Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 23

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 escaping from the burning building, complete with another round of “Jesus Christ, Zeno, MUST YOU?” self-sacrifice, our heroes are ready to deal with the plot. Unfortunately, the plot is forcing them to do something that’s been a long time coming. For most of the beginning and middle of this series, the goal has been to hide Yona’s identity and have her and the others function as a rogue band of do-gooders while also learning more about the country where her father was (a pretty crappy) king. But sometimes things can’t be solved by anonymous bandits, and here Yona is forced to not only reveal who she actually is, but goes off to negotiate with Su-Won as herself, something that I’m sure will go well and not be a disaster at all. Unfortunately, we have to wait till Vol. 24 for the fallout. Again, though, Yona’s “beacon of hope shining in the darkness” personality trumps all subterfuge. Well, that and the fact that 3/4 of the cast are hostages.

We also meet Princess Kouren, Tao’s older sister, in the best possible way – Yona shoots down a bird that lands directly on her face. I expect we will get more from her in the next volume, but it’s worth noting that Tao here is allowed to have the longer view of trying to save more lives of her kingdom’s people (and it’s shown here that they’re really trying to conscript EVERYONE into the army here) because she has not been traumatized by the violence of the kingdom’s enemies. If you see all of your friends brutally murdered in front of your eyes, it is absolutely valid that you are not going to want to simply barter a peace treaty with those who did it. That said, I worry that she may end up needing to be killed by the plot in order to posthumously learn to let go. Let’s hope not.

Elsewhere, as I mentioned, most of Yona’s group are either seriously injured, captured, or both, allowing us to get a good dose of their captor, who has a truly disturbing slasher smile. I hope something bad happens to him, he is not a nice man. As for Yona, she’s pushing herself so hard she almost collapses, which is a shame, as it means she misses Hak murmuring some very important words to her. (There’s also a side story showing how few real friends she had as a child – two is the correct answer – and again you marvel how how much she’s been forced to change, and how she’s blossomed as a result. and just in case you worried there was no humor in this volume, there’s a hilarious side story where Gija, Sinha, and Yona all eat a mystery candy and turn violent. Yona, of course, bei8ng the reason this is so funny.

The best volumes make you want to read the next one right away, and that’s definitely the case here. Read it now.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 22

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.

Last time I asked when Yona was going to finally realize her romantic feelings for Hak, and I guess the answer is “not that long after”, as she admits it to Riri, if not to Hak. The two have a heart to heart, and Riri, of course, wants Yona to immediately confess. Yona, though, is now aware of her feelings but has to contextualize them with the rest of her life with Hak – she can’t simply flip into “oh, I love him” right away. Especially as we’re still not quite sure how she feels about Su-Won. Though Hak seems to think he knows how she feels, and proves it by spending most of a chapter trying to retrieve the hairpin that Su-Won gave Yona. Hak’s self-sacrifice can verge on the ridiculous at times, and it should be clear to the reader that we’re likely a couple of volumes away from a confession. Still, it’s nice to see Yona’s awareness.

While it’s clear to the reader that Yona and Hak are the big romantic pairing in this series, romance is only one facet of this fantasy action series, and the facet begins and ends with those two. This leads to an amazing scene where Su-Won goes to visit a recovering Riri, and sparks absolutely do not fly. In fact, he begs her to treat him normally, as it’s just too uncomfortable having Riri using polite language to him. (Given how often Su-Won goes undercover, this must happen quite a lot.) Others may see her as a potential bride for the King (witness the amazing sword dance that goes on as Riri gets a quick makeup job) but Riri likes Yona… erm, pardon me, older men like Geun-Tae, and Su-Won does not seem to grasp the concept of love and romance, something he freely admits. Which is possibly why he gave Yona that remarkable hairpin before murdering her father.

We finish up one plot and begin another in this book, which means we get nice comedy moments in between arcs, as always (no, Jaeha’s foot does not grow huge like Gija’s hand) before the Happy Hungry Bunch are called to Xing, another kingdom that is about to go to war with Kohka. The kingdom is divided between the two princesses, and Yona and company meet the younger one, Tao, who is trying to save lives by having her country surrender. Needless to say, this makes her a target for those who disagree. Tao looks like a classic “I appear to be an adorable pushover, but am actually very clever” sorts, and I took to her right away – especially when she noticed Yona’s discomfort around the guys due to the sudden incursion of an unusually painful period, and took immediate action. Hopefully she survives the cliffhanger ending, though given she’s with Zeno, who has gotten very good at using his powers now that we know what they are, I think she’ll be OK.

As always, it’s hard to say “this is a must buy and essential shoujo” after every review, but it’s true. An excellent volume.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 21

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 sometimes be hard to remember that Hak, in the context of this series, is a normal human. He does not have any Dragon Warrior powers, but gets by by simply being very, very, VERY strong. This becomes very clear about two-thirds of the way through this volume, where the tension that has been slowly building about how long can Su-Won and Hak get away with not meeting face to face finally breaks – there’s just no avoiding it in the melee battle to save Riri that is going on. Indeed, it’s the unspoken communication between the two that saved Riri’s life, and I really long for some sort of alternate universe where the two of them fight crime. But unfortunately, they are enemies. Ju-Do certainly doesn’t forget that, and he alone is ready to take down Hak for the benefit of the Kingdom. But there’s more complexities going on here than can be dealt with by a murder. Hak and company saved so many lives. They do have to ignore each other right now.

The first half of the book is quite serious and action packed, though I’m not entirely sure Zeno saving Yona by literally dropping himself like a bomb on the enemy can be called 100% serious. Su-Won is once again doing far more than a King should be doing, which to be fair Riri is very grateful for. He’s still not really recognized by his subjects or indeed neighboring kingdoms, which leads to scenes like the one we get here, where a thousand soldiers are taken down by him and his four generals… and yes, the Happy Hungry Bunch, an alliance that makes both uncomfortable. The second half is lighter in tone, starting with Hak, whose nerves are frazzled by having to ignore Su-Won here because of circumstance, becoming a cuddlebug and hugging Jaeha and Zeno, both of whom react appropriately for such an occurrence.

This then leads to a wonderful chapter where, having moved back to the forest to camp out, Hak and Yona try to have a heart to heart. There’s an earnest core here, as Yona has felt fairly “princess in need of rescuing” this arc, which makes her unhappy, and Hak is dealing with her being in danger PLUS Su-Won, so is, as I said, a bit frazzled. But Hak is hugging others, and Yona wants to be hugged… except (she thinks to herslf) she hasn’t had a good bath in a while, so she must stink. Hak has not, in fact, noticed this, and later says she’s been filthier before (not the right thing to say), which leads to an amazing battle between the two of them, Yona avoiding his touch and Hak trying to capture her. It all ends well, though, with hugs being had, and Hak being reassured. That said, though, Yona still is apparently unaware of her own feelings towards Hak. How long will that last?

To no one’s surprise, this is an exceptional volume of Yona, and brings this arc to a close. What happens next? Intrigue? Action? Shenanigans? All of the above? Please read this series.