Black Bird, by Kanoko Sakurakoji, is pure trashy fun. Guilty pleasure reading doesn’t get much better than this.
Black Bird takes the tired formula of a girl who sees supernatural phenomenon and literally injects blood into the premise. High schooler Misao Harada’s blood is a kind of aphrodisiac, or power booster if I’m being less crude, to demons of all kinds. While Misao knows she’s different than other people, it is on the eve of her 16th birthday she learns about the strange properties of her blood when her childhood love returns to save her from a demon’s violent attack. Closing her wound with his kiss, the devilishly handsome Kyo declares that she will become his bride. In other words, Misao “belongs” to him. If she doesn’t agree to come under his strong protection — he is the head of his demon clan — it will be open season on her thanks to her delicious blood.
Kyo is a domineering ass, albeit a very charismatic one, who doesn’t think about what his proclamations might mean to a innocent girl of just-sixteen, who is still dreaming about receiving her first after school love confession from a popular boy in her class. Well, he is a demon after all (he’s a “tengu,” or half-human, half-bird), meaning human notions of romance probably seem alien to him. However, Misao can only assume from his imperious conduct that Kyo only wants her because she’ll bring him power, and his constant and casual sexual attentions — often related to Kyo closing, with his lips, the wounds she’s received at the hands of other demons — only reinforce Misao’s belief Kyo doesn’t see her for herself.
Of course, it isn’t a shock that Kyo really does love Misao in spite of his arrogant demeanor, but every couple needs some misunderstandings to make it interesting. The idea that Misao’s greatest asset is her blood is certainly enough to make any impressionable young girl feel insecure. There’s a lot of “sexual play” in this volume and many metaphors for sex (blood sucking linked to ecstasy), but very little actual sex. There are hints that Kyo is actually controlling his impulses with Misao, in spite of her growing consciousness that her own self-control is slipping away through prolonged physical contact with him.
While the book sometimes skirts some troubling issues concerning consent, there is no doubt that as a whole the story is quite pleasurable as pop romance. The art is accomplished and attractive, as both violence and desire are ably rendered in this engaging supernatural romance.
Review copy provided by Viz.
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