Featured Columns

February 11, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: Black Bird 7 & Grand Guignol 2

It’s a Shojo Beat double feature today. Join me for a review of the bodice ripper, supernatural romance Black Bird, and the gothic, zombie-esque Grand Guignol Orchestra.

Title: Black Bird
Author: Kanoko Sakurakoji
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 7 (ongoing) $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan in Japan, February 2011 (out now) by Viz Media
Genre: Romance, drama, shoujo, supernatural, bodice ripper

[Volume 6 review.]

Last volume, Misao got herself trapped in a storage room with Kyo’s violent and jealous brother Sho. With some surprising help from Sho, Misao made it out safely, but before things could get back to normal, a surprise visitor showed up. A high ranking dragon demon, Prince Kengamine, came to Kyo’s clan asking for Misao’s blood to cure his sister. Not wanting Misao involved, Kyo refused, so the dragon demanded that instead Kyo sleep with his sister in order to pass the power on to her.

Now, of course Misao doesn’t want the man she loves to sleep with another woman, but the dragons are powerful beings, and rank above Kyo’s clan in the demon hierarchy. It would cause trouble if they refused to aid the dragon clan. Knowing this, Misao keeps her true feelings locked inside, not wanting to cause trouble for her tengu family. Stubborn though she is, she can’t get rid of her feelings, so she falls into a depression and starts avoiding Kyo. When the clan invites her to the meeting where the final decision will be made, Misao resolves to go with whatever they decide, for the sake of the clan…only to find out that they had already decided, and that Kyo was teasing her as punishment for having kissed Sho in the storage room. Obviously Kyo would never cheat on Misao (though he seems content to screw with her feelings). Their feelings for each other strengthened, things start getting hot and heavy again, but Kyo still insists he won’t go all the way with Misao until they know she’ll be safe. That doesn’t mean he won’t do every other possible thing, though. Something he makes clear to Misao when he stays over at her house while her parents are out of town. Things seem to be going well, but then Misao’s parents come home, and they bring a strange guest with them. From the temple Misao’s father often visits, the son of the head priest, Raikoh Watanabe. Raikoh is serious trouble. He immediately recognizes Kyo for what he is, and berates Misao for handing around a demon. As a child Raikoh was attacked and seriously injured by demons, and now he fights to rid the world of them with the powerful demon slaying sword Dojigiri Yasutsuna. As some sort of exorcists/demon slayer, Raikoh can’t allow a fellow human being to become trapped by demons, and despite Misao’s protests, he believes the girl to be possessed and attempts to break whatever hold Kyo has on her. His attempts nearly kill Misao twice, first with a hypnotic suggestion that causes her to completely shut down until Kyo rushes in to snap her out of it, and again when he destroys Kyo’s charm that Misao wears, causing a massive demon attack that nearly kills them both until Kyo arrives in the nick of time to destroy them. Raikoh, horrified as he watches Kyo heal Misao’s wounds, tries to piece things together – why is Misao being targeted by demons, and why is she revered by Kyo’s clan? A showdown is surely forthcoming. Two rather sweet bonus stories follow, one a story about a human boy who falls in love with a female tengu, and another where Misao and Ayame compare their proposal stories.

Now, I enjoy this series, but this volume pretty clearly points out some of its major problems. Misao frets and frets over Kyo having to sleep with another woman, resigns herself to sacrifice that part of their relationship for the clan’s sake, but is then manipulated by Kyo into revealing her true feelings even after he’s already decided not to do it on his own. She’s upset for about two seconds, then is overwhelmed with relief and they go back to making out. I want to like Kyo. He’s handsome, intelligent, powerful, and amazingly sweet at times…but at other times he’s almost dangerously manipulative. And the thing is, he doesn’t need to be. Misao is so enraptured with him that it’s entirely unnecessary. We’re also shown how desperately she is made to rely on him, though it’s not really his fault. As she tries to explain to Raikoh, she needs Kyo. For her own safely. Without his protection, she would be constantly attacked by demons trying to devour her. That’s not her fault, or his fault, but it is a little discomforting at times how she has to rely on him for the sake of her very life. Basically, without Kyo, she might as well be literally dead. Although, Kyo did basically train her to rely on him for that, too. Whether or not someone else could take care of her is up for debate right now, as Raikoh tries to take control of the situation himself. Fortunately, the romance stuff is nice, the characters are well drawn, I quite like the side characters (like Kyo’s bodyguards), and the basic story is interesting. I can look past the rest.

Title: Grand Guignol Orchestra
Author: Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Volume: Volume 2 (ongoing). $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Hakusensha, February 2011 (out now) by Viz Media
Genre: Shoujo, drama, zombies

[Volume 1 review.]

In the last volume, young Eles, a young girl masquerading as her twin brother, joins up with a traveling orchestra led by the mysterious Lucille. Lucille and her rag-tag bunch travel the land using their music to subdue and destroy guignols, humans turned into zombie-like dolls that attack and infect other humans. After a guignol infestation was subdued in her hometown, Eles decided to become Lucille’s pianist. During a routine job, Eles is sent out as bait to attract the guignols with her piano playing. Remarkably, the guignols start singing along, totally captivated by Eles’s playing; one of them even speaks to Eles. As they observe this strange phenomenon, the official Grand Orchestra arrives and decimates the guignols gathered around Eles. Their maestro, Count Stilbite, is a face from Lucille’s past. He has come to arrest Lucille and drag him back to the palace to face the Queen for questioning about the infestation at Eles’s home town. Furious at their total disregard for human life, Eles stands up to them and insists that Lucille not go with them. Moved by the girl’s impassioned speech, Lucille switches gears and cheerfully agrees to go see the Queen, his sister. The Queen, immortal and doll-like, eternally young and beautiful, holds immense resentment toward Lucille for events in their past, and seeks to destroy him and those around him. As Eles learns about this tragic past from an old retainer, the Queen mocks Lucille’s attachment to the girl, insisting that their bond is fragile and that Eles would run away if she knew the truth. Eles, however, believes in Lucille absolutely, and nothing the Queen or her attendants say can sway her. Pulled once again from his despair by Eles’s words, Lucille makes a stand and challenges the Queen before escaping with Kohaku, Gwin, and Eles. Due to the fuss they caused at the palace by escaping, the Queen forces them to do her dirty work by exploring an abbey said to house the Black Oratorio, a book of music said to be capable of destroying the world. The abbey turns out to be a convent, so Lucille (in drag) and Eles go under cover as novitiates. Their search for the powerful book leads them to discover some dark secrets lying beneath the abbey. Just as they seem about to find what they’re a looking for, another face from Lucille’s past shows up for some revenge.

Boy, Lucille’s past sure does seem to be catching up to him fairly quickly. And it’s quite dark. His childhood friends don’t exist anymore as they are now, having been consumed by the curse of Lucille’s family. That Lucille broke away and left his sister to suffer is a cause of much more than simple strife between them. However, Lucille’s journey is to find a way to release his sister from her suffering. Unfortunately, Lucille hasn’t been very forthcoming with just how exactly he means to do this, and it could have dire consequences for those around him. We learn a little bit more about Kohaku and Gwin in this volume, though there were some suspicions about their humanity in the first volume. And they’re not the only one with strange ties to the guignol virus. Perhaps the virus isn’t what it seems (though it’s really not very clear to begin with). It’s nice to see Lucille’s pained heart melting with Eles’s presence, though it’s possible she may just be a replacement for his own sister. There’s still a lot of room for the story to grow, and for the characters to expand, and that’s certainly something that Kaori Yuki is good at doing.


Review copies provided by Viz Media.



  1. […] (Slightly Biased Manga) Michelle Smith on vols. 11-13 of Banana Fish (Soliloquy in Blue) Kristin on vol. 7 of Black Bird and vol. 2 of Grand Guignol (Comic Attack) Connie on vol. 13 of Blade of the Immortal (Slightly Biased Manga) Ken Haley on vol. […]

  2. […] [Volume 2 review.] […]

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