Yona is a princess sheltered in the palace from all harm by her pacifist father, King Il, and her friend and servant, Hak. But when Soo-won, a noble Yona has long been in love with, visits on her sixteenth birthday, she is thrown into a world of conspiracy against the crown by the murder of her father and the call for her own execution. Forced from her protected life, Yona must learn to survive if she is to not only live, but also take back her kingdom from her father’s murderer.
Episode one ends with the murder of a king and there is a decent amount of blood involved. Although pure action shows like FMA still contain more violence overall, this show doesn’t shy away from showing blood here and there. Also, various characters are fighting for their lives multiple times and some are from abusive backgrounds.
Tame by US standards, the worst it ever gets is a few b-sterds and b-tchs here and there. It’s rather rare, but not absent either.
Despite the set up, there is little to no nudity in this show. A few shirtless scenes for the men and more than one threat is made to Yona of a sexual nature. However, none of these threats are carried out and, thankfully, the show stays tastefully away from blatant forms of fanservice.
If the idea of prophecies and people being born with abilities passed down from dragon god-like beings bothers you, this show won’t be your favorite. While we never get the clearest picture of what the dragon beings were exactly, we are told that they allowed their powers to be harnessed by select humans. I was never really sure if only power was passed down or if the dragons themselves were reborn. Regardless, re-incarnation is heavily implied in some form or another, to be sure.
I expected this to be another typical shoujo, reverse harem, period thingy. Thankfully the first episode ends promising something entirely different and I couldn’t have been more pleased. While the occasional scene here and there still panders to shoujo stereotypes, this show impressed me by never staying there for long. Yona may start out weak enough, but her emotional struggle with both her father’s death and the betrayal of her kingdom, not to mention the reality of her father’s political decisions on real people she meets outside the palace, are shown very realistically. Yona’s love and frustration over those who have betrayed her are clear early on and hold true as she slowly hardens and changes throughout the show.
And speaking of characterization, her journey is slow, but all the more powerful for it. No one learns to defend themselves and others overnight and Yona takes up nearly the entire show before she’s able to not only survive, but also fight for her kingdom. Her journey to master archery, as well as come to terms with being the cause of death for another human being, are taken seriously and as such I was nearly jumping out of my seat once she managed to stand completely on her own.
Unlike other shows where the main character very suddenly becomes a warrior, this show takes a realistic amount of time to get Yona to such a point both physically and mentally.
While the show has a few pit falls (the dependence on magical powers and legends is a bit distracting), overall I really enjoyed this series. It’s one of the most realistic female hero stories I’ve seen in anime and definitely worth a try. I just pray it gets a second season as there’s just far too story left by the end to ignore…
Personal rating: Young adult