YONA OF THE DAWN Review: An Excellent Example of an Uncommon Genre

Yona of the Dawn successfully tackles a relatively rare genre for anime and manga of recent years. That is, Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy-adventure narrative which perhaps finds it closest comparison in the classic The Twelve Kingdoms. While these two works are certainly not alone in this genre, they both stand apart from the rest with their Eastern-inspired fantasy setting as well as their overall quality.

Yona of the Dawn also elevates itself through a mature and refreshing take on adventure. It takes a plot and premise more commonly used in shounen and presents it through its shoujo lens. This fact coupled with the relatively restrained and low fantasy setting produces a captivating adventure story.


The story of Yona of the Dawn follows the titular princess Yona of the Kouka Kingdom who is forced to flee her palace shortly following the turn of her sixteenth birthday after a coup. She is initially joined by her loyal bodyguard and childhood friend Hak Son. She is soon thereafter informed that she must gather the descendants of the four legendary dragon warriors to fulfill her destiny. The journey and gathering of these warriors is the bulk of the story for Yona of the Dawn.

An interesting point of the show is the way the initial antagonist, Su-won, is treated. Even when initially introduced, he is already much more than a typical villain. He is far more than someone who is evil. His motivations are understandable and he as a character is sympathetic, even if he is initially presented as merely a villain. As the show progresses, his position as the antagonist falters as the audience becomes privy to his some of his true intentions and character. His complexity and ambiguity as an antagonist adds a layer of interest to the show, and by Yona of the Dawn’s conclusion, his position as an antagonist is debatable.

One of the finer points of the story is watching the sheltered princess Yona’s transformation and character development from her introduction as the sheltered and privileged princess. This is not to say that the other characters of the show do not experience their own fair share of character development as well, as virtually all the major characters do by the end of the show. However, it is Yona’s growth and development that essentially serves as the impetus for the show after the initial premise concludes.

That alone is already fairly impressive that Yona of the Dawn is able to naturally flow with its plot. The story could have concluded after Yona successfully escapes her palace, but it her character drives the show forward. Her journey through her kingdom begins to ignite a fire inside her as she witnesses the state of her kingdom. The audience witnesses the transformation of Yona into helpless and purposeless princess into a motivated force who wishes to use her allies to further the goal she found for herself: bettering her kingdom.




The aforementioned paragraphs have already touched upon this a bit, but the character development in Yona of the Dawn is excellent. The show definitely uses its length and interesting interactions between characters to promote an organic sense of growth amongst the cast.

Yona, of course, is the obvious standout. Her transformation over the course of the first season alone is already a treat. Her character is strong and sharp, and the combination of her upbringing and adaptation to her shifting circumstances creates a lead interesting enough to be the driving force of the show. Her companions are also wonderfully distinct, and the process of meeting them allows Yona of the Dawn to delve into some of its neatly done setting. In particular, the distinctions amongst the four dragons and how they think of their powers and each other is a nice touch.


The character designs of Yona of the Dawn are clean and distinct. While some of the main cast may come across as color coded to ease with distinction, the attire for all of them allow for aspects of their character to show. Some of the character designs accommodate for different powers, but the differences in lifestyle in culture between the cast is evident through their character designs as well.

The animation of the show is also superb. With a show with action and battles like Yona of the Dawn the clarity of these busy scenes is important. The generally subdued nature of the show’s animations allows for a greater achievement of this clarity and helps convey the action appropriately to the audience. Furthermore, Yona of the Dawn is excellent in conveying the range of emotions the characters experience throughout the show.


Yona of the Dawn is a great adventure story in a setting rarely tackled by anime or manga as a medium. Due to its standout quality, Yona of the Dawn is definitely a welcome addition to a genre that lacks attention in that regard. Its surprising complexity and maturity are also welcome and refreshing aspects for the show.

The setting of the show also gives it a unique flavor. Its setting certainly draws inspiration from Eastern influences, but Yona of the Dawn goes above and beyond that in building up the world it takes place in. By going beyond a mere copy and paste, the setting adds a further layer of interest to the show. These relatively rare aspects in combination coupled with a strong execution by voice actors and studio create a great experience.



4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars




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Categories: Anime Reviews

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