Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 15

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.

So much of this volume is magical that it’s a bit difficult to know where to begin. There are at least five or six moments that feel like they’d be voted in a “top 10 Yona of the Dawn moments” list. Even leaving Yona herself aside (and trust me, I’ll get to her in a bit), there’s so much going on here involving Riri, as we see her becoming politically active and arguing with her father that politics are all very well and good but not when it means letting your people die and kill each other just to avoid political turmoil. And she’s joined by Su-Won, undercover and wandering the world again, to the exasperation of his bodyguards, who decides to help out this righteous and well-meaning but very naive girl. Especially since everyone in the city keeps questioning every woman they find, looking for the one with the red hair.

Riri is at the beginning of a journey down a path that Yona has long trod, and she knows it too – their parting is very emotional, and there’s a reason that they’re the couple on the cover. (I’ll leave the yuri reading to others, but I will note that Ayura and Tetra are absolutely a couple.) Yona is a leader, and her resolve is what drives everyone around her. A lot of shoujo series make you wonder sometimes why there are five to six guys all in love with the heroine. Yona does not have this problem. Everyone reading it is in love with the heroine. The first thirty pages alone are stunning – Yona attempting to recover from her wounds, her desire to question the villain suddenly overcome by her desire to CUT HIM IN THE FACE when he tries to draw a blade, and her attempts at getting Hak (who is feeling upset, of course) to stop brooding by talking about how it was her choices that led to this. “These are MY injuries” is one of the most powerful lines in the volume.

Aside from the plot and characters, I’ve also grown very fond of the way that Kusanagi crafts the manga itself. Once Su-Won arrives on the scene we know that he and Yona are going to run into each other again, but the moment is put off a number of times as they keep missing each other, or Su-Won runs into Jaeha (who doesn’t know who he is), etc. This lends the moment when they finally do meet extra emphasis. And, much as this is a serious-minded volume for the most part, there is some wonderful art-derived humor involving Riri’s father, who is a parody of the “always remain calm and drink tea” sort of character, not getting upset at all when Riri is screaming out about drugs destroying their country, but when she steals his golden seal (the symbol of the clan’s authority)… well, his face is worth the price of the book in itself.

Every volume of Yona of the Dawn makes me think I’ve reached the high water mark of the series, and then it tops itself. A must read. Again.

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