Lullaby of the Dawn Volume 3 Review


“That lullaby you were singing. It’s the song about parents mourning their child becoming a kannagi.” Lord Shiyan to his wife who’s nursing their baby daughter Hilda. “Don’t you think you should sing something else?”

On a remote island, surrounded by the Black Sea, chosen young warrior priests – the white-haired kannagi – must live alone and battle night after night against the nameless monsters that emerge from the dark waters. This takes a terrible toll on their bodies and they die young. All, that is, except Elva who – thanks to the companionship of Alto, a village boy – has reached the age of twenty-six. Alto seems to have the power to reverse the deadly signs of the Black Sea’s curse on the kannagi, the dark stains on their bodies. Others have noticed this unusual power: Letty and Konoe, who are sent to check up on the kannagi by the strict Church that trains the young warriors. Alto has also – by a strange accident of fate – met Manieri, the lively Kannagi of the West, whose body is already badly stained.

Alto and Elva’s feelings of friendship have deepened into love and Elva has begun, at last, to open up to Alto about his troubled childhood. Abandoned as a child, he was adopted by the local lord to be a playmate for his two sons, the younger of whom, Shiyan, is now lord of the manor in his father’s stead. Lord Shiyan, or rather his wife, has taken an interest in Alto – for mysterious reasons – and Alto is invited to the manor. Does she maybe know something about the father he never met? On his way there, however, he spots Letty collecting samples in the Black Sea – and inadvertently makes a shocking discovery that changes everything he knows about the island.

Manieri has collapsed and is at death’s door. He’s brought in secret to Elva’s place by Konoe and his colleague, Juno, in the hope that Alto can heal him – but the message that they send to the Monastery is that Manieri is already dead, intending to give the young man a fresh start if he pulls through. But what will they do if the formidable leaders of the Church discover they’ve been deceived? It’s a risky and dangerous strategy which could bring all kinds of dire consequences.

In my reviews of the first two volumes of Lullaby of the Dawn, I praised the BL manga for its engrossing and page-turning qualities. It’s a good read! Mangaka Ichika Yuno continues to find interesting ways to convey the story and isn’t afraid to run two (sometimes more!) threads at the same time in the narrative, with many little reveals paying off at just the right moment, which requires considerable story-telling and panelling skill.

However, I do have a problem in reviewing this third volume because it contains a very big reveal which I don’t want to spoil for prospective readers but I’ll have to discuss by the time I’m reviewing Volume 4. Whether the big reveal is a misstep on the mangaka’s part or not is too early to tell as even though it’s there in the text, the potential outcomes have not yet begun to be explored. This, in itself, is a little disappointing because once it’s ‘out there’ it means everything we’ve read so far needs to be re-evaluated, even if you’re one of those readers who ‘saw it coming’. (There is also another revelation quietly slipped into the narrative toward the end of the volume with significant implications for Alto and Elva but the mangaka again leaves us to guess what it means.)

Aside from this, Ichika Yuno delivers more of what made the first two volumes such a good read: the characters are still appealing and it’s endearing to watch the relationship between the two main protagonists progressing as Elva learns to trust Alto and tries to allow himself to ignore the Church’s harsh teachings. But when the Great Priestess herself comes to see him unexpectedly, she condemns his relationship with Alto, calling them ‘homosexual filth’ – and for a moment we see him waver. But the new Elva has matured, thanks to Alto’s influence, and he is able to face her with newly found courage and maturity. By the end of the volume, though, there are ominous hints that Alto and Elva’s happiness together may be of short duration.

To some readers, the main revelation in this volume might be seen as a deal-breaker. Others might be looking for a spicier portrayal of the central relationship; in spite of what it says on the Amazon page, this is rated 16+ Older Teen, so any scenes of a sexual nature are portrayed in a way that leaves much to the reader’s imagination. Nevertheless, as the intimate scenes are consensual and feel earned, they add to our understanding of the way Alto and Elva’s relationship is deepening.

Tokyopop LoveLove have released Lullaby of the Dawn Volume 3 in digital first (reviewed here) with the paperback to follow on April 16 2024; the paperback editions of the first two volumes are attractively produced with the new LoveLove spine and cover format, so it’s to be expected that the third will match them on our shelves in due course. The translation is again by Riley Keenan and flows well. The mangaka has added several little bonuses including, for the first time, a map of the island showing where the kannagi are based (and Alto’s village) and some light-hearted one-page comics.

The digital edition of Volume 4 is scheduled for March 24 2024, so not too long to wait to find out what happens next…

9 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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