By Mizuho Kusanagi. Released in Japan as “Akatsuki no Yona” by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by JN Productions, Adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.
The actual resolution of the plot in this arc is treated as an afterthought, with Hyo, the villainous drug merchant, getting blithely killed off so that we may reach the real confrontation of the book. Because, having spent several chapters deliberately having Hak not meet Riri’s new bodyguard, when the moment arrives it takes pride of place above anything else that might be going on. It is truly an amazing setpiece, and shows off how good Kusanagi is at her craft. The rage that pours from Hak, his desire to kill Su-Won dripping off of him, is stunning to see. And you know that, at this point in time, it would be the absolute worst thing in the world for Hak to do that. Thank goodness for Jaeha, and later on Yona herself, for pointing out what’s important here: Yona is fine, she doesn’t need Hak to get revenge for her. Not like this. It’s only one chapter in this volume, but what a chapter.
I also definitely want to talk about the continued growth of Riri. Having stolen her father’s political seal as a means of showing that she has his power, she puts it to good use, getting the soldiers and merchants to unite to defend against Hyo’s fleet. What’s more, when events wrap up, she’s ready to take her punishment for what she did, even if that means being killed. That said, Riri’s political activism seems to have finally sunk in , as her father not only “punishes” her by exiling her to Sensui, where she can continue to do what she was planning to anyway. What’s more, he himself is now no longer content to be passive – which means that the tribes are now united in taking a more active role in the kingdom… even if that means war. All this from a young woman who was inspired by Yona (and is arguably in love with Yona, because their final scenes together really read like Riri wants to say something but chooses to hold back).
Riri is not the only woman in this volume who is awesome. Yona and Tetra are recovering from serious injuries, and are visibly exhausted, but are not letting that stop them from doing what needs to be done. Indeed, Tetra and Ayura have figured out Yona’s secret (such as it is), but are content to let her get on with what she needs to do. Heck, even the Sensui divers, who at first look to be introduced as a joke to show off “Jaeha is a player”, are swimming out towards enemy ships with bombs strapped to their heads. One of the best reasons to read Yona of the Dawn is that the cast is trying to effect change, and we see everyone who wants it step up and make that happen. It’s made explicit here with Riri’s father, but previous volumes also show that everyone Yona comes into contact to takes up her idealism… even if they’re cynics. It’s nothing to do with romance, though her own party does have guys who like her. It’s her sheer presence and drive.
I will end this review as I have many previous Yona reviews. This is possibly the best shoujo manga currently coming out in English. Everyone should be reading it.