Yona of the Dawn, known as Akatsuki no Yona in Japan, is the first anime to be released in the UK through Funimation’s distribution deal with All The Anime. This release is a combo pack, containing the first half of Yona of the Dawn spread over two blu-rays and spread over two DVDs. Studio Pierrot produced this anime as part of the Fall 2014 season, and while they are best known as the studio behind the long-running Naruto anime, they have produced other popular anime such as Tokyo Ghoul and Osumatsu-san recently. Kazuhiro Yoneda directed the series, his first as main director, having directed episodes of Aquarian Evol in the past.
“ Upon her sixteenth birthday, the cheerful Princess Yona intended to tell her doting father of her love for SuWon, but her life was turned upside down after witnessing the man she loves cruelly assassinating her father. Heartbroken by this painful betrayal, Princess Yona fled the palace with her loyal servant Hak. Now, she will take up the sword and the bow on a quest to gain new allies and protect her beloved people. ”
Yona of the Dawn is a shoujo fantasy-adventure romance comedy and is a pleasant change from the usual school-based shoujo anime that I tend to watch. After the murder of her father by her childhood friend, the man she loves, on her birthday no less, Yona flees with the third childhood friend, Su-Won. On her journey, she searches for the four legendary warriors that vowed to protect her ancestor. On top of this, her journey serves as an education in survival, having been sheltered prior in her father’s palace. By the end of this half of the anime, it has quickly turned towards becoming a reverse harem, as Yona comes across more potential love interests on her quest.
Yona of the Dawn is a traditional-feeling anime that focuses on the titular Yona; her struggles on the run are relatable to viewers, and her characterisation makes her a heroine it’s easy for us to want to succeed. Hak serves as her bodyguard, and despite being rough around the edges, he is clearly caring and loyal, and his teasing of Yona lends towards some of the better comedic moments throughout the anime. With a slow lead-in to Yona’s quest, the series really picks up the pace during the last few episodes of this release and leaves me eager to watch more, hopeful that part 2 doesn’t revert to the slow progression of the early episodes. The slow progression isn’t necessarily bad though, providing ample backstory for the characters so we can really feel for Yona’s struggles. Unfortunately, we’re left wondering why Su-Won betrayed Yona, and I can only hope part 2 deals with the reasons behind this. The juxtaposition of chibi moments within prove that Pierrot are clearly capable of handling multiple animation styles, and provides much needed comedic relief.
The original Japanese language track is impeccable, with voices suitably matching the on-screen characters. The dub isn’t anywhere near as impressive but does have some saving graces. Chiwa Saito really breathes life into Yona, while in the English dub, Monica Rial has the young woman sounding instead like a small child. Christopher Sabat’s Hak, however, is much more believable, matching the efforts of Tomoaki Maeno, and perhaps even one-upping him. The dub script seems to be a mostly appropriate localisation of Yona of the Dawn, but some instances of language that doesn’t seem suited to a fantasy world. I am a fan of orchestral music, but I felt no love for the opening track, “Akatsuki no Yona” by Kunihiko Ryo; I can only hope part two’s opening leaves a more pleasing impression upon me. I’m all for an orchestral score, but I prefer my anime OPs to be more catchy and pop-based. The ending song, “Yoru” by Vistlip, is much less memorable, leaving me with no real opinion.
The first “extra” you’re subjected to with this release is Funimation’s painful trailer for their streaming service, which plays before the main menu on the first disc. The first disc also has English dub commentaries for episodes 4 and 8. The remainder of the extras are found on the second disc, and consist of TV Spots, BD/DVD trailers, Promo videos, creditless opening and ending sequences, and the obligatory trailers section. The trailers contain a shocking level of relevance, with all of the titles actually being licensed for the UK.
Funimation have pulled off a pretty good first release through All the Anime, and I hope they continue to make series that might not otherwise have seen a UK release available on blu-ray. However, the SRP of the combo pack, £45, will likely serve to alienate those used to the £25-£35 range usually associated with standard editions.
Yona of the Dawn, thus far, is a great example of a non-school based shoujo anime, and I'm looking forward to seeing how things progress when part two is released. Sadly, the pacing in this first part is a little on the slow side, but still provides for enjoyable viewing.