Review for Yona of the Dawn Part 2
Six months to wait between subsequent volumes of anime is too long, especially for run of the mill, average anime. If it was something spectacular, something so good, so mind-blowing that it would stick in the mind long after being watched, then waiting is possible, but with so much anime out there, and so much of it good, but not great, things start falling down the cracks of the memory. Yona of the Dawn is a case in point. I read my previous review of Part 1 to refresh me on the show, and found a series that I enjoyed, appreciated its historical fantasy aspects, was intrigued by its story, and entertained by its characters. But now, six months later, other than the title character, I can’t recall the names of any of them, and have no idea what the story was about. It’s easy for a good but not great show to just got lost in the avalanche of anime that we get these days, and the delay between these two halves of the show really should have been just two months, three at the most.
Yona’s life as Princess of the Kohka kingdom was a blessed one. Her father was a pacifist king, who preferred to deal with his neighbours rather than wage war, and although Yona lost her mother at an early age, she wasn’t short of love, with a father who doted on her, and close friends, particularly her cousin Su-won, who was like a sibling when they were younger, although as she approached her sixteenth birthday, those feelings became a little more complicated, and also her personal guard Hak.
And then on her sixteenth birthday, Su-won murdered her father, King Il, and because she witnessed the crime, she had to flee with only Hak to protect her. Now, as Su-won ascends the throne, Yona has to fulfil a prophecy, and gather the legendary heroes that will help her to take back what is rightfully hers. As this second half of the series begins, Yona is still to recruit the Blue Dragon to her cause, which will leave two Dragons yet to be located.
The concluding twelve episodes of Yona of the Dawn are presented across two Blu-ray discs as follows. Just like the US release, this is a combo pack with the show on DVD as well, but I have only the Blu-ray check discs to comment on for the purpose of this review.
13. The Rippling Fear
15. To a New Land
17. Pirate of Awa
19. Trial of the Cheonsa Plant
20. Chain of Courage
22. History is Made at Night
23. Morning of Pledges
24. From Here On
Yona of the Dawn gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these Blu-ray discs. It’s a fine transfer, clear and sharp throughout, with smooth animation, strong colours, and no overt signs of compression, or even digital banding. It’s an appealing animation, and while the character designs are anime generic, and the world design doesn’t exactly challenge in terms of detail and intricacy, the action scenes are animated robustly, and the overall feeling is of appealing consistency.
You get the usual Funimation options of Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English, and 2.0 Stereo Japanese. The translated subtitles, and signs only tracks are locked to the appropriate audio stream. I went with the original language track, and was happy enough with the experience; the actors are suited well to their roles, and the stereo does well bringing out the action sequences and the orchestral music. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos. I gave the English dub a brief try, and from what I heard it seemed fine, perfectly listenable.
The discs present their content with animated menus.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for the Funimation Now streaming service,
The commentary on episode 16 features assistant director Clifford Chapin (Yun), Brandon Potter (Gun-tea), and Mica Solusod (Su-won).
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for World Break.
The episode 24 commentary features Joel McDonald (Jeaha), Ian Sinclair (Gija), and Josh Grelle (Jeno).
There is a 7:05 Promotional Video, a 17 second long TV Spot, two Textless Openings, and two Textless Closings and the US trailer for the show.
There are further Funimation trailers for Project Itoh: Harmony, Blood Blockade Battlefront, Yatterman Night, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign.
All of the video extras on this disc are in 1080p HD, other than the Yatterman Night trailer which is in 480i.
Ignore the review and just look at the score, and you might think that I feel much the same way about Part 2 of Yona of the Dawn as I did about part 1, that it’s a middling, average, but thoroughly enjoyable piece of entertainment, and will just move on without giving it a second thought. So those of you who just looked at the score and dismissed it will not know that my opinion of Yona of the Dawn changed quite significantly with this second half of the show, and this time the mediocre score is down to a wholly different disappointment.
Ironically, it’s those things that I lamented in the first half that actually turn out to be this show’s strength. It takes the time to develop its characters, it offers a mix of comedy, drama, and historical action that is pretty nicely balanced, and it has a well-written and intriguing story. The pace may be leisurely, but this is a case where the story is told well, holds the attention for the most part, and takes the viewer along for the ride. At no point do you start watching the clock, egging the show on to get the next good bit. These are all good bits. The weak point of the show only comes at the end of this collection.
After her father, the king was murdered and deposed by her childhood friend Su-won, Yona’s mission was to fulfil prophecy and gather the four dragons, people with inherited powers, to aid her in getting her kingdom back. In the previous volume, Yona and her retainer Hak had recruited the White Dragon, Gija, who had spent his life preparing for the fulfilment of prophecy, and having consulted the oracle, had also recruited a young healer named Yun to their cause before setting off after the Blue Dragon. Unlike the White Dragon, his powers were seen by his clan as a curse, and he had been isolated from human contact all his life. As this collection resumes the story, Yona and her friends have a tougher time in recruiting him to their cause.
Then comes the turn of the Green Dragon Jeaha, who they find at the port town of Awa. This story arc comprises the majority of this collection of episodes. Awa is a town that is under the ruthless thumb of warlord Keum-ji, a man who ruthlessly exploits the inhabitants in his human-trafficking trade. The only people standing up to him are a local band of pirates, of whom Jeaha is a member. He’s a womanising playboy who has no intention of committing to a pre-written destiny, but when Yona sees the plight of the local people, she winds up joining the pirates anyway in their mission to free Awa of the tyrant’s rule.
This is where Yona of the Dawn really got interesting to me. All her life, Yona lived sheltered in the palace, waited on hand and foot, and now that she sees the plight of the people, she learns that all wasn’t well under the benign rule of her father. It was less benign and more neglectful, and peace at any price did not equate to happiness. That casts new light on Su-won’s actions, made all the clearer when the show cuts away to see what’s happening in the new Royal Court in Kohka. Su-won’s revealed to be a likeable ruler, friendly but with a core of steel, and with some solid ideas about improving the country for the better. He’s certainly no moustache twirling villain, which makes a brief reunion with Yona towards the end of the collection all the more poignant.
At the end of the Green Dragon arc, I was really impressed with Yona of the Dawn, really enjoying the characters, getting into the story, appreciating the mix of comedy and drama in a way that didn’t quite click with Part 1. This was turning out to be one of the better historical fantasy shows that I have seen, certainly up there with shows like Magi. And then Yona of the Dawn just fizzles out. For one thing, there is no Yellow Dragon story. He just shows up, perfunctorily in the final episode, and there’s no back story for Jeno, no character development, he’s just an annoying kid, a sort of mirror image of Yun. That’s disappointment number one, but the biggest disappointment is that Yona of the Dawn just stops. There is no more story, no more anime created to tell us what happens next, whether prophecy is fulfilled, whether Yona gets the kingdom back.
Yona of the Dawn isn’t the first anime to have no conclusion. Berserk for example is the granddaddy of all unfinished stories. But the thing about other shows is that the animators usually contrive to give them climaxes that satisfy viewers, whether original stories, or finding a suitable stopping point in the manga. Magi’s two seasons all ended with some degree of satisfaction. Claymore made up its own ending, and you can’t say that you’ll forget Berserk’s climax. Yona of the Dawn just stops, and it stops in a way that has you looking for the next episode preview after the end credits. Instead all you get is a “Thanks for your support” caption, and that’s your lot. If you want to know what happens next, adjourn to the manga (which in the West is up to Volume 5, the end of the Blue Dragon arc, so it’s behind the anime).
Yona of the Dawn is a show where you have to appreciate the journey, as there is no destination. That makes it harder to recommend, which is a shame, as at its best, Yona of the Dawn is one of the better shows in its genre.