Everyone, allow me to introduce my Least Expected Favorite Character of All Time, 'Ao'.
Last Seen: Episode 17
A breath of fresh air. That's what Yona has been to me after saving it up and watching it in bulk. If any of you have read even one of the most recent posts I've wrote for anime adapted from Manga I've read, you've likely gotten more than two eye-fulls of my despair at their poor performance. It was getting to the point that I was sure I should just not bother with adaptations, after all, I've already read the story, why hear what I already know a second time? Why put up with worries and doubts that it will butcher the story to fit its limitations? Why see a story and characters I love made fools of with new plot holes and brutally cut short expectations? Sometimes even, (I'm looking at you Chaika), the complete fabrication of new characters to fit their new frankenstein'd plots?
Then, comes Akatsuki no Yona. Having already read the manga up to its latest translation, (I get email notifications when one is released), I knew that it was a slow build, and that 'Princess' Yona would be unbearably aggravating, so I put it in storage on hiatus until it had a lot more episodes for me to watch at once. I still watched up to episode 4 to scope out how the studio handling the adaptation was getting the job done, but after that I stopped keeping up with it week to week.
Well, I've just caught myself up in one massive bulk session, and suffice to say you can imagine how well it went since I'm writing a post about it. If I had to summarize in a phrase the essence of the manga's adaptation into anime, it would be 'The Breath of Life'. It earnestly feels like the studio breathed life into all of the scenes and characters, even some of them I hadn't realized were quite so wonderful, their presence fainter in the manga's stationary medium.
Yona has reminded me what a good adaptation is suppose to be. It's not suppose to be some cheap cash in, nor is it suppose to be a knee-jerk easy way to spread market awareness of the manga's story. What it is suppose to be, is a manga's story and characters brought to vibrant life, their struggles and stories made more vivid and relate-able through that wonderful medium we know and love as Anime. In the first place, if all an adaptation gets is a cheap cash in, or is only half-arsed because it's just to spread awareness, it backfires because the anime leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who already know it, and another piece in the pile of mediocre is only going to make people less interested in something they might otherwise have liked and checked out.
I never even realized when I was reading the manga, just how many scenes the squirrel is in once he debuts. He is so adorable, and everywhere. Plus, Hak's mischievous nature is SO much more funny in motion with live responses. So far I've loved all of the characters castings, they're playing their roles well and bringing the characters of the manga to life, just as good, if not better than I'd imagined them.
Which is saying something, if you know anything at all about how reality almost never meets expectations. Nothing is as large or grand as the castle you build in your mind, especially not your best effort to build it, since no one sees somethings flaws better than the one that built it.
I really must draw emphasis, again, to the studios great job at breathing life into scenes I never even realized I doubted could be animated with as much impact as when a set of still images completely controls the passage of time and emphasis. They've done a great job with detailing things that happen in split seconds.
Hm. If there was one thing I was to point out my disappointment in, it's the second Opening music. (Yes, there's already a new one within about 15 episodes). It has a great build up in the opening few seconds and then...not quite as grandiose a climax as it feels like it's building to. Could just be my personal tastes though, I love me some orchestral shakes-you-to-the-bone inspirational musical effects. The musics not bad, just...less than it feels like it's going to be in those first few seconds. The first Opening felt a bit more consistent on that part, the crescendo matched more closely with the build up, which is probably the only reason I drew attention to it. I really don't understand what makes or breaks the decisions to have a new Opening or Endings, and especially not when.
EDIT: Ah ha! I knew there was something oddly familiar about the second ending, but since I was bulking the episodes I'd been skipping the endings, because the first one didn't really stand out much. Not bad, but not Great either sort of thing, pretty, but forgettable. I figured since I was mentioning the music I should go take a closer listen to the new second one, and when I did, it instantly clicked: That sounds like Akiko Shikata! Akiko Shikata is an absolutely divine sounding japanese singer, with an often distinctive musical composition to go with her vocals. It was simple enough to confirm that she was in fact the singer, and I'm so very pleased at how good of a match she is to this story. Grant, this particular piece is very underwhelming when held up in the light next to her other works, but that could just be because her songs tend to be slow building great climaxes. I highly recommend you go look around youtube for one of her songs, "EXEC FLIP ARPHAGE". One of my all time favorite pieces of music.