Shoujo Quick Takes – Black Bird 8, Stepping on Roses 5, and Seiho Boys High School 5

Black Bird Volume 8

I read the first couple volumes of Black Bird and decided that the romance between a young girl and a dominating demon just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t all that thrilled with all the wound licking going on, and for whatever reason in my tawdry manga I prefer the flat out trashiness of something like Ai Ore to the more romanticized Black Bird although both titles display the same type of troubling and stereotypical gender roles in their main couples. At least Ai Ore is more open in its commitment to crazy plot elements, with all the rape threats, etc. right there on the page. In contrast, Black Bird tends to coyly hide elements of sexual coercion with all the accidental wounds and subsequent licking going on, along with a heroine who would happily sacrifice her existence for her demon boyfriend. This volume of Black Bird marks a bit of a turning point, as Misao and Kyo may finally have to get it on. Not because they mutually decide to take their relationship to the next level as an expression of their love, but because Kyo is afflicted by a horrible curse (which manifests in the form of exhaustion and tribal tattoos) and only Misao’s becoming his demonic bride can heal his affliction. I enjoyed this volume more than I expected but for a large section of the book I was really hoping that bad guy Raiko would prevail with his demon hunting mission and actually kill Kyo. I have a feeling I’m not supposed to be rooting for the death of the romantic lead in this manga.

Stepping on Roses Volume 5

I originally felt a little resentful towards this title because I thought it was more superficial than Ueda’s other series Tail of the Moon, which is one of my favorite historical shoujo manga. After reading a couple volumes I think the Perils of Pauline troubles that beset Sumi are starting to be more amusing than annoying, just because Ueda manages to pack so many problems into a single volume of manga. In the fifth volume Sumi is still in her marriage of convenience with wealthy businessman Soichiro. The evil Natsuki has succeeded in driving away Soichiro’s faithful butler and inserting a spying maid into Sumi’s household. Soichiro’s best friend Nozomu is still in love with Sumi but that didn’t stop him from marrying a random rich girl, who is not pleased that her husband is in love with someone else. So! Sumi and Soichiro are growing closer, but when he asks her if she loves him she replies no. He conveniently has forgotten that when they married he instructed her not to fall in love with him and he walks out in the rain. Sumi goes after him and gets soaked. Nozomo has moved out of his house, leaving his wife alone after she caused a scene at a party by attacking Sumi with a bouquet of flowers. Nozomo spends his time alone creepily working on an epic naked painting of Sumi, and when he finds her outside his house he decides to finagle her into posing for him. In the meantime Sumi’s hapless brother with a gambling addiction is trying to go straight by working at Soichiro’s company, and Soichiro’s long lost butler has moved in with Sumi’s poverty stricken family. Whew! I do wish that Sumi had a bit more of a personality, as her main function seems to be making futile attempts to ward off the attentions of almost every man who stumbles across her.

Seiho Boys High School! Volume 5

This volume was my favorite in this mini-batch of manga. I enjoy the self-contained short stories in each volume, but since the series uses the same rotating cast of characters, the reader still gets plenty of character development. Having the stories written more from a male point of view also provides a nice contrast to more conventional shoujo titles. The first couple stories explore Maki’s situation as he remembers his dead girlfriend and struggles on a first date with his new girlfriend. A ghostly image starts appearing to many of the guys at the dorm, and Maki wonders if his girlfriend Erika is trying to signal something to him. The ghost ends up being a hermit-like male student, but Maki has an unexpectedly touching dream triggered by the episode that may be a signal that he’s truly ready to let go and move on with his life. Unfortunately moving on can be difficult, as he attempts to go on a date with his current love interest and starts tensing up and making the situation even more awkward. Stories about relationships are balanced out by more comedic episodes, as Hanai accidentally finds his photographic ambitions recognized when he starts getting besieged by girls from other schools who want pictures of his classmates. The ongoing storyline about ordinary girl Miyaji and extraordinary male specimen Kamiki gets a little bit of progression as well. This manga strikes me as a good series to have around to reread. The episodic nature of Seiho Boys High School makes it easy to pick up a random volume to read, and the short stories provide plenty of humor and emotion.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

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