Yona of the Dawn, Part 2: Boxset
Princess Yona is a relatively normal 16-year old. She worries about her unruly red hair which won’t stay up, and is madly in love with her cousin, Su-won. When Su-won comes to visit for Yona’s birthday, she’s ecstatic. Her father, the King, says he can’t let them marry, but Yona knows what she wants.
The princess’s true coming of age is when she makes a late-night visit to her father’s chambers, hoping to make an impassioned defense of her love. Instead, she finds her father has been murdered by Su-won. She escapes the carnage with her faithful servant Hak, but when given the chance to live a quiet life, hidden away in the lands of the Wind Clan, Yona knows she must go on.
Together, she and Hak embark on a quest to find the four humans of legend who live with dragon’s blood, waiting to find and protect their master. As they travel through the lands that were once hers, Yona is also forced to question what it means to be a good ruler.
I really enjoyed Yona of the Dawn. I mean… a lot. In part, I think that’s because it tapped into my nostalgia for adventurous, fantastical shoujo that feels just a little bit like shonen at times. It tends to hit all the right spots and have a little bit of everything.
I think if you liked series such as Inu-Yasha, Fuushigi Yuugi, or Sailor Moon you’ll recognize the atmosphere of Yona of the Dawn. At times an adventure and at times a love story, the action is often broken up with comedy (especially of a reverse harem nature), but there is always a more serious, intense drama running in the background.
We get to see a lot of Yona’s world in only 24 episodes, but the Part 2 of Yona of the Dawn begins in the creepy cave-village where the Blue Dragon is imprisoned. As a sucker for world-building, I loved adventuring from the traditional palace to rural villages, into caves and through the woods – even to the far-off ocean. It also is one of the few series I’ve watched where I really like all of the characters in their own way.
I mostly watched in Japanese, but took a break to listen to the English version as well and both sets of voice acting were alright. I think I preferred the Japanese cast, but no matter your preference on the great sub versus dub divide, both options for Yona of the Dawn are reasonably enjoyable.
The music is very fitting, particularly the orchestrated backgrounds that are so fitting for the setting. I was a little disappointed with the change from the first opening (watch: here) to a much more modern J-rock tune for the second opening. Meanwhile, the second opening was much more appropriate than the first, with its traditional sound.
Episode 22 note: THESE BGMS ARE SO GOOD. GET THIS SOUNDTRACK.
My one complaint about the show is that there needs to be more! Around episode 21, I had the sinking feeling that there just wasn’t enough time left, and in an ongoing series with 20 volumes, you can’t tell me 24 episodes is all we get! As far as I’ve seen, there are OVAs but no word on a season 2 of the series.
The art of Yona of the Dawn is the higher end of standard, and the same goes for the animation. There’s a lot of effort put into the details. Stars in the sky, running water from fountains, drops of sweat in Hak’s hair, rays of sunlight… these set the show apart at times. The animation is still smooth at its worst moments and lovely at its best. For goodness sake, in the background sometimes it almost looks like every single leaf in the bushes has been drawn. That detail!
All that being said, when the entire series is watchable online, is the boxset worth it? It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to physical dvds these days. In a world of streaming services, I tend to save my money and my shelf-space for other things. At nearly $50 for half the season, obviously I have high expectations. First, I do really like the two-pack – having both the dvd and the blu-ray is a huge perk.
However, here are no physical goodies here (personally, I’m significantly more likely to pick up a box set that includes a soundtrack, artwork, or other little gifts). At some point, if you’re really wanting people to pick up the boxsets, you need to offer some things that can’t be found by going online.
Disc one’s only extra is Episode 16 Commentary. A lot of the discussion is about the voice acting for Su-Won and Geun-tea. Basically an extended interview, it’s interesting to hear their insights – especially for Su-Won, who is one of the more interesting characters of the series. Disc two offers more extras, but nothing terribly exciting. For the trouble of buying the boxset you can enjoy textless endings/openings, commentary for episode 24, or some trailers and promotional videos. As nice as all of these were, I don’t think they would have inspired me to go out and buy the box sets.
A really enjoyable series that’s wonderful to look at and listen to, but I’m not sure about the value of the box set. It’s pretty (and oh my, the art and colours for those discs are beautiful!), but the primary point to owning hard copies these days is no longer just to have access to the show. I’d love to see Funimation including more special extras if a second season ever happens!
You can buy the Yona of the Dawn boxset on Funimation.
Need more Yona in your life? Volume 1 of the manga releases in the US on August 2nd!