Title: Black Bird
Author: Kanoko Sakurakouji
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volumes 16-17 (of 18), $9.99
Vintage: 2012 by Shogakukan, May and October 2013 by Viz Media
Genre: Romance, drama, supernatural
[Editor’s note: These two volumes discuss: abortion, miscarriages, pregnancy in general, and suicide.]
Now that Misao’s pregnant, Kyo rushes to discover what her fate will be. Tadanobu hands over the Senka Roku, and everyone’s worst fears are realized – the last Senka Maiden died immediately after giving birth. Tadanobu states that he refused to tell Kyo this because he didn’t want his friend ruining his chance to be clan leader by refusing to create an heir with Misao. Kyo returns home immediately and orders Misao to get rid of the child inside her. The Daitengu argue against it, seeing as how the baby will be the next clan heir, but Kyo grabs Misao and sneaks off in search of help. Knowing he’ll need something powerful, Kyo goes to the Shirohebi clan and asks Kensuke for help. Kensuke can’t help, but does encourage Misao to think for herself and make up her own mind. Feeling they cannot change Kyo’s mind, the Daitengu agree to back him up, with the exception of Buzen and Zenki who declare their intention to return home to the clan if the others are going to run away. Realizing what breaking up the Daitengu and leaving the clan will mean, and that it will lead to a life on the run where they will have no allies and a world full of demonic enemies chasing them, Misao puts her foot down and announces that she wants to have the baby no matter what. If all choices lead to death anyway, she’d rather leave the child behind for Kyo and the clan. Unfortunately, Kyo doesn’t see things the same way. His vision is clouded by Misao, ten years of making himself stronger in order to be able to have Misao, and the thought of losing everything he’s worked for (ie: Misao). In his heart, he doesn’t believe life is worth living without her, and he refuses to accept the child as her replacement or a continuation of her memory. Fortunately, after Misao’s passionate plea, his resolve shifts to trying to change the fate laid out in the Senka Roku. The entire clan begins to search for a way to save Misao’s life, which unfortunately means everyone is consumed with research, including Kyo, and Misao grows lonely. And with Kyo so stressed out, Misao becomes worried that she’s a nuisance, or will anger him in some way. Their relationship becomes strained, until the Daitengu encourage a celebration of Misao’s seventeenth birthday.
As Misao’s pregnancy progresses, the search for a way to protect grows more fervent. Sho left behind a cryptic message from his own research, and Kyo and the others latch onto it. They also begin looking into the biology of human women and normal pregnancies, searching for a possible solution within Misao’s own body, or in her nature as the Senka Maiden. Her Senka-induced scent grows stronger and more concentrated, and her behavior also alters, attributes which seem intended to entice the Senka Maiden’s demon husband, though no one can figure out why that would be necessary since she’s already pregnant. Kyo’s father returns with a new idea and an offer to teach it to Kyo – a preservation spell that will preserve Misao as she is, as long as necessary. Essentially it’s a way to put her into a kind of stasis until a way to keep both her and the baby alive is found. Kyo jumps on the plan, eager for another chance to keep his beloved alive. He realizes he’s being selfish, since Misao could lose most of the things in her life during the possible decades she could be frozen in time, but he can’t bear the thought of losing her, so his decision is clearly already made. Misao can’t bear losing Kyo either, however, or being apart from him for so long while he continues on without her, so she refuses the plan. However, when she realizes that Kyo intends to preserve her even against her will, Misao collapses and falls ill. Worried all the stress in her life may cause a miscarriage, Misao is sedated, with the Daitengu promising to protect her (and the baby), even from Kyo. While she’s unconscious, a young tengu boy visits Misao in a dream and declares that he is her son, and his name is Soh. Sagami talks some sense into Kyo while Misao sleeps, and when she awakens her resolve is strengthened even more. She wants to put faith in the love between her and Kyo, and love the child growing within her as well. Finally Kyo decides to trust Misao, and does everything he can to simply make her happy. In the end, he realizes, that’s all he can really do.
In preparation for the final volume, I went all the way back to volume 1 of this series so I could reread the entire thing in one chunk. Which, it turns out, is a more pleasant way to experience the story. The first few volumes come across softer when you can push past to the meat of the story quicker. Kyo’s manipulations toward Misao aren’t as harsh or disgusting when you can rush through to the important parts, and they’re even almost understandable. He is a demon, after all, and he wants what he wants. Though it might be nice if this wasn’t romanticized in such a way that his behavior can be entirely excused by that reasoning. Then there’s the middle of this series, and it’s great! Politics, clan infighting, warring between clans. And Misao attempting to take charge of her life (and Kyo’s) by making her own decisions and working to fight for her relationship with her own power. All that’s fantastic. Then we get to the end of the series, and all that progress takes a nosedive. My biggest issue, aside from Kyo attempting to take all the decisions away from Misao (but she DOES eventually stand up for herself, and that’s great), is that these guys are obsessed with one outcome. Of all the Senka Maidens throughout history, there is one documented record of one single Senka Maiden who married into a clan, became pregnant, and died after giving birth to her child. That was 300 years ago. That Senka Maiden and Misao are not the only two Senka Maidens to have ever existed. Unfortunately, there are no other records, largely because Senka Maidens were typically devoured, not married into a clan. So there really is no solid evidence that Misao will suffer the same fate. And yet Kyo spends a large portion of these two volumes attempting to circumvent it in any way he can find, even if it means discarding his position as clan leader. Which is incredibly selfish, as Misao eventually points out. It’s also when we realize that Kyo doesn’t give a shit about his clan or his Daitengu, but only about himself and his happiness with Misao. Well, it’s not as if we didn’t know of his obsession with Misao; he did spend ten years working his ass off so he could marry her. But it’s still a little surprising that she’s all he seems to care about. Not the tengu children, not the Daitengu, not the prosperity of his clan or its protection. Just the fact that he can be with Misao. Which really kicks all his nobility to the curb. He didn’t work to depose Sho because Sho would run the clan with tyranny and fear, or because Sho abused the tengu children, or because Sho was essentially a heartless, merciless asshole. Nope, he just wanted Misao. Which is a huge slap in the face to his Daitengu who have long wanted to see the happiness and prosperity Kyo could bring to the clan. Even so, most of them work toward his own happiness, and not their own, as all but Zenki and Buzen are willing to abandon everything and run away with them so Misao can live (although Zenki and Buzen aren’t technically forfeiting their allegiance to Kyo). Then again, maybe they’re just posturing so Misao will get her ass into gear, which she does. So good going Misao for being sensible throughout both volumes. Even though she’s the one in danger of dying, she shows incredible strength (even if it takes her a while to build it up), and is willing to risk her life to bring her child into the world. She’s also ready and willing to talk some serious sense into Kyo, so thank you Misao for saving everyone, including me, from Kyo’s selfishness. Even if you’re still just a seventeen-year-old girl dropping out of high school to have your twenty-something-year-old demon boyfriend’s baby.