[Anime Review] Akatsuki no Yona [10/10]

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Author:Mizuho Kusanagi
Episodes: 24
Producers: Studio Pierrot, FUNimation Entertainment, Hakusensha, AT-X, Marvelous AQL, Tokyo MX

Synopsis: Princess Yona lives a life of luxury and ease, completely sheltered from the problems of the seemingly peaceful Kingdom of Kouka; however, the sudden murder of the king and betrayal of her beloved cousin Soo Won places Yona’s life in mortal peril. Forced to escape only with Son Hak, who is both her childhood friend and bodyguard, the naïve princess soon discovers that Kouka is not the idyllic place she envisioned it to be. Poverty, strife, and corruption run rampant, making reclaiming the throne nothing more than a wishful fantasy given the kingdom’s current state.

Based on the popular manga of the same name by Mizuho Kusanagi, Akatsuki no Yona follows Princess Yona on a coming-of-age adventure as she faces the harsh realities of her kingdom. With only a mysterious legend to guide her, Yona must discover a way to restore Kouka to its former glory while being pursued relentlessly by the forces of the new King of Kouka. (MAL)

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Akatsuki no Yona is a reverse harem shoujo story with a historical setting based on a mixture of the Chinese and Korean dragon legends. The story centers on Princess Yona after her father gets assassinated and mostly focuses on her character development from a spoiled and naive princess to one with a strong sense of justice and individuality. It’s fairly safe to say that Akatsuki no Yona is a masterpiece for me; story driven by political entanglements and a feeling of “loss” and “realization” that the world is not exactly how one would expect and not even a king can change it, but even an ant can make it move. There’s a constant sense of emotional struggle coming from the main characters, not only Yona, but also the people around her, having to face a reality that they never wanted to see, the struggle of an unavoidable war creeping in and how much there is to sacrifice in order to avoid it, the fear of the world, of the enemies and even of friends themselves, fear of betrayal, fear of not managing to cope with it all and turn to a burden, fear of failing to protect someone. Yet, despite the breakdowns and the pain, the main characters keep getting up and moving, always forward, always towards the future that they need to change.

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Character-wise, as I mentioned above, Yona is definitely the most beautifully developed one and probably she’s mentally the strongest out of them all, even more than Hak, her bodyguard and childhood friend. Yona was portrayed from the beginning as clever, but once she found herself lost and on the run, with the constant risk of getting killed, she found the strenght to use her cleverness in order to do something for herself and for the rest, she found means of self-improovement, refusing to be the one to get protected and trying to also be able to protect. And this does not happen suddenly; it was quite interesting to note the mental phases that she had to go through during her development, each phase signing a new breakpoint, a new realization. What I could mention about her personality that made me question her is her overall innocent way in which she leads on the guys around her, which always have funny reactions to it, but I also found it quite cruel and wondered if she realizes or not lol.

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Talking about her childhood friend, Hak is initially portrayed as the typical “friendzoned” guy, that Yona will always bicker with but will never see as something more than just that. Maybe, that’s why, I instantly fell in love with his quirky attitude and almost uncaring behaviour towards Yona. Despite that, he is obviously the one that is always there for Yona, even when she doesn’t want him to be; he acts as a very important emotional support for her, thing that will always drive her to become a better person. Hak shows weakness only to her and his loyalty to her is also amazing. He often fights with the other members of the group such as Ki Ja and later Jae Ha, mostly out of jealousy.

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However, the first of the characters that hit me the most on a personal note is Jae Ha. It might be very subjective from my side, but he turned out to be the poker faced guy that you never know what he actually thinks. I usually tend to like these type of characters the most because, to me at least, they seem more overall complex than other characters. And Jae Ha has an unique touch to it. He is usually a poker face, that likes to tease others and play a lot, yet, sometimes, he can be more sincere and straightforward than all the characters combined and also extremely kind and with a high desire to help people in trouble, almost similar to Yona’s.

The second character that is worthy of note is Soo Won. He would technically be Akatsuki no Yona‘s labeled antagonist, yet the show didn’t really make me consider him as such. Not later through the story at least. Soo Won is the Astal Sion of Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu; there is a blurred line between “good and “evil” and he stands right in the center of it. Of course, I won’t spoil though, so this is all I can say about him.

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24 episodes were not nearly enough to conclude the story (also because the manga is still on going), but it is still quite solid, excellent pace, no episode feels like a filler, the characters are extremely likeable and in no way, at no point, did I feel any sense of creeping boredom while watching it. It was quite a surprise; to be honest, I didn’t even know it would categorize as a reverse harem show, I just got into it because I found the premise intriguing, yet they tricked me and made something initially awesome, even more awesome by adding 5 extra bishies I knew nothing about. One could question this: maybe the show would have been better without 5 men (possibly 6) getting crushes for our heroine, but if that were the case, I don’t think it would have been that easy to gather them all for Yona’s quest; they needed some sort of connection with her.

And here I leave you with some screenshots!

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