Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Black Bird by Kanoko Sakurakouji

Title: Black Bird
Author: Kanoko Sakurakouji
Volumes: 18
Volumes (English): 17 (ongoing)

He loves her blood, but does her love her?! 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. All that 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.

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This is a lot to be getting on with. Skip to the bottom for final thoughts.

Please note that this review refers to volumes 1-16. An update will be added once I read volume 17.

So I hate myself for continuing to read this series, even more so for still kind of liking it. The best way to describe this series might be Twilight on crack. No wait; make that Fifty Shades on crack. Black Bird is a sort of love triangle between Misau, a human girl whose blood is a magnet for demons, and two demon brothers, Kyo whose courtship consists of stalking and threatening Misau into loving him, and Sho, who is a sadistic would be rapist that doesn't seem to even like Misau, but wants the power her blood can give him. With two such compelling heroes, what's a girl to do?

If you're Misau you spend most of your time alternating between thinking about Kyo, feeling threatened by Kyo, being felt up by Kyo, crying over Kyo, enduring multiple kidnappings from Kyo's friends and family, fending off Sho's rapist advances, crying for Sho's sociopath tendencies and worrying about Kyo and her role as the Senka Maiden. My main complaint with Misau is she's a damsel and this seems to be the primary way the plot is moved forward.

I don't think there is one volume in which Misau isn't being rescued by someone or crying over any given situation. Actually I'm being unfair, she's not a damsel even once in volume four. Of course by volume five she's firmly a damsel again, complete with abduction and chains.

As the story progresses I also find myself annoyed with how wrapped up Misau is in Kyo. She rearranges her life to revolve around him. At sixteen years old she cannot conceive a future beyond being Kyo's wife [View Spoiler]
[and mother to his unborn child.]
She sees herself as an "empty shell" that can only be filled by Kyo! (In more ways the one I'm sure.)

I'm all for women who choose to be a wife and mother first and I don't think that their job is less worthy than someone pursuing a career outside of the home. What I do find sad is when a sixteen year old girl literally has no dreams outside of her boyfriend. I don't care if it's her destiny and it moves the plot along - it's still depressing. I want more from my heroines.

As for Kyo...he's kind of a douche canoe, who becomes less so in the later volumes, but still doesn't relinquish his douche canoe status. He's the dominant personality in their relationship and is not only possessive and controlling but borderline sadistic as well. For example, knowing that Misau is terrified of flying, he not only forces her to fly with him, but he then threatens to drop her mid flight. And this is early in the relationship when he is still courting her. It's kind of fucked up. Of course it's more fucked up that he actually wins the girl. (That in and of itself says a lot about Misau.)

I don't care for Sho either, but of course you're not really supposed to. There is literally nothing redeeming about this character and yet Misau has a difficult time sorting out her feelings for him. His sole purpose in the series consists of abducting and terrorizing Misau as well as wooing her with attempted rape. He's so evil that his character falls flat and doesn't have the depth as some of the other characters. Basically he's boring in his villainy. [View Spoiler]

[I was happy the first time he died, I was more than ready for the Sho arc to end, and then she brings him back! I might have thrown my volume across the room at his resurrection.]

My favorite part of the series is the eight daitengu. They are way more interesting than anything else going on in the series. I find that my favorite volumes are those that delve into their pasts or focuses on their motives. I especially like Hoki's story line. He's not your typical hero, in fact I'm not sure if "hero" is an accurate description for him, but he is interesting in his flaws. Much more so than the characters of the main story line.

The artwork in Black Bird is beautiful, especially the full color covers. While the plot is full of overdone cliches and mediocrity the artwork is top notch. It's a shame that most of it is wasted on Misau and Kyo.

Final Thoughts
Even as the plot becomes more outrageous and melodramatic, to the point of outright laughter, I still find the story and some of the characters engaging. (The secondary characters more so than the primary ones.) I don't care for the Kyo or Misau and I'm invested just enough in the series that I want to see how it ends. [View Spoiler]

[While I'm pretty sure Misau and her demon baby will survive I want to know for sure that I'm correct. At heart I'm a romantic and I want a happy ending, even for characters I don't particularly care about.]

I wouldn't recommend this series to most people. I think if you like BDSM literature, like Fifty Shades and Sylvia Day, and haven't read any manga this is a good gateway series into this format. I also recommend this series to fantasy readers of Demon Love Spell, MeruPuri and Two Flowers for the Dragon and contemporary readers of We Were There, Love Com, Strobe Edge and Sand Chronicles.

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