her life is perfect and she doesnt have a care in the world and wishes to marry SuWon but her father is against it. However on a dark stormy night she is horrified as SuWon her beloved cousin kills her father in cold blood and drives her and Hak out of the castle. With the help of some friends she and Hak manage to escape death and Yona learns that in order to survive in this world she have a lot to learn and a lot of growing up to do and she cant afford to sit around and cry and cling to Hak all the time. A priest and his apprentice tell her and Hak about the Four Dragons who can help her take back her kingdom. With courage in her heart Yona and friends set off to find the reincarnations of the four dragons with intent to save the Kouka Empire and reclaim her beloved home. With a premise like this its no wonder a lot of people would be intrigued. Princesses have gained a bit of a bad reputation in the Western world as theyre usually portrayed as useless shallow damsels in distress who love tea parties and dressing up giggling over nothing gush over marrying their prince charmings and pretty much do nothing of importance to anyone or anything. When bad things happen theyre usually shown to just submit to it and wait for someone to rescue them such examples being Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. But the death of Yonas father isnt the cue for someone to come and save her even though it does. Its the start of her journey to become strong and more worldly. Simply put in this story Yona refuses to be the victim. She strives to become and eventually does become a hero. It shows us that the problems with most shows about princesses nowadays arent princesses themselves but rather what we as a society have done to them and reduced them to. Society sees princesses as damsels in distress who cannot be put on the same level as others. But Akatsuki no Yona takes that notion and smashes it into smithereens though not without a few jabs at the concept every now and again especially with how some of the characters treat her especially Kija and Yun. Now for the technical stuff: first the animation. Its bright colorful sharp sleek and looks quite good. The battle choreography is pretty good for the most part the movements are reasonably fluid the colors change depending on the atmosphere befitting certain moments and everything looks great. Usually when the show wants to do comedy they turn the characters into chibified versions of themselves probably for purposes of cuteness and hilarity and it works pretty well here. Ive heard some people say that they go a bit too far with this in that they insert these random moments in dead serious scenes as well but I honestly had no problem with it. I think theyre thrown in there so viewers can properly digest the dark and serious moments as well so it makes the scenes come off as less depressing or serious. I mean obviously we have to show the characters in fun happy situations before theyre thrown into conflict and see what theyre really like so we can have the chance to care about their struggles right? The music is another thing that really makes the show stand out. Since the show takes a lot of cues from ancient China and Korea the music has a very distinct Eastern sound to it from erhu sounds to other Eastern instruments I dont have names for. But every piece of music in the show works: whether its a fun happy piece during a comedic moment or a roaring bombastic violin during an epic battle scene or soft erhus during the sad moments every piece of music fits their intended scene and it knows when to be subtle and when to pull out the stops. The music almost sounds a lot like Avatar: The Last Airbender and they share a lot of commonalities both in their music premise settings and adventureesque stories. You can tell the composer for this series is a very ambitious one intent on bringing the show to life with his music and if you ask me he gets an A+. Both the opening and ending themes are very good as well fitting the shows themes and atmosphere. I hear some say the second opening is a bit too Jpoppy for such an Easternlooking show but while the music may not fit the lyrics fit the show as it centers on Yona growing as a person and learning to survive in a harsh world. The characters are easily what make the show. They may seem like typical reverse harem stereotypes but in this show they are actually given depth and turn out to be so much more But the show really excels in Yonas development. All throughout the show she evolves from a spoiled helpless selfish shallow princess to a strong worldly mature and more openminded young woman who is just trying to survive in the world while still remaining vulnerable. Her friends and the Four Dragons get just as much personality and development within these 25 episodes. ShinAh is the silent quiet type who is troubled by his tragic past but is kind sweet and caring and helps his friends no matter what and isnt a typical angsty lone wolf who hates everyone. Kija is a pompous rich kid who tries to do what hes been raised to do his whole life but doesnt always succeed and often tries to push his ideas on others but its called out treated as a genuine character flaw and it never comes off as meanspirited and he genuinely does care for his friends despite having lived a sheltered pampered life. Yun is basically the glue that holds the group together doing all the cooking sewing and anything that doesnt involve fighting but even he isnt a damsel in distress. Every character sans one who appears at the end contributes something to the show and theyre all very threedimensional showing lots of sides to them that most reverse harems dont even try to do these days. I love them all even the villain and the skirtchasing womanizer Even side characters get some personality and focus However as much as I praise this show and love it and want more people to see it it does have a very very big flaw. The anime is an adaptation of a long running manga thats still ongoing as we speak and the show stops as soon as it introduces one character who NEVER APPEARS UNTIL THAT FINAL EPISODE. Basically the anime really isnt much more than a commercial for the manga. But hot dang is it a GREAT commercial for a manga Seriously if FUNimation ever dubs the rest of it they should have Toonami air this as this would probably become really popular here in the US if treated right as shows like this need to be made A wonderful compelling show with great characters and a riveting story to tell even in spite of its constraints. I highly recommend it
94 /100
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