The Start of a Long Journey: Yona of the Dawn Manga Volumes 1-3 || First Impressions

First impressions and loose thoughts on volumes 1-3 of Mizuho Kusanagi’s manga series “Yona of the Dawn,” initially published in 2016 by VIZ Media. Spoilers will be present.


A Terrible, Terrible Birthday

I’m no stranger to the beautiful and cruel world of Yona of the Dawn. I followed the anime when it first aired many years ago. Loved it. Since then, I decided to pick up the first NINE volumes of the manga to hopefully quench my thirst for a sequel we’ll probably never get. Wellll, you know how I do these things—the manga sat on my shelf for a good couple years, untouched, and the dust started to collect.

Until now! My rekindled love for manga has motivated me to tackle my shelves before buying new titles, which naturally placed volume one of this long-awaited read in my hands. And guys, what can I say that hasn’t been said already? Yona is a wonderful shoujo fantasy series with a compelling cast of characters living in an interesting Asian-inspired world. BANG. What more could you want?

But in case you know nothing about Yona, the shoujo manga follows the titular Princess Yona, whose bright red hair makes her the crown jewel of the Kohka Kingdom. After her doting father, the king, is murdered in cold blood by her childhood friend and lover, Su-won, Yona flees for her life with her faithful guard Hak. Now, Yona sets out on a journey to reclaim her country with hak, which includes tracking down the four dragon warriors of ancient lore.

Out on the Run

Right off the bat, I think the most striking thing about Yona’s world is the choice to use Korean-inspired names instead of the typical Japanese names. In fact, the series draws more inspiration from Korean culture than it does Japanese, making it an intriguing blend of both cultures. The series carries with it a heavy traditional feel, but also contains a surprising amount of fun and comedic moments despite the tragic start.

Following their flee, Hak seeks out his home village of Fuuga to avoid further pursuit from Su-won’s soldiers. The village’s chief (and Hak’s foster grandfather), Mundeok, is an admirable figure who I’m sure could’ve taken in Yona and raised her very well—but that wouldn’t be much of a story then, would it?

No, instead, Yona puts her foot down and decides to leave the village herself, demanding Hak continue to stay at her side. (The audacity, I know!!) Shortly after, Yona and Hak confront their pursers, and we get the powerful scene where Yona slashes her own hair—which she is adored for—to free herself from Kang Tae-Jun’s captivity. If that’s not symbolic of a woman choosing strength and independence over frailty and vanity, I’m not sure what is. The passing of Yona’s cut lock to Su-won leads him to believing that Yona has truly perished, which deeply hits him, interestingly enough. Like, Su-won isn’t a good guy, but, is he truly bad . . . ?

She with the Crimson Hair

Volume 3 is where we finally start to get a glimpse of the overall plot Yona is about to take up. Now that we’ve become acquainted with Yona’s rare fiery side as well as Hak’s reliability and loyalty on and off the battlefield, we are introduced to Ik-su, a lackadaisical priest who fled the capital when the regime changed years ago, and Yun, a haughty young pretty boy whose talents in cooking, fashion, and herbal remedies will prove incredibly useful on their journey going forward.

Ik-su tells Yona (and the reader) a great deal about the world, the legend of the dragon warriors, and Yona’s role in all of it. He prophesizes the assembly of the four dragon warriors, and how their coming together will awaken the monarch and resurrect the red dragon of dawn. The spirit of the dragons is passed down through four individual bloodlines, each of which still bear fealty to their beloved crimson dragon even to this day.

After a sad parting, we leave behind Ik-su, and Yun joins us in traveling to the White Dragon Village. There, in the land of the wind, we meet the first dragon warrior, a beautiful young man named Gija who possesses the “arm of a dragon,” scales and all. Although Gija bumps heads with Hak, the pain in Gija’s arm makes him realize that joining Yona is his life’s calling—and the destiny that has been passed down his family for generations. Another bittersweet parting between Gija and his grandmother sets us on the long quest to finding the other dragon warriors.

A Fantastic Historical Fiction Drama

Mizuho Kusanagi’s art style is the stuff of legends. Almost flawlessly, she recreates an era in time that dates back to the Three Kingdoms period of Korea. Mind you, it’s all historical fiction, so none of the setting is real, but Kusanagi reimagines this period from architecture and fashion style to customs traditional of this period. It’s such, SUCH, a gorgeous manga.

All of Kusanagi’s characters are beautiful (as one might expect in a shoujo manga), but also brazen and fierce. There’s a fire in Yona’s eyes that is unmatched; in Hak’s, a gaze of strength and familiarity; and in Su-won, a dark, melancholic sadness. Each cover piece alone is a work of art, as the coloring is so pretty and vibrant, much like Yona’s captivating red hair.

So, will I be reading more Yona of the Dawn in the future? Well, duh—I already bought the first nine volumes, or did you already forget? Haha! Seriously though, if I didn’t already have them, I would’ve placed an order immediately following the second volume. Yona has a lot of promise, which comes as little surprise given how highly talked about this series is. I’m excited to embark on this long journey with Yona, and I do hope you’ll be tagging along for the ride.


If it were a person . . . if this were a battlefield . . . I’d need my arrow to fly true. Drawing your bow means taking a life—or letting someone take yours.Yona


Afterword

I could talk on end for how much I love Hak, how much I love Yun, and how endearing of a protagonist I find Yona to be growing into. But, I’ll save that for future manga write-ups. After all, this is only the first three volumes, and there are well over 20 volumes available in English! I do hope you’ll continue with my reading of Yona of the Dawn. What are your thoughts on this highly beloved series? Let me know down in the comments! ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

Anime Crossovers I’d Love to See || The Animanga Festival

Hello all, and welcome to my fourth official entry in The Animanga Festival, hosted by Auri and Nairne over at Manga Toritsukareru Koto!

It feels like it’s been weeks since I last wrote for the festival, yet I suppose I’m still on schedule according to my notes. This week’s prompt(s) start leaning a lot more toward the fandom side of things, so what better way to crack things open than with a good old anime crossover. I used to be huge into crossovers when I was a younger fan. Now, they just don’t interest me as much, mainly because I’ve come to really appreciate the uniqueness of each character’s universe and where they come from. I don’t really need crossovers to give me that “What if” satisfaction anymore.

But alas, we’re celebrating them nonetheless. So here are a few of crossovers in anime that I would find pretty neat!


A New Killing Game

Danganronpa 1 & 2 and Danganronpa V3

Does this one count as cheating? Eh, who cares. I’m a huge Danganronpa fan—an Ultimate Fan, as I’ve once called myself before on this blog—and it’s a pity that the only bit of character interactions I can get between the characters of 1 & 2 and V3 are in fan comics. If you’re not familiar with the franchise, each Danganronpa game/anime focuses one class of students as they fight for their lives in a horrific survival game. The cast of the second game still stands as my favorite, but V3‘s often creep up there, and the first killing game’s cast will always have a place in my heart.

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While the first and second entries share decent relation with one another, for story purposes, V3 remains an entirely different beast (and no, I’m not gonna spoil it for anyone so hush). It’s a shame that there’s not a single bit of V3 that has been adapted into an anime (yet), as the characters of Danganronpa really do standout as favorites of mine. If only there were something to tie the stories together . . .

She With the Crimson Hair

Snow White with the Red Hair and Yona of the Dawn

Two powerful red-headed women not about to take shit from anyone. Risking their necks for the ones they cherish, and standing up in the face of evil. Intelligent, skilled, courageous, and ever bold. What fantastic shows, and what incredible ladies we can thank for making them so!

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Every fantasy party should carry with them someone knowledgeable on plants, herbs, and vegetation. Similarly, every royal court should possess a brave badass (and archer!) who isn’t afraid of ruining her clothes or messing up her hair. Although it takes Yona considerably more time to develop into the fearless gal we all love, she still gets there, and boy should she be feared. The Kouka Kingdom ain’t ready for Yona’s historic return, just as the the Wisteria family isn’t prepared for the amount of herbal justice Shirayuki is about to serve to the Clarines Kingdom.

Heroes of the Stars

Gurren Lagann and KILL la KILL

I am 100% satisfied with how Lagann ended. I am equally content with the ending of KILL la KILL. But c’mon, don’t you wanna see the crew of the Gurren and the star-studded students of Honnouji Academy go on ONE LAST EPIC ADVENTURE ACROSS SPACE TOGETHER!?!

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Often, I see fan artists reminisce about the two, drawing artwork in which characters are stylized in one another’s signature looks, Yoko perhaps donning Ryoko’s iconic uniform, or vice versa. Mako piloting the Arc-Gurren, and Satsuki’s Elite Four standing all cool next to the Gunmen. Even in fan art, this kind of stuff gets to me, making me all sentimental about “the good ol’ days” each legendary story had. Perhaps one of these days we’ll set for the stars once more. Until then, be sure to send all the art you find of these two series my way!

A Showdown of Supernatural Students

My Hero Academia and A Certain Scientific Railgun

Both have hierarchical school systems based on supernatural powers. Both feature dynamic characters that are shown to have academic lives AND encounters with evil forces lurking in the shadows. And both live with that duality, perfectly balancing seriousness and moments for fun. The real question is why HAVEN’T the two been married off yet??

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Personal wishes aside, one probably wouldn’t think of pitting the two together because of how truly comic-esque MHA‘s style is. And I’m not complaining about that whatsoever! Art style, character design—they’re what can give a series its charm, an edge to stand out against the rest. MHA is very eye-popping and colorful; the world of Railgun is clear, architectural, and refined. Still, just think of what an electrifying tournament arc they could’ve had together.


Ahh, it feels good to trash ship two shows together once again. I literally had no idea what to write for this post, but I got to typing, more and more ideas kept bubbling forth. Surely there’s something good to match with Attack on Titan . . . more for another day, I suppose. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my “dream crossovers that totally didn’t just pop off the top of my head” down in the comments! And with that, only one post remains left for me to write for the Animanga Festival. Right when things were getting good, I know! Glad I got those latest couple reviews out, but more are coming, I assure you. Hope everyone’s been enjoying the festivities so far. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto, your host

30-Day Song Challenge Day 9: Songs That Make You Want To Dance

Whoop whoop! All the people in the café, get up and DANCE! Naw, just kidding’, I can’t dance even if my life depended on it. But what I can do is pick songs that I would dance to. Sound good? Great, let’s get our groove on ~

“Mr. Taxi” by Len Kagamine, original by Girl’s Generation (SNSD)

First up is the ultra sexy “Mr. Taxi.” Did I ever mention that my favorite Vocaloid was Len Kagamine? To me, his voice sounds the most natural, and is easiest on the ears. I don’t listen to a whole lot of Vocaloid music, but when I do, clear outta my way, cause I’ll be jiggin’ to Len’s sassy voice for days! This song’s hot beat and techno jam are incredibly addicting! Maybe I should start my Vocaloid season again . . .

“Electric Angel” by Rin and Len Kagamine, arranged by Giga-P

Enter my first and favorite Vocaloid song ever! This song is so uplifting that just one listen any day could make me happy out of my mind! Plus, it’s cute 😉 The contrast between the Kagamine twins (Rin’s sharp sweet high voice vs Len’s rich youthful tone) is the best by far. Rin and Len give all of the Vocaloids a run for their money in my opinion, and this song drives that point home. Like “Mr. Taxi,” this song is super addicting, so make sure you listen to this song only if you don’t mind it pounding your brain for a week after LOL

From Yona of the Dawn, “Akatsuki no Hana” by Cyntia

I gotta give my girl Yona the spotlight sometime, so what better time than with her second opening? This guitar-slapping J-pop song is one that never gets old for me. Beginning the song is some beaming techno, but after the verse, the chorus explodes with this rebellious shoujo red-headed princess! You ought to check out Yona of the Dawn if you want a shoujo anime with a strong female lead who develops from a frail, spoiled princess to a proud women, and finally, a fierce warrior. My only problem with this recording is that it is a Nightcore arrangement 😦 sorry, I couldn’t find one without some sort of audio change.

From Log Horizon, “The Elder Tale Waltz” by Yasuharu Takanashi

Haha, gotcha! Did you think we were just gonna jam out to Vocaloid and techno music? There’s got to be some variety, and nothing compares to a good old fantasy waltz. Waltzes, in fact, are probably my favorite type of classic music! So naturally, when this popular game anthem cued in the show, and the Shiroe and Henrietta recognized it as the game’s main theme, I flipped sh*t! It was such a cool gimmick and a wonderful surprise for us fans. This song is also responsible for my loving the character Henrietta. When she started teaching the bumbling strategist how to dance the waltz, using her bard skills to their fullest, I fell in love 🙂

And now I’m all caught up . . . until tomorrow. Darn, this challenge is really keeping me occupied. I’ve been nominated for a few awards in my absence from my normal blogging (THANK YOU SO MUCH), so when this is over, I’ll have to thank everyone properly. But until tomorrow, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Yona of the Dawn Review

Late into the simulcast season I decided to pick this one up and boy did I make the right decision! Today, let’s dive into the soft and beautiful world of “Akatsuki no Yona: The Girl Standing in The Blush of Dawn.”

Sheltered yet joyful Princess Yona was having a great day. Her birthday was right around the corner, and the love of her life, the charming Soo-won, was visiting the Kohka Kingdom. Before she could tell her gentle father the king of her unrequited love, however, she witnesses the man she loves sinking a knife into the king’s chest – her father was assassinated. Confused, upset, and torn apart by the dreadful betrayal, the red-haired Princess Yona flees the palace with her loyal servant Hak.

On her journey to renew the kingdom by befriending the four dragons, AKA beautiful boys, she realizes that while the late king prohibited violence, there were many who were suffering during this time. Yona finds the determination to protect her people, taking up the sword and bow with unwavering spirit.

Here’s the interesting bit though: While the cunning Soo-won brutally killed Yona’s father, he did so to protect the kingdom. Sure he is labeled as the “antagonist,” but his motives might be more pure than we think, as he pops in and out of the story curing the problems of villagers and rekindling the kingdom’s faith . . .

Yona of the Dawn follows a simple premise. Find the four dragons, stop the new king, and save the world. Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender or Tales of Symphonia might enjoy Yona for its traditional journey setting, though it’s not as near as grand.

Other than its somewhat boring and overused plot, another beef I have with this show was the unsatisfactory ending. If a season two is confirmed, then I immediately withdraw this complaint. Otherwise, it’s ultimately a prologue for something magnificent. “As the heroes, now all assembled, stand by the cliff’s edge with weapons in hand, the king’s army appears on the horizon” – kind of ending. Seriously, the last dragon boy is introduced in the final episode . . . there better be a sequel.

Princess Yona is a beautifully dynamic character. She starts off as the typical fragile, pampered princess but gradually develops into a fierce and brave fighter – one to be feared! I thought Yona would be plain at first, but heck no – she’s on FIRE! Such a great independent girl woman.

Her smartass companion Hak is a badass, too. Swingin’ his glaive around, knocking down enemies left and right, he also harbors a very intimate side with Yona . . . it’s almost as if he can’t hold it back . . . but that’s more to follow up with in the hopeful second season.

Young “protector” of the clumsy oracle is Yun, one of the more invest-worthy characters in the series. Standing as a child who grew up during the late King II’s weak reign, Yun was hit the hardest during these poor times. Flash forward to the present and the acclaimed “bishonen” speaks with sass and a quick-temper. His growth continues as he crosses paths with royalty in the form of the Princess, whom he despises at first, but grows to love more than anyone else. :3

The charming dragon boys + Hak and Yun remind me so much of the Host Club from Ouran High School Host Club. Their conversations with each other are quirky and comical, yet they also have fantastic solo moments and tragic stories. Though these lovable dudes don’t live up to Ouran’s standards, they’re still pretty fun to watch! Heads up that the jokes are pretty stale. Just saying.

The art is pretty decent. Combat scenes are done smoothly and character designs are ornate. Specifically speaking, the animation used for Yona’s flowing red hair contrasts brilliantly with the background. Add that with her angry violet eyes and you literally have the dawn striking your heart.

The OST supports the theme of the anime immensely. The first opening and main theme “Akatsuki no Yona” by Ryo Kunihiko is SOOOOO TRADITIONAL AND GORGEOUS. Second OP, “Akatsuki no Hana” by Cyntia is a bit spunkier, complimenting the action and twists driving the show. To calm down is “Akatsuki” by Akiko Shikata (one of my fav artists), reflects the oriental atmosphere. Great songs!

Yona of the Dawn starts off a bit slow, but grows into an adventurous drama about a girl reclaiming her torn-apart kingdom. The varying characters help to lighten the mood, but sometimes their constant antics ruin serious moments. It’s a give-and-take gimmick, but otherwise, they make you chuckle. 😀

Yona of the Dawn offers enjoyable characters and a heartwarming story. I only wish the adventure would continue, and I have a strong feeling it will. This anime is a hidden pleasure, giving you all kinds of feels and wrapping up everything nicely; no noticeable plot holes besides a necessary continuation of this goddamn beauty! Shojo or reverse harem fans, go Yona of the Dawn. It takes a bit to get its motor started, but after that it’s pure satisfaction. Even if you don’t care for the more shojo bits, there are plenty of great sword fights and a very original second half in store!

“I am the proud princess of Kouka Kingdom, so I should not complain but do something about it myself.” – Yona

This review was a bit shorter than my usual ones, but there’s not much else to say! I can’t wait for a home video release by FUNimation. Thanks for reading and slice that like button to pieces if you liked my review (LOL)! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

End of March Update 4/1/15

Mina-san, konbanwa ~

It feels like forever since I’ve talked to you guys! I hope you are still enjoying the Cafe :3

As much as I don’t want to sound stereotypical, I have been very busy lately. And it’s not just school work and such – I’ve just been watching a lot of anime, but not in the mood to review any. That’ll change though – I’ve got the reviewing spirit back!

This past month, during my Spring Break, I had the wonderful opportunity to venture to Naka-Kon by Kansas City, Kansas, my first anime convention. IT WAS UNFORGETTABLE AND AMAZING!! I will slap together a post (with pics :D) if you want to see how it went! My many thanks to all who made the experience so fun and memorable. Domo arigato ~

And without further ado, my usual update:

Recently Finished:

Date A Live – while Tohka was great, it was overall disappointing and did not live up to my expectations, check out the poor little review here

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – very interesting and artistic film, a classic to time travel for sure, has not been reviewed by me yet

Ben-To – I probably had more fun with this show than I should have, but who cares! Check out a tasty review here

Kill la Kill – 5/5 entertainment wise! Masterful execution, lead characters, music, and quirky art, for more click here

Wolf Children – the first half was excellent, showing off the ideal, optimistic and persevering mother, but the second half about the children growing up was frankly a bit depressing, sad but beautiful movie, apologies for no review

Yona of the Dawn – I decided to jump on this one towards the end of the simulcast season and I did not regret it one bit! The story was classic, characters were fun to watch, and the traditional Japanese tone was cool, review on the way!

Parasyte -the maxim- – it has finally come to its end, and while I wish we got to know more about the parasites’ background, I was still moved and will miss Migi 😥

Currently watching:

Log Horizon 2 – I will miss this one when I watch the last episode, but I heard they might do a season 3 . . .

ALDNOAH.ZERO – I have one episode left, and things are definitely wrapping up, what’ll happen next??

Soul Eater – after meeting Micah Solusod in person at Naka-Kon, he inspired me to check out this infamous show, so I picked this one up

SHIROBAKO – haven’t started this one, but I heard it’s about the anime industry. You have my attention

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign – one of the spring simulcasts, looking forward to high-energy fights and glorious animation!

Fate/ stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – if you know me, then you would know I’m a big Fate fan!  Woohoo for ufotable – can’t wait to watch the epic second half

Finally, I have a My Anime List account!! You can find me and friend 🙂 me here:

http://myanimelist.net/profile/takuto27

I guess that’s all on the menu today. Please look forward to my Naka-Kon post, Yona of the Dawn review, and Parasyte -the maxim- review. So what’s new with you? What are you looking forward to this spring season in anime? Comment below! Thanks for reading and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host