“Emma: A Victorian Romance” Kickstarter Rewards!

Emma is HERE!! 👏✨

Hey guys, I’ve got a super exciting video for you today that I’ve been waiting so long to fill! This is the “haul” of Kickstarter rewards I received for backing RightStuf and Nozomi’s English dub of Emma: A Victorian Romance.

Although I didn’t opt for everything the KS had to offer, I’m so satisfied with what I received. Let me know if you participated in the Kickstarter, as well as if you plan to pick up the series once it gets released to the regular anime Blu-ray market!

Interested in more anime, manga, or K-pop content? Subscribe to stick around!

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Maria the Virgin Witch: A Clash of Magic & Maidenhood || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 12-episode Winter 2015 anime series “Maria the Virgin Witch,” animated by Production I.G, directed by Gorou Taniguchi, and based on the manga of the same name by Masayuki Ishikawa.


The Peacemaking Witch

A powerful young witch living in medieval France during the Hundred Years’ War, Maria detests nothing more than human violence. With war comes pain, suffering, and destruction, and when the innocent are caught in the crossfire, Maria can take it no longer. Wielding her magic, Maria endeavors to halt the bloodshed by intervening on the battlefield as often as she can. When the heavens finally catch wind of Maria’s plots for peace, however, the archangel Michael is sent to keep her from meddling in the affairs of humanity.

Through direct confrontation, the divine Michael forbids the witch Maria from using her powers, decreeing that her magic will be taken the moment she loses her virginity. Maria, bold as ever, refuses to heed the warnings of heaven and marches on with her plans to disrupt the war. Despite her claims of peace, neither France nor England plan to give up the fight, leading the steadfast Maria to wonder if her noble efforts only serve to prolong the violence. Worse yet, as the Church schemes to take away the witch’s power, Maria’s peacemaking days may soon come to a close.

With the likes of other sex comedies like Yamada’s First Time and Shimoneta, I enjoyed the laughs and toilet humor of Maria the Virgin Witch‘s script. Unlike these others, where Maria finds itself on tricky ground is in the way it attempts to balance bawdy sex talk with sincere human drama befitting the time period. From costuming to ethics and even dialect (at least in the English dub), the story remains weirdly faithful to history as it tries to sell itself as a fantasy romcom with a horny edge to it.

You would try to take an emotional moment between Maria and her human love interest—Joseph—with some seriousness, only for Maria’s familiars to fill the silence with senseless discussion on anything pertaining to the body’s private parts. (Or one character’s lack thereof . . . it’s a long story.) Tonally, the series is kind of all over the place. But thankfully, the characters remain endearing enough to want to love and support—or at least prove interesting enough to want to follow along.

The Virgin Mary

Maria is the main lens through which we view this quasi-medieval France, a country which is undergoing major societal, political, theological, and moral changes as a result of the war. War itself is one theme which the series continues to return to, as it propels Maria to charge into battle with her obnoxiously large monsters and send warriors from both sides home for the day. Yet, without the inevitability of such conflict, the witch Maria, the human Joseph, the mercenary Garfa, and so many other key figureheads wouldn’t have crossed paths on this fateful stage. Although Maria’s efforts do prolong the length of the war, I admire the way she sticks to her values and persists in pursuing peace in spite of most soldiers despising her heretical nature. (And the fact that, yeah, Maria is full-blooded witch living in the Middle Ages.)

Unsurprisingly, our namesake virgin witch also frequently finds herself wrapped up in the politics of gender. In the eyes of men, women of this time period should hold very little power, let alone intervene in the affairs of war–and yet, Maria manages to do both, consistently. She’s not only a threat as a powerful dragon-summoning sorceress, but also as a woman standing up to the petty conflicts of men. The devout of the peacemaking patron witch worship her; the fiends who crave blood and the battlefield curse her. It must be tough being so strong AND beautiful AND virtuous!

Life in Medieval France

I enjoy much of the humor and drama that is to be found in Maria, but what I perhaps love more than both is the production itself. Despite being produced at Production I.G, many of the same talented staff who worked on Code Geass also came out for Maria. This includes Yuriko Chiba, who designed the attractive characters of Maria (along with being chief animation director for Geass), and, of course, the genius Gorou Taniguchi, who directed both. The series boasts bright colors and lots of movement, along with a keen eye for historical accuracy in the various villages and castle towns. Top-notch stuff for a sex comedy!

You all know I love talkin’ music when it comes to anime, and I’m proud to have one of my favorites back for the theme song arrangement: Tatsuya Katou! Not only that, we’ve also got Masato Kouda of KonoSuba and Monster Hunter fame (among several other hits) composing the main series OST. Add ZAQ for a pop of excitement with the OP and the production package is complete. Did I mention that Funimation’s dub work here is also fantastic? Massive props to Caitlin Glass and her team for the vocal direction on this sometimes silly, sometimes serious fantasy series.

A Play of Magic & Morals

What bothers me most about Maria the Virgin Witch is how it transitions roughly between intimate character relationships and a bunch o’ bad dick jokes. Sure, I chuckled a lot when watching, but I couldn’t help but feel that the dramatic elements of the plot far outshine the toilet humor, especially considering the elaborate character work woven together throughout these short 12 episodes. And that’s another point for demerit—the series tries to navigate through all these heavy themes in just a single cour. (Not that I could guarantee I’d actually watch more Maria than this first season alone.)

Despite the tone problems, I was still quite surprised with the overall quality of the series. The show watches like a wacky Shakespearean plot unfolding on an anime stage—a play of human morals, magic, and the divine—and it deserves a first viewing at the very least. I bought the Blu-ray over a year ago, and it’s comforting to know that it will stay on my shelf for at least a little while longer. I’d probably have phased off Maria were I someone who dabbled in this sex-com genre more frequently. But, seeing as I’m not that kind of anime fan, I’d say Maria the Virgin Witch was a fun “first time,” so to speak.


“They’re lucky I’m such a pacifist, or there would be hell to pay!” 

– Maria


Afterword

I haven’t got much else to report on this one. Come for the laughs, stay for the heartwarming bits. Speaking of bits, there’s not a lot of ecchi presentation in Maria, and maybe that’s why I like it so much. Sure, our titular maiden is scantily clad in a few strips of leather. But Maria is a modest woman, and I think most will like her. Maria the Virgin Witch is a “Cake” title here at the cafe, a series well worth your time, if not for a one-time watch. (Or a one night stand . . . ok, I’m done with the awful puns.) You can watch all of the series on Funimation both dubbed and subbed! If you have seen Maria, definitely let me know your thoughts on the series or this review down in the comments. Thanks for reading, and ’till next time!

– Takuto

BTS Pop-Up Shop + MOTS ON:E Merch Haul

My first BTS POP UP Shop merch ever!!

Hey guys, I’m back with another BTS related merch haul. This video combines the goodies I picked up from the Map of the Soul ON:E concert merch line with BTS’ latest POP UP shop line featuring specialty designed items themed for both ON and Black Swan!

I’m ecstatic to share what I’ve picked up with you all, and I hope you enjoy the video. Let me know what ON:E or POP UP merch you were able to pick up in the comments!

Interested in more anime, manga, or K-pop content? Subscribe to stick around!

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Winter 2021 Anime Simulcast Lineup

Hey guys!

I’ve yet to finish simulcasts from one whole year ago, yet here I am signing myself up for more anime to consume. (*sigh* I’ll finish Smile Down the Runway one of these days!) Anyway, I took to Twitter the other night to see what you all were watching, and I woke up with tons of great recommendations to follow this season—thank you!

Since I’ve been out of the weekly watching game, I can’t remember how I usually write these posts. So, let’s go ahead and waste no time by getting to what shows I’ll be watching this winter 2021. ^ . ^

Attack on Titan: The Final Season

Obvious pick. Y’all should’ve seen this one coming. I’ve been loving AoT ever since I binged the first season over six or seven years ago, and that love has yet to wane. We’re already five episodes into this one, so I’m quite late to writing this post, but I’m still wondering how the whole story will wrap up in just 11 episodes. Like, how??? No, don’t tell me. I’ll find out soon enough. If you’re not following the final stretch of this epic-in-the-making, you ought to get on it, as MAPPA is knocking it out of the park with each passing episode!

The Promised Neverland Season 2

Ahh, another one of my favorites returns for a sequel. I feel like anything that comes now in the story won’t be as entertaining to me as the first season was, but hey, we’re here for it. And Emma is back!! I’m excited to see what secrets unfold next about this terrifying world!

WONDER EGG PRIORITY

Such a weird title. But, after watching the first episode, it starts to make sense. I have a feeling that, along with the already mentioned titles on this list, this will be the show that’ll wreck me. We follow a couple young girls as they travel to the dream world to take down bullies and threats antagonizing other poor girls. It’s gonna get heavy—and QUICK—but I’m interested in the story and unique, if bizarre, directing style.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

We’re into unfamiliar territory now in the sense that I haven’t seen the first episodes of any of these remaining shows. This next title features yet another pointless isekai start (thirty-something-old businessman gets hit by a car, gets reincarnated in a world of magic, yada yada), but this one seems to be going strong in the fantasy world-building element, and that makes me curious. I decided to pick this one up based on the few beautiful animation cuts I’ve seen on Twitter, so we’ll see how far it goes.

Skate-Leading Stars

This’ll be a title that people will love to hate, if you know what I mean. Having come from watching other bottom-tier sports anime like DIVE!! and Cheer Danshi (and loving both), I think I’ll enjoy this one just the same. It’s a shounen-esque revenge plot which takes place on the ice. I know little else, but I’m sure you’ll hear more from me on it soon enough!

Horimiya

Did we save the best for last? Perhaps, as Horimiya was the talk of the town before it even became an anime. Given that I was planning to pick up the manga myself one of these days and give it a read, it’s funny to see it on this anime list. Supposedly, this is the must-watch of the season, especially for fans that typically watch or read shoujo manga and anime. And YES, I am excited to watch it!


Unless I decide to go back for seconds on anything, this is the list of shows I’ll be following here at the start of 2021. As always, there’s lots to enjoy this season, so I won’t be able to watch everything. Still, I’m sure this’ll be enough to keep me entertained for the next few months. Let me know your thoughts on any of these titles, and definitely share what you’re watching down in the comments below! Thanks for reading, and till next time!

– Takuto

Ateez The Fellowship: Map the Treasure Concert DVD || K-pop Unboxing

EIGHT MAKES A TEAM!!!

Hey guys! It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard from our favorite boy group octet (get well soon, Mingi 🙏) so I figured now would be a great time to unbox for you the ATEEZ World Tour concert DVD, “The Fellowship: Map the Treasure.”

I filmed this months ago (whoops) but never got around to editing it. Well, here she is, and she’s a beauty! I also picked up their second EP “Zero to One” (even though I said I wouldn’t 😝) and hunted down a used copy of “EP. EXTRA: Shift the Map” just to complete my ATEEZ collection. 😚

Interested in more anime, manga, or K-pop content? Subscribe to stick around!

Thanks for watching!

– Takuto

Channel Goals for 2021!

New year, new channel goals! 🥳

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I’m so happy to be making videos for you all, and I hope you’ve been doing well. Although we’ve yet to celebrate a full year together, I still wanted to share some my channel goals for 2021. Here’s to hoping I can accomplish most or all of these by the end of the year!

If you’ve been with me all of 2020, thank you for your continued support. And if you’re new, hi, and welcome to the channel! 👋

Interested in more anime, manga, or K-pop content? Subscribe to stick around!

Thanks for watching, till next time!

– Takuto

Akudama Drive: The Bloody Sci-fi Action Survival Game You’ve Been Waiting For || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 12-episode Fall 2020 anime series “Akudama Drive,” animated by Studio Pierrot, directed by Tomohisa Taguchi, and based on the original story by Kazutaka Kodaka.


Caught in a Cutthroat Game

The future of Kansai looks bright. Or at least, it would, were it not for the murderous “Akudama” roaming the back-alley streets of the dystopian metropolis. Bred in the darkness, these fugitives seek the path of crime, and only the elite Kansai police force can stand a chance at stopping them. Although strong in their own right, anyone could tell you that bringing an Akudama to justice is certainly easier said than done.

On one particular day in this techno town, the Kansai police begin the countdown for the public execution of “Cutthroat,” the infamous Akudama guilty of killing 999 people. When several other skilled Akudama receive a mysterious message to free Cutthroat for an unimaginable sum of money, however, the tides of justice begin to sway. To top it all off, caught in the middle of the madness is an innocent young girl who winds up forced to fight for her own life. Someone out there in the neon landscape wishes to gather these dangerous personas in one place, but to what end does this mastermind desire—and will a mere sum of cash prove enough to bind these talented killers under a singular noble pursuit?

From the mind of Danganronpa comes the equally zany and intense Akudama Drive. It wouldn’t be a lie to call the series one of the most exciting sci-fi action anime in recent memory, especially given the fact that its originality lends itself to an entirely unpredictable plot. I didn’t watch Akudama Drive as a simulcast with everyone else, but I sure as hell wish I had. Every episode is packed with explosive fun, and with a colorful cast of brilliant (if a bit insane) serial killers as the main characters, you couldn’t ask for a more wild ride.

Killers, Criminals, and the Law

Akudama Drive is one of those rare shows that gives its characters role titles instead of traditional names. For instance, Courier, Hacker, and Brawler are nicknamed correspondingly after their talents: Courier delivers, Hacker decodes, and Brawler fights. This definitely gave me Danganronpa vibes, as the characters there are also often referred to by their high school talent. The other Akudama include the unreliable Hoodlam, the devious Doctor (who was voiced by the legendary Megumi Ogata, another Danganronpa similarity), and the aforementioned killer Cutthroat (whose blind obsession with the color red was cute and crazy at the same time). The main two police officers simply go by Master and Apprentice, and even the lead character—the young girl who accidentally gets roped into all this trouble—is just called Ordinary Person.

Still, it’s odd how these plain role names manage to become more memorable and iconic than any given Japanese name would have been. It’s an easy system, and the creative character designs also lend themselves in part to Kazutaka Kodaka’s hand, no doubt. While binging the series, it was fun to talk to others about how incredible and scheming the Doctor is, or how wild and fun Cutthroat is to watch. Likewise, how dimwitted and unbelievable Hoodlam and Courier are, respectively. (There’s no way he’s slingin’ that bike everywhere like ODM gear, but I guess I’m here for it.)

At the end, however, I find myself coming back to the heroine more than any of the other Akudama. Obviously, she goes through the most character growth as she is forced to descend from innocent victim to Kansai’s most wanted. But, whereas the other Akudama remain mostly static, show-stealing characters, Ordinary Person learns to make big choices for herself, transforming into a symbol of the resistance towards police brutality itself. One could even say she swindles a thing or two from the other Akudama to aid in their collective cause . . . Regardless, she’s amazing, and one of my favorite anime heroines in recent times.

Kansai, the Cyberpunk City

The visual element of Akudama Drive is perhaps its greatest calling card. Art style really is everything here. Colorful holograms, floating screen panels, and bright neon lights litter the scene of this neo-futuristic Kansai. Almost as if straight out of the bleak cyberpunk worlds of Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell, Akudama Drive presents a setting that is anything but forgettable. The characters interact remarkably well within the space, providing more details about the terrifying state of Kansai as the series progresses. As the Akudama follow the beacon of light that is the Shinkansen towards freedom, the party of vagrant criminals encounters an unexpected darkness lurking within the underbelly of the land.

I’ve talked about how much I love the world, but I’ve yet to discuss the animation itself. The best surprise here, perhaps, is that Studio Pierrot doesn’t let Akudama Drive dip for a second. Each fight is stunningly choreographed and bizarrely stylish thanks to the unique character designs. I especially loved the fight between Apprentice and Brawler—the deep blue club lights and the giant neon fish swimming between panels on the wall and the floor made for quite the exciting combat set piece. The whole Cutthroat insanity scene was also spectacular. And the last episode especially, WOW. Absolutely jaw-dropping. Some of the series’ most iconic moments are isolated within the escalating tension, rich symbolism, and desperate irony of the epic climax.

As a whole, the production all comes together beautifully and tightly. Rui Komatsuzaki drew up the original character designs (which he previously did for Kodaka’s Danganronpa anime franchise). Kaoru Aoki provides intricate background art the likes of Maoyu, Fafner, or Kabaneri fans might recognize. Lastly, Maiko Iuchi (of Railgun and Index fame) instills a electric blend of cultural sounds and technopop to give the series a weird yet fitting musical twang. I could’ve gone for a less screamo rock OP theme, but if that’s my only beef with the production, I’ll gladly take it.

At the End of the Road

Although I’m a huge fan of anything Kodaka gets his paws on, I did have a couple problems with the overall plot. Aside from the ridiculous theatrics of Courier’s bike riding, it’s almost impossible to ignore the number of situations in which the heroine shouldn’t have made it out of. Plus, and this point is technically a minor spoiler for the first few episodes, so skip to the end now, but the children involved in the case are, like, immortal—do the Akudama forget that or?? Often, I felt like the Akudama could’ve just shot the officer holding the kids captive without fear of holding back BECAUSE even if they shot a kid, the kid wouldn’t have died. Maybe it was just me, but when you’re messing with immortality, you can and should be able to get away with this kind of recklessness.

Besides my small complaints, Akudama Drive was one of my favorite watches of 2020. To be fair, I hardly watched anything else. But to its credit, I think most people who like the more gruesome battle royale thriller anime will start recommending Akudama Drive as their first go-to. For one, it has an original story, allowing the series to end its run with a satisfying (if short) 12 episodes. Two, the story is written by Danganronpa‘s Kodaka, a genius who’s no stranger to these kinds of survival dramas. (Gotta love the way he transitions scenes as if all the set pieces were giant cardboard panels!) And three, the story is BOMB as frick. Done and done. Go watch Akudama Drive, it’s brilliant, it’s explosive, it’s mad—and it’s probably the bloody sci-fi action survival game you’ve been waiting for.


“I stole goods from the Shinkansen’s vault. I’m the Super S-Rank Akudama who plunged Kansai into chaos. I . . . am Swindler!” – Swindler


Afterword

I have to give it to Kodaka—the guy’s still got it. Obviously, I enjoyed Akudama Drive quite a great deal, and I hope you did as well. Because of its cool style, crazy presentation, and powerful sense of justice, I’m welcoming Akudama Drive with the certified “Cafe Mocha” title, a rating marking it as one of my favorites, and one I cannot recommend enough so long as the anime blood and gore won’t bother you. Cause there’s lots of it, that’s for sure! But what did you think of the series: Did you find it a fun watch or a painfully irritating one? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Akudama Drive down in the comments! Hopefully I’ll be able to churn out another series review for you guys soon. Thanks for reading, and ’til next time!

– Takuto

Blog Goals & Resolutions for 2021!

Happy New Year, my friends!!

We’ve made it through the fog of the terrible year that was 2020, during which I pretty much stopped blogging and even went unemployed for a bit. For many personal reasons, it wasn’t a great time.

BUT NO MORE will I let the shadows of 2020 overcast my ambitions and goals for the new year! Many things are changing for the blog in 2021. First, the monthly updates will make a comeback! Sticking to a quarterly basis (though helpful in times of low productivity) felt somewhat cold and distant. I want to remove that gap between us and go back to how I used to run this place. Second, I’m going to be synthesizing my blog and YouTube content much more than I did in 2020. This may help my content reach those that don’t operate much on YouTube. Third, I’ve got five new blog goals for 2021, which we should talk about next!


#1 – Write Five Posts Each Month

Unlike the unfulfilled promises of 2020, I plan to go seriously hard in 2021. And really, it’s not all that different from what I used to do three or four years ago. I want to write more posts, even if they’re not the full series reviews and informal analyses I’ve been known for. Maybe I’ll talk more about individual episodes or characters from a series. Or, perhaps, certain themes or musings I happen to grasp from these works. Whatever these posts end up being about, you can certainly expect more than what I wrote the past six months. And, when troubles do inevitably arise (what with college and all), I’ll simply adapt this slightly. 🙂

#2 – Review More Anime

When you watch more, you can review more. Naturally, these two ideas go hand in hand. Although I took a pretty big break from anime the past year, I want to get back on my anime game in 2021. Specifically, I want to go back to how things used to be. I spent so much time reflecting over whether I wanted to even do this, and my mind finally told me “Screw it: Go for broke and watch more stuff.” And so I will.

#3 – Continue Writing Manga Reflections

Writing over manga in general became the blog’s saving grace in 2020, and I want to keep that up. I especially made a lot of new friends in the mangatube community, and I don’t want to lose their company. More manga content to come!

#4 – Write Posts for Video Content

I started talking about this at the beginning of the post you’re reading right now. Basically, if I were to film four or five videos in a month (which is one of my channel goals), I want to write individual posts with respective links to each video. This will no doubt aid in keeping blog traffic up, but also allow for potentially greater outreach through my blog audience. So, with the five regular posts each month, hopefully you’ll be getting roughly two posts each week.

#5 – Achieve 750 Blog Followers

As you know, I’ve never paid much attention to blog stats, views, followers, likes, etc. Well, after seeing the success of my blogger and YouTube friends over the course of 2020, I want to try setting numerical goals like this for once. The numbers game was never one I played, but maybe I should. Anyway, 2021 will be the road to 750! Given we’re already at 685 followers, it’s a pretty achievable goal in my eyes. Now, let’s see if we can make it happen!


This is going to be a tall order, I realize this. But, after deep meditation over what I wanted from the future of this blog, I decided on this return to form of sorts. I can’t give this up now—I’ve gone too far with this blog, and losing it would hurt me beyond words. More than anything, however, I just hope I can still count on you all, my friends, for your generous support that you’ve continued to give me for years. YOU are the reason I can do what I do now, and I never want to forget that for a second. It’s going to be a challenging year, absolutely. But, knowing that you’ll be there with me will make the fight all the more worthwhile. Blogging is something I still want to do, and I hope my posts are still ones you want to read!!

All this said, THANK YOU for an incredible 2020. Even during those rough patches when I was gone, you guys kept showing up to read my stuff, comment, and even share it, and for that I’m eternally grateful. I’ll admit I wasn’t the best blogger buddy in 2020, but I plan to change that going forward—this much, you can count on.

What is something you wish to improve on in 2021, either for your blog or your own personal life? Let’s talk resolutions down in the comments. I said the same thing here as I did last year, but I have even higher feelings about 2021! Thank you so much for reading, stay safe, and I wish you all a Happy New Year! ^ . ^

– Takuto

The Four Dragons Assemble: Yona of the Dawn 7-9 || 25 Days of Manga

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.

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 4-6


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.

War Games

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


Afterword

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!

– Takuto

WE’RE BACK on the Trail: Yona of the Dawn Volumes 4-6

After several months, we return to the story of the girl whose blazing hair boldly paints the dawn crimson red.

Loose thoughts on volumes 4-6 of Mizuho Kusanagi’s manga series “Yona of the Dawn,” initially published in 2016 by VIZ Media. Spoilers will be present.

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 1-3


Finding the Blue Dragon

It’s been FOREVER since I last talked about Yona and the crew (or blogged in general, yikes)! But fear not, we’re back on track with the manga volume “reviews.” I wanted to count volumes 7-9 of Yona as part of my 25 Days of Manga reads, only to realize that I never covered 4-6 here on the blog! It’s been a minute, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading these loose thoughts.

Alright, so volume 4 basically serves as our transition volume from the Gija story to the introduction of the Blue Dragon. Gija proves his worth to the team with his ability to sense the presence of other dragons. This will be useful, especially in the start, as Yona and Hak (and Yun) have essentially NO clue where the other dragons are residing. Unlike Gija, the others seem to have deserted the typical ways of the tradition, which make them particularly tricky to find in the vast countryside.

But obviously, Gija manages to find a way. We enter the Blue Dragon’s village, which is interestingly imbedded in a series of mountain caverns. (Seems like a difficult way of life to me, but hey, I know many cultures have done it in the past.) Shunned for his cursed eyes that supposedly turn people to stone, the Blue Dragon lives with the other villagers, although away from them at the same time. His story is a sad one, filled with drama, loss, and curses from his previous master. The villagers don’t like him much (which is their loss, seeing as how the Blue Dragon is my fave), but they want to protect him all the same. Weird. But it will all work out in the end, right?

A Name is Given

I love volume 5 of this series so much. Yona moves at a decent pace, quickly assimilating the Blue Dragon into the party and moving on to find the Green Dragon. Of course, this comes after escaping collapsing tunnels, gaining the trust of an entire village, and earning respects from the Blue Dragon himself. Speaking of, we finally have a name for him–Sinha! It was Yona’s idea, that lovely girl. With his silent charm and fluffy quirks, Sinha is right at home with Yona’s crew. It’s almost as if they were destined to be together . . .

After overcoming a bizarre little sick moment, Gija sniffs out the location of the Green Dragon. The good news? He’s relatively close. The bad news: His position changes frequently, almost as if he’s flying around like a madman. Though not far from that truth, the hunt for the Green Dragon comes to a hault when Hak causes trouble in the port town of the Green Dragon. His wanted poster goes up, and now it’s incognito mode for Yona’s bodyguard. It’s a good thing that Gija can still detect the Green Dragon’s position–their encounter is one of the funniest moments in the series yet!

The fault doesn’t like completely with Hak, however; unbeknownst to the party, the Green Dragon himself also joined Hak in taking down a few local hothead officials belonging to Lord Yang Kum-Ji. They are in many ways the same, both driven recklessly by their sense of justice. Heavy taxes imposed by Kum-Ji alone make him a pretty terrible guy, but the moment we find out that Kum-Ji is the leader of a human-trafficking ring, I immediately want him taken out. Thankfully, Jaeha, the Green Dragon, and his Captain, a local pirate woman, see eye-to-eye on this, and they form a crew–and a plan–to take Kum-Ji down.

A Test of Courage

Jaeha’s captain, Gi-Gan only agrees to accepting Yona’s help if the girl can prove herself in a challenge. Yona’s test involves scaling an imposing cliffside to retrieve a healing root which only grows in the cliff. Determined (as our girl always is), Yona takes on the challenge. Though Jaeha has to come to her rescue, Yona obtains the root and returns safely, thus passing the Captain’s test. The Captain sees a rare strength in Yona–the same fire in herself–and it’s these guts which convince the Captain that Yona would never betray her friends.

During Yona’s sidequest, Jaeha starts to feel the pull of the Red Dragon residing within Yona’s blood. He resists completely joining her quest of uniting the kingdom, but now he’s at least interested (both in these sudden feelings of loyalty and the young maiden herself). Romantic tensions between Hak and Yona also increase. We find that Hak has the HOTS for our beloved red-head princess, and that he’s been holding himself back for as long as he can remember. WOW Hak, way to reign it in. At the same time, I don’t think licking Yona’s wounds is convincing to anyone that you don’t love the princess. >.<

At last, a plan to take down Kum-Ji is drafted. It will involve all of the Captain’s noble pirate crew and everyone in Team Yona. (Lady Yun returns!) Before we move on, I just wanted to say that I actually really like the Captain’s crew. Gi-Gan herself, aged and stubborn, is a rare kind of admirable elder in shoujo manga. She’s the mother Yona never had, a role model that will no doubt influence how Yona views comradeship and hardship in this difficult world. Hopefully, the Captain has taught Yona enough in this short of time to be able to pull off the hardest role in this entire operation–being taken hostage by Kum-Ji himself!


SHE GREW UP SHIELDED FROM THE WORLD’S HORRORS, BUT SOMETIMES, SHE HAS THE LOOK OF THE SOLDIER ON THE BATTLEFIELD. SHE’S LEAVING ME SPEECHLESS. — CAPTAIN GI-GAN


Afterword

Forgive me if my blogging is a bit rusty, it’s been too long. I should have taken a formal break, but instead I let the nagging pressure of eventually needing to return agonize me for weeks. I’ll try to notify you guys next time I decide to take a break. Yona’s adventures are only beginning. I’ll start reading the next three volumes tonight, and will hopefully have the next post up soon. I’m glad to be back, and I’m thankful for your continued readership. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto