After years of sitting on my shelf collecting dust, I finally finish reading Yona’s first nine volumes.
Loose thoughts on volumes 7-9 of Mizuho Kusanagi’s manga series “Yona of the Dawn,” initially published in 2016 by VIZ Media. Spoilers will be present.
History is Made at Night
Unlike the past few volumes of Yona, volume 7 opens with action. Yona and Yun begin their escape to the upper deck of Kum-Ji’s human trafficking ship along with all the other women aboard. I love this opening chapter because it gives us a glimpse into Yun’s calculated thought processes. He really is a strategist, always assessing the situation for both himself, his enemies, and now, his friends. Before, all he had was Ik-su the shepherd. Now, Yun doesn’t just look out for himself; instead, he worries about Yona, Hak, and everyone else in the party. Point is, he’s already grown a lot from when we first met him. Even though he can’t save the princess on his own, we all know that Team Yona would’ve been doomed from the start without Yun’s genius. Praise for the pretty boy!
Anime watchers will immediately recognize the downfall of Kum-Ji as the moment where Yona takes on the mantle of power and courage, officially making a name for herself among the Awa port town residents. This scene is drawn so impressively. The backgrounds may be plain, but this allows Yona to literally leap out of the page with with her sharp gaze and even sharper arrow tip. Such a legendary scene. And I’m witnessing Kum-Ji die for the second time is just the icing on the cake.
A startling reunion with Su-Won tosses the main conflict at hand–reclaiming the thrown–back into the picture. The new king sure does have a handsome face, but Yona has changed a great deal herself. Though she crumbles after their encounter, she did muster the courage to attempt reaching out for Su-Won’s sword. I don’t think she could’ve killed him. Well, maybe . . . The remainder of the volume is full of joyous celebration and, likewise, bittersweet goodbyes. The scene of Yona running back to Gi-Gan to embrace the maternal figure one last time will never fail to break my heart.
Volume 8 is by far the most different volume in the story, both in terms of narrative focus and storytelling style. The first few chapters introduce a normal campfire evening with the party. Suddenly, Yona is joined by an innocent traveler radiating the light of the sun. Little does she know that her new companion is actually the Yellow Dragon! His name is Zeno, and he’s a bit of an oddball (which is really saying something, given that this is the same team with Gija and Sinha in it). But he’s kind, caring, and observant, and these qualities mark him as a dragon even if his abilities are yet to be realized. The anime ended with Zeno’s introduction, so I’m excited to see what he does from here on out.
Shifting focus, the next few chapters are told from Su-Won’s perspective. His ventures traveling the Kohka Kingdom have shown him small ways to make major changes in a village’s prosperity, as seen in the work he does in the Earth Tribe capital. The general there, Lord Yi Geun-Tae, has enjoyed a lazy lifestyle since King Il took the throne. Lately, however, the general craves combat, as battle is the only way Geun-Tae believes he can prove his worth to the kingdom. Su-Won provides him this long desired action, but in the form of a festival celebrating the Earth Tribe and its general. We get a laydown of the festival war game rules, the entire “battle,” and even the aftermath. It turns out the festival was a way to stimulate trade in the capital once again. Whether for tea, minerals, or even soldiers, Su-Won sure knows how to encourage the masses.
Off in the forest, Team Yona reunites with Ik-Su to seek instructions on the prophesy originally bestowed upon Yona. I’m not sure if the “Shield” and “Sword” they will eventually meet refer to Hak and Su-Won(?), but regardless, Yona wants to train. Desiring to take up the sword, she is met by humorous resistance from the party. However, we all know that our dear princess always gets what she wants–even if it’s skill of swordsmanship!
The Dark Dragon and the Happy Hungry Bunch
Despite taking a dark turn in the middle, this is by far the funniest volume in the series yet. Each chapter had something that made me laugh out loud, or at least crack a pretty big smile. We get to know more about Yun, how he grew up trading with local villages in the Fire Tribe lands while also supporting them with food and health needs. Watching Yona, Hak, and the Dragons bumbling through the village insisting on helping was just the sort of mood-lightener we needed.
Quickly, Yona resolves to put together a team of “bandits” to push out greedy Fire Tribe officials. In the name of happiness and hunger, the crew strive to protect inhabitants in this roundabout way so that they can prevent the villagers themselves from rebelling (which is punishable by the selling of one’s children, yikes!). I find it interesting how Yona’s team endeavored to bring safety by wounding (but not killing) the officials’ guards. This is in direct–and definitely deliberate–contrast to the previous volume, where Su-won essentially brought the same results without the use of any violence or manipulation. Is this what the power of the true king can do . . . ?
As previously stated, volume 9 does take a brief dark detour in the midst of the action. Forced to use his forbidden ability for the first time in 14 years, Sinha awakens to a newfound desire for power spurred on by his dragon eyes. The imagery here of the giant shadow dragon devouring the guards was the stuff of legend, I absolutely loved it. It’s nice to see best boy get the glow up he deserved, though the cost is surely great. Lastly, Fire Tribe prince Kang Tae-jun is up to no good once again–especially considering that he’ll soon find out that the princess he “killed” months ago actually survived the fatal fall!
“IK-SU, THESE PEOPLE YOU PREDICTED WOULD SHAKE KOHKA UP ARE ALL IDIOTS. BUT, THEY’RE IDIOTS WHO CAN LAUGH EVEN WHEN THEY’RE HUNGRY. WHEN THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH BIGGER PROBLEMS DOWN THE ROAD, I BET THEY’LL FACE THOSE WITH A SMILE TOO.” — YUN
After YEARS of these books sitting on my shelf collecting dust, I’ve at last finished reading the first nine volumes of Yona of the Dawn. Although I’m done for now, you can bet my next RightStuf purchase will include the next dozen or so, as I simply love this series and its characters with all my heart! We’re finally getting past what the original anime covered (I believe . . . it’s been years since I saw it), and I’m excited to see where the story goes. If it’s as my fellow blogger and mangatuber friends are telling me, I’m in for the ride of my life! Thanks for reading, and ’till next time!