Girl meets boy. Boy is
kind of a jerk (in fact, sometimes it seems the boy hates and/or likes to hurt the girl). But girl comes to realize that under that crusty, prickly, are-you-stupid exterior of his is a deeply hidden sweet and sensitive side, probably. Is boy really the boy for her?
Sound like a familiar plot line? If you’re lucky, perhaps not, but I don’t seem to be a lucky person when it comes to this sort of stuff so I’m often running into it. So, either I’m a super powered magnet for girl-meets-jerky-boy romances or there’s just a lot of it out there. Since I’ve never felt myself giving off steady, magnetic waves, I’m going to take a leap here and just guess it’s the latter.
Without getting into the details, Kanoko Sakurakoji’s Black Bird manga series fits into that category of romance. When I first decided to read Black Bird, I didn’t really know much about it. A lot of the reviews I had read (*cough* skimmed) initially seemed to like it fairly well or absolutely love it so, I checked it out from my fabulous library.
Looking back, I should have had it figured out by the cover. I really should have.
Black Bird starts off normal enough with a teenage girl, Misao, dreaming of a long lost childhood prince charming. The twist is that Misao can see spirits, which torment her daily. But things get a little out of hand when more powerful demons start popping up like daisies trying to kill her who turns out to be some rare maiden that
a)If a demon eats her, will grant eternal youth,
b)If a demon drinks her blood, will grant a longer life,
or c)If a demon marries (a.k.a. has sex with) her, will grant prosperity for the demon’s clan.
Just a tiny detail about herself that Misao didn’t know. This new development made my face pucker up; they may as well have stuffed a lemon down my throat. Here we go again, poor heroine in dire danger who is treated like and is literally the prize of flesh and who is going to have to be rescued a lot by the love interest, Kyo. If that wasn’t a bad enough start, it continues to drag itself through the mud by adding attempted rape scenes. I have a serious problem with attempted rape and rape scenes. I don’t believe the true horror of the situation can be honorably represented no matter what media so what is accomplished by showing them? Is it supposed to be a turn on to see Misao getting groped and threatened only to be saved in the nick of time by Kyo?
Then there’s Kyo himself. Believe it or not, despite everything else that I consider wrong with this manga, Kyo is my biggest problem (thus my rant at the beginning of this post about love interests). Supposedly, he loves Misao, but Misao, not being the worst heroine, isn’t so sure she believes him. Seeing as he’s a demon, Kyo might just want her for the perks of her being this rare maiden. (Smart! Don’t buy everything a potentially dangerous demon says to you!) He has the level of understanding of a turnip at times. He expects Misao to just know that he really loves her (which is hard to figure out when you look at his behavior some times; he acts more like he owns her rather than loves her most of the time). When he finally comes out and confuses his love for her, he begins with the good, old pick-up line “Are you an idiot?” Wow. A girl is always overjoyed to be called an idiot. Who needs compliments and a show of a man’s love through his words and actions? Yeah, Kyo is your jerky-boy love interest, alright.
And call me crazy, but I’ve always wondered what was attractive about these jerky guys. Some of them remind me strongly of elementary school boys; you know the kind that showed their affection for you by yanking on your braids periodically on the bus or otherwise teasing you? However, if I’m seeing this kind of behavior in a character (especially if that character is supposed to be a dashing teenager or adult), I’m left feeling frosted about how immature they are. Other times, these seemingly jerky men remind me of, well, just plain old bona-fide jerks, no matter how nice they can be on their off-time from being a regular jerk.
Now Kyo, I feel, fits more into the plain old jerk. As I said, later it is revealed that Kyo, in fact, does love Misao and isn’t just after her because marrying her would benefit his family, but his behavior is inexcusable. He’s like the abusive boyfriend/husband; he has the fits of petty jealousy to go along with that theory. Some of the most disturbing scenes in the manga for me are when Kyo gets into one of these fits. When Misao starts hanging out with another boy (before Kyo and Misao are a couple), Kyo has to “teach” her a lesson. He lifts her up into the air higher and higher (Kyo is a winged demon, a tengu) while Misao pleads and cries for him to stop because she’s frightened. She’s afraid he’ll drop her. “Why are you doing this to me?” She demands to which Kyo redirects the question, asking why she insists on making him angry all the time.
Then after he’s thoroughly terrified Misao, Kyo sets her on the ground, reassuring her softly that he really wouldn’t have dropped her, he just had to punish her a little; he needed to show her how she couldn’t live without him, how dependent she is on him. Oh, did I mention this scene is presented as romantic?
Wham! This is where people should be completely disgusted (if they weren’t before). This is in the first volume of the series, only the third chapter, and yet people read this and want more? They get more of the same. Jealousy-promoted punishments, Misao receiving rough treatment from someone, Misao getting manipulated, Misao messing something up and getting called an idiot for it and/or blaming herself, etc. Granted, I’ve only read three volumes of this manga, but that’s about all I can force down and I think three volumes gave it a fair shot to show me something different.
Finally, if all of Black Bird‘s content didn’t shock me enough, I’m surprised by how readily it’s accepted, even loved by readers. Look at the responses to bloggers’ reviews of the manga and you’ll see that most people rave about it, making me wonder if I’m reading the same manga as them. I understand a guilty pleasure read, but this is a manga that seems to ok abuse, going so far as to present it as romantic and sensual and that is not ok at all. There is nothing sexy or cute about a controlling boyfriend or a teenage girl being thrown through a sadistic hell. That’s what I call a tragedy.