Yona of the Dawn–Anime Early Impressions

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Desert trekYona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona) (Crunchyroll) is unusual for a shoujo anime series. It focuses so much on action-adventure and character development that there’s little time left for teenaged angst.

The most similar series that I can think of is The Story of Saiunkoku which ran from 2006-2008. That was a story of court intrigue, set in a mythical country based on medieval China. Yona has a somewhat different tone however. Its mythical country seems less sophisticated, with disputes usually settled with swords instead of poison.
This is the Kingdom of Kouka, a land where the costumes and architecture seem drawn from a mixture of East Asian traditions, but the people’s names mostly sound vaguely Korean.
Yona with servant
Sixteen-year-old Princess Yona is the only child of the king. She has a lot riding on her shoulders but seems hardly aware of it. She’s a bit spoiled, a bit tomboyish and a bit vain. (She worries constantly about her unruly red hair.) Mostly she is very naive.
Kids in snow
Yona grew up with two important childhood friends. Her cousin Soo-won (on the left) was always exceptionally kind and supportive. Son Hak (lying down) was more reserved.

Son Hak and Moon-Dok
Son Hak was always acutely conscious of his commoner status. He only got to play with the princess because he was the adopted “grandson” of Moon-dok, the formidable leader of the Wind Tribe.
Soo-won an Son Hak mounted 2
Now Son Hak and Soo-won have grown up into strapping young men. They remain good friends but there is an undercurrent of rivalry between them.
Soo-won with Yona
Yona is head-over-heals in love with Soo-won. She is determined to marry him but he refuses to state his feelings in spite of her numerous hints.
Son Hak is now considered one of the kingdom’s best warriors and has been made a General of the Palace Guard. (One of five; the guard may be a bit over-generaled.) It is obvious that he secretly loves Yona but he keeps his feelings secret. He knows about her feelings for Soo-won, agrees that he is a more suitable match, and has no intention of standing in the way of her happiness.
King with Yona
Yona adores her father, King Il. He has raised her with every indulgence, but he will not support her desire to marry Soo-won. Her duty as his heir is to marry someone who will make a suitable king, and he doesn’t think that Soo-won qualifies.
King with bird
King Il is a devout pacifist who abhors any sort of violence. This doesn’t sit well with his troops, many of whom consider him a coward who is unfit to be king. Some murmur that Soo-won would make a better king. His father, King Il’s brother, was an accomplished military commander.

However we can see that King Il has his own sort of courage, and he can be rather astute.
Death blow
The story begins when Soo-won stages a midnight coup with the support of most of the palace guards. He kills the king with his own hands and tries to have Yona killed as well.
Escaping from palace
Son Hak manages to save Yona and smuggle her out of the palace.
The attempts to track them down are unsuccessful. Soo-won turns his attention to consolidating his power as the new king.
On the run
At this point Yona is to traumatized to think straight. All she can do is blindly follow Son Hak as he heads toward the territory of the Wind Tribe, hoping to gain Moon-dok’s help.
Group on cliff-top
We know from the OP and some brief flash-forward segments that they are destined to meet four “dragons” (or men with dragon-like characteristics) and form a revolutionary army to fight Soo-won’s tyranny.
Yona with bow
This is based on an ongoing manga so we are not going to see the complete story in the promised 24 episodes. However that should be enough to show Yona’s transformation from a spoiled princess to a rebel leader.