Synopsis: Yona was a princess living happily with her gentle father, bodyguard Hak and loving best friend friend Soo Won whom she has an obvious crush on. Life was a bed of roses but everything came crashing down one night when Soo Won betrayed her and killed her father. She escaped with Hak and started to live a life on the run. The spoiled princess will have to stand on her own feet and see the truth of the world with her own eyes.
I started reading this manga without having any expectations for it and after a few chapters, I just got hooked onto it. Although its plot and setting reminded me terribly of Fushigi Yuugi, we have less guys here and Yona is obviously a more likeable and admirable female protagonist. Although I would have liked to read more on the bigger picture, which is the story behind why Soo Won killed Yona’s father and took the throne, it seems to be a bit too early for that. In a nutshell, Yona has been gathering her dragons for the past 8 volumes. She has just finished gathering her dragons and is preparing for some action. Again, till now, we still aren’t too sure what she’s been gathering the dragons for. She definitely has revenge on her mind, but is she strong enough for it? At this point, I still can’t decide if I would like this manga, because depending on how the story develops, it has the potential of becoming really good or just end up being normal.
Yona is the main character and is also one of the females who fit into the mould of being the likable lead. Although she first appears as a spoiled princess who had to be looked after closely by her subordinate, and who couldn’t care less about what happens to her country as long as the little world around her stays the way it is, her life drastically changed when Soo Won murdered her father. She was forced to live on the run with Hak, her loyal childhood friend/subordinate and welcome to the real world, princess.
Seeing Yona’s growth before my eyes was indeed an enjoyable process; I loved how it was so gradual that by the time I realised how much she has matured, I couldn’t quite place my finger on how and when she changed herself. But before I knew it, Yona had changed from a frivolous princess to a woman who would pick up her bow for what she believes in and what she stands for. Although she still had her crybaby moments (because come on, she is still a girl), Yona is definitely one of the strongest yet purest protagonist out there. How she always fail to pick up on Jae-ha’s seductions is also one of the reason why I love her, I guess she isn’t perfect either.
Saitou Chiwa will be voicing Yona and honestly, I haven’t heard her anywhere recently. But the preview of her acting in the Akatsuki PV got me convinced that we’ve got the right person casted for this strong-spirited princess. I’m looking forward to hearing how she goes from airhead to traumatised to nurturing to downright violent.
Hak is the son of the Wind tribe’s leader and he has been with Yona since they were young, together with Soo Won. The three of them were sort of childhood friends who grew up together, and that was what made Soo Won’s betrayal so hurtful. Hak is fiercely loyal and protective of Yona, he probably couldn’t help himself since it was a habit from those palace days, and he is always looking out for Yona.
There no need to second guess here, he’s one of the lead characters and he is THE ONE who is probably going to end up with Yona. Do I sound miffed about it? Let’s just say that Hak isn’t my favourite character here; there’s nothing to dislike about him – he’s brave, loyal, loving and he definitely loves Yona with all his heart. But there’s no X factor in him, I don’t particularly find him kya-able in any sense. I guess you can blame it on the mangaka for not developing him further, but since he isn’t one of the dragons, he hasn’t had much character development.
Maeno Tomoaki will be playing Hak in the anime. I only know him in Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi as Yukina Kou, but I’d say that his voice timbre doesn’t contradict the image of Hak in my mind.
Despite my non-preference for Hak, he IS still the main main, so we do have quite a lot of cameos for him and Yona. None for any of the other boys? Damn. In Akatsuki no Yona, instead of it being the case where all the boys fall head over heels for the female protagonist, romance is hardly the focus at all. Even if there were the dokidoki moments, it was brief and only limited to our main couple. Although Hak had his heart set on serving both Soo Won and Yona, who were supposed to get married, Soo Won’s betrayal upset the balance between the 3 and somewhere during their journey, Hak’s protective feelings towards Yona started to become that of love.
The antagonist of this manga, Soo Won, is the one whom I’ve been kya-ing over. I do have a preference for the bad guy, especially one who isn’t that evil in nature. Soo Won betrayed Yona and killed her father because, according to him, Yona’s father was the one who killed his own father. It is clear that he still holds her dear in his heart, when he chose to let her escape with Hak and when he chose to hide her from his subordinates during their reunion later on. Oh Soo Won, what are you trying to achieve? I know Yona won’t end up with him, but I still can’t help rooting for Soo Won in this skewed love triangle. There’s obviously much more to this king than what’s on the surface and you can tell, from the way he plans his moves strategically so that the results of his actions always bring favour in the way he intended it to.
Kobayashi Yuusuke (who is this new guy?!) will be taking on the role of my Soo Won in the anime and
he better I hope he does a good job at portraying Soo Won. Soo Won is, imo, one of the most complex characters in Akatsuki no Yona and despite not appearing much throughout the story so far, every page with him on it reveals layers of his personality.
There is always a love triangle in any normal romance story and our clear triangle here involves the 3 childhood friends, Yona, Hak and Soo Won. I’m sure you know who I’m rooting for here, but romance doesn’t seem to be the focus here. Since Soo Won had betrayed them, Yona and Hak are still reeling from being betrayed by someone whom they trusted and loved. Not so much Hak than Yona, whose composure was completely broken by her sudden and unexpected reunion with Soo Won after the Jae-ha arc. More on that later. While Hak seemed to have readily embraced the idea of Soo Won marrying Yona, I’m guessing because they were the 2 people whom he loved and respected most in this world, things do change after a betrayal. Hak seems to be bearing the brunt of this whole mess, he has to deal with the idea that someone whom he had looked up to wasn’t as golden as he was supposed to be and he has to comfort and support the broken-hearted Yona, who still has feelings for Soo Won. Feelings don’t just disappear overnight and it probably isn’t the best feeling to be watching over someone who is pining for a love rival. Not that a Soo Won fan is going to sympathise that much with Hak though. But some time in future, Yona is bound to come to terms with the fact that Soo Won betrayed her and start to get serious against her former love. I’m going to guess, this is when the truth gets revealed and messes up her feelings for Soo Won again. But eventually, she is going to end up with Hak. The End.
In every cast, we have to have our tsundere and Yoon can’t fit this description better. Although he is always complaining and giving a “can’t care less” attitude, he actually has quite a kind heart and he even ended up being beaten up while protecting Yona during the Jae-ha arc. He always calls himself the genius pretty boy, which is a rather accurate nickname actually. But still, hearing someone call himself somehow made Yoon more endearing.
Minagawa Junko (Ryouma in Prince of Tennis) will be voicing Yoon in the anime and oh it has been quite a while since I last heard her voice! Minagawa is really good at acting adolescent boys, especially tsuns so I’m sure we can expect stunning performance from her.
The first dragon that the Yona gang found was Kija (Hakuryuu). He was worshipped as the village’s head and appeared to be someone regal, with a lot of power at first. However, after we got to know him better, he turned out to be the silliest dragon around. Having him in the cast of dragons sure made reading Akatsuki rather ticklish sometimes and while I don’t fangirl over him that much, Kija is a nice guy and in some sense, I think he’s rather invaluable to this manga. But every manga needs to have this balance of different character types and he’s probably one of the must-haves.
Morita Masakazu (Ichigo in Bleach) will be voicing him and to be honest, I was hoping for someone who sounds more effeminate. Nevertheless, it’s still good to have someone experienced on board and his portrayal of Kija is one of those that I’m looking forward to the most – mainly because I’m curious to know if his voice timbre fits the manga Kija.
Shin-ah (Seiryuu) is my favourite dragon simply because he’s imo the most good-looking one. I do have a thing for stoic and silent characters, and his squirrel Ao just completes his image. Shin-ah has been ostracised since young and treated like an unwanted pest who is only capable of hurting others. He has been shunned and chose to shut himself in, away from other people. I guess you can’t blame his village people, that’s what happens when you combine selfishness with ignorance. It’s such a pity too, when Shin-ah is obviously a very gentle and kind person. I was really glad that he gained his freedom after choosing to follow Yona.
Okamoto Nobuhiko (Mikorin in Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun) will be playing this quiet dragon of few words, so even though I do like his voice, I guess we won’t really be hearing it that much.
Jae-ha (Ryokuryuu) is the dragon with an attitude. Don’t be fooled by his playboy attitude and cheerful demeanor, this dragon has gone through a lot when he young (but not as much as Shin-ah has). As all Ryokuryuus have the urge to jump/fly around a lot, they were all tied up as much as possible. That seemed to have resulted in Jae-ha’s hatred for commitment and he was the first dragon to seriously reject Yona’s invitation. Jae-ha was part of a group of pirates and after Yona’s gang assisted them with one of their missions, he decided to join Yona and help her out with her cause.
Suwabe Junichi (!!!) must be the best person to act as this playboy’s role. Yes, there are few out there who are better than Suwabe at the art of voice-seduction, so he must have been the obvious choice for this role. Tanoshimi!
The last dragon to join the group was Zeno (Ouryuu) and the way he was introduced was so abrupt that I started wondering if the mangaka got impatient with the plot progression. Zeno literally appeared from nowhere, as though he had been searching for Yona. That might be the case, so I’ll just let this go. Appearing to be absent-minded and happy-go-lucky, I’m sure there’s more to Zeno than he appears to be but we’ll only find out when more chapters get released.
Shimono Hiro will be voicing Zeno but since the manga stopped right after Zeno’s entrance, I doubt if we would be hearing much of Shimono.
This was probably the highlight of the manga for me, I just loved that scene so much that I’ve reread it countless times. It wasn’t much, but still, so much emotions in those few pages! Yona and Soo Won unexpectedly ran into each other after the Jae-ha’s arc; even I wasn’t expecting that to happen. When I saw Soo Won, I was still thinking to myself, wow that’s some hot guy who looks really like Soo Won. The pained expression on Yona’s face and the dark look on the stranger soon made me realise that I was looking at Soo Won himself (and of course I went back to the previous page to study all the panels carefully like how any self-respecting Soo Won fan would). Soo Won was the first and probably the only one to be calm enough to start speaking. After he concluded aloud that both Yona and Hak must be still alive and well, his subordinates approached the pair and before Yona ran off in a panic, Soo Won hugged her and hid her under his cloak.
Although I loved the entire scene, there are still key moments which I loved more (if that’s even possible). While Soo Won conversed with his subordinates with that silly smile plastered over his face, Yona became aware of the sword hanging by Soo Won’s waist and she reached for it. Soo Won must have been expecting that, or she probably wasn’t very stealthy about grabbing that sword, and he gently placed his hand above hers. I imagined it to be gentle and I just loved that scene so much. His hand looked so big over Yona’s hand and… I don’t have a hand fetish, but it just looked so gentle to me. Yona still had that wide-eyed look on her face and I’m thinking that she probably hadn’t sorted out her feelings for Soo Won, not to mention deal with his betrayal. She was definitely not ready to kill Soo Won and he probably knew it.
After his subordinates left, Soo Won parted with Yona, who still hasn’t uttered a single word. Their parting scene was also a favourite of mine, with all those petals fluttering around. After he disappeared from sight, the tension that held Yona up finally snapped and she broke down in tears. You still can’t believe that that Soo Won did all that, can you?
I’ll grudgingly add this detail in because it just doesn’t feel complete without it. Hak found Yona crying her heart out in the middle of the streets and he instinctively knew that she must have ran into Soo Won. Only Soo Won could break her like that and the look on his face was, wow. He really hates Soo Won for betraying them in so many ways and breaking Yona’s heart.
So far so good, I how this manga has been going and I’m looking forward to seeing how the plot will unfold. Besides the slight teasing here and there, there hasn’t been much progress in the romance side, which is fine by me. The focus here seems to be on the myth of King Hiryuu and sorting out Soo Won’s betrayal. Although we still don’t know (or I’ve forgotten) why Yona has gathered all the dragons – we probably just got carried away with the gathering, I mean, since there is a king whom the dragons are drawn to, let’s just gather all the handsome men for the sake of gathering them! Or so, that’s how it felt like. I’m sure Yona will come to accept the fact that she has to confront Soo Won and set out to take back her throne. With that, I’m looking forward to more heart-throbbing scenes with Soo Won~
After watching the PV for the anime, it felt like I just watched something old school. I don’t really know what to expect from the anime, but I feel quite sure that the content of the anime will be very faithful to that of the manga. And I’ll also be looking forward to an ost with Chinese influence – reminds of Saiunkoku Monogatari – which will be quite different and a refreshing change from the osts of recent animes.
Akatsuki no Yona starts airing on 7 October 2014, so till then!