Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 20

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.

In general, Yona of the Dawn is not a series that relies greatly on “our heroine is in peril, she must be rescued”, so it’s almost refreshing when we see a volume that mostly relies on that. Not that Yona is sitting around on her laurels. After she and Riri are brought to a slave labor camp, she quickly guesses that the “alcohol” they’re given in lieu of water is laced with the addictive drug they’ve been trying to shut down for so long. Then she and Riri both escape, and Riri even kills a guard when doing so, showing how far she’s come since her introduction. Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape in this sort of situation, leading to a cliffhanger where Riri tries to sacrifice herself to save Yona, they’re both exhausted and injured, and time is running out. Even if you don’t necessarily see this as a ship, as a friendship it’s top tier.

Meanwhile, Yona and Riri’s capture has been noticed by the rest of the cast. Our heroes go off to rescue them, though that does mean dividing their forces as they could be in one of two separate places. Tetra stays behind due to injury, but unfortunately this means she has to face a one-two punch of a) Riri’s father, and b) Su-0Won, both of whom show up to ask what’s going on. The series has been running for a while on the fact that Su-Won knows what Yona and Hak are doing but is deliberately ignoring it; that fact is tested to its limits in this book. Tetra tries very hard to explain everything that’s happened without mentioning Yona and her crew, even if that makes things sound suspicious. Later, when Su-Won arrives at one of the two slave labor camps, he and Hak communicate with a stone wall between them, agreeing to arrange a signal so that the army will know when to begin. It’s very tense, and you can see Hak’s frustration and anger at having to once again not acknowledge who Su-Won is because there are greater problems to be solved.

For the most part this volume is fairly series. There is one exception, which is amazingly funny, which involves the fact that the Wind Tribe has arrived to assist Su-Won in rescuing Riri. There ends up being a giant melee battle, during which Hak manages to blow up his allies – twice. The art is deliberately structured for maximum comedy value, as we see the exact same sequence of events only with two different people. This is followed by a few pages of Hak being totally befuddled at the fact that the Wind Tribe is here at all. I always enjoy the fact that, while some characters are funnier than others, Yona does not have a designated comedy guy, and everyone can be silly or serious depending on where the story needs them to be.

Another cliffhanger, though. Will Yona and Riri survive? (checks volume count) Oh, probably. But the excitement is in seeing how. And also who Hak will blow up with his comedy bombs next.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 19

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.

After last volume’s tragic Zeno backstory, I was ready for a change of pace, and I ended up getting two. Bad things happen when Sinha is possessed by a former Bluer Dragon seemingly out for revenge, and our heroes end up in a cave filled with the spirits of the unquiet dead, which are drawn in a very creepy way. It could almost be horror… were it not for the fact that these are some of the funniest chapters of Yona to date. Every third page seems to have a new and better gag. Sinha’s possession is taking as him entering a “rebellious phase”, Yun’s Team Mom personality is constantly called into the light and dragged around for all to see (rice balls!), Hak, who has the dead pressing against him so hard he’s feeling weak, assumes that waking up in Yona’s embrace means he’s having one of THOSE dreams; and of course we get “hold on to me” as an excuse for a giant group hug. It’s wonderful.

It’s also only half the book, though the other half is a bit more serious (save for the discussion of why Su-Won hasn’t gotten married yet, which is a strange combination of hilarious and incredibly awkward). Yona and friends meet up with Riri and her bodyguards, who are still trying to protect the Water tribe by ferrreting out the source of the drugs still filtering into the cities. Well, Riri is, the other two are just following her and trying to ensure she doesn’t get kidnapped or killed or anything. This is actually a much bigger job than they’d like, especially as Ayura is still injured, so the bodyguards hire Yona and company to help protect her and also find out what’s going on. Of course, Yona being the type of series it is, this leads to a cliffhanger where she and Riri are captured by the bad guys, but if there’s one thing Yona has taught us to date it’s that this is not a series where the heroine stays put and waits to be rescued.

Another fantastic scene involves Yona and Riri discussing Su-Won, what he’s doing for the countries, and what Yona’s actual goal is. She’s seen what her father’s rule was like, and what Su-Won is doing, and has come to an understanding about it, though that doesn’t necessarily mean accepting it. But she still thinks that Hak will never forgive Su-Won, and I suspect she’s right there. There’s also a bit of romance, as Yona and Riri spend the night in bed together./. wait, wrong romance. Yona gives Hak a charm, and is clearly in love with him but unaware of her feelings. Hak, on the other hand, is very much aware of his feelings, but is not going to be doing anything about them anytime soon and is content to simply be by Yona’s side. I can’t wait till this eventually boils over.

So another stellar volume of Yona of the Dawn. You know the drill. Buy it.

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.