I am going to start this review by blatantly stating that Akatsuki no Yona is one of the best manga serials that I have read in a long time, quite possibly ever. Fear not, the spiel as to why my love for this story is so profound will follow with bits of fangirling theatrics, but I felt that it needed to be said upfront. I absolutely adore Akatsuki no Yona by Mizuho Kusanagi, who is also known for NG Life.
My exposure to Yona of the Dawn (as it’s called in English) occurred during the Fall 2014 anime season. The first episode made me believe that I was going to watch a romantic comedy that would leave me feeling fluffy and disgustingly happy, but as the final five minutes of the episode played out, I was confronted with a completely different kind of show altogether. The anime series ended on a cliffhanger that left me frustrated and aching for more, so I grabbed my tablet and looked up the manga pronto. That was one of the best decisions I had made all week.
The facets that make Yona of the Dawn such a satisfying pleasure are vast. You have a delightful array of characters that have much more depth than you can imagine. The rich historical lore and feudal countries with a backdrop of political warfare provide the story with a foundation that is fresh and alluring. The action sequences are suspenseful and can leave you at the edge of your seat. Did I mention the characters? The charming and delicious looking cast of crazies that you cannot help but love, even if they aren’t necessarily the “good guys?” Lastly, the art is breathtakingly gorgeous!
All my blabbering is great, but what the heck does the story entail? It’s actually rather simple. You have a young girl who just so happens to be a princess. Circumstances arise and she is forced to flee her home with her best friend’s aid. As she struggles to survive, struggles to find a reason as to why she should even bother trying, she learns that she’s something far more important than merely royal offspring. This unravels a journey that is an elegant epitome of self-discovery and blossoming maturity filled with enriching fantastical subtext of friendship, love, loyalty, and grief.
Since I have mentioned them a few times already with quite a passionate vigor, let’s examine the characters for a second. Going over every single one of them and why they are so badass is not what I am talking about. My focus is singularly going to be on our female protagonist. I admire her so much. She is the type of female heroine that I cannot help but devour during a literary adventure. Sure, she’s a spoiled, bratty princess but that only lasts for about the first five minutes (relatively speaking of course). Yona, as she is thus named, is a true visage of inner-strength and self-growth. Most leading ladies in manga serials, even the super serious ones, are always portrayed as the “victims,” be it for emotional, physical, whatever kinds of abuse, however. Yona is not a victim. She never allows herself to fall into such a pathetic category because she is forced to realize that life goes on, whether you are ready for it to or not. In that sense, I think there are a lot of women out there, especially young girls, who could really relate to someone like her.
My second-favorite part of the series? THE ART! It is so amazingly stunning that I seriously cannot emphasize it enough. The details for each panel are positively exquisite. When the panels are jam-packed from corner to corner, you do not feel overwhelmed at all. Your eyes get bright and eager to absorb everything. Kusanagi-san has an impeccable talent for making her art emanate a simple sophistication that is visually addictive. I easily flipped from one page to the next and the next and the next for the sheer fact that I could not seem to satiate my desire to experience more of these drawings. Even if the panels are depicting one character or one item, essentially being “empty” or “blank” for the most part, it does not exude a lazy, or incomplete vibe. I have gotten that sensation from other manga that I have read and it is not a fun feeling to have.
Moving onwards from foreshadowed fangirling, I know that Yona of the Dawn is not a finished product, nonetheless my rating for the entire series is five out of five and a platinum platter presentation to my favorites bin. Anything less would be an insult to it in more ways than one.