Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 18

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.

The concept of living forever, and being forced to see everyone you care about move on and pass away is not a new one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a story worth telling again in context. In this case, the context is via Zeno, whose backstory is finally revealed in this harrowing volume of Yona of the Dawn Picking up where the last volume left off, we see Zeno seemingly killed any number of times (in graphic detail – even for a series filled with violence as Yona is, this is a blood-spattered volume, please be warned)driving off the threat for the moment, and earning a group hug from the rest of the Happy Hungry Bunch. He then goes on to reveal more of his past – both his desire to make sure that Yona “proved herself” before he joined up with her (which she has most assuredly done), and then seeing how he’s been around as a Dragon far longer than the others.

Zeno is not just a Yellow Dragon, but the first and only Yellow Dragon, and flashbacks show him with the original Crimson Dragon King and his fellow Dragons. He’s not particularly strong or skilled, but, as we discover, he can recover from any grievous wound up to and including having his head chopped off, and as the attacks go on his skin gets harder. This allows him to fight with Yona’s crew… or at least inspire a terrified retreat… but back in the past, he’s horrified that he has essentially become an undying monster. Then, as he confesses his fears to his beloved King, said king tr4ies to reassure him but almost immediately dies. The two are unrelated, but they drive home something that haunts Zeno for the rest of the volume… he can’t die, and everyone else he knows can. This book very much believes in Heaven, and Zeno can’t be with his friends in the next world.

Or his wife, as we also see Zeno befriend and fall in love with a young woman who lives by herself as she’s dying of an unnamed illness. She tries to politely drive him away, but he’s rather persistent, and their love story is very short-lived but also quite sweet. But of course, she has to die too, despite Zeno’s begging the heavens for a way to have her life on with him. (This is likely one of the reasons why he’s the only Dragon not to harbor romantic feelings for Yona.) Fortunately, we end the volume with Zeno, having essentially shown this flashback to the reader while he recovers, waking up to see the current Dragons and Yona hovering over him, and he joyfully glomps them all in a big group hug. I am happy to see that, while Zeno’s happy ditzy self is indeed a mask of sorts, that he is not secretly in constant agony or anything. He’s found joy once more with his new friends, and I hope that, if he does live past them, he is able to accept it.

A must read volume of Yona (unless you’re against a lot of blood and gore, as I noted), this was a gut-punch to read but all the more rewarding for it.

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