Yona of the Dawn, Vols. 1-2

By Mizuho Kusanagi | Published by VIZ Media

yona1In the kingdom of Kohka, kindly King Il adores his only child, Princess Yona, and throws a celebration for her sixteenth birthday. Red-haired Yona is primarily preoccupied with getting her cousin, Su-Won, to see her as a woman. After the festivities, she decides to go tell her father that she simply must be allowed to marry Su-Won, only to walk in on her beloved running her father through with a sword. The palace guards are in on the treachery, and ready to comply with Su-Won’s order to dispatch the witness, but Yona is saved by her trusty personal guard, Hak, and the two of them manage to escape.

I’m really glad I ended up reviewing the first two volumes together, because Yona is too stunned by what she’s witnessed to show much personal determination in the first volume. Hak chooses their destination—the homeland of the wind tribe, of which he is chief—and she trails along in a daze, not eating much. By the second volume, though, she’s realized that Su-Won’s actions are taking a toll on innocent people and is appropriately horrified. He cannot be crowned king without the support of all five tribes, but Hak’s grandfather, the elder chief of the wind tribe, is a holdout. Pressure tactics ensue, and eventually Hak and Yona are on the run again in an attempt to spare the wind tribe further hardship.

At first, the tone of the series worried me. It seemed a little too cutesy, a little too comedic. By the end of the second volume, though, I was fully on board. I will always love a resolutely determined shoujo heroine, and Yona shows real potential in that regard. She manages to save Hak’s life a couple of times, but somehow my favorite visual is when a foe grabs her by her hair and she whirls around, steals his sword, and hacks off her own hair to get free. It’s a very nice way to show that her personal appearance is no longer remotely on her list of concerns.

yona2I’m interested in a couple of the villainous characters, too! Kang Tae-jun of the fire tribe has desired Yona for a long time, so his remorse at her apparent death is genuine, even if he’s an entitled jerk. He reminds me of Skip Beat!’s Sho, a little bit, and I have a strong desire to see him switch sides someday and become a better person. And then there’s Su-Won, who ends the volume believing that Yona’s dead and being crowned king even as he admits that he crushed his dearest friends underfoot to achieve it. That’s much more interesting than him being utterly evil, and I wonder if he was manipulated into believing King Il had murdered his father or if that’s actually true. Unfortunately, both of these guys are more interesting to me right now than Hak is. Hopefully that will change.

I did find that Yona of the Dawn reminded me a lot of other shoujo fantasy epics like Dawn of the Arcana, From Far Away, Basara… That’s not necessarily a criticism, but an observation, and it’s my dearest hope that it will become a series worthy of being mentioned alongside them.

Yona of the Dawn is ongoing in Japan and is up to 21 volumes so far. Volume one is available in English now and the second will be released on October 4th.

Review copies provided by the publisher.