This is such an incredibly badass series opener.

Summary:

In the kingdom of Kouka, there lives a princess named Yona.  She’s the only child of the king, and is nearing her sixteenth birthday.  Her cousin is a man named Soo-won, and Yona is completely smitten by him.  He was the only one who was able to comfort her after her mother’s assassination when she was just a child.

Man, look at those shojo eyes. Still, Yona’s pretty adorable.

Yona expresses her desire to be engaged to Soo-won, but her father says he can’t allow that.  Being the sole princess, any man who marries Yona would be the new king of Kouka; and the king can’t bear to submit his nephew to that kind of horrible fate.  It’s only after this Yona realizes how dangerous it is to be a princess.  When she is chased by a mysterious man that night, she ends up running into Soo-won and basically confesses  her love to him.  Soo-won, however, doesn’t really give her a straight answer.

Hak (left), and Soo-won (right).

Yona’s sixteenth birthday comes, but one of the king’s generals (and childhood friend of Yona), named Hak, feels that something is off.  After receiving a hairclip as a present from Soo-won, Yona realizes that she still wants to be engaged to Soo-won, and goes to her father’s room to try to convince him.  Unfortunately, she ends up witnessing the assassination of her father… by Soo-won himself.  As she’s nearly killed by Soo-won’s guards herself, Hak unexpectedly comes to her rescue.

You could say that this is the point where “shit hits the fan”

My Opinion:

While this episode seems like the set-up for an otome game, Akatsuki no Yona is actually based on a series of manga by Mizuho Kusanagi.  And, despite my hesitation about reviewing a series like this, it was actually more interesting than I expected.

Yona, as she is now, is still sort of a spoiled and petty girl—which is to be expected from the sole princess of a kingdom.  Her infatuation with her cousin, Soo-won, might come off as… kind of squicky.  But honestly, cousin marriages in ancient times weren’t exactly rare.  And it probably wasn’t as frowned upon as it is in modern times.  Anyway, Yona’s pretty heavily implied to become a hardened badass later in the series, which is great.  The other characters that have been introduced so far, Soo-won and Hak, are fairly bland at the moment, but I’m sure that will change as the series goes on.  Soo-won already broke the mold of being “the pleasant boring noble” by… well, murdering Yona’s dad.  Hak is still sort of the “rival in love who is sort of aloof and teases the main heroine a lot” sort of character, but he has the potential to become a rather complex person.

Story-wise, Akatsuki no Yona really reminds me of the old Asian dramas that I used to watch with my parents as a kid.  It is set in what I assume is ancient Japan?  Or maybe a fantasy equivalent, which is really nice as there’s far too many fantasy anime series that are set in medieval European settings and that just gets dull.  There’s not too much revealed about the plot so far, but I peeked at the wiki article for it and Yona supposedly goes on a quest to find some people in order to possibly restore her kingdom.  (I’m being purposefully vague here to avoid spoilers, so don’t read the wiki article if you can)  While the episode did start out kind of slow—understandable since it’s just trying to establish all the major characters—things really picked up pace after Yona was chased by the “mysterious figure.”  Even though this series is listed as a “reverse-harem” series, the story (for now) seems strong enough that it hopefully won’t just devolve into an angst-filled romance soap opera.

However, there are a few things I have to criticize about this episode.  Hak’s save at the end just came out of nowhere.  I think there needed to have been at least another scene inserted in there or something, because it was just like:

Hak: I’m really happy that Yona and Soo-won became a couple.  I hope they can be happy together.
*next scene is Yona being chased by Soo-won’s guards*
*Yona nearly get’s killed*
*Hak just flies in like batman to dispatch of the guards*
Hak: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS SOO-WON?!?!?

It just feels kind of disjointed?  Because we don’t even get a scene of Hak trying to find out where Yona is, he just suddenly flies into the scene.  I get that the episode was about to end, so they needed to end the episode on some sort of dramatic cliffhanger, but wow that scene was just badly written.

I also think that a lot of the “anime-esque” comedy could have been cut out, as it feels horribly out of place for a series that seems so serious.  The beginning half of the episode was filled with Yona basically going into chibi-mode, or “anime-expression mode,” and it clashes horribly; not only the art style of the series, but also with how violent the second half of the episode got.  I’m afraid that there will continue to be scenes like these in the rest of the series, but I hope it gets toned done because a story like this doesn’t need tired anime comedy clichés.

Overall, this seems like a promising series.  The animation is pretty nice, and the story seems fairly interesting.  Sadly, this isn’t really something I’m motivated to review, as it’s not really my thing.  And I know this will probably end up being a long-running series, which I just don’t have the time for.  However, I still hope that Akatsuki no Yona manages to become successful, because we definitely need more “reverse-harem” series that don’t have terribly bland heroines and flat male characters.

Out of five:

precure heart2precure heart2precure heart2 and 1/2

Who wants to bet that this will become an important plot-point trinket later on?

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