The first Shojo Beat comic I read I didn’t like. I struggled to get to the ending and questioned the logic of the entire set up. Yona of the Dawn is entirely different from that. There’s one somewhat questionable aspect of the story, but nothing like the other series I read. Moreover, yes I am breaking a review taboo by bringing up another story in a review, but the reason is to point out that I steered clear of the Shojo Beat line because of that story. Yona has renewed my interest. The story for Yona is really simple, to sum up, but having said that it is not the reason this story is enjoyable. The outline is this, we meet Yona outside of the castle walls, thinking about how long it has been since she was home. It is a simple setup that clues the reader into the fact that she is on the run and can’t go back to her castle for a reason yet learned. The story then flashes back to the beginning, and we see Yona, her father the king, her personal bodyguard and a basic idea of her life. It’s Yona’s 16th birthday, and her cousin is coming to celebrate it with her.
This is the part that gets a little weird, but you have to remember the time in which its set. Yona has a major crush on her cousin. To the extent that she asks her father if she can have him as her husband, but he declines for reasons unbeknownst to Yona and us. The birthday party sets the stage for the King’s death and Yona’s exile from her kingdom, but I will not spoil which of the characters introduced actually commit the murder. The story makes that fairly obvious.
As for what makes this a solid read, it’s the depth of the character development that the story goes into. After Yona has escaped the castle, she becomes lost in thoughts of the past about her time with two particular characters. It’s quite perfect because it establishes how much of a betrayal this event was, how different her world is going to be from now on. It gives the reader contrast to the Yona we meet in the beginning riding her horse and wielding a sword. As for the questionable story aspect, it's the fact that Yona is allowed to live when logic says she would be hunted to death.
With all that said, if you do not like over the top cuteness, then you will have a hard time looking past it to see the depth and layers of the story. Because the cuteness from the art and story are abundant. Even during the battle sequences, there’s a flair of beauty.
As for the art, cuteness aside, it’s quite talented. It has some of the pitfalls of the genre, excess flowers and panel work that breaks from the storytelling, but it’s not thick and obnoxious as others I have read. That and there’s a level of detail maintained throughout the book. Creator Mizuho Kusanagi does not rely on a billion close-ups of the face to fill the pages. That and the action is very easy to follow, while also being the most detailed part of the art. The characters do all have chins that could cut glass, but if you can overlook that you will be fine.
The most surprising part of Yona of the Dawn is that I genuinely wanted to read more. Not out of some obligations to continue the review or because I might get the next volume sent to me, but because I enjoyed what I read so much that I wanted to keep going. Which is so freaking rare for someone like me that has over a hundred reviews just this year alone.
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Yona of the Dawn vol. 1 Creator: Mizuho Kusanagi Publisher: Viz/Shojo Beat Price: $9.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital