Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 26

By Mizuho Kusanagi. Released in Japan as “Akatsuki no Yona” by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by JN Productions, Adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.

It can be hard to find the perfect cliffhanger o end a manga volume. Of course, with most ongoing series there is a cliffhanger of sorts, particularly in action series such as Yona of the Dawn. There are several obvious examples in this volume alone, each of which could probably have served perfectly well as the cliffhanger, particularly the second to last chapter in the volume. But there’s something so deliciously satisfying about this one, the sort of ending that gives the reader what they have wanted all along but not ENOUGH of it. Yona of the Dawn is usually a pitch perfect blend of political intrigue, action adventure, and a dash of romantic tension, and for most of Vol, 26, the focus is definitely on the first two. Even when we get to the romantic tension, it looks like the usual “misunderstandings abound!”. So we are both cheering and also laughing hysterically at how said misunderstandings are cleared up. You DESPERATELY want to read more.

As for the politics, not to spoil too much, but there is one less death than I was expecting when I finished Vol. 25. As it turns out, things can mostly be resolved with negotiation, though it takes a few more sacrifices and also everyone ganging up on the evil priest. This actually leads to the other great moment in the book, one that relies very much on Su-Won and how he is choosing to rule. The priest (whose name I keep forgetting, mostly as I tend to call him Wormtongue in my head) points out that Kouren captured and imprisoned the Legendary Dragon Warriors, to which he gets a “so what?” response. The priest is stunned that he does not want to use their magical cool powers to strengthen his position. (Technically this is what Yona is doing, but she is not doing it in the way the priest wants it to happen. The priest’s stunned face as Su-Won cuts all his arguments off at the knees is hysterical.

Other things to mention: Riri is here and awesome, though not as awesome as her retainers, who manage to gang up on Kouren and make sure she can’t tragically die leaning against a building or some other samurai thing. The other guys spend most of the book unable to move, alas, though they’re on the road to recovery by the end. It also helps sell that this is a problem that CAN be resolved with discussion and negotiation, rather than “I have a guy with a big hand, medusa eyes, a big kick, and Zeno.” Although it led to Yona’s misunderstanding, I really liked Hak’s chatter among his Wind tribe friends – she’s right, he acts like a totally different person around them, and while I don’t think it’s entirely her fault she’s never seen it, it does show off why they’re still not quite ready to get any closer than they are.

OR ARE THEY? Cannot wait till the next volume, which thanks to my backlog is already out. There’s always so much to talk about and love with Yona of the Dawn.

The Asterisk War: Struggle for Supremacy

By Yuu Miyazaki and okiura. Released in Japan by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.

Ooof. We are deep into “tournament arc” here, folks, which means that a) the books are really not doing anything aside from showing off some cool fights, which means I have very little to write about, and b) it is fairly easy to guess who is going to be winning each of those fights. Ayato and Julis are not going to be losing at this point in time. Heck, even the “trying to figure out what the bad guys are doing” plot takes a back seat here, though it does lead to one of the funnier not-really-a-gag moments in the book when Orphelia straight up tells the other villains “oh yeah, I told Julis our plan six months ago.” After basically being absent from the last book, Julis gets more to do here, including what ends up being the best fight, but I suspect she is going to continue to be very unhappy for the next few volumes. Fortunately, the book has a secret weapon: Saya, aka Best Girl.

Claudia is on the cover, but barely in the book itself at all. Though she fares better than Kirin, who is totally absent. We get a series of fights, after briefly seeing Julis win her Round Four battle. First we see Ayato take on Rodolfo Zoppo, an arrogant ass who we dearly want to see get the shit beaten out of. Sadly, all of Ayato’s fights in this series have involved him barely winning, and that’s what happens here. Lester fights the Black Knight, and wins, but unfortunately is too injured to continue, so Julis gets a bye in Round 6. Speaking of Julis, as stated, she gets the best fight, taking on Xiaohui, who has returned from his Vision Quest and gotten stronger thanks to an old man on a mountain who doesn’t train him but lets him watch his everyday life. It’s a good reminder that Asterisk War runs on cliches. Saya takes on a girl who’s too amusing to take seriously. We get Robot vs. Robot, and the more evil robot wins. Silvia wins her match, which amounts to song vs. dance. And Orphelia manages to not only take out Hilda, but Hilda may in fact be permanently removed from the stage – her ending is ominous.

Apologies for the spoilers, but again, none of this is a surprise. You knew most of these people were going to win. Aside from Julis, as I noted, Saya gets the best moments, as she has the 2nd best fight, but more importantly is there to deliver a pep talk to Claudia and Rimcy, who are both feeling depressed and useless. Saya points out that she is an Unlucky Childhood Friend who spends every day handing around a hot tsundere princess and a meek sword prodigy, and also has to deal with the world’s top idol singer. They are all probably better fighters than her. They are all more likely to get Ayato’s love than her. But, as Saya wonderfully puts it, “so what?”. She refuses to simply stop trying. It’s not quite the end of the book, but it makes for a great emotional climax.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make up for 170 pages or so of fight after fight after fight. And I suspect we’ll get more of the same next time, though the cliffhanger does at least promise some emotional torture of Julis as well. Good times!

Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 4

By Hitoma Iruma and Non. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Molly Lee.

Since my last review, the anime has been running, and it’s due to adapt up to this volume if it keeps at the pace it’s been using. The anime has helped me come to terms with Shimamura’s monologues somewhat – it cuts out the boring bits, which is to say 80% of them, and leaves us with what is essentially a teenage girl who is constantly doubting that she is even a functional human being. Given the evidence of this book, she is correct to worry. Not that Adachi is any better, as the start of second year shows, to her horror, that despite the “I want to be BEST friends!” of previous books, just a mere class change can mean Shimamura will be happy to drift away from her without another thought. So Adachi is ready to take the initiative. Confess? A ha ha ha no. But she’s ready to ask if they can eat lunch together, and later even ask if they can have a weekend sleepover. Baby steps, really.

As you can possibly see from the cover art, Shimamura has stopped dyeing her hair and let it settle back into her natural ‘slightly lighter than Adachi’ brown. They’re in second year now, and Hino and Nagafuji are now in another class. (Not to worry, the two get their own little subplot, though I continue to wonder whether the author is also making them a couple or just having them be goofy.) Adachi is still in her class… but is still suffering from Adachiness. As a result, when three other girls ask if Shimamura can join them for lunch, she says sure. What’s more, her old childhood friend, Tarumi, has called up again after their disastrous February date, and really, really wants to try again. They hang out. They get matching bear bookbag charms! And Tarumi, as with Adachi, runs up against the massive wall that is Shimamura’s blithe indifference to almost anything.

I mentioned the subplot with Hino and Nagafuji, and there’s one with Yashiro as well. Indeed, it has been brought to my attention that almost every single character in the book who is not a regular – a fortune teller Adachi meets who gives her courage, another seeming alien girl that Nagafuji meets at Hino’s estate – is from one of Iruma’s other books. Hell, even Yashiro straight up says here she’s not the same Yashiro as the one from Denpa Onna. This is almost entirely lost on English-speaking readers (I had to have it all explained to me), but it does show off how these books are filled with “treats for the fans”, sometimes to the detriment of the actual plot. I also left out the start of the book, which is probably the best part of it, in which we realize that something important happened much earlier than we expected. It is a sign of how much this book is obsessed with the transient nature of teenage relationships that nobody remembers this.

That said, the biggest takeaway for me from this book is: man, everyone is trying their hardest to indirectly shout “I love you!” at Shimamura, but indirectness just is not cutting it. It does make me wonder how much longer, or how many more crossover cameos, this series can do before it begins to wear on the reader. Someone needs to tear down Shimamura’s wall.