Black Bird 14

Kanako Sakurakoji – Viz – 2012 – 19 volumes

Oh maaaan. Black Bird. I thought it ended at volume 16. Well… can’t stop reading now, can I?

Actually, things are looking up in this volume. The fight between Kyo and Sho ends in this volume, which is the main reason I was happy. It was surprisingly dark for a shoujo manga, even for this series. Black Bird is fairly dark, but the characters always seem to seek out the path of least violence and resistance.

Hm. I’m not quite sure how to explain my feelings on this. I do actually like this series a lot because it’s darker and, admittedly, because it’s a little more smutty than most shoujo manga. We get both of those things in this volume, as the dark ending leads to more smut later. Which is interesting, since that never happens in shoujo manga, and is a bonus if you’re into that kind of thing. But man. I just cannot get into the story. I think that whole Tengu Clan leader storyline permanently soured me to the rest of it. A shame, because the second half of the volume seems to be getting things back on track to the whole Senka Maide/Kyo Will Kill Misao thing, which is way more interesting. But… I just can’t bring myself to care about Kyo or Misao, which sours the whole thing.

Maybe I’ll begin liking it again in volume 15, when the action and family politics hopefully take a back seat to the Kyo/Misao relationship. Unfortunately, one of the other things I don’t like about it is the fact that there are so many characters involved with the main storyline. All action seems to involve all seven of Kyo’s bodyguards, their backstory, and their kin, and I just can’t be bothered to care or to keep them all straight. I’d like it much better if things were pared down. But maybe that will be the case, since hopefully things will be less action-oriented now. Fingers crossed, it will delve more into mythology, which would suit my tastes perfectly.

I hate getting so down on this series, but… I mean, it’s not like I have high expectations for it. It’s always been a guilty pleasure, but it became a chore to read lately, and I do want to like it. Here’s hoping next volume will bring me what I want.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Black Bird 13

Kanoko Sakurakouji – Viz – 2012 – 16+ volumes

I was a couple volumes behind on this, so I thought I’d catch up. I forgot! Black Bird can be so infuriating!

My main point of contention deals with a major plot point in this volume, so I don’t want to spoil anything. But unfortunately, Misao finds herself in a position to end all the conflict. And she can’t do it. Not only that, she actually takes an action she knows will only escalate the conflict. Then cries about it later. I know this is pretty much Shoujo Manga 101, and I can’t really blame Black Bird for the fact that I’m becoming a cranky old woman, but man. It can still be headache-inducing.

And I’m sure there are those out there that will be willing to point out I had this coming to me, that Black Bird has been this way pretty much all along. And they’re probably right. The romance was what kept me coming back and had me absolutely addicted at first, but now that it’s more-or-less resolved, I’m starting to lose interest rapidly with the rest of what’s here. Admittedly, what Misao does shakes things up, and there’s still the matter of what happens to the Senka Maiden (it’s strongly hinted, of course, that she’s meant to be killed), but I doubt any of this will come to bear in a serious way. So we are left with the conflict between Kyo and his brother Sho, and the various attempts to stop Sho by members of Kyo’s entourage.

I believe this storyline will be coming to an end with one more volume, and I’ll finish it out and see what happens next. But really. I’m not sure if this can hold my interest much longer. I’m sorry, Black Bird.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Black Bird 12

Kanoko Sakurakouji – Viz – 2012 – 15+ volumes

This series… hm. As much as I enjoyed it as a terrible guilty pleasure initially, that was for the bodice-ripping romance between Misao and Kyo. But now that they’re together, the story is now about politics in the tengu realm. That… is unfortunately not it’s strong suit. A lot of the minor characters are developed in side stories that tie in to the main plot, but I feel like there are too many minor characters to begin with (Kyo has, like, 9 guards, which are all technically secondary characters). I just can’t get into these stories. Admittedly, this volume was more interesting than the past couple, though.

After an initial attack on the village by Sho that locks Misao and some kids in an alternate dimension, the story shifts focus over to two minor characters, Hoki and Zenki. Hoki is Ryo’s younger brother, and a broody little guy that foreshadows what happens later in the book. Except, then it doesn’t! Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting a double-twist like that, but not even a little surprise could get me wound up in the story. Basically, we find out backstories for Hoki and Zenki, Sho takes them hostage, and action scenes play out when everyone finally understands what’s going on. One of them leads into the next volume, but…

Again, I feel like I can’t be bothered. I don’t really care about Hoki, I want to hear more about Kyo and Misao. There’s not really more to tell about them without ending the series, though, and Misao isn’t really fighting in the war that seems to have overtaken the plot. There’s still a little romance, but… it just isn’t grabbing me the way it was initially. Bah. But I’ll keep reading anyway. I’ve got a couple more volumes, I think. We’re nearly caught up to Japan, so the releases will slow down anyway, and then maybe I’ll forget about the beginning and just read for the war parts.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Black Bird 11

Kanako Sakurakoji – Viz – 2011 – 14+ volumes

Guys. I don’t know about this. Part of me still remembers what a guilty pleasure this series can be. When it’s good, it’s fairly steamy, and part of me can’t help but get caught up in all the hot and heavy drama between Misao and Kyo.

But the other part of me just read this volume.

Now that… certain things have been taken care of on the Misao/Kyo side of the story, the plot shifts gears into a full-out war in the supernatural world. This is largely due to the efforts of Sho, Kyo’s evil brother. Not only is he fighting the other supernatural clans, he’s attempting to rally the village against Kyo and Misao, since Misao possesses the Senka Maiden blood that can cure all their ailments and Kyo insists that she is not to share it.

The problem is… Sho is out in the open, and the way the story goes, he’s not a bad guy. He just believes in chaos. Misao cries when she learns this, as if this explains why he would turn the village against his own brother. For some reason, the characters accept this as a valid course of action, and are upset because it goes against their goal of, you know, peace and whatnot. There’s also a lot of Misao crying about lots of other things, too. Sick villagers she can’t help. The way everybody gangs up on Kyo. The whole Sho situation, which again, is ridiculous. Misao isn’t doing a whole lot except stirring up controversy by just being there, and it doesn’t quite make sense that all the villagers do is congregate around her and glower, either. I was pretty tired of her just crying and being upset the entire volume.

Misao does have one great moment where she depreciates herself in order to make Kyo look better, and I thought that was interesting, but unfortunately, that doesn’t come up again in the conflict with the villagers and senka maiden. That would have been way more interesting than all the tears.

Part of the problem may be that the story is moving too fast through these parts. If more time was taken to develop this stuff, I bet I could believe it was happening. As it stands, everybody appears to be working themselves up again and again over the same stuff, and all Misao can do is cry. There are a couple scenes with her and Kyo that are a bit romantic, but it’s nothing like the previous volumes, and again, I think the story is setting the romance aside for awhile.

Unfortunately, while it still uses some folkloric references (I liked the casual reference to a han gon resurrection spell), it doesn’t really dwell on these things. This is just something that happens, or the way the world is, and not a whole lot of time is spent on it. That’s a shame, because the folklore is one of the more interesting things about this book, and it’s glossing over it in favor of some sort of chaos/war plot that is not going so well right now.

I’m beginning to worry that the series has lost it’s groove. I’m going to keep reading for another couple volumes to see how things go. But… I don’t know. I just haven’t been feeling these later volumes.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Black Bird 10

Kanoko Sakurakoji – Viz – 2011 – 14+ volumes

As much as I’ve liked this series all along, this volume made me realize I’m starting to grow a little tired of it.

The story is still… okay. Misao and Kyo are still in peril. Sho, Kyo’s evil brother, is back. He does something that… I can’t tell if it’s to gain support of the Tengu clan, or if he did it because he’s a psychopath. There’s also a subplot about the Tengu clan going to war.

The main event in this volume is the flashback we see about Kyo’s past, though. Kyo’s father, Yoh, reappears. There’s a strain in Kyo and Yoh’s relationship, and Misao sticks her nose in until Yoh tells all. There’s a sad story about the past, one of those stories where you’re lead to believe the character is a criminal, but they didn’t actually do anything and their “criminal” activity is the result of their conscious. I tend to hate stories like this for having cop-out endings. As you can imagine, the story between Kyo’s parents is both romantic and as drama-tastic as possible. And afterwards, back in the present, there’s lots of semi-terrible scenes where Misao tries to get Kyo to admit he loves his dad.

Maybe it’s because the main relationship is resolved now, but I feel like the veil has been lifted and the drama-tastic lens that the series uses to view everything is becoming increasingly apparent. Everything happens for maximum tragedy, and it’s just not working for me anymore. Or maybe I’m just seeing the rest of the series for itself, since there’s not a whole lot of Kyo/Misao scenes in this volume.

Either way. I’ll continue to buy new volumes, but this volume has made me slightly wearier of things to come.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Black Bird 9

Kanoko Sakurakoji – Viz – 2011 – 13+ volumes

Hmm… I was pretty curious how things would turn out after the Big Event at the end of the last volume. I thought it would be a game-changer. I was pretty disappointed, then, when Kyo and Misao spent a good portion of this volume apart because Kyo just loved Misao too much. That’s always a terrible reason for couples to split up, and one that only exists in shoujo manga. I don’t care if you are a demon that’s going to eat your girlfriend. Whatever.

The story was shortened this time, due to a two-chapter side story about Jiro and Taro in the back. I’m not a big fan of extraneous characters in any context, and the 8-member datengu guard around Kyo is almost impossible for me to keep straight, given the relatively… shallow nature of this story. I just can’t be bothered to remember personalities and backstories for characters with almost no facetime. Granted, the guy with the wife and the three triplet children are the most distinctive among them, and they are usually the only ones that get story time. That doesn’t mean that I want to read side stories about jealous brother issues.

On the plus side, Jiro and Taro are very cute, and it’s neat to see them both with their tengu wings.

Anyway, with the side story in the back, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to recover from the stupid split. The story gets a whole lot darker, with a rival clan manipulating Misao by possessing humans and making them kill other humans. This makes Misao feel very, very guilty, and the issue then becomes whether she decides to stay a human and sever all ties with demons, or choose Kyo and leave humans to this suffering.

Kyo “recovers” from pushing Misao away by… pushing her away even harder, then making it look as if he does terrible things to her against her will. This scene was pretty hard to handle, and pushed even my limits for dark drama/slightly smutty shoujo. The book ended on this note, and I’m not entirely sure… what Misao thinks of all this. I’m a little worried. And confused.

This volume is definitely a bit of a rough patch, but I enjoy this series so much that it’s hard not to imagine that I’ll fall in love again when they make it past the current crisis, especially since Kyo and Misao are… so much closer now.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Black Bird 8

Kanoko Sakurakojo – Viz – 2011 – 13+ volumes

This is such a horrible guilty pleasure, but I enjoy every volume so much! It pours the bittersweet doomed romance on thick every time, and I just can’t resist. Again, one of my weaknesses is the devoted couple together through thick and thin, and Kyo and Misao fit the bill nicely. Especially in this volume.

Misao is growing increasingly sure that she wants Kyo to make her his bride 100%. And by that, I mean she wants to have sex. The only reason they haven’t had it yet is that they’re not sure what will happen to Misao when Kyo takes all her demon bride essence or whatever, so they’ve abstained. Kyo continues to do so, even when Misao pressures him at the beginning of this volume.

But the two have more to worry about than that when Raikoh, the demon slayer, starts living with Misao. Through a long series of events and trickery on both sides, Kyo winds up in a position where he has to take Misao’s demon bride essence in order to survive.

I can’t say anything more than that without spoiling it, and I can’t really… get more critical than that, either. Black Bird is what it is, and it’s quite good at melodramatic romance and action. Is there more to the plot than meets the eye? Not really, but it’s a wonderful ride for those who like that sort of thing. And I definitely do.

What I will say, in its defense, is that the scene at the end of this volume is one of the most artfully done of its type I’ve ever seen in a shoujo manga. It was honestly beautiful.

The cliffhanger it leaves in its wake, however, is wicked. Do I think anything bad will come of it? Not with another 6+ volumes available after this. And I’m hoping for… unusual repercussions. I’m guessing that won’t happen, either. But I still want to know very badly what happens after the end of this volume. And that’s why I keep coming back for more. That, plus the fact that Black Bird is now like a goth version of Sensual Phrase for me.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Black Bird 7

Kanoko Sakurakoji – Viz – 2011 – 12+ volumes

Yes, I am still ridiculously addicted to this series. What can I say? It’s got mythology, lots of romance, and lots of angst and darkness. And none of the characters are actively irritating. These are all things I enjoy in my shoujo. The main character is some sort of demon, too, which is almost a guarantee I’ll like it.

Is it good? Well, at this point, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the plot isn’t… well, isn’t really heading in a steadily forward direction, and it’s rehashing a lot of old ground. What seems like a serious issue turns out to be a feint with no consequences, something that just stirs the characters up. Normally I would hate this, but Misao and Kyo get along so well that I love watching them needle each other light-heartedly like that, no matter how serious things seem. The question comes back around to the two of them not being able to have sex, despite wanting it badly. Then, surprise surprise, having sex may actually save Kyo from a terrible fate when a demon slayer shows up to live with Misao and wants to purge the world of Kyo and every other demon.

Do I think that those two are ever going to do the deed? No, this is a pretty tame series, despite some seriously steamy overtones. And when I say “tame,” I mean… it does get pretty… spicy at times. In this one, Misao buys Kyo chocolate frosting for Valentine’s Day, then coats him in it and licks it off. It’s one of the most erotic actions I’ve ever seen performed in a shoujo manga. It’s even got Sensual Phrase beat at the moment. But Kyo and Misao don’t have sex, and actively put it off again and again. I do like that they are aware of the sexual side of their feelings and are discussing it, but in this context, the magical barrier makes for a terrible excuse not to indulge.

The mythology elements aren’t really going anywhere, but I still like them. The dragon business didn’t go at all like I thought, and we might get to see or hear about other demons now that the demon slayer has entered the story, but something tells me that we’re just going to get a lot more Misao and Kyo.

Which is fine, honestly. I like both of them, and I like reading about their relationship. It may have started to circle back on itself, but the angst and drama, combined with their genuine affection for one another, is balanced pretty well here, and with all the steamy non-sex business, I think a lot of teen girls will probably eat this up. I know I do, and likely will continue to do so as long as things don’t get too over-the-top dramatic or ridiculous.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Black Bird 6

Kanoko Sakurakoji – Viz – 2010 – 11+ volumes

Okay, so reading two volumes of this back-to-back is a bad idea. The overdose left me looking at the bare bones of the plot, and it wasn’t pretty.

Basically… Sho, Kyo’s evil brother, locks himself in a storehouse with Misao, then tries to have sex with her. Poisonings and bloodlettings commence, as does a tragic flashback to childhood. At the very end of the volume, there is a plot twist where… if I’m reading this right, a being so magical that human blood will poison it asks Kyo to have sex with Misao, then have sex with his daughter to share the maiden’s/Misao’s “essence,” thus curing the daughter.

Yeah.

Again, I do like the shallow naughtiness/trashiness of this series. It’s very earnest and serious without being angsty most of the time, and though there wasn’t a whole lot in this volume, it gets away with a lot of the sex talk between Kyo and Misao because those two are genuinely passionate. The romance elements are good, and the plot is very dark, which is what I like about it. And on some level, I love that Misao has it in her to poison a captor, who then turns the tables by helping himself to her magical healing blood. Yes, it’s kind of stupid, but I still like it. It makes for a lot of suspense and a pretty cool gimmick.

Alas, the characters are also rather shallow, and their best sides are not on display in this volume. The naughtier side of Kyo is M.I.A. lately, and that seems unlikely to change given the fact that the two are in the middle of some sort of sex taboo right now. And… yeah, Misao doesn’t really have a good side, she’s mostly just a damsel in distress.

One really nice thing in this volume is that the folklore elements are starting to play a larger and larger role in the story, and if that develops more it could get pretty exciting. Aside from the Tengu clan, the Tsuchigumo spider demons play a role in this volume, as do the shirohebi snake people in some small part. We don’t see members of either clan, but their powers come into play, which is the most important part (honestly, seeing another episodic story with a member that was somehow involved in the past of the characters would keep me away for good, so it’s better this way). At the end, we get to meet a member of a godlike race of dragon people. I am very excited about the possibilities of seeing more of said dragon people, along with any other godlike magical beings the story cares to present.

The bonus pages are also great, with a brief story about how Sakurakoji threw a party for her mangaka friends, then revealed she just wanted them all over to help with her bonus pages. They were all pretty recognizable shoujo artists too, from Setona Mizushiro to Shoko Akira to Hinako Ashihara. “Yasuko” was the only one I didn’t recognize.

Basically, this is not good, but it is my kind of not good. Even with a mediocre volume like this, and the promise of more dancing around the characters having sex in the future, I’m still kind of looking forward to the next volume. I do like the mythology elements, and yeah, the trashiness is the flavor I enjoy. What can I say? It’s a guilty pleasure. Not one I can enjoy frequently, or in large doses, but still.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Black Bird 5

Kanoko Sakurakoji – Viz – 2010 – 11+ volumes

This series is one of the more… er, trashy, maybe, that I’m really into right now. Reading it, I know in some ways it isn’t good. For instance, the first half of the volume is mostly about whether or not Misao and Kyo can or will have sex. Then it switches gears, but sex is never far from either of their minds, nor do people around them ever stop talking about it.

I’ll freely admit to liking characters like Kyo, who have no problem with sexual flirtations around their special lady. Kyo’s toned it down a lot in this volume, since now he “can’t” have sex with Misao, but he’s the same type of character as Domoto from Butterflies, Flowers. Neither is flirtatious in a sleazy way, but still off-putting to the girl on the other end and a little funny. It works better in Butterflies, Flowers since that series is less dark and, frankly, better, but seeing it here on occasion still makes me smile.

This volume is still pretty drama-tastic, what with the sex agonizing and the fact they can’t have any affecting Kyo’s “leader” status in the Tengu clan. He’s also getting hit with a lot of pressure from home to seal the deal, so to speak. He does take Misao home with him, but mostly to settle the rights to the leadership position once and for all.

Hm… fun new characters this time around include Ayame, Sagami’s wife. She’s great, a very sick lady that still loves her husband very much. Her cheeriness is very welcome in the series’ world of dour, beautiful men. It’s a shame that the series has such a huge cast that goes mostly unused, though. I do hate it when stories like this have such a huge cast, because you don’t need more than a few core people to move the story, and having an entourage of eight men just seems excessive. Part of that problem is solved by having three members of the entourage played by young triplets, who are cute and/or mascots and don’t really need to be distinguished from one another, but there’s still a lot of faceless bishounen wandering around.

And the story… yeah. They, uh… have to have sex. But can’t. And that’s the gist of it. Make of that what you will. They are “settling” things with Kyo’s brother, currently, which will probably involve a lot of blood and fighting and angst.

Despite all its bad points, I still find myself ridiculously addicted. I do like the relationship between Kyo and Misao, which turns away from its hero/victim mechanics from the early volumes and becomes more sincere and earnest here. Plus, being a girl, I like romantic angst, regardless of context. I also love folklore-based stories, and although the magical parts still don’t really play a part, the fact that Kyo is a tengu demon is still extremely cool. I know that most people dismissed this series, and that’s fair, but there’s something about it that’s appealing to a die-hard shoujo fan that doesn’t like to think too hard about the story. Plus… I’ll be honest, the sex stuff is usually glossed over in most series like this, and it’s a little refreshing to see it out in the open. Even if I did just trash FY for doing it so excessively (in my defense, it was because multiple characters were trying to rape Miaka for, like, three volumes. Kyo and Misao’s situation is different).

There are better series out there, but Black Bird has just the right mix of my favorite things to make me look forward to every new volume. I just got volume 6 in the mail, so I’ll probably be reading that today or tomorrow.


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