Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 10

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.

Character development is something that you want to see in a good story. It’s something we’ve seen throughout Yona of the Dawn. For all that people were chanting “badass sword princess!” when the series was originally licensed, it’s taken a while for Yona to get from her sheltered princess to that point, and she still has a long way to go. And that means that character development happens even with the villains, provided they aren’t meant to be the standard “I am so evil I have to die” sorts. That’s why this volume is devoted almost entirely to Tae-Jun, the arrogant Fire Prince who has been dealing (badly) with thinking that he killed Yona back at the beginning of the series. He’s always been played for comic relief, and there’s certainly still some of that here – his puppyish devotion to Yona makes us uncomfortable but also makes us laugh. But there’s a larger story to be found here, which is the suffering that the kingdom has been going through.

Yona has slowly been realizing what she wants to do for this kingdom, but it’s not something that she’s really able to fully achieve as a bandit. Tae-Jun could really make more of a difference, though it’s worth noting that even he has to disguise it as “searching for the bandits and making the towns better as a result”. The peasant towns we’ve seen the last few volumes are really struggling, as every able young man is now gone to the army, leaving almost no one left to keep everyone eating and surviving. There’s a heartwarming moment with an old woman who bitches and moans about how bad Tae-Jun is at backrubs and everything else he tries to do, but Yona notes that it’s mostly just bluster. But later on, we hear that the old woman has died. This isn’t a magical cure, where Yona or Tae-Jun start to do the right thing and everyone magically gets better. People still die. People still suffer.

Tae-Jun’s soldiers are also seen throughout, and don’t have quite as much of a leap, as they go from “we are devoted to our lord even if he’s like this” to “we are devoted to our lord and oh look, he’s doing things now”. That said, they seem perfectly content to help the villagers as part of finding the bandits, once they get over their initial “if we come near them, we will get sick and die” phase. (Which, truth in manga, does actually turn out to be somewhat true – one of the soldiers seems to pick up a bad case of “con crud” fairly quickly.) As for Yona and the others, they realize that they need things that aren’t in the Fire lands, so are off to find them, and presumably to start a new arc. In the meantime, everyone who’s been reading Yona of the Dawn will enjoy this, and appreciate a more nuanced look at a former goofy villain.

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