Black Bird, Vol. 2
By Kanoko Sakurakoji
Published by Viz Media
Misao Harada, already in the unpleasant position of having to depend on the dreamy yet controlling demon Kyo for her very life, finds things further complicated by the arrival of the rest of Kyo’s tengu clan. The new arrivals (all male, each prettier than the next) include Kyo’s older brother, Sojo, whom Misao also knew as a child. On the plus side, Misao finds out that Kyo fought to take Sojo’s position as head of the clan, presumably in order to marry her, lending additional credibility to his declaration of love. Unfortunately, deceptively mild-mannered Sojo turns out to be a pretty sick guy who will do anything to destroy Kyo and take back what was his, placing everyone’s lives in peril.
This is a fairly eventful volume that packs quite a punch, both in terms of romance and melodrama. Sojo is a truly hateful villain who even abuses adorable little tengu Taro and his brothers–the general equivalent of kicking an uncommonly cute puppy–making him incredibly easy to despise. Revelations about Kyo’s past with Misao and the memories that were erased from her mind by Sojo’s magic create a dark, romantic tone that would be difficult for any hot-blooded shojo fan to resist, despite the story’s sexually-charged violence. Unfortunately, this volume’s final chapter destroys the one thing that had, until this point, kept its misogynistic overtones somewhat in check.
In my review of volume one, I said that it was Misao’s clear view of her own situation that made the story palatable, despite Kyo’s deeply controlling nature. Misao knew that she was stuck depending on Kyo and hated it, highlighting both the poignance of her circumstances and her own personal strength, and presenting an opportunity for Kyo to be the one to change in order to be worth of her. This begins to erode early in volume two, as Misao falls further for Kyo’s charm and the bits of memories she’s clung to all these years. Still, it is possible to hang on as evidence mounts suggesting Kyo’s sincere intentions. Then everything falls apart all at once with a bit of internal monologue from Misao as Kyo unbelievably forces himself on her as a form of “punishment” for her behavior with his bishonen relatives.
He never has sweet words for me. He uses force to make me understand what he’s thinking. That’s why when he hugs me gently I can feel it. I get the message.
With these words, any hope of Misao remaining a strong heroine is lost and I suspect this series has lost me. Though it has great potential as a compelling piece of deliciously trashy shojo, I’m not sure it can come back from that. Prove me wrong, Black Bird?
Review copy provided by the publisher.
julie saysNovember 3, 2009 at 8:38 am
Ugh. I have been putting this one off for fear that it would continue in a downward spiral. Abusive heroes just don’t work for me, and your review really makes me want to avoid reading it.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 3, 2009 at 8:41 am
I was pretty depressed. When David Welsh and Kate Dacey were expressing their disgust with the first volume, I was all, “But the heroine knows it sucks! It’s not romanticized!” *sigh* So much for that.
Anna saysNovember 3, 2009 at 10:43 am
I was on the fence about this title after the first volume, but I think now it has gone on my “avoid” list.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 3, 2009 at 10:50 am
I’m sorry to be the bearer of such bad news. I was very disappointed.
Sarah saysNovember 3, 2009 at 12:07 pm
You know, reading this series reminds me a lot of Hot Gimmick, which has a similarly messed-up relationship. (Although HG actually disturbs me even more because it’s more realistic and…well, at least Misao smacks the crap out of Kyo a lot. But that actually just makes this relationship two-way abusive in a way, yes/no?)
I blame Twilight (as I do for everything). There’s always been a trend for slightly controlling men in girls manga, in the way that there’s always been trend for them in romance novels. But stuff like Black Bird makes me wonder if the manga-ka aren’t copying the Twilight success by using overtly controlling-to-the-point-of-abuse men and their submissive women who think of their abuse in terms of love.
Of course, perhaps Black Bird is isolated on that, because I can’t quite think of any other post-Twilight manga that glorify abusive men, but I’ll be keeping my eye out for that trend now.
lys saysNovember 4, 2009 at 2:17 pm
I don’t know that you can blame Twilight for a manga that started in Japan at least 2 years ago (2006 or 2007, says wikipedia). It’s certainly fair to say they share a trend with the controlling relationships depicted as positive, or to say that the popularity of the series here (and Viz’s choice to publish it now) may be a result of Twilight’s success, but I’m not sure if a Japanese artist would have been familiar with Twilight when she started this work. Also, having read Backstage Prince (as well as a few of her other short stories via scans), I can see similar trends in her definitely-pre-Twilight work as well, so it’s not exactly something new she’s started doing in her work.
Sarah saysNovember 4, 2009 at 5:01 pm
Twilight dates to 2005, although it was a fairly slow burn until sudden popularity around ’07. And I don’t know when exactly it was translated in Japan (where it’s popular enough; Japanese copies have manga-like illustrations that American fans covet).
Maybe it didn’t inspire Black Bird, but perhaps it has something to do with its popularity? I’m still wondering how BB got that manga award…
lys saysNovember 4, 2009 at 5:57 pm
Hmm. I wasn’t sure when it was translated for Japan either. Most of the dates I saw on Amazon JP looked pretty recent, but the manga-cover version (vol1) is listed as August 2005… while Amazon US is telling me the first Twilight book wasn’t released here until October 05? Now I’m confused. Did Japan get the books before us??
Anyway, I still feel like both series are just two of the best-known examples of a bigger trend and not necessarily the trend-starters themselves, but it’s true that their popularity could be tied together both here and in Japan. I’m really wondering about that manga award too.
Ashley saysNovember 14, 2009 at 6:08 pm
I, for one, really like this manga. and even though you claim it to be “abbusive” i’m sure that anyone who reads it would agree that Kyo really wouldn’t hurt Misao. Maybe i’m just masochistic, but i really like the feel of this manga and i’m glad they got together within the first few volumes and that it’s still going on despite that fact. I’ve read too many manga that dragged on for many many volumes before anyone got together, then i suddenly ended after that. I’m always slightly dissapointed in those, because i wan’t to see MORE. This book is intresting to me bacause it actually satifies me. Much like this author’s other mangas.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 14, 2009 at 7:08 pm
Hi Ashley. I actually didn’t use the word “abusive” anywhere in my post, and while I do agree that I’m sure the author will never allow Kyo to do any permanent physical damage to Misao, he already *is* hurting her by using force to impose his will on her. I, too, was enjoying this manga until the author decided to have Misao justify Kyo’s controlling behavior instead of fighting against it as she did earlier on in the story. I even thought that perhaps it would be Kyo who would learn from Misao to be a worthy romantic partner. Unfortunately, for me, violent, controlling partners are not actually romantic, and that is what Kyo is at this point in the story.
Cristina saysDecember 15, 2009 at 7:52 pm
Well, if you hate Twilight that much, I’m sorry. But don’t compare that series to this manga. It is a lot better than most.
It is to my taste as far as the distinct characters go and is a lot darker than most shoujo manga that I have read but that is what I love about it.
I also agree with Robert below. He was abusing his seductive power, but he is a character completely in love yet never knew how to show it. Perfect.
Melinda Beasi saysDecember 15, 2009 at 7:59 pm
Uh, I never once mentioned Twilight in my review or in comments. I’m not sure who you’re talking to here.
ben saysNovember 20, 2009 at 5:37 pm
dude this book is wow
Robert saysDecember 2, 2009 at 2:16 am
I dont have any clue what you people who dislike this manga, it has a story great story, a spot on shoot to the heart of Drama & romance. I cant wait for volume 3, Now stop think how was he ever abusive to her when she knows she loves his touch- PLUS he heals her, yes he seduces her time to time, but was she ever in pain that he didnt heal, if you dont get that about this Manga your right should’nt read it. some of us like those early relationship Storys than you having to read 12 volumes of a manga to finally see them hook up thats sometimes boring but also builds drama that cool too, but anyway yeah i really this manga and dislike those who judge a story they knowing about.
Melinda Beasi saysDecember 2, 2009 at 8:49 am
No offense Robert, but I’m a manga critic. It’s my job to read manga and judge it. :)
Robert saysDecember 2, 2009 at 8:27 pm
Oh i just got a little upset hearing how everyone seemed to hate this story. (LoL)
brittany saysJanuary 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm
this book is cool!!!!!!!!
Kristina saysFebruary 28, 2010 at 3:39 am
I find it kind of amusing how many critics are fairly quick to give poor ratings for this manga -not that there’s anything wrong with that, people are entitled to their own opinions after all.
In fact, I remember reading one review where the reviewer commented that this manga followed the typical themes of a ‘bodice-ripper” romance, and to be fair, it does fill out that criteria fairly well.
After reading the second and third volumes however, I feel like some credit should be given to Sakurakoji-san for at least giving the plot some depth by adding in dramatic twists to -at the very least- give the reader a bit more than your stereotypical shoujo manga. There’s quite a bit of either dramatic or situational irony which aids in giving the story a much darker tone, which I definitely enjoy. I was a little disappointed that Misao’s character quickly deteriorated into the “damsel-in-distress” heroine, but I suppose that couldn’t be helped because in turn, it gave the reader a better understanding of Kyo and his slightly abrasive, yet gentle at times, way of showing affection. Granted, you don’t see as much of that in the second volume as you do in the third, I think.
All in all, I could totally understand why some would choose to avoid this one after reading the first or second volume, but frankly speaking, I’m kinda hooked. ^-^;
It’s just a nice change to see the male protagonist of a story be some other type of mythological creature aside from vampire, werewolf, or fox-demons for that matter (the whole Kyuubi thing in Naruto’s slowly starting to get old for me, really). >.>;
Tronden Yelverton saysApril 1, 2010 at 3:45 am
On Tuesday, I went to Barnes & Noble for a new manga to read and I stumbled into Black Bird. I’ve never heard of it before, and the cover just seemed interesting. So I bought volume 1, and it was VERY satisfying. It interests me because of Kyo kinda reminds me of myself when I’m in High School. LOL! The story did kinda remind me of Twilight, but if I had to choose which is better, I’ll go with Black Bird. I loved the book SO MUCH, the next day (Wednesday) I went to Barnes & Noble again to get volume 2. Now I just gotta get volume 3 and so on. ^_^