Saturday, January 16, 2010
Black Bird, vol. 2
The story: Misao was just your normal, everyday teenage high school girl. Except for the whole "seeing demons" thing. But, when she turns 16, her life takes a turn for the weirder when her first love and childhood best friend Kyo returns from a long absence, demanding she become his bride. As a tengu demon clan leader, Kyo wants to marry Misao for the vast power her blood yields -- their marriage will make his clan the most powerful in Japan. While all Misao wants is to be normal, she can't deny her feelings for Kyo, either. When the teenage girl meets Kyo's vassals and his older brother -- who originally was first in line to head the clan and marry Misao -- she learns more about Kyo's past and wonders why she can't remember it herself.
Reaction: I didn't particularly like the first volume of this manga, but I decided to give the second volume a chance. There was definitely more comedy here, and there were more believable "couple moments" that didn't reek of co-dependency. Although the last chapter really pushes it, there was decidedly less licking/healing scenes involved throughout, which I consider a bonus. As far as characters go, I liked the introduction of Kyo's vassals -- it turned it into a reverse-harem comedy, and it revealed a bit of Kyo's true character and his history, which I think was sorely needed.
Deep thoughts: The harem comedy -- or the teenage boy surrounded by a bevy of beautiful girls, or bishojo -- is rather popular in Japanese anime and manga It often includes unnecessary panty-flashing fan service and titillating situations. Increasingly more popular is the reverse-harem comedy; it turns the tables and surrounds a girl with handsome young men. The most popular series of the sub-genre is undoubtably Ouran High School Host Club.
Artwork: Kanoko Sakurakoji knows how to draw handsome young men, unbearably cute tiny tengu and blushing cheeks aplenty. She's also got a hand for turning the usual shojo fare of floating flowers and sparkles towards a decidedly darker, more gothic (and fitting) theme with its blood spatters. There's also some mild groping and rape-like violence involving Misao that's appropriately disturbing.
The verdict: If only... This volume is an improvement, perhaps because Kyo's and Misao's interaction is less one-sided and forced. Revealing Kyo's motivations went a long way towards explaining his (still inexcusable) behavior. But, I still have other issues with this title, namely it's fragile heroine and her unhealthy relationship. Black Bird is available in the U.S. from Viz.