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. Translated by JN Productions, Adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.
Yona of the Dawn started off pretty serious, given the nature of its plot. It always had some humor, but in the midst of regicide and fleeing from a murderous former trusted friend, you can understand why things were a bit edgy for a while. But now Yona is collecting allies, and learning to shoot a bow, and things are looking up even if she is occasionally still attacked by bandits or led into deathtraps by terrified villagers. This allows the author to bring in a lot more humor – the third volume already had a lot of this, but this one finds almost the perfect balance between action fantasy, tragic backstory, and hilarious shenanigans.
the hilarity tends to come from three different places. First we have Yun, the resident tsukkomi of the group, who keeps them from dying in the middle of the woods and tries to provide actual common sense among a group that sorely needs it. His line in snark is good, but it’s his offhand introduction of himself as “genius pretty boy” that made me giggle most. (And he’s not wrong – this is a very attractive cast in general.) Hak and Gija, meanwhile, are both attracted to Yona, though they either won’t admit it or aren’t aware of it, so this naturally puts them at each other’s throats. Luckily it’s in a comedic way, and I was reminded a couple of times of the dynamic between Legolas and Ginli – particularly with counting the number of dead bandits. And there’s also Yona, whose humor comes when she steps away from her princess and savior mode in order to, say, beat her would-be lovers across the head, or insult a squirrel’s name. This is a very amusing book.
This does not take away from its other qualities, though. We meet another Dragon Warrior here, and his past is tragic and filled with violence, and I suspect meeting Yona will be the best thing that ever happens to him – though you may need to convince him a little more first. It’s easy to be terrified of someone who’s different from you, especially if they have a mysterious power that can seemingly kill people. Luckily, nameless Blue Dragon (he was too unloved to be given a name!) is found by Yona and company. There are also lots of fights interspersed through the volume, which Yona does not take part in, though she is getting better with a bow. I like the scene where Hak admits he hates the idea of her learning to fight but loves the idea of her learning to be stronger – it strikes a nice balance between the patriarchal “women shouldn’t be doing this” and his growing respect for Yona as a young woman.
I’m not sure how long it will take to convince the Blue Dragon to come with them – not long, I expect, it’s not like he has much tying him down – but I eagerly await things being resolved in the next book. Must-read shoujo fantasy.