Yona of the Dawn is a Japanese manga series by Mizuho Kusanagi, serialized in Hakusensha’s shōjo manga magazine Hana to Yume from August 2009. It has been collected in twenty-four tankōbon volumes.
The story follows the redemption of Yona, the sole princess to the Kingdom of Kouka. Yona lives the carefree life of a princess in Hiryuu Castle, being sheltered by her pacifistic father, King Il, and protected by her bodyguard and childhood friend Son Hak. During a party being held for her sixteenth birthday, her other childhood friend and love interest Soo-Won comes to pay tribute to her. Intending to tell her father that she cannot forget her love for Soo-Won, she visits King Il’s chambers and witnesses him being killed by Soo-Won, who reveals that he will now properly rule Kouka. Hak intervenes and saves Yona, and they escape from the castle to Hak’s birthplace, the Village of Wind. Under the suggestion of Hak’s grandfather Son Mundok, Yona and Hak search for an oracle named Ik-Soo, who then tells them the legend of the first king of Kouka, Hiryuu, and the Four Dragon Warriors who unified the kingdom. Yona and Hak, joined by Ik-Soo’s assistant Yoon, begin a journey to find the descendants of the legendary Four Dragon Warriors in order to survive and save the Kingdom of Kouka.
Mizuho Kusanagi launched the series in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume manga magazine on August 4, 2009. The series has been collected into 24 bound volumes. On October 9, 2015, North American manga publisher Viz Media announced at their New York Comic Con panel that they have licensed the manga and will begin releasing it in summer 2016. The series went on hiatus starting with 2016’s eleventh issue, on April 25, 2016, due to the earthquakes in Kumamoto, where Kusanagi lives. It resumed in the twelfth issue on May 20, 2016.
- Yona is the sole princess of Kingdom of Kouka. Her mother was killed by insurgents when she was young, leaving her father, King Il to raise her up with Son Hak and Soo-Won. Being a princess, she was initially dependent, spoiled and, naive. However, after her father’s death and Soo-Won’s betrayal, she decided to be more independent and become strong enough to fight and protect herself.
- As such, she requested Hak to teach her archery and sword. While astoundingly hesitant to kill, she eventually overcame this hesitation during the battle against Kum-Ji. She is said to be the reincarnation of Hiryuu, the first king of the Kingdom of Kouka, who also had red hair. Being the reincarnation of Hiryuu, the four legendary dragons’ blood will react the moment they lay their eyes upon her and they will hear the voices of the original four dragons’ oath to protect Hiryuu. Yona travels around the country to learn about the outside world as well as protect her country and her people in secret. Although Yona cannot forgive Soo-Won, some part of her still cares about him and she admits she doesn’t wish to seek revenge against him. Over time, she seems to move past her previous affections for Soo-won and develop new feelings for Hak, which she fully realizes are romantic by chapter 110. She later resolves to someday release him of his role as her bodyguard, and return his freedom to him so that he can live out his life in whichever way he wants. She primarily uses the bow and arrow in combat and later learns to wield a sword.
- Son Hak
- He is Yona’s childhood best friend and bodyguard, as well as the former general of the Wind Tribe. He is known as the “Thunder Beast” for his astounding lightning-fast fighting skills, earning him the title of the strongest soldier in the Kingdom of Kouka. His talent had already been recognized since he was thirteen years old and he was the first person to defeat a general in combat at such a young age. He was orphaned as either a young child or an infant, and was adopted by the previous Wind Tribe general, Son Mundok, as his grandson. He is falsely rumoured to be the murderer of King Il and to have kidnapped Yona, due to them disappearing from the palace the night of his death without public explanation.
- Hak is usually sarcastic and nonchalant, occasionally teasing Yona, although he actually cares deeply for her and vows to protect her at all costs. He was a good friend of Soo-Won before his betrayal, and seems to have loved Yona from a young age. However, knowing that Yona had feelings for Soo-Won, Hak has been suppressing his own feelings in favor of Yona and Soo-Won living happily together. He vowed to be Soo-Won’s right-hand man if Soo-Won were to marry Yona and become king. Though he suppresses it for a long time, he was deeply hurt by Soo-Won’s betrayal and has had an arguably harder time coming to terms with it than even Yona. Hak is shown to be extremely protective of Yona early on, but he later grows out of it and begins taking pride in her fiery side. In combat, Hak uses a guandao (a glaive-like bladed pole weapon) as his main weapon, though he also appears to be highly proficient with bows, swords and hand-to-hand combat.
- He is an orphan boy who was taken by the monk, Ik-Soo, as an apprentice, when he was a child. Because of his cute face and expertise at cooking and making medicine, he is often mistaken for or teased to be a girl. He found Yona and Hak when they fell from the cliff after being attacked by Tae-Jun’s ambush. He initially disliked Yona for being an ignorant princess, but after witnessing Yona’s bravery and willingness to educate herself, he apologized. His initial hatred for nobles stemmed from the fact that Ik-Soo was banished from the kingdom by Soo-Won’s father, and as well from his own poverty-stricken upbringing. He always dreamed of going on a journey so that he could learn more about medicine and the world, but never did so before due to the fact that he did not want to leave Ik-Soo. After some convincing, Yoon decided to leave and start travelling with Yona and Hak. Once the Four Dragons are assembled, he becomes something of a medic and caretaker for the group, and harbours a close, sibling-like relationship with Yona. He is the only true non-combatant in the group, though he is capable of making explosives.
- He is Yona’s cousin as well as her first love; a pretty boy with golden hair. After Yona’s mother died, Soo-Won was the one who encouraged Yona and promised to be by her side in her mother’s place, and he was Hak’s best friend and confident. When around others, he maintains an outward personality of clumsy and air-headed to hide his true intelligence and shrewdness. According to Soo-Won, his father was killed by Yona’s father, King Il (although it was covered up to be seen as an accident). This, along with the country suffering under Il’s pacifist rule, lead Soo-Won to conspire with the Fire Tribe to kill Yona’s father, and take over the throne. With King Il dead, Yona missing and presumed dead, Soo-Won is crowned the new king. Even though he seemingly hates King Il and declared he will dispose of anyone who gets in his way, Soo-Won still genuinely cares for both Yona and Hak. He hides the fact that Yona is still alive from his followers, and pointedly avoids arresting or attacking Hak when given the opportunity. Despite the underhanded method he chose to gain the throne, he has actually been somewhat of a good influence on Kouka, hence, Yona decides she does not want to seek revenge on him.
- The descendant and inheritor of White Dragon’s claw. Kija spent most of his life isolated in his hidden village whose people venerated him. He is naive and gullible, with a crippling fear of bugs. Out of all four dragons, Kija was the most immediately loyal to Yona, having been raised on the tale of Hiryuu and feeling a strong duty as the White Dragon. As all the previous White Dragons were raised much the same as he was and bore the same eagerness to serve Hiryuu, Kija is the unknowing vessel of the departed spirits of several generations of White Dragons. His father–the generation of White Dragon before himself–was so upset that a new dragon had been born, he slashed Kija across the back shortly after his birth. As such, he was kept away from Kija until the moment he died and Kija still bears the scars across his back well into adulthood. Originally, he often bickered with Hak, believing that an outsider has no place protecting Hiryuu’s incarnation and taking offence to Hak’s “White Snake” nickname for him. However, as time went on, they develop respect, trust and friendship over their mutual desire to protect Yona. He also harbours a small crush on Yona, but instead actively chooses not to interfere with her growing affections for Hak. Kija wields his dragon claw in combat, which grows massive in size and is said to be able to cut through anything. When not in combat, he wraps his claw in bandage to avoid attracting attention.
- The descendant and inheritor of the Blue Dragon’s eyes. In contrast to Kija’s people, Shin-Ah’s village feared the inheritors of the Blue Dragon’s powers, believing them to be cursed. So much so that when Shin-Ah was born, his mother killed herself. Because the villagers believe that those who look the dragon in the eyes will turn into stone, Shin-Ah had a lonely childhood and thus, grew very quiet and socially-awkward. He was raised by the previous Blue Dragon, Ao, who taught him swordsmanship and his duty to protect the village. Soon after Ao’s death, Shin-ah used the power of his eyes to protect his village from approaching soldiers, killing all of them. This forced the entire clan into hiding. He saves Yona from a malicious villager when she got lost in the caves and eventually chooses to leave the village with her. While growing up Shin-Ah was referred to only as the Blue Dragon and did not have a name until Yona named him. Shin-Ah’s eyes are able to see great distances and disrupt the nerves of anyone glares at until it kills them. After using these eyes, however, Shin-Ah’s body becomes paralyzed for short time. To avoid making eye contact, Shin-Ah covers his face with mask, though he later takes to wearing a blindfold to avoid the attention his mask attracts. Shin-Ah is usually accompanied by his pet squirrel, Ao, named after the previous Blue Dragon. Shin-Ah is extremely loyal to Yona, due to the fact that she gave him a name and was one of the first people to treat him with kindness in over a decade. He mainly wields a sword in battle, choosing not to use his powers for anything other than a last resort.
- The descendant and inheritor of the Green Dragon’s right leg. Jae-Ha was kept prisoner in his village until he eventually escaped and joined a pirate crew. Jae-Ha tries to avoid Yona because he did not want to be constrained by his duty, and he initially declines Yona’s invitation to join her. However, he is intrigued by Yona’s spirit and determination, and despite his concerns that his dragon blood is influencing him, he leaves the pirate crew and joins Yona on her journey. Jae-Ha is laid back, flamboyant and a womanizer. He is aware of Hak’s feelings for Yona and likes to tease him about it, much to Hak’s frequent annoyance. Despite his earlier reservations about joining them, Jae-Ha eventually becomes a surrogate older brother to the group, and develops a close friendship with Hak–who only ever refers to him as “Tareme”, often translated to “Droopy Eyes”. He harbours some romantic affection toward Yona himself, but chooses not to pursue her due to their age gap and out of respect for Hak and the obvious feelings Yona holds for him. Jae-Ha’s dragon leg allows him to jump incredibly distances which allows him to travel quickly and see things from up high. However, his power is useless when he is under water. He can enlarge his leg, however he does not like to do so since he dislikes the look of the dragon’s leg. Jae-Ha mainly utilizes his powerful leg for close-combat and throws daggers as ranged weapons.
- The Yellow Dragon warrior. In contrast to the other dragon warriors, Yona did not have to go searching for him as he wandered into their camp. Zeno is cheerful and upbeat, and is usually smiling–behaviours adopted from his late wife, Kaya. Seemingly air-headed, Zeno is actually the most observant of the group, quickly noticing changes or anything unusual. It is revealed that Zeno is the original Yellow Dragon Warrior who served King Hiryuu (making him about two thousand years old) and that he has been spying on Yona ever since she fled the castle. He also visited the young Dragon Warriors when Yona was born, which is only very vaguely recalled by Kija, who was four at the time. Zeno admits that, unlike the other three dragons, he did not sense any ‘awakening’ when he first saw Yona and does not initially show any special abilities. Zeno’s dragon power is immortality; his body regenerates, even if he is beheaded or burned alive. When he uses this power, dragon scales cover his body and he becomes as strong as the White Dragon and can jump as high as the Green Dragon. Zeno used to live in Hiryuu palace and functioned as Kouka’s first Priest, but he was forced to leave when the public started to notice that he did not age. Zeno usually wields a shield in combat to protect Yun and Yona from projectile attacks. He often reserves his power for a last resort, as they do entail him to very seriously injure himself before activation.