Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 28

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.

As many have noticed, this has gradually become a light novel review site, with the manga that I read generally being reviewed in Manga Bookshelf’s Briefs columns. There are one or two exceptions, though, the most obvious of which is Yona of the dawn, a series I keep finding new things to say about (even though I’m still one volume behind in my reviews). This volume is an excellent example of why I keep coming back to it. There’s really big goofy comedy, as Kyo-Ga is knocked unconscious due to Happy Hungry Bunch antics and essentially becomes a giant comedy prop for a while. There’s romance, as we see in the scene where Yona and Hak take comfort in being each other’s strength. There’s politics, as Keishuk has arrived at the absolute worst time, and we get more of “what is Yona’s goal”. There’s cool action sequences. And there’s intrigue, as the cliffhanger makes you wonder if Ogi is going to be selling Yona out. There’s SO MUCH GOING ON.

Yona of the Dawn sometimes has a Shakespearean feel to it, particularly with everyone being worried about where Yona is and what she’s doing. Su-Won’s position as leader is fairly secure, and yet… everyone assumes that as long as Yona is alive, she can easily lead a rebellion to take over. This is very Richard II/Henry IV stuff here. It does not help that Yona is wandering around the land with a bunch of superheroes/monsters (delete where applicable), who could and have taken out entire armies on their own when at full power. But no one knows what Yona’s real goal is. Well, the reader might have a clue. The highlight of the volume is Yona’s big speech where she talks about how everyone is expecting her to get revenge for the death of her father, and… she doesn’t have to? She doesn’t have to forgive Su-Won, and won’t, but she can simply go around doing good things? Sadly, I suspect forces will continue to stop her doing that.

We also get a glimpse of Kyo-Ga and Tae-Jun’s mother here, and I enjoyed her showing off another classic comedy stereotype, the regal woman with the fan over her face who (almost) never speaks… until she does, as her fury at how Keishuk treats her son forces her to complete entire sentences, to the surprise of her attendants. She’s a very different kind of powerful woman from Yona, and doesn’t exactly clash with her, but she does worry that Yona is not doing what the traditional woman should. Putting herself in danger every day, after all, is dangerous. But this is what Yona has chosen to do, and she’s not backing down now. (Yona in general is filled with women wielding power in very different and varied ways, and I really appreciate that. This is not to say that Yona is not vulnerable, but for the most part that’s a side of herself that she tries to show only to Hak.

As you can see, there are always new things to discover about one of the best shoujo manga currently being published in English. Always a must-read.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 27

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.

While the manga occasionally dips its toes into romance, that’s not its main function. As such, it feels quite refreshing when the end of the last volume and the start of this one focus so much on the feelings that Hak has had for Yona for so long, and finally telling her in one big burst of repression boiling over. This volume focuses on the aftermath, and does a very good job of both being lighthearted and funny about it but also taking his confession and Yona’s response to it seriously. I was worried there would be a “forgot about what happened last night” plot, but nope, Hak knows exactly what he said.As for Yona, while she’s a bit poleaxed there’s no reciprocation here, at least not consciously – she’s still more concerned with doing what they do. Which is good, but it also appears that the days of the Happy Hungry Bunch are being replaced with something a bit more legendary.

We’ve spent the last few volumes seeing the Four Dragons grievously wounded and depowered, and even for the first part of this book they’re still recovering. And while that was a good and important story to tell, it’s a joy and a relief to see everyone getting back to kicking eight kinds of ass. There’s also more humor here, as Hak is trying to alter the legend to add a 5th dragon, though no one’s going along with it. More to the point, though, they’re making themselves known now to world leaders rather than just disgraced princes and poor villages, and the disguise is not working – everyone knows who Yona is. She says, and rightly so, that Su Won knows they’re alive and hasn’t done anything, but they weren’t the chosen ones then.

They’re also not children anymore. Probably my favorite scenes of the book are the conversations between Riri, who is hanging around at the palace mostly as she functions well as Su Won’s beard (something she questions him pointedly on, and he admits a lot of people do think he’s gay). In fact, she’s getting a bit TOO casual with him, as one somewhat chilling scene shows. But there’s a wonderful moment when he goes to look at a mausoleum that he had been forbidden from entering when he was a child. He’d built up this huge idea of it in his head, and is incredibly disappointed to find that it’s just a room. The cast growing up has been one of the most important parts of Yona, and that applies just as much to Su Won as it does to Yona and Hak. Childhood illusions can be powerful, but should not replace the underwhelming reality of life.

Fans of the series don’t have to wait for the next book – my reviews are running behind. But as always, everyone should be reading Yona of the Dawn, and this is a particularly good volume.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 26

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.

It can be hard to find the perfect cliffhanger o end a manga volume. Of course, with most ongoing series there is a cliffhanger of sorts, particularly in action series such as Yona of the Dawn. There are several obvious examples in this volume alone, each of which could probably have served perfectly well as the cliffhanger, particularly the second to last chapter in the volume. But there’s something so deliciously satisfying about this one, the sort of ending that gives the reader what they have wanted all along but not ENOUGH of it. Yona of the Dawn is usually a pitch perfect blend of political intrigue, action adventure, and a dash of romantic tension, and for most of Vol, 26, the focus is definitely on the first two. Even when we get to the romantic tension, it looks like the usual “misunderstandings abound!”. So we are both cheering and also laughing hysterically at how said misunderstandings are cleared up. You DESPERATELY want to read more.

As for the politics, not to spoil too much, but there is one less death than I was expecting when I finished Vol. 25. As it turns out, things can mostly be resolved with negotiation, though it takes a few more sacrifices and also everyone ganging up on the evil priest. This actually leads to the other great moment in the book, one that relies very much on Su-Won and how he is choosing to rule. The priest (whose name I keep forgetting, mostly as I tend to call him Wormtongue in my head) points out that Kouren captured and imprisoned the Legendary Dragon Warriors, to which he gets a “so what?” response. The priest is stunned that he does not want to use their magical cool powers to strengthen his position. (Technically this is what Yona is doing, but she is not doing it in the way the priest wants it to happen. The priest’s stunned face as Su-Won cuts all his arguments off at the knees is hysterical.

Other things to mention: Riri is here and awesome, though not as awesome as her retainers, who manage to gang up on Kouren and make sure she can’t tragically die leaning against a building or some other samurai thing. The other guys spend most of the book unable to move, alas, though they’re on the road to recovery by the end. It also helps sell that this is a problem that CAN be resolved with discussion and negotiation, rather than “I have a guy with a big hand, medusa eyes, a big kick, and Zeno.” Although it led to Yona’s misunderstanding, I really liked Hak’s chatter among his Wind tribe friends – she’s right, he acts like a totally different person around them, and while I don’t think it’s entirely her fault she’s never seen it, it does show off why they’re still not quite ready to get any closer than they are.

OR ARE THEY? Cannot wait till the next volume, which thanks to my backlog is already out. There’s always so much to talk about and love with Yona of the Dawn.