Rare is the series that introduces a seemingly weak and sheltered female lead, who undergoes great tragedy only to come out fierce and respectable at the end after the most well-paced development I have had the pleasure of viewing. Were that not enough, we are also blessed with a delightful supporting cast of varied and sometimes unexpected characters. While it’s not without some flaws, Yona is absolutely amazing as a historical shoujo series.
Although this season only acts as a starting point for what is to come, it introduces our cast and it develops our heroine. One of the strongest points about the plot is that it begins with a bang – we first establish a background and we are quickly endeared to the characters before it successfully guts us with the promise our premise gave. Betrayal.
One of the weakest points of many series is that while our protagonist may be likeable and receive depth and development, our antagonist is lacking in all areas – not so for Su-won. While he may be easy to despise for his hand in essentially ruining Yona’s life, we quickly learn his motivation and while at first it may be easy to dismiss him as your stereotypical bad guy, episodes down the road clue us in to his real intentions.
The plot isn’t without its flaws; it follows the stereotypical pattern of our hero finding a “wiseman” who presents her with a mission which includes the collection of certain “items,” or in this case, the dragons. The backstory is not necessarily uninteresting but not entirely original either. In this way, Yona follows a lot of mythological stories as inspiration but that doesn’t make it unlikeable – in fact it’s because it follows a pattern we are used to that it grips us and carries us with it every step of the way.
Our cast is comprised primarily of Yona, Hak, Yun, and the four dragons. For Yona’s part, she makes the biggest impact as an initially “weak” but most certainly sheltered princess. She grows quickly as the loss of her status and family, coupled with Su-won’s betrayal, takes a huge toll on her. Not to mention the wilderness which she is completely unaccustomed to, which requires her to eat food she may never have thought edible before, to sleep outside without proper shelter, and to deal with all sorts of wild animals and insects. She doesn’t deal with it flawlessly – she struggles, like a real human being, and she gradually recovers then proceed to fight tooth and nail.
Hak admittedly starts out as a fierce defender that initially makes decisions based on his aim to protect Yona, but eventually he grows to respect her strength and determination and defers to her judgment the majority of the time. He even softens a bit over time, but in the end he goes from just wanting to keep Yona alive to having a more vested interest in protecting the kingdom with her.
The sound is probably a bit more on the average front for the series, but is not necessarily a weakness. The initial opening fits the mood of the anime and the addition of lyrics halfway through makes it a catchy song that really foreshadows what is to come in the rest of the series and represents the development of our heroine. Although not particularly memorable, the insert songs match the general mood of the scenes that they accompany.