A little over a week ago, I wrote a review for the Yona of the Dawn part 2 boxset from Funimation. Before this, I didn’t really know anything about Yona, which came out in Japan in 2009 and while I’m usually down to binge-watch a short series, I really didn’t expect to fall in love. But things happen and here I am, having postponed Manga Monday solely so that I could wait for the first U.S. volume of the Yona of the Dawn manga to be released on Tuesday.
Yona of the Dawn follows the story of young princess Yona, the only child of the King of Kohka. Nearly sixteen, it’s time for Yona to consider marriage, and she wants no one other than her beautiful, caring cousin Su-won. The King, a pacifist who avoids weapons and war, tells her that he cannot let Su-won become the heir to his throne, but Yona is determined. Late one night, she decides to talk to her father again, and instead stumbles upon a horrific scene – Su-won has murdered her father.
With the help of her childhood friend and faithful guard, Hak, she escapes the castle, but where does a princess without a kingdom go?
Volume one is very introductory, mostly covering Yona and Hak’s escape, and I feel like that’s a shame, because it means we don’t get any further than the very beginning of the story. I was frustrated with Yona at first – maybe unreasonably so. She’s helpless and somewhat whiny, but she also has lived a sheltered life, unprepared for anything like Su-won’s betrayal. If the manga is anything like the anime, it won’t be long before Yona finds more sure footing, and becomes a stronger heroine. Volume one doesn’t get close to that point, however. Honestly, if I had picked this one up without any prior knowledge of the series, I’m not sure if I would have continued on.
Because the above rating is based only on this volume, I did rate the characters and story a little on the lower side. Truth be told, Yona of the Dawn is one of the few series for which I like every character – even the villain. I also find the bigger story absolutely engaging. I just don’t think this first volume does it justice.
Still, it does a fantastic job at highlighting the deep, long relationship between Hak, Yona, and Su-won (better than the anime, I think). Hak’s anger and Yona’s sorrow are tinged with pain, and seem like such real reactions. The lovely, detailed artwork also certainly didn’t hurt.
Like most people when they write a review, I’m a little biased, and I’m particularly fond of series that remind me of my childhood and teen favourites – Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Fuushigi Yuugi, Inu-Yasha… I like romance, but I don’t want a series to be pure fluff, so I’m partial toward action-adventure tinged with romance on the side. I also like drama – especially historical or fantasy drama – but some well-placed comedy is a relief, even in the darkest of times. A sort of epic shoujo fantasy, Yona reminds me of these series in the sense that it has aspects of several genres all at once.
For now I’ll tentatively recommend Yona of the Dawn, but I hope that the second volume matches my excitement better than the first. I really think it will, especially with how charming (but incomplete!) I found the anime, and I’m excited to see more of Yona’s adventure!
Yona of the Dawn volume 2 comes out on October 4th!