Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 9

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.

First of all, let’s just stand back in awe at the fact that our heroes are now named “The Dark Dragon and the Happy Hungry Bunch”, something that is both hilarious and awesome. The name is indicative of their status as semi-secret bandits, but also the sheer improvised nature of this whole enterprise – after gathering the Dragons, we’re now regrouping and seeing how best to let Yona figure out what to do next. “Help people” is the obvious choice, but help people how? Well, turns out there’s injustice right in front of them, what with the fire tribe officials shaking down the poor villages for money and taking children as collateral when they can’t pay up. Thus it is time to kick ass, take names, and pose dramatically. Unfortunately, when you’re the village saviors, you’d better be aware that there can be a cost to your actions.

I’ll admit I was not expecting that kid who confronted the bandits – you know, the other bandits who aren’t so happy – to be killed off, but it’s a good lesson narratively. The Happy Hungry Bunch can try to save the villages they come across, but there will always be places they can’t be, and villagers they can’t save. If they’re going to bring about a revolution, rather than just be Robin Hoods, a different strategy is needed. We also get a return to Sinha’s issues, with his medusa-like eyes that brand him as a monster, going back to his childhood. Yona’s faith in him pulls him back from the brink, but it’s a chilling sequence that reminds you how powerful all of these guys are. Something which Yona is also understanding, as she asks Hak to teach her swordfighting in addition to archery so she can be more well-rounded. Yona the princess has become Yona the terrorist, with all that this entails.

Despite the drama, the humor in this volume is not limited to the Happy Hungry Bunch. Tae-Jun returns, still devastated by the fact that he “killed” Yona back at the start of the manga, and the humor is that he’s basically become a broken shell of a man who is damn-near suicidal, which would be uncomfortable if the tone weren’t so light. I’m not sure of Kusanagi plans to do a more dramatic plot with him next volume, but for the moment I’m perfectly happy with him being comic relief, as the chapters with him moping around like a sad puppy are hysterical. I suspect finding that Yona is alive will fill him with a new burning desire, but sadly he’s about #15 in the ‘Yona love interest’ sweepstakes, so I suspect more comic relief may be in the offing instead.

Yona of the Dawn is content to move slowly at this point, building its characters and increasing the tension that something needs to be done. Yona’s now resolved to get even stronger, but toward what end? Will we get a few more volumes of wandering through random villages? Possibly, but I still plan on enjoying them. Yona is always a treat to read.

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