Black Bird 1 by Kanoko Sakurakoji: B-

blackbird1Misao Harada has always been able to see spirits, but when she turns sixteen, things suddenly get a lot worse. Kyo Usui, her childhood friend and first love, returns after a ten-year absence just in time to inform her that she is “the bride of prophecy,” and that now that she is sixteen, all sorts of demons are going to want to drink her blood, eat her flesh, and/or marry (read: sleep with) her, all of which will confer some benefit to the demon, be it eternal youth or prosperity for his/her clan. Kyo is a demon himself—a tengu, as it turns out—and appoints himself Misao’s protector, fending off other demons while pressuring her to become his bride.

There are several very good reasons why I shouldn’t like Black Bird. In the first place, it’s another supernatural romance where the somewhat ditzy heroine is possessed of delicious-smelling blood that inspires the hottest guys around to fight over her. In the second, Misao’s childhood memories of Kyo have left her waiting for some guy to show up and protect her from the spirits who’re harrassing her. And thirdly, when Kyo does arrive to perform that function, he does things like fly up into the air with Misao (who is scared of heights) in his arms in order to encourage her to cling to him, saying, “You can’t live without me. I have to teach your body that.” Creepy! That’s just a step away from, “Why are you making me hurt you?” in my book.

And yet, I did like Black Bird, at least more than I’d expected to. Misao, though she’s weak in some ways, is adamant about not becoming Kyo’s bride—even though she’s attracted to him—because she believes he’s only interested in the prosperity that sleeping with her would grant his clan. These doubts also come into play for some fine drama later on when a tricky kitsune (fox demon) arrives and points out that it’s likely not a coincidence that Kyo was Misao were childhood friends, that Kyo must’ve been establishing that early relationship in order to foster a preference for him in Misao’s mind down the road. The notion that her precious memories might all be a sham leads Misao to push Kyo away, though of course he persists in protecting her anyway. It’s angsty, but good.

Sakurakoji’s artwork is attractive, and even though Misao and the rest of the cast boast rather humdrum character designs, Kyo really stands out, making it easy to see why Misao would be so captivated by him. Also, while I’m genuinely not one for smutty scenes, the ones in Black Bird rely more on suggestion than explicit detail, making them all the more sexy.

In the end, Black Bird really is nothing more than your standard wish-fulfillment fantasy. And I think I’m okay with that.

Black Bird is published in English by VIZ. The series is still ongoing in Japan, where eight volumes have been released so far.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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