Story & Art by Kanoko Sakurakoji
Published by Viz Media – Shojobeat
Review by Julie Opipari
Black Bird is one of those series that I am on the fence about. It’s a fantasy romance with lots of action and magic and a heroine who is constantly in danger, but it teeters on the edge of oh so wrong! Kyo is a tengu, and he is the leader of his demon clan. He is hot. I guess that kind of makes up for the fact that he might or might not be planning to eat the protagonist, Misao. She is the bride of prophecy, and all of the demons want to possess her. Why? Eating her flesh grants eternal life. Her blood gives incredible powers. Just keeping her alive promises whoever has her tremendous abilities, but I guess the allure of immortality makes everyone pretty much forget about that!
Misao is a high school student, and before Kyo moved in next door, she thought she was your typical high school student. Nope, that was wrong, wrong, wrong. After her 16th birthday, a flood of demons starting hunting her, because they all want to live forever. I don’t know much about the lifespan of a demon, but I bet it’s already fairly long without eating all of the helpless young women in the neighborhood. Too bad for Misao that a long time isn’t long enough for some of those greedy demons. It’s a constant hassle for her fighting off the annoying things. Most of them are low level demons that cause grief more than anything else, but after Kyo comes knocking on her door, the stakes are upped considerably. Now it’s the most powerful demons that are after her. Makes it hard to study for exams when you are constantly worried about becoming someone’s dinner.
This brings me to the reason that I have trouble with the series. Poor Misao. Everyone is trying to kill her, eat her, or rape her. I don’t think that’s very romantic. Being brutalized at every turn isn’t something that I enjoy reading about. Look at the cover. Misao is clutched in Kyo’s possessive embrace, and it certainly doesn’t look like she is enjoying herself. She looks terrified and is crying. And, she’s got blood splatters on her kimono. Probably from Kyo, who looks like he’s about ready to maul her. I don’t care how hot a guy is, if there’s a possibility that he might kill you and then devour your corpse, I just have a hard time finding that romantic. Call me weird or something, but I don’t find that very appealing. The level of violence is at times off-putting as well.
When the story focuses more on the relationship between Misao and Kyo, I enjoy the title more. Sure, Misao is a damp rag next to Kyo’s demanding presence, and that is another annoyance, but I can usually overlook that. Strong, assertive men can be appealing, as long that they aren’t trying to eat you. There are times when Kyo’s possessiveness borders on scary, but Misao doesn’t seem to mind. While I would feel as though I was suffocating, maybe some girls like being treated like a treasured jewel. Besides, if you have a guy as hot as Kyo around, it’s not like you would need to have other male friends; he would take up all of your time, so there wouldn’t be a reason to make him feel jealous, and it would only complicate things more.
In between the melodrama and the failed attempts at turning Misao into dinner, Kanoko Sakurakoji throws in some action to keep things moving breezily along. The action scenes are fun, even if Misao usually does something less than intelligent to get herself in to these life and death predicaments. Kyo works hard at saving her from herself, so I am convinced that he’s not out just for her blood and a hearty meal. Even though Kyo and his vassals look silly in their battle gear, the fights convey a convincing sense of movement and suspense.
Though flawed, Black Bird is a title that I find myself following, almost against my will. It sucks me in, admittedly kicking and screaming at times, but once I pick up each new volume, I find myself reading until the end, usually in one sitting. I guess I am invested enough at this point to at least find out how Misao is going to get a happily ever after, without ending up on some demon’s dinner plate.
When Julie Opipari isn’t mucking around the barn, she can be found trying to make a dent in the massive pile of manga that keeps following her home from the bookstore. Not wiling to admit she has a problem, she blissfully continues to anticipate the latest releases despite the cries of agony from her credit card. She cheerfully blames her addiction on the stresses of college and post traumatic work disorder, and is grateful that her family grumbles only occasionally about the amount of time she spends buried in her books. In addition to reading Your Manga Minute every week, you can read more of Julie’s work on her blog, Manga Maniac Cafe.