Manga-ka: Kanoko Sakurakoji
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2009
Synopsis: “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.”
Waiting for the day when her childhood Prince Charming will return, high school student’s Misao’s life is flipped upside down when a demon attack leads her to learn that she is a ‘bride of prophecy’. Now demons of every shape and size are after her, seeking her special blood which will imbue them with great power, and though she thankfully finds herself rescued by a familiar face from her past, Misao unfortunately realizes his intentions don’t seem entirely pure either.
Ripe with innuendo, Black Bird is chock full of sex-but-not-actually moments. From proposals for marriage that are more intended to mean ‘take your virginity’ and a variety of scenes involving blushing, moaning and writhing under the healing tongue of the handsome male lead, there’s plenty here to tantalize the minds of the book’s target audience of 16+ while still keeping the majority of their clothes on.
Still, the same attributes of the story take away a lot of its assumingly well-intentioned devotion of the male lead. You know the type, shoujo stories are ripe with them – attractive, strong, introverted but always there to save you at just the right moment (don’t forget the fond childhood memories!) – except Kyo is completely transparent and upfront, turning what knight-in-shining-armour archetypes he has going for him into something much less romantic. It’s all too clear that he wants in Misao’s panties just as much as any of the other demons coming after her; he’s just intelligent enough to go at her from a less immediately intrusive level. This is what makes the story a little hard to get attached to. It, presumably, wants you to root for Kyo and Misao and yet I spent the whole book feeling pity for poor Misao, whose life of sudden-male-devotion is anything but the sparkly, woe-is-me-I’m-over-loved dramatics that other shoujo leads get to experience.
There’re some moments in the book that read genuinely scary, not so much in the ‘eek, scary demons!’ sort of way but in continuously more sympathetic tones for Misao. As if getting chewed on and chased by demon wasn’t bad enough, and a little on the bloody side, her rescues by Kyo could be a little more emotionally involved as well. One scene in particular, where Kyo rescues her from falling off the school roof, had me feel the most for her as pure terror ripped across her face.
On more a positive note, the artwork is really good – consistent and solid, it’s immediately recognizable as a shoujo while also being a little darker to accommodate the horror themes. On the cute side of things there’s also a young demon who acts as a servant-of-sorts to Kyo who brings some much appreciated reprieve from all the situational negativity.
Really though, what did Black Bird really have to offer me past a heroine-pity party? Not a whole lot – though that isn’t to say it was bad, per se, it’s just not really the kind of series for me (or at least not yet). A peek ahead at each consecutive cover artwork doesn’t seem to bode much better for Misao than was already laid out for her either, but I remain curious enough to check out the next volume, if anything out of hope she finds a plot-relevant break.
Honestly, however, I think this book comes out at the perfect time, ready to fall into the hands of sexually-curious teens already entranced by the current vampire craze. Demons, danger and a heavy coating of sexual tension make Black Bird a potential hit with its target audience if it manages to pass the initial interest-catch phase.