Yona of the Dawn, Vol 25

Yona of the Dawn Volume 25 by Mizuho Kusanagi

Every story arc in Yona of the Dawn eventually has a volume that delivers action and emotional devastation. As Yona tries to prevent Su-Won from going to war with Xing the hypocrisy of religions officials is revealed, Yona manages to sway people through sheer willpower, the damaged and imprisoned four dragons fight back, and everything is mostly terrible yet incredibly epic and emotionally satisfying!

The volume opens with an excruciatingly awkward scene as Yona confronts Su-Won in front of his men, some of whom seem a bit perplexed that the daughter of King Il is alive after all. If that wasn’t enough, Yona’s logic and arguments on behalf of the Xing people prompts Su-Won to actually modify his intentions after she promises that Xing will be content to endure as a vassal state. An evil priest shows up all of a sudden! Gobi is determined to manipulate the political upheaval in Xing to get rid of Princess Kouren and install Princess Tao in her place, but he’s sadly mistaken if he thinks his transparent ploys are going to work. While Yona of the Dawn generally presents villains with some nuance and character motivations, there’s some satisfaction for the reader in seeing that anyone who would underestimate women is beyond any hope of salvation. Kouren is the type of leader that inspires devotion in her supporters, and Yona has Hak, who does some fairly foolish things in order to protect her.

There’s so much action packed in this volume, I felt slightly exhausted at the end! Kusanagi’s capable illustrations are able to easily carry such a plot and action-scene heavy book, where a panel here and there will contain hints about the emotional impact for all the characters in such high-stakes conditions. There were some Wind Tribe antics to distract a little bit from the impending horrors of war, and the promise that Yona and Hak might actually talk about their relationship soon? As always, an excellent volume of Yona of the Dawn. I always find myself looking forward to the emotional aftermath just as much as any big battle the characters overcome.

Fushigi Yugi: Byakko Senki vol 1

Fushigi Yugi: Byakko Senki Volume 1 by Yuu Watase

The Fushigi Yugi universe is one I’ve been following for a long time. Many of my earliest volumes are from the initial Viz release back in the early 2000s, so I felt very nostalgic reading the first volume of the last Fushigi Yugi story 20 years later. While there have been glimpses of Suzuno before in previous series and the anime, seeing an entire series devoted to her seems like a fitting way to finish out the Universe of the Four Gods.

This first volume is structured as a prequel within a prequel, giving the reader insight into Suzuno’s character as both a child and a young adult and setting up an intriguing conflict that I expect to see explored more in future volumes. As Fushigi Yugi: Byakko Senki opens, a young Suzuno is spending time with her parents. Her father has the volume of The Universe of the Four Gods, burdened with the tragic legacy of Takiko Okuda and her professor father. As the Great Kanto earthquake strikes, Suzuno is trapped in her burning house and her father sends her into the book in order to save her life. In the Universe of the Four Gods, Suzuno is clearly unable to fend for herself, but she meets up with some people who are surely going to be pivotal figures in her life – Neiran, a psychologically damaged woman who can turn into a tiger, and the brothers Kasal and Karm. After narrowly escaping being kidnapped, Suzuno travels for a little bit with her new companions who begin to suspect that she might be the fabled priestess of Byakko.

Suzuno travels back to her own world in the aftermath of the earthquake, and the story line shifts to show her as a young woman, quiet and artistic and plagued by enduring visions and memories of what she’s lost. A shy, retiring heroine forced to adapt to a mystical new world isn’t exactly a novel plot point, but the overtones of impending tragedy and Suzuno’s resilience in difficult situations immediately make her an engaging heroine. Watase’s art is always clear and engaging, and I’m looking forward to seeing her portrayal of Suzuno’s mystical warriors and the unique world of the Universe of the Four Gods. This first volume mainly established Suzuno as a fully-fledged protagonist and I’m fairly happy with that pacing even though I put it down feeling a little impatient waiting to get started on the rest of the story. While I think is possible to enjoy this series without reading other Fushigi Yugi stories, I think at minimum someone reading Byakko Senki should be familiar with Genbu Kaiden, and hopefully the main series that started off this 20 year old saga.

Daytime Shooting Star, Vol 7

Daytime Shooting Star Volume 7 by Mika Yamamori

This manga brings both the drama and major uneasiness as Suzume and Shishio progress a bit on their student-teacher romance and then things get curtailed, causing plenty of angst.

One of the reasons why I enjoy reading this manga so much is that it makes me feel uneasy, which is not all that typical for shoujo manga. I’m not sure if Yamamori is going to be able to pull of a happy ending out of this series, and for all the swoony feelings of first love happening, it is difficult to escape the issues with the age gap in the main relationship in the manga. Suzume asks Shishio to go to a shrine for New Year’s and shows up wearing a disguise so no would be able to identify them in public. When a snowstorm causes them to miss the last train back, they have to check into a bread and breakfast and hide where they are. Shishio straight out lies to Suzume’s uncle, which is a bit beyond the pale, even if nothing much has happened on the romance front other than some significant gazes and a couple kisses.

I really enjoyed the chapter in this volume that was presented from Nekota’s point of view. She’s rightfully cynical about her own popularity and reflects on how she’s changed since developing a genuine friendship with Suzume. This chapter gave much more insight about her character, and the shifting point of view felt refreshing.
There’s also a bonus story in this volume that didn’t make a ton of sense, since Yamamori was collaborating with another author. I’m curious to see how Suzume deals with the emotional fallout from this volume, and if she’s able to move on a little bit with her life. Mamura continues to be awesome, so I’m hoping that Suzume at least attempts to give boys her own age a chance.

An Incurable Case of Love, Vol. 4

An Incurable Case of Love Volume 4 by Maki Enjoji

I do always wish that we got more josei from Viz, but I will take my one series at a time josei and enjoy it if I need to! Often in An Incurable Case of Love, there’s external conflict in the form of crazed stalkers or too-handsome additional doctors.

In this volume Nana and Tendo have to deal with a sudden opportunity for him to study abroad popping up, along with some memories from his past. It turns out that Nana is not the first nurse that Tendo has dated a nurse, his relationship with an extremely capable nurse with an incurable disease prompted him to specialize in pulmonology. Nana first tells Tendo not to leave but he ends up being so scattered and distracted at work that he’s not able to perform up to his usual standards. Nana points out that she’s actually capable of managing on her own and tells him to pursue his dream research opportunity.

Misunderstandings abound, but Nana and Tendo end up on the other side with a stronger relationship, although they are helped along the way by some of their interfering co-workers. Now that they’re officially dating, they need to switch up their work departments, and Nana needs to move from trainee nurse to being on her own. Her sudden business underscores just how much Tendo actually depends on having her around for emotional support, even though he’d never come out and say it. Overall, this was a solid volume, although it left me wanting a little more drama.

Prince Freya, Vol 2

Prince Freya, Volume 2 by Keiko Ishihara

I enjoyed the premise and setting of the first volume of Prince Freya, even though I thought there were a couple pacing issues. I was curious to see if the next volume would feel a little more settled, and I’m happy to report that this volume felt much more cohesive as Freya settles into her new life as Prince Edvard, fending off evil plots and throwing herself into the action as much as possible. The volume picks up as Freya as Edvard attempts to save the royal guard Mikal from being kidnapped, only to put herself in danger in the process.

I’ll be honest, one plot point that I do enjoy about reverse harem scenarios where girls have to disguise themselves as boys is how often the boys surrounding the heroine start feeling oddly protective of their new companion and aren’t sure why their feelings have shifted. This happened multiple times in Prince Freya, so I found myself greatly enjoying the sillier aspects of the character dynamics. Mikal finds himself newly intrigued by Prince Edvard now that Edvard seems to have received an abrupt personality transplant. Freya is fiercely loyal to her friends, including people that she’s just met in her new role.
Aleksi and Julius head off to the rescue, and while they fend of danger with some help from Freya, Julius delivers a stern lecture about the responsibilities for self-protection that have to be present in royalty or someone disguising herself as royalty. Freya vows to protect everyone, including Julius, which causes him to be quite emotionally shaken.

As the story unfolds, Freya’s open personality cause her to strike up an unlikely friendship with one of Prince Edvard’s subjects, but her good intentions end up creating even more difficulties that are only solved by some bold action. The art in Prince Freya continues to be clear and dynamic, which is essential due to how many scenes involve combat by swords. One aspect of this manga that I found both intriguing and a bit startling is the body count that is starting to build up as Freya navigates her new world. It is true that there’s an inherit danger to being faux royalty, but I’m starting to find myself a little anxious about the survival prospects for anyone close to Freya. The cliffhanger at the end ensures that I’m already impatient for the next volume.