What They Say:
Yonas 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-Owns army hot on her trail, and Hakes 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.
For the Blu-Ray release, we have a trademark 5.1 English release and a 2.0 Japanese release – a standard set up with no real issues throughout the track in terms of synching with the video, and the general settings didn’t need to be changed. There were no issues with the synching, or with the audio quality as no adjustments has to be made on my stand settings even with the Japanese 2.0 set up – very general and acceptable.
Similar with the audio, the video is set in 1080p AVC widescreen via NTSC transfer to PAL format but the combination of how gorgeous the show is with the CGI and more standard designs, with the adventure style nature of the show coming across very well but also good at the subtle shadows of treachery, politics and intrigue – the movement of the animation flows very well and was no slowdown in any of the episodes on the test release. Keep in mind this is a transfer from the original Funimation release so if there was any needed clean-up it would have been done in house, but no issues as far as I was concerned.
There was no packing for this test release.
The menu consists on both discs clips from the show – on the bottom there are your selections of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. All are easily selectable and like most Blu-Ray releases have no time delay when selecting a new menu – and again like most Blu-Rays they have a popup menu that you access during your watching (though you can’t select extras) – overall easily accessible and beautiful to look at.
Similar to the first set and being a Funimation transfer, the extras are pretty much expected but not unwanted. On disc 1 we get the one main extra which is an episode 16 dub commentary involving Clifford Chapin (voice of Yun, also assistant director), Brandon Potter (General Guntei) and Micas Solusod (King Su-won) – they focus on the episode and the little mini-arc which focuses on Su-won which is important as they focus on his role as an antagonist but with a reason – the whole show is basically your own interpretation on Su-won as a villain – he killed Yona’s father but as he (and Yona) discover how his rules actually screwed over a lot of people in kingdoms, you know there is going to be conflict and clashes. The setting of the characters, the Earth Kingdom’s psychology, how Su-won isn’t played as a bad guy, the amount of care within the show and how the direction works, all are played out here in this commentary.
The second disc has a commentary on the final episode, with Joel McDonald (Jae-ha), Ian Sinclair (Kija) and Josh Grelle (Zeno) involved – this one is more old friends getting together and enjoying themselves whilst talking about the show – which is strange in a minor way as a new character is introduced right at the end and they don’t really talk too much about it in terms of what it means (more on this in the review) – but otherwise it is more praising the other actors (Monica gets her kudos on her skill of squirrel noises and how her range differs – mentions how low she can get when speaking to her father in Spanish), Josh speaking on his Japanese skills with some favourite comedy lines of other series (Hetalia and Sgt. Frog mentioned) but do talk about the show in terms of the art and the voice work…specifically the various ways they need to warm up.
Outside the commentaries, we get very traditional extras – we have some nice promotional videos (from the views of Yona and Su-won giving that contrast if he is seen as a villain), both clean openings and both clean endings, the US Trailer and some trailers for other shows (Project Itoh: Harmony, Blood Blockade Battlefront, Yatterman Night, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Seraph Of The End: Vampire Reign).
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Yona Of The Dawn Part 1 came out I was hooked. It took me back to Fushigi Yuugi, one of my favourite series of all time, except just straight forward ancient past, albeit Korea instead of China, and the Mary Sue style character develops a ton, and continues to do so. Now with more of the dragons being found and the choices to recruit them, combined with the murderous king having his own concerns with both what he did but also why he did it, and Yona discovering more of the outside world (and what people thought of the previous king, her father) it suddenly becomes quite the game…
We left our heroes searching for the blue dragon warrior, who as discovered previously had quite the tragic history; Ki-ja has sensed him and due to interactions with Yona, feels the destiny calling him. However, his shy nature combined with his gorgon like eyes makes him hesitant to come forward, combined with the prejudiced and hated nature that the villagers have against him. With Hak left behind just in case, it leads to a situation where Yona, Ki-Ja and some villagers are trapped by an earthquake, where the blue dragon warrior enters to try and help – with effort, they do work together and the blue dragon warrior accepts. He is also given a name by Yona who along with the always eating squirrel Al, is named Shin-Ah, meaning moonlight (which he is secretly very happy for – he is very quiet but his shyness combined with skill means she is quite adorkable).
So 2 down, 2 to go and Ki-Ja soon senses the green dragon warrior and with one of Shin-Ah’s powers to see far away, we go travelling. This is where the two main stories interact because Yona discovers the harsh realities of her father’s rule that his pacifism and unwillingness to get involved in fights has caused illness and cruelty due to people taking advantage of it – Yona having to realise that her family wasn’t universally beloved. At the same time, her father’s killer, Su-won visits the capital of the Earth Clan to speak with the powerful fighter and Lord Geun-tae, who at first sees Su-won as a wishy-washy king perhaps even worse, especially when Su-won hosted a war-game festival within the week. However, as the two face off, Geun-tae realises there is a lot more to Su-won than he accepted due to his strategies and skills he showcases hiding behind his all smiling face – his goal was to reinvigorate the Earth clan in terms of production and morale after being subdued by the previous Kings rule. This is basically the clash of the two sides of the story – Yona, having to discover the ways of the world but also seeing Su-won as positive, yet can’t forgive him killing her father, whilst Su-won may seem like the villain if you go by the first two episodes as an usurper, but the way he is portrayed it almost seems like a good thing because of how he is trying to help the common people – it gives a really good clash of insecurities and how you see these characters, especially considering Haks’ closeness with Yona and how he is the only one Yona wishes to remain calling her princess, to say that side of her doesn’t want to lose everything of her past…
The crux of the rest of the series is the discovery of the green dragon warrior, who is actually found quickly in the port area of Awa, named Jae-ha. His personality is easily the most enjoyable of the dragons so far, especially as unlike the other two, has no interest in wanting to fulfil his destiny as it were and is enjoying life as a pirate (with good intentions) against the tyranny of the land in the lord in question Yan Kumji. However Jae-ha senses the dragons so tries to avoid them, but unintentionally bumps into Hak who is helping a woman being harassed by corrupt officials – which in turn makes him really ‘fall’ for Hak and wants him to join the pirate gang.
With the discovery of how corrupt the officials are, (making Yona again wondering what the world was like now during her father’s rule) Jae-ha eventually gets caught in finding the dragons and realising Hak is part of the group. Here, we meets Yona and like the other dragons, the emotions and feelings seem to draw him towards her – however he is definitely more of a challenge compared to the others and Yona also refuses to force him to join if he doesn’t want to. However, seeing the corruption around her makes her wish to help the pirates in one last big coup. Whilst Hak and the dragons prove their worth, their captain, an older woman named Gigan who is probably the best side character in this arc, gives Yona a tough task for her to recover some herbs on a steep and narrow sided cliff where only somehow her size could navigate – waves do trouble her which does lead to Jae-ha having to save her, however her guts and courage combined with Gigan saying that if he HADN’T saved her she would have probably killed him, gets her on board.
With them having to deal with Kumji having a deal with human trafficking, we get Yona and a crossdressing Yun to infiltrate the trafficking, and whilst Kumji suspects Yona of being the princess due to her hair, he dismisses them. A bit of a mistake as Yona and Yun manage to help the other women out, and manage to just about get their flare off so Shin-ah can see it, who along with Jae-ha save them, leading to the pirates to try and find him and finish him. However, sneaky tricks around means it looks like he will get away, when a fearsome glare he senses from afar, just as an arrow goes through his heart…
….an arrow belonging to a vastly improved archer with crimson red hair…
Whilst the story appears to end there, there is still another twist when Su-won is also visiting the port and Yona bumps into him. Mixed emotions in her wanting to kill him and Su-won making sure none of his guards see her (they believe her to be dead and Su-won refuses to harm Yona, again making it difficult to see him as the villain despite his initial deeds) – his words are he can’t die yet, Yona is in tears but hides that she saw him, and Jae-ha also accompanies them.
Now if it had ended on that, it would probably be an A grade. Unfortunately, there is one more episode – now when I say unfortunately it isn’t become it was bad, but it just felt very tacked on and could have been set up for a second season there. I have found out there are OVAs though but as they aren’t on this Blu-Ray it does lower a little – the reason is because episode 24 is where they encounter the final dragon, the yellow dragon warrior and…that’s pretty much it. Zeno is only introduced finding food with them, we don’t know his powers and they just return to Iksu and then…it just ends. Ends with Su-won trying to sort the kingdom out, Yona admitting she still in love with him (Hak hears this) and Yona travelling through the kingdom.
To me, the last episode didn’t need to happen here – the previous one would have been enough to set up a sequel, and then could set up more for Xeno’s back-story. And whilst as said OVAs have been done since then, it feels a bit of a weak tease and/or rush job to introduce the 4th dragon without any huge information about him – just hi and bye. Sure it still sets up hopefully a 2nd season as the manga is still ongoing, but because of how it is put out (mainly because Zeno is quite the fan favourite – it feels they had to get him into the 24 episodes) it does weaken it slightly, hence the slightly lowered grade. If it ended on episode 23, it would have been in the A grades, so this is the highest grade I can give it.
However, aside from that, I highly recommend Yona Of The Dawn so far. The story is well told in both Yona and Su-won’s point of views, and little bits of Hak falling in love with Yona is told as Yona doesn’t know what her feelings her on him (there is a scene where Yona uses honey to heal a cut and Hak actually licks it off her hands, her emotions totally out of whack after that) combined with the adoration in different forms of her dragons (Ki-ja is overall trying to impress her, Shin-ah is quietly shy, and Jae-ha is flirty and confident) you may think this is almost a reverse harem style series (the influence of Fushigi Yuugi again is here) yet Yona isn’t a Mary Sue character of the same degree of Miaka. She has incredibly development as the fact she still is in love with Su-won is a big deal for her despite what he has done (influenced perhaps of seeing what her father’s rule has done with some people) combined with her wanting to get stronger, both mentally and physically (she killing Kumji is a BIG step for her) and her nature of not wanting to force the dragons to join her, and it is her own charm, guts and strength that win them over for the most part.
Su-won’s story whilst brief, interacts with Yona’s and you see that he is trying to help everyone he can hiding behind a goofy smile – yet you know he is capable of both horrible things, but also things that will help people out. You do get the thoughts of what he did was for the greater good, but it still influenced Yona and Hak so much, that you are caught in two minds if you see him as the villain. Hak himself, also feels that way as he wished to be the bodyguard of Yona and Su-won if they became a couple, yet Su-won’s betrayal, combined with seeing the outside world and his own feelings for Yona make this a very troublesome triangle indeed.
The dragons all get their moments as well – Ki-Ja is still the joke for Hak but reliable and overly trying to be helpful (his moments almost adopting Shin-ha as a younger brother are both comical and adorable at the same time), Shin-ha is very reserved but thanks to his pet and his few interactions he comes off very sympathetic, whilst the newcomer Jae-ha is much more outgoing and more in tune with the ways of the world, and his free spirit is very refreshing as whilst you know he’s going to join, there was at least more doubt involved. And one thing I loved was the relationship between Captain Gigan with her crew, and later Yona. She is basically a tough older woman, who won’t take no crap from the crew, but at the same time completely cares for them and their wishes, and you get to see those tender moments when she is interacting with Yona, almost like a mother and daughter figure (which Yona mentions she is more of a motherly figure to her men, making it more heart-warming for her considering she barely knew her mother) – making her easily the most memorable of the side characters, though General Geun-tea does have his moments with Su-won as well as the amusing part of the arc is mostly through him and his wife, before things start to get more serious…
So again, the last episode isn’t bad, just felt it just had to be there to showcase the last dragon. If more episodes occurred after that it wouldn’t be a prob, but the fact it was out there is a pretty bad cliff-hanger considering how little information was put down for the last dragon, just ‘oh hi, I’m here’ kind of thing. But that is the only major issue I have with the series – the storytelling, characterization, the thin line between what is good and what is bad, it draws on a lot of things and combines into what is a story that wants to continue.
And I sure hope it does.
Yona Of The Dawn continues its travels by combining the issues of Yona and Su-won in various arcs, with Hak somewhere in the middle. The gathering of all the dragons bar the last one being quite rushed means there is potential for future seasons, and with so much behind Su-won there is plenty to go on for said future – Yona’s feelings and characterization continue to make her stronger whilst seeing what her father did, and if Su-won is a monster, or if she feels it’s was her dynasty that is seen as the monsters. With some great characterisation, story driven motives and fantastic visuals and music, Yona Of The Dawn is a treat in more ways than one – I just hope the OVAs get released or a sequel is on the way…
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Episodes 16 and 24 dub commentary, Promotional Videos, TV Spot, Clean Openings and Endings, US Trailer, Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Anime Limited via Funimation
Release Date: November 14th, 2016
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.