Project #257: Akatsuki no Yona Part 1

(Isis): Greetings. Welcome to Project Nitsuj, I am Isis.

(Seras): And I am Seras. The unlikely duo has returned. With a vengeance.

(Isis): Nitsuj is in the middle of watching Arslan Senki and has asked us specifically to cover for him this week.

(Seras): Why did he asks us?

(Isis): He thought it be funny putting us together. Seeing as how I’m more of a casual viewer and you’re a fan of dark anime.

(Seras): Hey, I like some cheerful anime.

(Isis): And I like some dark anime as well. So which anime has a balance of this? Akatsuki no Yona.

(Seras): Oh. So we’re going to review that this week.

(Isis): Yes. Trust me, you’re going to like it. Also known as Yona of the Dawn, Akatsuki no Yona is based off a manga written by Mizuho Kusanagi who also wrote NG Life and Mugen Spiral. The series got started in 2009 and is still going to this day. In the series we follow a young princess who loses everything and watch her go on a journey to get it back.

(Seras): So basically, the hero’s quest?

(Isis): Yes. Only with a female so it won’t get weird and ridiculous. In 2014 the big studio Pierrot (Naruto, Bleach, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Tokyo Ghoul) released a 24-episode series based on the manga making it not only of their biggest animes that year but also one of the best animes that year as well.

(Seras): And naturally you’re a big fan of the series. Well let’s get this train rolling and take a look at Akatsuki no Yona.

Opening and Ending Theme

(Isis): The opening is “Akatsuki no Yona” by Kunihiko Ryo. Taking a page out of Cowboy Bebop, this opening has no lyrics and just music, setting the tone for what we’re about to watch and it accomplishes that perfectly. The visuals are also beautiful.

(Seras): The ending is “Yoru” by vistlip. It’s beautiful. The whole melody reminds me of “Rain” from FMA: Brotherhood. The song actually feels like a confession to Yona from another character in the anime who loves her but can’t convey his feelings to her because of their position and because he knows she loves someone else. This actually does make the song sound all the more sad because this song is everything he wants to say to her but can’t say to her at the same time.

Episodes 1-4

(Isis): Our anime begins in some remote kingdom in the mountains with a large emphasis on the Korean culture where our main character Yona voiced by Chiwa Saito (Aoi from Danganronpa the Animation) a beautiful 15-year-old soon to be 16 complaining about her gorgeous long red hair and how unruly it is (unruly that hair is beautiful. (Seras): Yes. I would kill to have such long and beautiful hair as her only white). She’s worried about this because Soo-won her childhood friend who she’s loved forever is coming into town for her 16th birthday and she plans to confess to him (Seras: How romantic except for one problem. He’s your cousin. I don’t care if you’re not blood related or what the rules were back than it is wrong and you sicken me with your incest love). As she continues to worry about her hair Hak her second childhood friend and one of the 5 generals in the kingdom comes in to tease her about her hair (Seras: Ohh~ masculine. Me like). He’s voiced by Tomoaki Maeno (Naotsugu from Log Horizon). It gets announced that Soo-won has arrived and she runs into him in the hall (woah I can see why she fell for him he’s gorgeous. (Seras): You and you’re pretty boys. I’ll never understand your preference). He’s voiced by Yūsuke Kobayashi (Tanukichi from Shimoneta). After that they get a few small talks here and there about how Yona wants to confess her feelings to Soo-won but her father for some reason forbids her to have feelings for him. Hak on the other hand doesn’t really care he just wants to see his two friends happy together (Seras: Such a noble strong man). One night while Yona is walking the halls she senses someone following her and runs into a room where Soo-won is at where he comforts her and she finally confesses her feelings for him (nothing like a good scare to put you in the mood to confess). Soo-won takes this rather confusingly as he’s unsure how to feel (Seras: Let me help you disgusted, disturbed, and traumatized) because a part of him does like Yona but another part just sees her as that little girl who use to follow him around and sleep with him because her mommy passed away and she didn’t feel safe sleeping alone. Whatever he’s feeling will have to wait because 5 days go by and it’s Yona’s birthday where she receives a beautiful broche from Soo-won and he says he loves her hair (as do we). That night, Yona decides to go to her father and try to convince him to let her marry Soo-won (Seras: Let’s keep it all in the family dad) but once she arrives at his room she’s horrified to see that Soo-won has taken a sword and killed Yona’s father (Seras: Hmm~, evil. I’m starting to see the appeal of cute boys now. Innocent on the outside but bad on the inside). She gets dragged outside and about to be killed by a few guards when all of sudden (and literally out of nowhere) Hak comes in to save her and demands to know what’s going on (Seras: Well the princess has an incest crush on her cousin who is evil and is planning on taking over the kingdom. Any questions? Scene here:

In episode 2 we find out that the reason Soo-won killed Yona’s father is because Yona’s father killed Soo-won’s father. In the past Soo-won’s father was the older brother, he was strong, intelligent, and a reliable leader (a man among men) while Yona’s father was a kind-hearted man who was a pacifist seeking the peaceful route over the violent route (Seras: A righteous fool among men). Everyone in the kingdom thought Soo-won’s father would take the throne but instead Yona’s father took the throne who according to Soo-won killed his own brother to make sure of it. Soo-won has been waiting all this time for revenge and to take his rightful place as king. Once his adviser Kye-sook comes in he tells Soo-won to kill Yona and without batting an eye or hesitating (he’s got the mind of a killer) he attempts to kill Yona (Seras: Boy I bet she didn’t think she would be spending her birthday like this). She escapes outside but the guards quickly catch her and she gets saved by Hak who comes in to fight Soo-won in an impressive one-on-one fight (Seras: Cute bad boy vs Masculine badass boy, place your bets). When it seems that Hak has the advantage over Soo-won the guards capture Yona (Seras: Oh come on you have red-hair you’re supposed to be a badass) and she gets saved by one of the servants who sacrifices himself in order for Hak and Yona to escape into the mountains (scene here: Most traumatizing birthday ever). The next morning Yona still sad and unsure of what to do ask Hak what she should do (build up an army and cut Soo-won’s head off to reclaim your kingdom. (Seras): That’s what I would do) and he tells her to continue living as a way to honor the father she lost.

Episode 3 serves as good backstory and character development for Hak and Yona. While the two are resting in the mountains we get a flashback into the childhoods of Hak and Yona (with a little bit of Soo-won on the side). We see that in the past Hak actually was in love with Yona and wanted to be with her but he saw clearly that she only had eyes for Soo-won so he buried his emotions and choose to just be her friend (oh man I feel sorry for him). We also see that at the beginning he didn’t want to be Yona’s bodyguard because one he’s not a fan of nobles and two it keeps him around Yona who at this point was gung-ho about Soo-won (Seras: Is that all she thinks about?). We also see that the three had good relationships with their dads/grandfather. Hak was adoptive into a clan where he became the son of the clan’s head. Even though the two would fight and argue with each other they did respect and care for each other. Soo-won had great admiration for his dad. He was strict and scary at times (Seras: Soo-won clearly inherited his mother’s looks but his father’s scariness) but at the same time he was an admirable man who cared for his son even when Soo-won was sick he took the time out of his busy day to come and visit him. Yona’s relationship with her father has pretty much been the same. She loves him, and did her best to make sure her dad never felt lonely after the tragic death of her mother (who died from blah blah blah). After those flashbacks we cut to the present where Hak is worried about Yona (she just watched her dad get killed by the man she loved and is now on the run in the mountains doing things she has never done in her entire life. I think anybody would be worried about her) because she doesn’t speak, eat, and just walks through the forest like a silent doll (Seras: Man Soo-won broke that girl good. He does good work). While she’s taking a bath in the river Hak finds the hair ornament Soo-won gave her for her birthday (Seras: She was still holding on to his gift despite everything that man did to her? (Isis): Give her a break, it was the first guy she fell in love with it’s obvious that she’s still gonna have feelings for him). He hides it from her and she goes out to search for it where she enters a snake den and gets saved by Hak who arranged this to get Yona to do something active (sending her into a snake den and getting yourself bit by a snake was the best you could come up with?).

In episode 4 Hak and Yona arrive in the village of the Wind Tribe Hak’s home village where he’s the young chief loved by everyone. At the village he hides Yona’s true identity as to not cause panic and rebellion. Back at the castle Soo-won has called for a meeting of the 5 tribes where he tells them that Hak killed the king and is holding the princess hostage (lie! (Seras): A damnable lie if I ever heard one). He also calls them together because in order to become the next king he must have the approval of the 5 tribes (Seras: Or they could just kill Soo-won and make the land their own republic). Everyone approves of Soo-won being crowned king except for Mun-Deok, Hak’s grandfather who casually walks away from the conference not giving his approval but also not rejecting Soo-won as to not make himself seem like a traitor to the kingdom (well played old man). He returns to his village where the Fire Tribe has dammed up the river destroying the water supply of the Wind Tribe (insert obvious Avatar: TLA line here). He gets the full story from Hak where they still keep Yona’s identity as a secret and quell the anger of the villagers who want to fight back. However, this doesn’t last long as the Fire Tribe attacks the merchants who come to the Wind Tribe regularly. This is bad because not only does this cutoff their last supply of water but it also stops the wind tribe from getting medicine for Tae-Yeon, Hak’s younger (and even more adorable) brother who has a frail body and needs that medicine to keep living (okay I’m attacking. I can handle them cutting off their water supply but endangering the life of a cute little boy is going too far). Hak finally makes a decision where everyone can be happy. He tells Mun-Deok to approve of Soo-won becoming king, says he’ll accept the burden of being labeled a criminal and leave the village, and asks Mun-Deoko to allow Yona to stay in the village where she can be safe and happy (Wow. He’s giving up his entire life and everything just to save his village and the person he loves. (Seras): I thought being in the friendzone was bad for him, this guy is gonna be left with nothing by the end of this anime).

Episodes 5-9

(Seras): Episode 5 is a turning point for Yona. As Hak is about to leave Yona sees the injured merchants who were attacked by the Fire Tribe and makes the resolve to leave the village and reclaim her throne. At first Hak doesn’t wanna be bothered with her and have her stay in the village for her own safety but Yona manages to defeat Hak and get him to submit to her once again (before a red-haired woman a man is powerless). Mun-Deok tells them that they should seek the help of the priest who used to be in-service to the kingdom until he was betrayed and sought refuge in the mountains to decide what their next move should be (it should be obvious what their next move should be. Return to the capital, find Suu-won, and slice his head off. End of story). They go to the mountains where they get cornered by Gang Tae-Jun of the Fire Tribe who in the past was one of the marriage candidates for Yona until Hak ruined it for them (Isis: Hak be trollin’ people). Gang sends his troops to attack them where despite being outnumbered Hak manages to hold his own against them all while still protecting Yona until he takes a poisonous arrow to the back and begins to feel weak. He has Yona hide in the bushes while he continues to fight where at first Yona follows orders and stays put but she finds her resolve, pushes one of the soldiers off the mountains, and confronts Gang where her hair begins to glow bright red, her eyes change into something fierce, and she confronts Gang on his actions making him look like an idiot and scaring him.

In episode 6 Hak succumbs to the poison in his body and becomes defenseless to the troops surrounding him. He gets pushed off the cliff where Yona tries to save him but is stopped by Gang who holds her by the hair (oh you are committing a big taboo my friend. Never pull on a lady’s hair). In order to escape him she grabs his sword and cuts her long hair (Isis: Such a waste) escaping Gang and going to save Hak where she’s not strong enough to pull him up and they both fall into the valley below with Gang assuming they’re dead and being shocked by it (Isis: Shocked like a man who saw a ghost in front of him). Naturally, he feels bad about this and goes to the palace to tell Soo-won what happened where even he’s pretty sad to hear about the deaths of the two people he held dear to him (Isis: Then why did you chase them out of the palace and kill the king?). The next day the coronation of Soo-won comes and he goes through with it promising to return the kingdom to its former glory (I will make whatever the name of this kingdom is great again). Meanwhile back in the valley we see that Yona and Hak survived the fall (barely) and are getting saved by a local boy named Yun voiced by Junko Minagawa, who seems to be a doctor. Once Yona wakes up, she meets Ik-su the priest (who looks like a bum) she’s been looking for this whole time who knows who Hak and Yona are.

Episode 7 once again serves as good story and character development. We find out from Yun that Ik-su was chased away from the palace (probably because he was asking for too much because priest had a lot of influence over the people. In fact, the priest had so much influence over the people that they could literally kill a king and say it was God’s will (Isis: The Lord works in mysterious ways). Because of this Yona’s uncle became suspicious of them so he had all of them chased out of the kingdom. Ik-su than wondered the land trying to help people but failing falling into depression and winding up into the forest abyss where he met Yun who took it upon himself to look after the bum priest. After that Yona learns from Yun just how ignorant she is as she knows nothing about the world around her or the people and villages within it (yep, you’ve led a very spoiled rich ignorant life little girl and in the end it caused you your father). Hak begins to feel better and Ik-su receives a vision from God talking about Yona. He tells Yona the message which is if she wants to keep on living and keep Hak alive she must find the four ancient dragon warriors who served the first ruler of her kingdom. These four warriors were created by the dragons of the heavens who respected and followed the first king of Youka because he too was a dragon until he choose to give it all up and become human because he loved us, even when the humans betrayed and tried to kill him he still loved them. The dragons not wanting to see their leader die created four warriors and infused them with their power so that they could protect him. After the king’s death the warriors left their tribes and journeyed throughout the world never to be seen again. After hearing this Yona decides that she will find these warriors even if they might be foes who seek to kill her and decides she wants to learn how to use a sword and bow because she’s tired of being protected all the time and wants to fight side by side with Hak.

Episode 8 is a real tearjerker. Ik-su wants Yona and Hak to take Yun on their journey. He wants Yun to see the world and live out his dreams of seeing the capital, reading books, and living life the way he wants to live (Isis: I say let him join. He’s a genius plus it’ll be good to have a healer in the party and he’s so cute). Yun overhears Ik-su and Yona’s talk and while he’s not against it he feels that he can’t leave Ik-su alone because of their history with each other. We get a heartwarming flashback that takes place 7 years ago showing us how Ik-su and Yun met. Yun was a child in a poor village and when I say poor I mean there are no crops, nature, or land poor (almost sounds like Pittsburg). He had no parents, money, or food and was starving to death (but even as a child he was still cute). He finally decided to rob in order to get food and money and his first target was Ik-su who had no money or food on him. Feeling bad about hurting Ik-su, Yun takes care of him for a few days where they develop a friendship with each other. Ik-su taught Yun how to make sandals and even selling his boots to feed Yun as a way to thank him for everything he’s done (that was pretty cool of him I have to admit). When Ik-su leaves we see that Yun really misses having him around and felt really lonely for the first time in his life (Isis: This almost reminds of the Black Frost story). When Ik-su finally came back to visit Yun saying he was going on a long journey Yun decided to join him (and that’s how the clumsy priest and the handsome genius wound up where they are today). Ik-su tells Yun that he’ll be fine on his own and that he shouldn’t worry about him. They have their heartfelt goodbye and Yun officially joins the group.

(Isis): Not a whole lot happens in episode 9. Ik-su tells the group where to find the white dragon tribe in the mountains pass the Fire Tribe territory. So through the episode they pass through Fire Tribe territory safely hiding their faces and Hak begins to teach Yona how to use a bow (we’ll turn her into a female version of Tigre). They finally find the white dragon tribe (Seras: Do they have blue eyes?) where they get ambushed by them but once they see Yona’s red hair they stand down (they know that the red hair of a female character means badass waiting to be born) and decide to take them to their village.

Episodes 10-14

In episode 10 the group arrives in the village of the White Dragon who we find out is named Ki-ja voiced by Masakazu Morita (Ichigo from Bleach) a handsome 20-year-old man with the right hand of a dragon (Seras: Aww~ he has green eyes. I was really hoping I could make a Yu-Gi-Oh joke with him. (Isis): Yeah that would have been funny. But still another handsome boy has joined the party). Naturally Ki-ja recognizes Yona as his master the one he’s been waiting on all these years and openly joins her on her mission (well that was easy. How badly does he wanna leave the village?). In a hilarious moment of the anime Ki-ja tries to pay Hak off and tell him his services are no longer required (Seras: Oh those two are gonna get along just fine) but Yona says Hak stays because she needs him (Seras: Both for protection and nightly activities). This of course makes Hak quite happy that he lets out a sinister laugh because of it (scene here: The village has a party to celebrate the arrival of their king (or queen in this case) and the next day they have their emotional send off for Ki-ja to end the episode with the group continuing on their journey (Yona’s harem continues to grow).

(Seras): Not much happens in episode 11. The group makes plans to search for the blue dragon whose village is somewhere within the Fire Tribe territory. Ki-ja says that he can sense the dragon’s presence but he doesn’t know where the dragon is so the group decides to search all the well-hidden locations in Fire Tribe territory while avoiding being discovered by their army. As the group is searching we get some funny banther between Hak and Ki-ja (these two are like Sanji and Zoro from One Piece. They don’t like each other but they respect the skills of the other) and get to see how Ki-ja fights where we see that behind that sweet and innocent face lies a very devious and merciless fighter who will strike down anyone in his path (he seems to be quite sadistic despite his innocent face. I like that in a man). We also find out that Ki-ja has a fear of bugs and isn’t used to sleepy outside (scene here: (Isis): He has truly lived the life of spoiled boy). After traveling through the Fire Tribe territory and still having no luck finding the blue dragon, Yun thinks he’s finally found where the Blue Dragon tribe is hidden. In the mountains near the border of the Fire Tribe territory (hidden in the clouds).

In episode 12 the group arrives in the Blue Dragon village somewhere in the mountains where we quickly get a creepy vibe from the place. For starters everyone who isn’t married in the village has to wear a mask over their face as a tradition, the village is poor and secluded, and despite the fact that Yona has lovely short red-hair the village isn’t at all phased by it (this is a lovely village of creepiness). When the group ask to see the Blue Dragon the village leader says the Blue Dragon doesn’t exist in their village (Isis: That’s a lie and you know it). Not believing the leader they convince him to let them stay the night to heal and rest up and when the coast is clear they set out to search the maze-like village in the hopes of finding the Blue Dragon (unfortunately there’s no singing David Bowie or magic). While searching Yona gets separated from the group and gets found by one of the villagers who plans to kill her (Isis: If you kill her than the only thing waiting for you is death as well). Like an idiot she follows the villager and gets saved by a gentleman wearing a mask who takes her back to the others. When Ki-ja sees him he immediately recognizes him as the Blue Dragon and tries to go after him but fails. For the rest of the episode we get a sad flashback (a flashback worthy of an award) where the Blue Dragon was shunned by the village because of his powers. Apparently, the power of the Blue Dragon is great eyesight and the ability to paralyze the nerves of your enemies but a rumor started spreading throughout the village that the dragon has the power to turn you into stone. Because of this everyone became scared of the Blue Dragon and hated him both adults and children (hell, his mother committed suicide after finding out he was the Blue Dragon). The Blue Dragon was placed in the care of Ao the previous Blue Dragon who hated his power as well and told the Blue Dragon that he was cursed and that he will have no friends or be accepted by anyone (Isis: And keep in mind he’s telling all of this to a 4-year old child). Despite being hated by his village Ao continued to protect the village from bandits seeking to steal the secret of the Blue Dragon until one day his eyesight finally left him and he became completely blind. He died shortly after losing his eyesight leaving the Blue Dragon all alone in the world and forced to use his powers to protect the village from bandits and soldiers.

Not much to say about episode 13. Yona and Yun journey back into the underground maze to look for the Blue Dragon while Hak stays on lookout to watch the villagers who are spying on them and Ki-ja guards the entrance to the maze from the villagers who want to kill them (do you amateurs really think you can defeat a handsome dragon?). Yona and Yun find the Blue Dragon where it takes him a while to figure out that Yona is the person he’s been waiting for this whole time (and I mean a really long time to figure this out. He held a sword to her throat throughout the scene). Yona tries to get him to join her harem I mean team (Isis: No you had it right the first time) but he refuses to leave the village because of his power and tells them to leave (Blue Dragon: Good day. (Yona): But Blue Dragon- (Blue Dragon): I said good day!). Yona and Yun arrive out of the maze to see Ki-ja still holding off the villagers when all of a sudden an earthquake occurs and traps Yona, Yun, and Ki-ja along with the villagers in an enclosed space with no escape (Isis: See this is why Hak should not be allowed to leave her side). The villagers begin to panic while blaming the Blue Dragon for their situation (how the hell is it his fault? What, does he have earthquake powers we don’t know about?). As they’re talking about the Blue Dragon he comes out not speaking to anyone scaring the villagers until one of them knocks off his mask and we see that the Blue Dragon is in fact gorgeous beyond belief (Isis: His eyes are like diamonds sparkling off the moonlight).

(Isis): In the first half of episode 14 the Blue Dragon picks up his mask, puts it on again, and begins digging a new hole to the outside. Yona and the rest begin helping out (Seras: It’s either dig a new tunnel or become a part of the mountain. Your choice you prejudice bastards) but Yona collapses from exhaustion and the Blue Dragon takes her back to his place (woah now is not the time for this. But I’m available later on) where he takes care of her and she even sheds tears of sadness for him saying how it’s unfair someone so kind and loving is being treated so awful by the people of his village (I couldn’t agree more). She gets back up all healed and they all continue to dig a new tunnel when all of sudden Hak comes busting in like the Kool-Aid Man ( saving everyone and leading them to safety. When they’re all outside Yona asks the Blue Dragon to join her and this time he accepts and leaves the village with them (so long you prejudice a-holes. I shall not miss you). In the second half of the episode Ki-ja has fallen sick from exhaustion so they all stop so that he can rest. During this time we see Yun start to fall for Yona (Seras: Between the strong loyal warrior, the dragons, and the evil cousin I think Yun has a lot to compete against) and the group try to figure out a name for the Blue Dragon since he doesn’t have a name and he rarely talks (which I have to admit I like. (Seras): Yeah me too, he’s like Samurai Jack, he doesn’t talk all that much but instead let’s his actions and expressions speak for him). At the end Yona finally decides on a name for the Blue Dragon (hold on, I need to check on something. *Isis goes to the window with a sniper rifle and shoots down a running Roots joke heading towards the house* The things I do to stay in good taste *returns to her seat*). She decides to name the Blue Dragon Sinha which means moonlight because he’s as silent and mysterious as the moon but at the same time he’s the one who led her out of the darkness when she was lost in the mountains (that’s actually a very deep and well thought out name). Also he’s voiced by Nobuhiko Okamoto (Karma from Assassination Classroom) did we mention that?

Well that’s the first half of the anime. Let’s take break here for now.

(Seras): Oh what, already!? I mean, I’m cool with that.

(Isis): You’re enjoying this aren’t you?

(Seras): No I’m not. Shut up!

*Seras disappears back into the system*

(Isis): Very soon my little snowflake. You shall fall very soon. Thanks for reading. We’ll see you next time on Project Nitsuj.

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