As a tale of fate and faith – in love, in gods and spirits, and seeking truth – Yona of the Dawn takes a while to establish itself, but then again, so does Princess Yona herself after her father’s murder. Leaving the castle that sheltered her until she was sixteen to escape her own death, cutting the beautiful crimson hair her guardians so admired, and at last grasping the weapon her father, the kind King Il, despised, this staged severance of her bonds to her family eventually cuts her last fragile tie to her father.
Yona’s story is placed at the apex of each child’s coming of age, when they discover that their parents are weak and ingenuous, just like them. And it’s these burgeoning, more adult relationships between mother or father figure and child which become the most beautiful aspect of the series. The oracle Ik-su and his young, practical friend Yun are placed at the crossways of the conflict between solid logic and faith, and the change of the balance of care as both guardian and child get older. Now Ik-su has taught him all he knows, Yun – compassionately voiced by Code Geass’ Cornelia, Junko Minagawa – has become his protector, and Ik-su mourns his departing as he leaves their modest home and accepts the pull of destiny. The Dragon Warriors of legend, whom Yona must gather by the word of the gods to defeat her father’s killer, then begin to present their own treasured or punished heritage through their powers.
The blood of the White Dragon is preserved in the human Gija, glorified in his destiny marked by a silver scaled right hand, cherished just as Yona was, and sheltered from the outside world. The two striking a tender comparison in his yearning to support her cause, although in the wild world he’s as innocent as she was at the start, they’re each sentimental in their strength, Yona never letting go of why she must fight for the survival of herself and her friends. As she learns to appreciate the security, safety and luxury she took for granted at the palace, travelling through the poor village where the capital’s food is grown, you can see her start to grow into a warrior for honour.
Shinichi Inotsume’s writing reveres Yona’s femininity, the same commanding, sensory movement of Naruto in Studio Pierrot’s animation making her strain with the longbow she wields, her fragility one with her strength. And so the bells the Blue Dragon wears by his temple jingle with each step and turn, to chide with his suffering. His world a horrific reverie, his power can cause paralysis at a glance, and he was imprisoned as a child to hide his curse from the villagers. And yet he loved his father of the Blue Dragon’s blood. “Ao taught me about the power of my eyes. Ao taught me how to use a sword,” he says as his young self, reflecting the bedtime story of the Dragon Warriors that becomes something greater; a tale of the endurance of love through all suffering. Yona may despise the “weakness” she inherited from her father, and the beloved, trusted one who slaughtered him. But such love cannot be cast away, and must be enshrined, or endured.
Check out our review of Part 2.
Extras: English dub; commentary for episodes 4 & 8; promo videos, TV spots & trailers; clean opening/closing animation