Featured Columns

May 7, 2012

Bento Bako Weekly: Black Bird 13 & Kimi ni Todoke 14

Title: Black Bird
Author: Kanoko Sakurakouji
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 13 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2011 by Shogakukan, March 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Romance, supernatural

[Volume 12 review.]

Hoki has finally managed to confront Sho, but things aren’t going well. He hesitates in dealing a killing blow, but even when he does manage to strike, Sho shrugs off the damage like nothing happened. As he is about to deal the final blow to Hoki, Sho suddenly turns around and leaves, leaving Hoki to be swallowed up in a kido shield. He desperately calls out to Kyo, who locates him and pulls him out, bringing him back home. Hoki breaks down, despondent that he has proved useless to his lord once again, but Kyo assures him that he’ll always have a place at his side. When Zenki finally awakes, he rages against Hoki for the danger he put everyone in by helping Sho remove his seals, and expresses his guilt for the destruction he caused while his power ran unchecked. Kyo stands up for him (and Hoki), and readily welcomes him back, then happily chases off after Misao for a little celebration. However, as Misao goes into her room, she vanishes from the compound…only to find herself standing next to Sho, who is just as surprised to see her as she is to be there. The Daitengu (Kyo’s bodyguards) calm down a distraught Kyo, and immediately set about to tracking Misao down. Misao knows she should turn around and leave, but seeing Sho, sickly looking and emotionally unstable, she can’t bring herself to leave him alone. When Misao realizes that Sho is slowly decaying, she breaks down in tears and tries to convince him to stop fighting his brother. Sho, who was taught that usefulness came from power, can’t understand why Misao is upset over him dying. Misao tries to explain that in Kyo’s world, power won’t matter, but he still can’t understand why anyone would value someone without it. Faced with a brother who has stolen everything from him, including Misao, all Sho is left with is his own strength. But as Misao’s tears continue to fall, he slowly realizes that she is the one person in the world who cares about his happiness, who would cry for him when no one else will. His mood immediately shifts, and he embraces Misao, then tries to convince her to stay with him, so he can have one little piece of happiness for himself. He promises that if she stays with him, he won’t ask for anything else, and he won’t harm her, or kill her…like Kyo would. Misao is understandably confused by his words, until Sho mentions the Senka Roku, but he refuses to tell her what he discovered unless she agrees to stay with him. When Misao still refuses, a resigned Sho releases her and turns away to tend to his business. However, he collapses after just a few steps, and Misao realizes that if they just wait, Sho’s life will end and all the fighting will be over. Her conscience won’t allow her to sit by and watch him die, so instead she does the unthinkable, and cuts her arm to feed Sho her blood. The Senka Maiden’s blood immediately revitalizes Sho and restores much of his power, just as Kyo’s men, having realized where Misao must be, surround his compound. He takes an unconscious Misao in his arms and heads for the main tengu village, prepared to put an end to things once and for all.

Sho makes (what I assume will be) one last attempt to convince Misao to stay with him instead of Kyo. There’s been a lot of back and forth on this through recent volumes, and it’s been dragged out quite long enough. The final showdown won’t occur (or finish, rather) until the next volume, as this volume ends with a cliffhanger in the middle of a one-on-one battle between the two brothers. Misao feels overwhelming guilt for what she has done. Had she left Sho alone, he would have died, or at least had too little power to cause much more trouble while his life faded. She couldn’t bring herself to watch him die, which has been a continued trait of hers throughout the series, but she feels as if she has committed the ultimate betrayal by giving Sho her blood. Now he is strong, now he can fight Kyo, and now he has a chance of killing him. People will be hurt because of her (and indeed, they are, as Sho starts cleaning up the mess he’s made along the way), the tengu will be angry at what she’s done, and worst of all, Kyo may hate her (if he lives). Surprisingly (well, to the characters anyway), Sho lies about what happened, absolving Misao in front of the tengu clan, but it seems like Kyo realizes what has really occurred. He knows Misao best, after all. The whole mess is really quite sad, and this is one of the more emotionally charged volumes of the series so far. And also one of the few that steps back from the smut elements to focus on the meat of the story. Things are moving toward a major climax, though I’ve no idea where the story will go after, since Sho has been the driving force behind most of the conflicts for all thirteen volumes. Well, there is still the Senka Roku, which is still missing, and seems to have some very foreboding information that could very well change everything. With all the hints Sakurakouji has dropped about what the document might reveal, she’s never come out and said clearly what will really happen to Misao, or if it’s possible for it to be avoided. Though I’m sure Kyo will do everything in his power to avoid a fate that will leave Misao dead.

Title: Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You
Author: Karuho Shiina
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 14 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2011 by Shueisha, June 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Romantic comedy

[Previous Kimi ni Todoke reviews.]

It’s time for the school field trip, and everyone is thrilled to be in Okinawa. Especially Sawako, who has never had friends to share such an event with, and she’s ready to make new memories with her new friends…and her new boyfriend. Sawako couldn’t be happier. She’s in her friends pictures, she had friends to take pictures of, and she gets to be near Kazehaya all day. Things are going well – Ryu gets confessed to, Sawako and Kazehaya get some time alone together, and Ayane is sneaking around to spend time with her new boyfriend, Mogi. Ayane doesn’t seem to be happy though, even with the kiss they share, but the knowledge of her friend’s new experience sends Sawako reeling, wondering what she would do if Kazehaya tried to kiss her. Then Chizu is approached by the girl who confessed to Ryu, he asks that Chizu stay away from him if she doesn’t have feelings for him. Chizu explodes and yells at the girl, and then later gets into an argument with Ryu over the incident. When Ayane sees how nervous and excited Sawako gets over the prospect of a kiss, she realizes that she doesn’t have feelings for Mogi and breaks things off. Unfortunately, she also accidentally interrupts what would have been Sawako and Kazehaya’s first kiss, which leads to some awkward moments between the couple, as well as a sudden distance. The following day’s free time, which should have been happy and exciting, with the girls pairing off with the guys, turns uncomfortable as Ayane goes off on her own, Sawako and Kazehaya struggle through the embarrassment of the failed kiss, and Chizu awkwardly follows along with Ryu and his friends so the others don’t worry about her. As Ryu tells Chizu about the girl he likes, a lonely Ayane is surprisingly comforted by Kento.

The incredible sugary sweet cuteness continues in this volume. Things move slowly as usual, particularly the multi-page set up for the kiss that never happens. Though that doesn’t make it any less heart-stopping or adorable. Sawako and Kazehaya are both so innocent and inexperienced; each step of their relationship comes along slowly and awkwardly. It’s rather old fashioned, and it’s refreshing. And so, so, so very cute. However, it’s always one step forward and one step back with these two, and the volume ends with some awkward distance between them. On the other hand, things seem to be looking up for the others. Well, in a sort of backwards way. Ryu at last confesses his feelings for Chizu, which have been obvious to observant readers for some time, but Chizu has never really looked at him as a romantic interest before. Ryu has infinite patience, though, it seems, and now the idea has entered into Chizu’s mind. He probably won’t change, but Chizu will likely become a bit uncomfortable before anything else happens. Ayane, though things end a bit unhappily for her, has at least realized that she can’t force affection for someone. It’s easy to sympathize with her; she sees how happy her friend is, how in love Sawako is with Kazehaya, and he with her. She wants that happiness, too, but she doesn’t know how to find it, so she tries to create it, only to find that it doesn’t work that way. Plenty of genuine teenage emotions, written and drawn in such a way that it’s never over done, fits the feel of the story, and makes a very pleasant read.


Review copies provided by Viz Media.



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