This isn’t necessarily a ‘girl who saves the world’ anime, but “Akatsuki no Yona” (“Yona of the Dawn”, also known as “The girl standing in the blush of dawn”) certainly embraces a woman who goes from wallflower to being front and center (that’s her, front and center).
We start off in the kingdom of Kouka, with Yona as your typical pampered princess, whose biggest concern might be chipping a nail (actually, it’s her flaming red hair; she hates it). Along with her bodyguard Son Hak (off her left shoulder) and childhood friend Soo-won, they live a happy, sheltered life….until on her 16th birthday celebration, she sees Soo-won kill her father, King Il, and engineer a coup. The reason behind it, the king was weak and deserved to die. Well, that’s been a pretty good reason to kill rulers since we’ve had rulers. Yona and Hak escape, as Hak is the Thunder Beast and can use that blade of his to devastating results. Sadly, both of them fall to their deaths from a high precipice while being pursued by the palace forces.
That puts a major crimp in things, as Soo-won was going to marry Yona, to give legitimacy to what he wanted to do as king. He can (and will) still proceed, but it just makes things a whole lot tougher. However, our demoralized duo is not dead, but has taken refuge with an oracle of some ilk, Ik-su. Offering his young apprentice, Yun (far right), as a guide, they have been instructed to hunt down the Four Dragons, as they have pledged their fealty to the King of Hiryuu castle. Wait, but she’s a girl, so she’d be queen, right? Shhh, it’s the emotional import. As the rightful heir and eventual ruler, she gets their support. Oh, and they aren’t real dragons, with scales and a forked tail and breathing fire, but they have the attributes of a dragon. In my picture up there, you see all four of them (I’ll break down that cast a bit later).
The first season of the show is Yona’s attempt to hunt down and convince the dragons to support her in her struggle to retake that which was ripped from her. We also see Yona grow into one determined maiden, willing to fight, and kill, in the name of justice. The nice thing about the show is that her transformation is not complete. She still gets scared and nervous and flustered, but has a fire in her belly to follow this thing through, even though it may mean having to slay her childhood friend. You really see her commitment in the concluding arc for the first season, the battle with Lord Kum-ji over Awa Port.
And her dragon friends? They are all over the boards emotionally. Starting from the sword in the center and moving left (and this is also the order they were found): Ki-Ja, the White Dragon. He stepped into his role with zero hesitation, despite being almost as naïve as Yona. Shin-Ah, the Blue Dragon. His eyes cause massive devastation and death, so he wears a mask, but Yona saw him for whom he was inside, and he signed up (and his pet squirrel, Ao. That is the consistent comic relief). Jae-Ha, a bit of a rogue (or a Leo-type, for you astrology buffs), and is the Green Dragon, able to leap long and far. He kind of blows this whole escapade off, as he doesn’t want anything to crimp his style, but he eventually comes around. Then comes Zeno, the Yellow Dragon. Now, he made his appearance in the very last episode, so we don’t know too much about him, but he was the easiest to find (home cookin’ always brings ‘em in!)
It is a very good run, despite a couple of dud episodes, but I felt those were to let us know what other folks were doing while our heroes were in hunt mode. Despite these fizzles, you have a really strong story, both in the plot itself and the characters, even if some of them are a bit clichéd (like Madame Pirate). The relationships are some of the best that I have seen in anime in a long time, as they feel natural and not kind of stuck in, as you expect them to be stuck in. I am anxious for the second season, as we have everything in place for a remarkable conclusion.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Interesting executions)
Plot 8 (Nice twist on the maturity idea)
Pacing 7 (Pretty consistent)
Effectiveness 8 (Plotted out quite well)
Conclusion 5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Overall 8 (Everything comes together well)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I want to get stronger.