Manga Village

Black Bird Volume 1

September 11, 2009

Everything changes one day when Misao is attacked by a demon. Her childhood friend Kyo suddenly returns to save her and tend to her cuts–with his tongue! It turns out Misao is the bride of prophecy, whose blood gives power to the demon clan who claims her. But most demons want to keep her power for themselves–by eating her! Now Misao is just trying to stay alive…and decide if she likes it when Kyo licks her wounds.

By Kanoko Sakurakoji
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Supernatural/Romance
Price: $8.99

I was really looking forward to this title when it was announced. I loved Backstage Prince by the same mangaka. The characters were great, and the setting, kabuki theater, was different. It was a lot of fun. This title also features Yokai, Japanese monsters, which I also love. So, I had high hopes for this title. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite measure up, with too many cliches, 2-D characters, and a romance that doesn’t really do it for me.

The plot to this title is almost like a checklist of cliches. Girl who is the only one at her school who can see demons. Check. Girl yearns for boy who used to live next to her and play with her with she was little, but moved away suddenly. Check. Boy returns, grown up, is hot and is a teacher at the girl’s school. Check. Girl’s powers make her target of demons. Check. Girl is constantly being rescued by boy from demons, and is himself a demon. Check. That’s pretty much the plot. This first volume throws out all these cliches as the story, making it tolerable, but not really engaging. But that doesn’t have to be a title-killer. Characters can save an otherwise average story.

It’s too bad this story doesn’t have any characters that do that. The two protagonists, Kyo and Misao, are very flat. They are about as 2-D as the paper they’re printed on. Misao is a typical girl that can see spirits but just wants to have a normal life. She’s also pretty gullible. In the first chapter she finds out that demons are after her, and that they’ll use her fellow students to get to her, but she’ll still go tromping off behind the school with them just so she can get cut and bleed all over just so Kyo can forcefully lick her wounds. And of course, she falls for the the “Kyo doesn’t love you, he’s only using you” line from Kuzunoha, a kitsune competing with Kyo for Misao (Check). That disappointed me.

Kyo isn’t much better. He’s really a bit of a jerk, with his smug attitude, especially toward Misao. To Taro, his servant, he just plain abusive, using him to get Misao to agree to have dinner with them. When he’s alone with Misao though, it seems like there’s two sides to him. One is the jerk that pushes her around, forcing her to accept his “healing” or taking her high into the air, even though she hates heights, just “to teach her a lesson” The other side seems to show real feeling for her. He seems genuinely upset when Misao says she doesn’t remember the time they were together. And he has to do the obligatory “throw himself into harms way to protect Misao” for her to get his feelings might be real. So I like Kyo a little more, but he’s still too much of a jerk.

What’s really bothersome about this title is all the sexually implied scenes with Kyo licking Misao wounds. We’re given the impression that Misao doesn’t welcome Kyo’s advances, but every time he does it, she just submits. I think we’re supposed to think she’s embarrassed, but that’s not how it looks. Her cheeks get flush and her eyes become teary. It’s hard to tell if she’s enjoying it or not. Those scenes are kind of creepy and it makes believing that there can be a real relationship between Misao and Kyo hard to swallow.

I wanted to like this story, but it really felt flat. I couldn’t really connect to the characters or story, and there’s next to no romance in the romance. Black Bird isn’t a terrible title, but neither can I comfortably recommend it.

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