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.
I said I had wanted more plot development, and I get a lot of it here, very well told. We do indeed see there is a Fire Tribe in addition to the Wind tribe, and their young prince is appropriately a hothead (and ex-suitor) of Yona who is appalled when his hotheaded plan ends up turning into disaster. We also do not lose sight of Su-won, who may have started off the series by murdering Yona’s father but is not going to be just another insane shoujo villain. The idea that Yona is dead fills him with grief, and also allows us to see more flashbacks. Intterestingly, we see that Hak has actually told Su-won he wants to see him married to Yona and ruling as King. There is a silent “but not like this” that is very palpable, however.
Of course, this series is not 2 volumes long, and Yona is not dead. But before that, we get a nice look at Hak in his natural habitat, as we see another cliche of romance manga used quite well, which is the sheltered rich girl arriving in the town of the peasant boy and seeing how his simple, non-affluent lifestyle is much happier than she could have imagined. Hak is a good general who cares about his tribe, but is also able to let those who are his contemporaries (in age, if nothing else) get away with mouthing off to him provided it’s not an emergency. We also get a Tiny Tim sort, Tae-Yeon, who is adorable and inspiring and also needs his medicine. The world may be filled with political machinations, but here there are just good people.
And them there’s Yona herself, who does get to wield a sword in this volume, though she’s still shaking off her princess roots. Forced to pretend to be a lady’s maid at first, that doesn’t last long, as there’s no way that she can accept “just live here in hiding for the rest of your life” while people are suffering. I was very pleased that, rather than demand to come with Hak, she announces that she’s leaving, and wants him to come with HER. He calls her quite selfish, but it’s not the bad kind of selfishness. And, as long as we’re counting tropes, I loved the scene where she cuts off her long hair with a sword in order to escape the Fire Tribe leader. Not only is that sort of scene always badass, it gives supposed evidence of her death to the King later on.
But she isn’t dead, and despite the ridiculousness of Yona and Hak surviving a fall from that height (which the author herself points out in a 4-koma at the end), they seem to have been taken in by some allies. I’m not sure what will happen next, but given the type of manga this is, no doubt it will involve destiny and power struggles and possibly cool horseback riding? And more swords! The sky’s the limit, really. Oh yes, and some cute romance would be nice, but not necessary.