On the 4th Day of Anime — A Flame-haired Dragon of Legends Old

I am a sucker for high fantasy stories that include journeys, a gathering of group members, and strong female characters. Some shows that immediately spring to mind include Juuni Kokuki, Saiunkoku Monogatari, and to a lesser extent, Fushigi Yuugi. The last two are considered reverse harems, though the latter is more so than the former. Similarly to SaiunkokuAkatsuki no Yona has overtones of otome romance though largely avoids it in preference of a more competent female lead and a greater purpose. Princess Yona may be royalty, but her mental maturity is stunted by her sheltered upbringing and quick trust for those around her. When disaster strikes and she sets forth into the world in pursuit of a legend, we see her grow both psychically and psychologically at a rapid rate. In ignorance, she fulfills the whispering of reborn heroes from the nation’s birth. Hers is a terrifying, yet thrilling, destiny that I must witness.

Juuni Kokuki’s protagonist, Youko Nakajima, refuses from the beginning to believe in her destiny, choosing instead to cling to the world she knows and all its stifling conformity. It takes several mistakes and irreversible results to open her eyes for Youko to accept her new path. Like Youko, Yona begins her journey incapable to defending herself or protecting the people for whom she cares. Her life  in the castle has blinded her from the harsh realities of poverty and war. One explanation for her innocence into puberty is that her father, King Il, has successfully maintained peace and prosperity throughout the kingdom of Kouka. Yona knows nothing of the conflicts outside the borders, nor of the rumblings of discontent among Kouka’s people wishing for war and expansion. She doesn’t even know the heart of the person she holds most dear. Her awakening to these truths is painful and heart wrenching, but the resulting resolve promises an adventure worth remembering.

Anyone familiar with Asian names and attire should recognize the Korean heritage of Akatsuki no Yona. On top of that, Kouka’s nations are reminiscent of the Three Kingdoms of Korea during the 5th century. The realistic historical framework and untouched landscapes through which our party travels breathe life into what otherwise might feel like a world carved out of any fantasy story. Then there’s the music to consider, which is wholly instrumental. Not even the opening theme features lyrics–a style I’ve become numb to in other anime. Korean composer and arranger, Yang Bang-ean (Japanese name: Kunihiko Ryou), has the phenomenal music scores of Juuni Kokuki, Eikoku Koi Monogatari Emma, and Tegami Bachi, among others, to add to his name. The sweeping orchestral pieces lend a grandeur to the journey. Silence and natural sound effects are also used appropriately to highlight tense scenes without making them melodramatic.

This still airing show doesn’t have a determined episode count just yet, but I’m hoping for a longer run to give justice to the legend. My biggest fear is that Yona’s acquisition of the four dragon clans gets rushed and the difficulty of her trek is cheapened. Thankfully from what I’ve seen this fall season, that has not been the case. Like Yona’s daily morning practice with the bow, the pinnacle of our efforts will take time and intense will.

9 thoughts on “On the 4th Day of Anime — A Flame-haired Dragon of Legends Old

  1. Yay you’re watching this! IIRC it’s already been confirmed for 24 episodes but I do really hope it gets more later on, the manga stands at 100 chapters currently and I don’t *think* we’re in the last arc yet. I’m still worried it’s going to create a really terrible original ending but so far it’s been a fairly great adaptation and I’m so thrilled that the series has more fans at last. ^^

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    • It sounds like the manga is pretty good! I’ll try to finish out this anime before I pick it up so I’m not tempted to compare. Thanks for the correction on episode count. 24 definitely doesn’t seem like enough, and it would be sad if an anime original ending forced closure ahead of the source material.
      I think there are quite a few people loving this show, so I’m happy it’s getting appripriate praise.

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  2. I really like this series as well, and think the instrumental opening is just terrific, like an overture for the show every week going through the themes of the show. I too hope it just keeps going and going, and it’s one of the few shows in recent memory that I’ve been surprised that the end of the episode is already happening. “What? It’s done? No, come on, there should be 10 more minutes!”

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  3. The soundtrack is top-tier but alas the content isn’t anywhere near the masterpieces that are 12 Kingdoms and Saiunkoku Monogatari. There’s too much shoujo nonsense, like the tsunderism of Hak and Yona’s lines of “I want you!” or the many near-death scenes that never end up in death for our dear bishies. I’ll give credit to the grief scenes for excellent voice acting, but it really pales in front of similar series. “Her eyes were scorching fire”, “her hair are blazing flames” -PURIZUUU, I can’t really buy this. Also, I dislike strongly over-the-top exposition. The only reason I haven’t dropped this yet is Neko-chi. She LOVES this…

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    • Hahahahah, I’m not too surprised you feel this way🙂 I also avoided any comment but will mention now that I don’t really like the religious crammery down our throats. It feels like they keep bashing us over the heads with miracles and devotion, like how the white dragon and his clan creepily worship the ground Yona walks on despite just having met her.

      12 Kingdoms is no doubt an anime I consider to be a masterpiece, but I will not forgive it for the lack of ending we received. I keep meaning to buy and read the books, but have had no luck so far with finding them in stores. Saiunkoku is another wonderful show that so far still beats out Yona, but I’m hoping the latter will keep improving along with Yona’s growth. We’ll see🙂

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      • Well, Yona builds a lot of things in make-belief and its combination with comedy is a bit hit-or-miss. Yona is an interesting character herself, but I could do without the external characterization and the comments male -overprotective- characters make about her. It’s like she’s allowed to do things and her agency is either hampered down or misguided. At least I can’t say I’m not intrigued to learn the truth about Su Woon’s father.

        12 Kingdoms -the anime- left us like that due to the death of one of the staff members, I think. Which is really a shame. It’d be wonderful if a studio decided to reawaken the franchise. Perhaps only in dreams?

        12 Kingdoms -the novel- as far as I’m informed unfortunately couldn’t resolve all its stories either. I know because I remember how much I wanted to know more about the black kirin and its kind and that badass female general and although there’s some more material, we never got a definitive end😦 I have no idea why.

        Saiunkoku on the other hand must have finished its run in novels and you can find summaries here and there but you need to know Japanese to get the whole story.

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    • Yona is one of my favorite shows this season, for sure. Though I agree now with another commenter, Ayame, who points out some weaknesses. Why did you drop it in the first place?

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