What They Say:
Yona of the Dawn’s hunt for the legendary dragons continues, but the three that remain aren’t making it easy. The blue dragon lives deep within a maze of underground caves, the green dragon is an elusive rogue, and the yellow dragon is, well… a mystery. Meanwhile, Yona is still struggling to find the warrior within her. While her skills grow stronger, her self-doubt continues to hold her back. And with Su-Won’s army hot on her trail, and Hak’s feelings for her proving more and more difficult to ignore, this princess has her work cut out for her. Time is running out to take back her kingdom. She can no longer afford to hide behind her royal upbringing – it’s time to take charge.
Yona of the Dawn Part 2 contains episodes 13-24.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the new English language dub. The series is one that works a largely dialogue oriented design but it has some good bits of action throughout that are well utilized. Most of this comes with the archery aspects of it as I liked the sound of the arrows and how they traversed the forward soundstage and the thunk of the targets. There are a few good swordplay moments and a bit more than that and it comes across well, though not exceptionally. Dialogue is similar in that there are good bits here and there but it largely works a familiar and standard approach without any problems in its design. The result is a clean and clear mix for both language tracks that serves the material well and is free of problems.
Originally airing in the winter of 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes of this set are spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second. Animated by Pierrot, the show has a very good visual design about it, especially with the color palette as it’s nicely rich without being oversaturated and problematic. There’s a good bit of detail built into the show in general and that comes across really well throughout as it gives it a richer and more lived in feeling for a lot of it. A lot of the focus is on our lead character and her hair, which stands out amid everything else, but it doesn’t feel out of place compared to everyone else either. The transfer brings the source material to life in a very good way here with clean and solid color fields and no problems with line noise or other issues, resulting in a very appealing looking show.
The packaging for this release is a solid one overall as we get a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the four discs from the two formats inside on hinges as well as getting an o-card with it. This replicates the case artwork but with a bit more color to it, which isn’t saying much with this release. The Japanese releases are all very artsy character pieces so Funimation opted for a more subdued piece here, though at least it feels better than the first collection. With this one we get a bit more color to it with Yona surrounded by the team she’s putting together throughout this set while having the breaking of the dawn in the background just behind Su-Won. The back cover works things simple with a small strip of shots from the show along the right as the only artwork. The bulk of it is given over to the premise being covered on top of some light background material with a gray filter that makes it impossible to really see. The discs extras and episode counts are clearly listed and the technical grid is a big plus in readability with the white text over the maroon as it breaks down both formats in a clear and accurate way. The reverse side is definitely more appealing to me with the right side featuring a good full color image of Yona with the group in what feels like a desert setting that has darkness closing in around them while the other panel breaks down the episodes by number and title.
The menu design for this series is one that keeps things simple but works it effectively. The majority of it is naturally just clips playing from the show, but there are some good landscape shots mixed in that gives it a distinctive feeling and some good and almost fun character bits along the way. The logo is kept the center top section without being too big but pulling in some good colors while the navigation strip along the bottom goes for a shade of Yona’s hair with the text being done in a simple white font. It’s not a menu that will stand out or be memorably, but it sets the tone right and functions smoothly and easily without any problems to be had during regular playback as a pop-up menu or as the top level menu.
Funimation has produced some good original material here with a couple of English language audio commentaries for fans of the dub to dig into. They’ve also mined some of the extras from the Japanese release with a bunch of promos and TV spots as well as the clean opening and closing sequences that cover the episodes relevant to this set.
The opening half of Yona of the Dawn was certainly a fun piece that got me interested in it for all the right reasons. The slow but steady introduction of some but not all of the Four Dragons after establishing the basic idea and flight of Yona and Hak early on was some very good pacing. While we did have a tease of what was to come in order to excite the fans of the manga, I really liked the way the show took its time to get things going, allowing both Hak and Yona to spend time together and working through the chaos and uncertainty that comes from their flight. With solid animation and some very good designs, the opening half delivered well for me even though I knew going into it that it was going to be an incomplete work since it’s an ongoing manga.
With that in mind, there’s still a lot to like with the back half of it here as we follow Yona’s journey and growth as a person because of this situation. The first few episodes continue what we had before with its focus on the Blue Dragon as we got his background story already and now it’s just a matter of bringing him to life. He’s definitely a difficult one to connect with considering his quirks with the mask and saying very little, but it all factors into what we had with his past and how he’s ostracized by his people because of it. It’s an interesting situation with the way that the power is seemingly passed along and the kind of fear it creates among parents with their children potentially inheriting it, so you can understand all the sides in it even though you can see the approach taken not working well. Naturally, it all has to turn into a situation where the people are upset about what Yona is trying to do as an outsider and it turns into a mess.
But it’s not a mess because of her but rather the superstitions that she’s trying to understand more than anything else. For Yona, it’s an opportunity to experience another mindset and how to get what she wants while at the same time reaching through to Blue Dragon. There’s an innocence to her approach that’s not unexpected and it works well to win him over to her side, especially since Hak ends up being separated from her for a while. These are the leadership moments as she has to sell herself while at the same time appealing to those that she wants something from. She’s likely had experience with that as a princess on some level, but this is outside of the palace and in a very different kind of situation, even if the core concepts are the same. It’s no surprise that Blue Dragon ends up with her and his quirkiness is definitely fun since it’s off-putting to most of the others, especially since a lot of what he does is all for the greater good and simply pleasing Yona.
The bulk of the set beyond that focuses on the next of the Four Dragons, which in turn becomes an overly long arc that has its moments but doesn’t feel quite earned yet for the series. It’s appealing in the sense that it’s not rushed, like other properties that introduce new characters chapter after chapter until it’s fully “staffed up” for presentation, but this approach also means that if the new character isn’t that compelling it can be a bit of a dragon. This arc takes us to the seaport of Awa where Yona and the others are drawn into Jeaha’s orbit, the pirate Green Dragon that Yona wants to be a part of her mission. She handles it well by simply asking instead of ordering, something that Jeaha would normally expect, and she’s ready to move on when he makes it clear he truly has no interest in any of this for a range of reasons. It’s not an unexpected turn of events considering how White Dragon and Blue Dragon were drawn into events with their own problems and shorter arcs, but it also means you know how it’s going to end overall with everyone part of the team.
Jeaha’s story isn’t bad in and of itself as he has a very good life as a pirate, something he’s been a part of for years under the older woman who runs the crew he’s a part of, and that means he has no real desire to go and do anything else under someone else because everything is working so well. What catches his attention a bit, however, is that after Yona meets his captain she ends up drawn into an extended arc involving another pirate in the area that’s running some human trafficking of young women and is coming to acquire them for sale elsewhere soon. With Jeaha’s own group about to be retired, something that he doesn’t know, it’s time for one last big adventure to do something right and Yona puts herself right in the thick of it. This is a piece that goes back to her overall growth as she’s not doing it out of a sense of adventure or fun but rather because it’s the right thing to do. There’re some nods towards the politics and social structure of this particular port town that’s gone into and her quick understanding of it, which impresses Hak as well as Jeaha, but at its core it’s about the right thing. Which mean danger and action ensues with a focus on the newer characters with Yona and less about those that she’s acquired so far.
One of the things that I liked with the first half of the series was that it did spend some decent time with Su-Won and his adventure in becoming ruler. That’s not quite as strong here as he’s not trying to consolidate power in the palace, though he is working to further establish himself. He’s a curious player in all of this because we view him as bad and he’s done some dark things, but he’s also working to seemingly for now actually do things to benefit the kingdom and strengthen it. It also serves to strengthen him, so there’s that, but seeing his journey to various areas outside of the palace for a while and encounter with other rulers that ends up improving their position is certainly interesting. It improves his own as well as they now find new if grudging respect for him, but such is the case of politics and leadership.
Yona of the Dawn ends on as complete a note as it can with not quite having all of the Four Dragons and Yona’s journey truly just beginning. The quality of the show is just as strong as the first half and there’s a good confidence to the production and its pacing that makes it engaging, even if the story elements themselves don’t quite connect. I enjoyed the beginning part with Blue Dragon and his introduction into the group dynamic and I liked aspects of Jeaha’s arc, but it didn’t win me as a whole and we don’t really get to see how he functions with everyone else. There’s some nice teases for what’s to come and I can imagine people going after the manga because of this series as it does sell the concept and its approach well. Definitely the kind of rare show we get that I wish we had more of in general.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 16 & 24 Audio Commentary, Promotional Video & TV Spots, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: July 19th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.