Black Bird Volume 1, Viz Translation (1-1/2 stars)
I have written about “Black Bird” in the past (2007 and 2008) and my opinion of it hasn’t changed. The appeal of “Black Bird” is seeing how low it can go from chapter to chapter and as such, can be, at best, categorized as “guilty pleasure.”
As a reminder:
From the mangaka who brought us “Backstage Prince” comes another tale of a good hearted but weak female, Misao, and a bad tempered Tengu, Kyou, who disguises himself as a handsome guy. Misao has the misfortune of being able to see supernatural beings and now at the age of 16 has become the target of those supernatural beings who wish to eat her to gain eternal life or marry her to strengthen their clan. Kyou wants to marry Misao, but Misao doubts his sincerity and believes he only seeks to strengthen his clan. Kyou shows up in Misao’s everyday life as her Math teacher at her high school (but of course). Anyhow, most of the stories revolve around various beasties attacking Misao and Kyou coming to her rescue followed by Misao asking herself why this guy bothers. Meanwhile Kyo seems to find some excuse to lick her, whether it’s licking Misao’s wounds to heal her, or licking her as a prelude to a kiss, or licking her in her dreams and so on … Half of me continues to read this just to see how creative the licking can get … (I’m sad, sad, sad person …). Somewhere in here, there is a story, but I’m just so distracted by the licking that I haven’t quite grasped it.
I do not recommend this manga for teens, unless they are mature enough to understand that is an over-the-top smutty drama. The main character, Misao, is intentionally written as a weak female character, and I would hate for young women to think this is model female behavior. Actually, I’m a little torqued that this is aimed at a teen audience.
As for the Viz translation, it’s flat. It seems they’ve decided to take this manga series more seriously than it is. My understanding is that Viz is trying to appeal to the “Twilight” audience. Personally, I find it APPALLING to target the manga to 11-13-year olds, due to the sexual content (I wonder if the Viz folks have read the latest chapter in Betsucomi. It is clearly 18+) and the level of violence and gore (If this were a movie, it would be R-rated). Anyhow, this series is over-the-top in a “so bad it’s good” way and the translation should reflect that.
I can’t honestly recommend this series eventhough I regard it as a guilty pleasure (it’s like an “Ebert 1-1/2 star” rating). The first volume is very mediocre in the original Japanese and made even more lackluster in the Viz English translation. It does get better as the story progresses, but it never rises above the level of smut and the main female character, Misao, never rises above being a victim. If you can take this manga for the stupid, but entertaining smut that it is, go for it — especially if you can read Japanese. The demon world intrigue is fun. If you hate to see objectified weak female characters and objectified bare-chested macho male characters, then steer clear of this series.
If you are considering whether to allow your teenager to read this series, I recommend reading the first couple of chapters yourself and then consider whether your teen is mature enough to recognize that the characters are caricatures in a Japanese style “bodice ripper” and that this in no way reflects healthy human relationships or human behavior. Also consider there are better manga options for your teen. For older teens, Hino Matsuri’s “Vampire Knight” is a good manga series with plenty of story, well developed characters, a strong lead female character, pretty drawings, and smoldering, but tempered, sexuality. For the under 13 crowd, I recommend “Crescent Moon” and “Recipe for Gertrude.”
Rating 1-1/2 or of 5