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Friday, April 6, 2018

Selah's Manga Mania: Black Bird, Vol. 1 by Kanoko Sakurakouji

by Kanoko Sakurakouji
July 7, 2011
194 pages
Publisher: VI
Z Media: Shojo Beat
Volumes: 18
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
There is a world of myth and magic that intersects ours, and only a special few can see it. Misao Harada is one such person, and she wants nothing to do with magical realms. She just wants to have a normal high school life and maybe get a boyfriend. 

But she is the bride of demon prophecy, and her blood grants incredible powers, her flesh immortality. Now the demon realm is fighting over the right to her hand...or her life!

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.

Believe it or not, I can find something worthwhile in most everything I read. I fully admit that some of my manga reading falls into the category of ‘I’m absolutely not reading it for the right reasons and it just amuses me way too much to stop’ (see Kiss of the Rose Princess). I may rant a bit for effect, but I don’t really hate anything.

Until I do.

Welcome to the one series that I really, truly, absolutely cannot stand and couldn’t finish – couldn’t even rage finish, the series whose existence monumentally grinds my gears.

A lot of people seem to love it, though, so there’s that.

So yeah, Black Bird. Sigh.
It’s set up as a typical paranormal romance, and there are a lot of shojo tropes here. Main female character who sees spirits and is tormented them and is there to be the good, oblivious love interest? Check. Former neighbor, who moves back and turns out to be a paranormal creature/possessive love interest? Check. Other paranormal creatures, who want to keep them apart for their own interests/because female character is so good and apparently attractive even though she’s billed as normal? Check. 

Why yes, that does sound a lot like Twilight. Now, crank that up to ten thousand, because unlike Twilight, the whole plot, the main thing that the entire thing hinges around is the sex.

No, seriously, this is cranked up way beyond Edward Cullen. For realsies. I don’t even mind Twilight after dipping a toe into this. My brain has been broken far beyond Twilight.
So, Misao can see spirits/demons/yokai/etc and is a high school student. All was harmless until she turned 16, then suddenly these things start harassing her. Enter her former neighbor Kyo, who saves her from the surprise harassment, except that he turns out to be a Tengu (kind of a crow/raven demon thing), and not just ANY demon thing, but the head of his clan. And why is he back, why are all these demons/creatures harassing her?

Because she’s the Senka. And what does that mean? Well one, if they eat her, they gain immortality. But two, a lot of them (including Kyo) want to marry her because that will mean their clan levels up so much that they can’t be beaten and will cement whoever’s placed as head of their clan.

And by the way, marry absolutely means take her virginity.


So, not only do you have the gaslighting of Twilight and the aloof male character who professes love then acts cold as hell, not only do you have the female lead who really has no point but to be kidnapped/get into accidents/ be the entrĂ©e for whoever can get to her first. You’ve also got a lot of sex jokes and a lot of attempted assault. From a rival demon clan leader to a jealous rival to Kyo’s sadist brother, time and again Misao is tricked into being alone/kidnapped/I don’t even remember what, and brought right up to the point where maybe someone is going to get on her before Kyo. We also get to see Kyo try to talk her into sex page after page after page and that’s apparently how courtship works in this world. It isn’t even like pretty, romantic sexiness – a lot of this is cringe-inducing attempts to talk her into stuff, then played off as a joke. Healing her constant injuries usually involves forced licking, which is not a sentence I thought I’d ever have to type. 
Look, I’m old. I’m not dead, I like reading seductive stuff as much as the next person and I’ve read a hell of a lot of things in my time, but my threshold for this kind of plot is nonexistent anymore. I need more. Gone are the days when I find a plot hinging on finally doing it titillating, especially when the female lead’s sole purpose is to be an object for others to obtain and make use of (and potentially kill after they’ve made use of her, there’s that, too). It’s especially hard when the protagonist is so much younger than me.

Hell, it’s hard for me to buy that Kyo actually loves her – you get a little bit more of his emotions as things go on, but there’s never one real moment where I feel like he’s emotionally come together and has fallen head over heels for her. It’s just kind of said he does, and we’re expected to go with it (believe me, I looked. I reread freakin’ volumes looking for some emotional reveal. I did that for you). I mean if it was one volume, eh, okay, but this is literally 18 volumes of this. I got to volume 9 when they do actually get married and hook up….and surprise, Kyo levels up, but it doesn’t necessarily bind Misao to him so she’s still in danger from other demons stealing her away for exactly the reason you think. AND there’s reason to believe she may not survive childbirth (there’s a whole subplot about getting scrolls that describe the only other successful relationship of this nature so they can figure out exactly what’s going to happen from this union). So really, the marriage isn’t about taking her virginity, but just outright banging, so in theory, even after Misao and Kyo are “married,” she could still be used by any demon clan.

Picture the most deadpan, unamused face right now. That’s me.
I think, to a point, the visual element also pushes it over the edge for me. I don’t mind the style – it’s a pretty, flowy art that’s typical in a lot of shojo, and I don’t even mind the creature design (though I do agree with some other bloggers who think the creatures are lazily conceived. Compared to like Natsume’s Book of Friends, there’s no contest in the yokai character design). It’s not fabulous, but it’s not bad. However, some of it is problematic. This blogger does a much more involved job of pointing it out, but any time Misao is healed/seduced/nearly assaulted…it’s all visually portrayed in a similar manner. Yep. She also does a great job of pointing out Misao’s passivity – I mean we’re talking to the point of obviously ignoring potential plot elements just so Kyo and his clan can keep saving her. That is literally why she exists, so Kyo can be romantic to her – if romance is policing her school, using his preternatural strength and powers to have a hold on her, separating her from her family and anyone who might be a friend, playing up his personal angst no matter what she’s going through, monitoring her actions, and constantly acting pervy to convince her they should be ‘married.’ Be still my heart.

Honestly, if the tone was different, this would be an incredible horror manga. But it’s not. And there are plenty of people who like the angst, the drama, the sexual tension, the ‘romance’ of it all.

I absolutely recommend reading the post I linked to because her points are dead on and I don’t want to take any of that from her. It also made me feel like I wasn’t going crazy when I rage quit the series and found all these glowing reviews on it.

My take is this: If you’re into titillation and manufactured drama or the ‘no, no, oh okay’ deal that some romances feature, or if you legitly like 50 Shades of Grey or like the paranormal elements of Twilight but wanted it more adult…you know, that’s fine. I will not fault you for it, we all have our thing. You will most likely…maybe not adore the series, but I could see people liking it for those reasons. My only thing even then is that it’s so long. It’s one thing to do that in a novel or even a trilogy, but we’re talking nine volumes before any boot knocking happens if that’s what you’re into.

That sort of thing is very much is not my speed anymore. I would also warn that reading on a page and watching some of this play out visually via illustrations can be a bit different so you may want to seek this out in a library/flip through a few volumes in a store instead of outright buying it. I absolutely don’t think it’s great for teens or tweens, and I’ve constantly seen this moved back to the adult section of the library any time it migrates over to YA. So there’s that aspect to consider.

So, yeah. Nope. Not a fan.

Sigh, do I have to give this sheep? I mean it exists, and it took effort to create, so for that, I’ll give it half a sadistic paranormal stalker sheep.

About Selah Janel:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

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