Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 6

Yona of the Dawn Volume 6 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I’m always happy when a new volume of Yona of the Dawn comes out. The cover of this volume, featuring Yona and Sinha sheltering from the rain under a giant leaf, is particularly adorable. Yona is tested in many ways as she learns more about the Green Dragon and his pirate companions.

Although Yona doesn’t have any superpowers, the force of her forthright personality proves to be an incredible advantage for her. When the Green Dragon Jaeha announces that he won’t join up with her, she reacts calmly, saying that she’ll ask him to join her but would never order or try to compel him to change his mind. Yona is tested even further when Jaeha takes her to meet the pirate queen, Captain Gi-Gan. She tests the companions and refuses to accept Yona, since Yona doesn’t have any special or useful abilities. Gi-Gan tells Yona to gather a rare medicinal herb, which requires some treacherous hiking at the edge of a cliff. Yona is determined to prove herself worthy of taking part in the upcoming battle, and she heads off to face her test, accompanied by Jaeha. Jaeha’s Green Dragon protective instincts kick in even as he tries to fight the bond he has with Yona.

There were a bunch of very cute Yona and Hak moments in this volume. Hak points out that her attitude towards the Green Dragon’s recruitment is totally at odds to her ordering him to accompany her on her journey and she gets incredibly flusters and tells him to shut up because “You’re different.” Hak secretly finds this adorable. Hak’s jealousy kicks into high gear when Jaeha talks about how unique and cute Yona is. His emotions are tested even more when Yona decides to go undercover to subvert the local warlord’s terrible plans for human trafficking with the village girls. Sometimes I’m not a fan of such slowly developing romances, but while Hak has clearly acknowledged his feelings internally, it still seems like Yona hasn’t examined her feelings for him quite as closely. Hopefully there will be more developments here in the next volume or so!

As I was reading this volume of Yona of the Dawn, I realized that it reminded me quite a bit of Basara. There’s the superficial similarity of awesome pirate queen characters popping up in both manga, but the slower pace of the storytelling allowing the author to introduce an expansive cast with plenty of character development along the way is the main reason why I like both series.

Yona of the Dawn Vol. 5

Yona of the Dawn Volume 5 by Mizuho Kusanagi

Yona of the Dawn continues to be an absolutely delightful manga. Every time I finish a volume I feel extremely satisfied as a reader, having gotten just the right amount of plot, character development, humor, and action. The fourth volume was much more somber in tone as the intrepid adventurers led by Yona find the Blue Dragon in his mountain village. Entirely isolated due to his special abilities from a young age, the Blue Dragon seems a bit intrigued by the visitors, but still lost and on his own. A cave-in prompts some dramatic action, and when Yona invites him to join her again, he agrees. The first chapter ends on a wistful note as the Blue Dragon’s internal thoughts turn to the previous Dragon who trained him, reflecting that he doesn’t remember the face of the man who used to be his only family.

Yona of the Dawn doesn’t stay moody for long, as Gija attempts to sense the location of the next dragon, only to collapse. This gives Hak an excuse to intone “Rest in Peace”, but Gija is temporarily indisposed. The group heads to a seaside village next, where the Green Dragon is a sardonic pirate, determined to maintain his independence despite his destiny. Hak and the Green Dragon keep running into each other randomly as they save villagers from being oppressed.

This volume had some of my favorite character-driven moments so far, as Yona permits all of her entourage to call her by her fist name except for Hak. He’s horrified that she’s allowing herself to be addressed so casually, and when they are talking together separately, she asks him to always be sure to call her “your highness”, because she can’t forget where she came from, to preserve the memory of her former family. The scene shows Hak’s unwavering devotion, the closeness between Hak and Yona, and at the same time the distance that rank puts between them. Yona has come a long way from the frightened princess n the first volume, and she’s still determined to keep improving herself. I’m enjoying the pace of this manga as well. With three of the dragon guardians identified, I’m looking forward to seeing the fourth one tracked down and then seeing how the story unfolds once Yona has her mini army all gathered together.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 4

Yona of the Dawn Volume 4 by Mizuho Kusanagi

Yona of the Dawn is firmly in the “get the team together” quest story line that is so common in fantasy manga, but even though the plot is predictable, I’m enjoying it greatly just due ot the character interactions along the way and the interesting world building. It wouldn’t be a team without plenty of bickering, and the first chapter of this volume shows Gija and Hak constantly going at it as they both want the role of Yona’s main protector. Gija’s sheltered upbringing in his remote village doesn’t exactly prepare him for life on the open road, as it turns out he is terrified by bugs. The bickering continues and provides some much needed humor before the rest of the volume settles in with a much more serious story line.

It turns out that not every dragon guardian was raised with as much privelege and love as Gija, and as the Yona and her band go to find the Blue Dragon, they find a mysterious village with masked tribes people, and the Blue Dragon has been treated as a pariah, not celebrated due to his unique powers like Gija. The feeling in the village is unsettling, and provides Yona a real challenge to work through as she attempts to discover the identity of the Blue Dragon. One of the reasons why I like this series so much is that while Yona is obviously blessed by being a princes and having some fabled mystical guardians, she isn’t going to stop trying to improve herself. She still spends hours practicing her archery alone because she wants to be able to help the people who are fighting for her. Getting through to the Blue Dragon is a product of her insight into human nature and her genuine interest in other people as opposed to relying on her title or position in the world.

Kusanagi’s art continues to be clear and easy to read, and she’s great at conveying different moods and emotions like Gija’s over exaggerated reactions to the horrors of nature, Yona’s determination, and the unsettling masks of the Blue Dragon’s tribe.

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 2

Yona of the Dawn Volume 2 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I’m enjoying the way this story seems to is moving along at a fairly fast clip, but still seems to have plenty of time for character development and world building. In the last volume Princess Yona’s world was utterly shattered and she has to go on the run with her trusty protector Hak. He takes her to the home village of the wind tribe in order to seek refuge for a short time. I was happy to see that in this volume, Yona’s resolute spirit is highlighted, since she was mostly silly, sassy, and incredibly depressed in the first volume.

As they reach the Wind Tribe, there’s a little bit of comic relief as Hak meets up with some fellow warriors. Yona is exhausted, but living among the Wind Tribe helps her gain back some resiliency as she’s surrounded by a warm family. Hak continues to tease Yona somewhat relentlessly in such a way that I’m assuming that he’s just trying to cover up for his feelings for her. Yona has an opportunity to stay and live a quiet live with the Wind Tribe, but when it becomes clear that Su-Won isn’t going to stop trying to track her down. Yona is still a valuable political pawn.

What I most enjoyed about this volume is that I was able to see some flashes of the heroine I’m sure Yona is going to become. When Hak tries to leave her behind, she cuts through his joking demeanor and demands his fealty, and they strike out on their own again. Su Won’s soldiers are determined to capture Yona, and she stands up to the enemy, demonstrating that she isn’t the broken princess they were assuming they would find.

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Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1

Yona of the Dawn Volume 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

It is no surprise that I was eagerly anticipating Yona of the Dawn. I feel like there’s been a little bit of a gap in currently translated shoujo fantasy, so I was very much looking forward to this manga. I have a feeling that Yona of the Dawn is one of those manga that will be easier to evaluate once the second volume comes out, because the first volume was mostly set-up. I did enjoy the worldbuilding and some of the plot twists that I wasn’t expecting.

Yona is a sheltered princess whose main issues involve fretting over her red hair. She’s watched over by her guard Hak, and she nurses an intense crush on her cousin Su-won. As she’s getting older the question of her marriage is starting to come up, and her father the king seems to be determined to get her married to anyone but Su-won. Yona is a bit headstrong and pampered, but she still comes across as a sympathetic heroine in the early pages of the manga.

One thing I was dreading a bit is the development of a fairly typical love triangle, because it seemed like that’s the way things might be headed for Yona, Hak, and Su-won at the start of the manga. I was extremely happy when my expectations were foiled within the first couple chapters, and the story took an abrupt turn as Yona has to flee the palace with only Hak by her side. I’ve heard that this series features awesome archery, which is nowhere in evidence yet. I’m much more intrigued by the potential storyline of Yona having to toughen up and learn how better to fend for herself, so I’m eagerly awaiting the next volume.

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