Guys, I told you Yona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona) was going to be good!
I mean, it's not much of a surprise that I had little luck recommending people read scanlations of the manga but now not only did we get an anime BUT we also got a nearly 20 volume shojo manga series licensed too! That I hoped for but didn't expect, although I'm not sure how I will continue to follow the manga now. I do know of blogs who summarize (which, as far as I know is completely legal, these folks buy copies of the magazine) but you do lose something when you cut out the pictures. I do always try to drop series when they are licensed (which means that there are some that I am, uh, several years behind now since I didn't have the money to buy them) but even if Viz started releasing it in January and did one every two months it would take nearly 3 years to catch up to this point, at a more standard four a year it's five years and I really don't want to wait that long. (I also think it's unlikely they'll speed it up at all and even the series Viz does speed up they do it after it's been around for a little bit and proved its audience, like Magi, so expecting six volumes a year before 2017 is really unlikely).
I saw on Kelly Quinn's top 10 2015 anime list (sorry Kelly, I'd reply there but I have trouble with Tor's comments!) that she said "In comparison to the shows that bracket Yona of the Dawn on this list, I realize that Yona seems the odd one out—certainly it didn’t make as much of a splash as either Parasyte or One Punch Man."and I had been thinking along a similar line recently, but in a different direction. The way I look at it, Yona did pretty fantastic, it convinced Viz to pick up the manga (while publisher do pick up series that are longer than 12 volumes it's still a bit unusual these days and for a shojo, holly cow!) and the sheer number of cosplayers I've seen from the series, plus just how many people recognized my own cosplay in October, months after the finale, I think speaks to how far the series spread. That kind of attention isn't necessarily indicative of good sales (Aniplex has said as much concerning Durarara!!), so fingers crossed that both the manga and anime sell like hotcakes, but it did make me notice that you know, all of the series she did (rightly) mention were the big hits were all guys titles. I had male friends who adored Yona but it kinda feels like what you see in the US nerdom as well, female-aimed series can be big but they are never the ones EVERYONE cares about. Viz said this the anime was popular when they licensed the manga, I think Funi has said the same, it was in the top five slots on Tuesdays on CR (which I'm told is actually a good indicator of popularity), and again, I had like 20-30 people at a mere >5000 person con recognize my outfit (male and female!), that sounds like popularity to me (although those DVD sales... )
For those curious, the anime covered exactly eight volumes of the manga and, with no information it does look increasingly unlikely that there will be a second season The DVDs were delayed because of some weird production committee shenanigans, regardless the last one just came out last month with under 2k volumes per set, that's not good no matter how you cut it. ON THE OTHER HAND, Yona just got an award for being the best-selling Hakusensha manga in e-book form and they have a number of magazines, all of the Hana to Yume ones (which is where Yona runs) and also all the Lala ones. I really hope that those sales help push through a second season since god, this was just the prologue and the series gets so much better. I honestly think that a lot of the dragon arcs were some of the series weakest since everyone but Ja-hea joined "the happy hungry bunch" with practically no qualms and the outside conflicts were resolved fairly easily. Yona is at it's best when it focuses on the humans, like Yona and Soo Won and their peers when they confront the fact that they want to do good and help their country but have no idea how. Yona says hey, that's okay, start with what you can do and look for guidance for the next steps (also be prepared to be a badass but that just sort of happens), which I think is a really important message and also why all of the characters work so well.
SO, in the meantime, what am I going to be reading/watching to fill that gap?
I plan to finally (finally!) finish the Basara manga, when looking for similar titles to Yona your best bet is to actually look for titles from the 90s, adventure shojo isn't nearly as popular now (I also mean to finish From Far Away at some point but unlike Basara I don't currently have it on hand)
The other two series are also series that I've been both meaning to get to for a while and have had a hard time finding, shojo series The Twelve Kingdoms and The Story of Saiunkoku which are both anime adaptations of even longer running shojo light novel series* and neither of which are online. 12 Kingdoms is licensed, but the light novel license died with TokyoPop (right as they released the last novel covered by the anime, missing part of a chapter too) and the opposite is the case for Sauinkoku, the first season was licensed by both Genon and Funimation but it has lapsed and now the only way to experience it legally is with Viz's translation of the manga (which is in both print and digital, I think it also paused around the same time the anime did). They're both about girls, epic stories, and governments (or so I'm lead to believe) but this leaves me in the same boat that I started in, it's so hard to recommend people series like Yona since, while they do exist, they're so hard to get a hold of!
*see, even when we talk about how most light novel adaptations are bad we only talk about the series for guys, I bet most people haven't even thought about shojo light novels!