I’ve recently watched a show called Yona of the Dawn, and it was great, but it left a lot to be desired. First off, I should start with a summary of the show.
Princess Yona is a spoiled teenager whose biggest concern is how to tame her long, near rat’s nest of hair. On her 16th birthday, tragedy strikes and her father is assassinated and the assassin pursues her life. She’s forced to flee the castle with her bodyguard, Hak, the last servant of the late king who remained loyal. Yona is advised to see an oracle to discover her destiny to find the White Dragon Warrior with sharp Dragon’s Claws, the Blue Dragon Warrior with a Dragon’s sight that sees several miles away, the Green Dragon Warrior who can leap high enough to fly with the strength in his Dragon’s Leg, and the Yellow Dragon Warrior with a body resilient as Dragon’s Scales. Now, it’s a struggle to find the four Dragon Warriors before the new king discovers her alive and executes her himself. All the while, she discovers just how bad off her kingdom was been due to her late father’s anti-war pacifist ideals.
To start off, this show reminds me heavily of Game of Thrones’s Denaris Targarian. Not only does the main heroin start off as royalty before being kicked down to claw her way back to the top once again, but she also has a romance with her bodyguard, and learns how to fight and free slaves. Heck, Yona is implied at least three times to be the reincarnation of the Crimson Dragon King, master of the four Dragon Warriors. While Yona reminds me of Denaris, she also is a fighter in a different way. She trains with archery after being chased out of her castle and demonstrates her strength in more merciful and feminine ways. While Denaris took many lives with her dragon’s fire and her own brutality, Yona only takes one life in the whole show, that of a single human trafficking lord.
Hak, on the other hand, killed countless to protect Yona. He’s also described several times of being more dragon-like than the actual dragons, having spat in death’s face more than once. He’s also Yona’s teacher on top of being her bodyguard. He teaches her how to shoot arrows, and allows her to practice, not only on trees and wildlife but also himself. No matter how many times he nearly dies, he always wakes up with a smirk and a snarky comment. With how resilient his body is, the group jokes that he may be the fourth dragon they’ve been looking for this whole time. Even still, he would never hold back if it means either avenging the king’s death or protecting Yona, even after being distant compared to the other companions, everyone else she insists calling by her name while Yona forbids Hak to acknowledge her as anything less than the princess he swore to protect, yet there’s a running joke that everyone thinks they’re in a romantic relationship. The joke gets a little annoying until the last time they try it. From episode one all the way to near the end, everyone asks if Hak and Yona are boyfriend and girlfriend, and they both say “nope, no way” almost every time. The last attempt at the joke, however, a pirate captain tells Hak that if he focuses on the battle, he’ll see his girlfriend soon enough. Hak pauses before saying “girlfriend? that sounds kinda nice”. It definitely suggests they have a romantic future.
Yun is a studious navigator who grew up with the oracle. Yona extends a hand to Yun, asking him to join her and Hak by request of the oracle. Once he joins them, he’s unofficially the cook, navigator, and medic. Sadly though, his “pretty faced genius” gag gets in the way of anything else in his character. He is introduced as a lazy, yet busy guy who semi-reluctantly goes out of his way to help people, and near the end of the animated series, he’s also demonstrated as a clever, brave, and loyal. Outside of those two times, he doesn’t really have much going for him.
Gija, the White Dragon, seems to be the only dragon who is prepared to drop everything and lay down his life for the princess he recognizes as the Crimson Dragon. Even so, he’s actually the most annoying in my opinion, having been sheltered his whole life he’s afraid of bugs, doesn’t travel well in the forest, and can’t rest outside an indoors bed. Still, he’s devoted to his destined job and his gags grew on me a little. He fights with Hak like brothers or rivals for Yona’s attention. The biggest part of his character is his devotion to Yona, and how he simply can’t understand why the Blue and Green dragons refuse at first to join them.
Next character we meet is Sinha, the Blue Dragon Warrior. He’s shy, timid, and reluctant to even use his Dragon Eyes. Still, even with such little dialogue, he still gets so much character and becomes my favorite golden heart character. He almost never speaks, but his actions say everything. Seeing how he was raised to believe he doesn’t belong and his power is a curse, his belief in his village’s words is what makes him initially turn down Yona’s proposal to join their group. Once he does believe Yona and Gija that he’s wanted and needed by their group, he does everything he can to make his group’s troubles eased in any way, whether it’s fishing for food, or watching for a small firework to save Yona from slavery.
Jaeha is the third dragon they find. Dead set on freedom and choosing his own path and not allowing his Green Dragon blood to determine his choices. He spends the majority of his introductory arc running away from Gija and Yona. However, he couldn’t run anymore once he sees Yona in trouble dangling on a cliff-side. He starts to feel anxiety when he’s away from her, no matter how much he tries to hide it. Sadly, there’s not much to him since he only has a few episodes to establish himself, but he also is the only one that notices Hak’s reluctance to talk about growing up with Yona and the king. With the clips they show of his childhood, being chained and tethered to the ground, I don’t blame him for being reluctant to follow the Dragon Warrior Destiny.
Lastly, there’s Zeno, the Yellow Dragon Warrior. Being honest, Zeno only has less than an episode to build his character as carefree and childish, so he comes off as strange and I agree with the other dragons when they say it’s too easy that he just shows up and joins their group with nothing in exchange other than some deer meat. Going back to Hak, and comparing him to Zeno, I really would’ve believed Hak was the Yellow Dragon Warrior if that was the direction they really were going, maybe it being a mistranslation that the fourth dragon was black instead of yellow. However, the OVA’s make Zeno more believable. The second OVA shows that, due to Zeno’s dragon blood, making his body indestructible, he’s effectively immortal. He could never get sick, grow old, and wounds close and heal right before his enemies eyes. Because of this, he’s also the only one of the dragon warriors who’s power hasn’t been passed down the generations, and he’s the only Yellow Dragon that’s ever lived. He’s also been craving to either die or reunite with the Crimson Dragon King. One thing about him bothers me; if Zeno was searching for the Crimson Dragon, and he knew Yona was it and that she lived in the Crimson Palace, then why wouldn’t he wander closer to the palace and stay with her from the moment she was chased away from the castle? He would’ve gotten more character development, and it would’ve seemed more like he was a part of the plan and less like he was just shoe-horned in at the last possible moment.
Zeno’s sudden appearance is part of the reason I feel unsatisfied with the ending of the show. The whole show literally ends on a question of “Now you have the four Dragon Warriors, now what? Why gather the Dragon Warriors?” It made me realize, Yona doesn’t really have an end goal. She can’t take revenge for her father’s death, that would create more problems than it would solve. She can’t just keep running, no good could come from that. She can’t just do nothing, if she did, what would be the point? I suppose you could argue that it does its job, as exploitation to sell the manga, but for me, someone who doesn’t have much time to read and, even if I did have time, I don’t have the money for new books and can’t find it in any libraries, it leaves me totally unsatisfied, which sucks because aside from that it’s a great dramatic action anime.
Something else that’s a little distracting is the English dubbing. It’s kinda knit-picking and is nothing new with the dubbing company, but a lot of voices used in this show are recycled voice actors from other anime. I wouldn’t mind so much if I hadn’t seen other dubbed shows from Funimation, but since the first time I watched Yona of the Dawn, it was late at night and I fell asleep with it running. However, it sounded like a major crossover with Mizuki and Akura-oh from Kamisama Kiss, Russia and Canada from Hetalia, Renge from Ouran Highschool Host Club, Ukyo from Brother’s Conflict, Bard from Black Butler, Zen from Snow White with Red Hair, I think you get my point. Don’t get me wrong, these voices do go well with the characters they voice, however, it’s just a little distracting and wouldn’t be as distracting if I saw this when I was still relatively new to anime and wouldn’t recognize these voices.
What do you think though? Did you like Yona of the Dawn from beginning to end, or did the ending bother you too? Give it a watch, leave your thoughts in the comments and have a beautiful rest of your day~!