Depraved souls trapped by their own desires, Kou Yoneda’s Twittering Birds Never Fly offers a unique look at the relationship between a masochistic yakuza boss and his stoic bodyguard. In a world where dark deals and violence reign, can they find solace in each other or is their relationship just another twisted liaison between two lonely men?
Yashiro is the young leader of Shinseikai and the president of the Shinseikai Enterprise, but like so many powerful men, he leads a double life as a deviant and a masochist. Chikara Doumeki comes to work as a bodyguard for him and, although Yashiro had decided that he would never lay a hand on his own men, he finds there’s something about Doumeki that he can’t resist. Yashiro makes advances toward Doumeki, but Doumeki has mysterious reasons for denying. Yashiro, who abuses his power just to abuse himself, and Doumeki, who faithfully obeys his every command, begin the tumultuous affair of two men with songs in their hearts and no wings to fly.
- Genre: Yakuza | Boys Love | Drama
- Author: Kou Yoneda
- Publisher: June Manga
- Price: $14.95 USD (Physical) | $7.95 (Digital)
- Length: 7 volumes (Ongoing)
Twittering Birds Never Fly Vol 1 Review
I have been a long time fan of Kou Yoneda and her works, her stories are known for their complex characters and thought provoking subject matter. So, I had the bar set pretty high for volume one of Twittering Birds Never Fly and I was not disappointed. I’ve read many yakuza themed BL titles before, each one cliché after another, but Yoneda puts her own spin on the premise and the results are delicious. With every turn of the page Yoneda pulls you deeper into the depraved world or Yashiro and the yakuza, a place where men are free to pursue their deepest desires.
The first volume is comprised of three stories (‘Don’t Stay Gold’, ‘Twittering Birds Never Fly’, and ‘Though They Drift, They Do Not Sink, But Nor Do They Sing’), but the majority of the volume is dedicated to the second story, Twittering Birds Never Fly. While the narratives of each story are for the most part self-contained, they all share the same setting and cast of characters so they do have some relevance to the main story.
The first story, Don’t Stay Gold focuses on the relationship between a doctor friend of Yashiro’s, Kageyama and a volatile young street thug in debt to the yakuza. Kageyama takes in the younger man, and the pair become romantically involved, thanks in part to some meddling on Yashiro’s part. It’s a cute story and nice, relatively lighthearted introduction to the volume, the side couple was well developed and despite the short amount of time they spend with one another, I really enjoyed them as a couple. Since they are both acquainted with Yashiro, I really hope we get to see more of them in future volumes.
The rest of the volume is all about the main couple, Yashiro and Doumeki and believe me when I say the first story does nothing to prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster that is Twittering Birds Never Fly. Yoneda has a talent for creating interesting, albeit flawed characters and Twittering Birds is no different, each of the main leads is dealing with their fair share of inner demons and of course this wouldn’t be a party without troubled pasts. Warning, this manga is not for the faint of heart, it deals with some pretty dark themes, which some folks may or may not find triggering, namely Yashiro’s approach to sex.
When we meet Yashiro, he is still licking his wounds after his friend and the object of his unrequited crush, Kageyama finds a lover (see Don’t Stay Gold), enter Doumeki a new recruit suffering from a case of unexplained erectile dysfunction (ED). Yashiro is immediately captivated by the seemingly indifferent young man and the two embark on a rather complicated relationship. Yashiro wastes no time getting into Doumeki’s pants, with a spontaneous bowjob despite his policy of never laying a hand on his subordinates. They have several other encounters throughout the volume, but Doumeki never seems adverse to their liaisons, in fact, he is oddly accepting of each encounter. He just silently accepts everything Yashiro has to offer with little or no comment, save remarking how beautiful Yashiro is. It’s a rather strange relationship, but not an uncomfortable one, there is something intimate about the way both men accept one another so wholly. Doumeki accepts Yashiro’s sexual perversions without judgment, while Yashiro is unbothered by Doumeki’s impotence.
I’m torn on how I feel about Yoneda’s portrayal of Yashiro, on one hand I find Yashiro’s frank acceptance of himself and his activities refreshing, since most authors would attempt to use the character as a lesson against deviant lifestyles. But, on the other side of things, I’m a little disappointed that Yoneda perpetuates the idea that “deviant” sexual tastes are usually the result of some form of past abuse or trauma. Don’t get me wrong, my issue isn’t with the way the topic was handled, Yoneda did a great job with that, Yashiro’s years of sexual abuse at the hands of his step father isn’t sugar coated or romanticized in any way. He is open about his abuse in a way that I haven’t seen done in a BL manga in a long time, and while it isn’t the most sensitive portrayal of an abuse victim, it does help drive home just how tragic Yashiro’s life really is beneath all of his pomp and swagger.
In comparison, Doumeki’s past trauma, while not what you’d normally see in a BL manga, is equally tragic. While Yashiro turns to self-destructive behaviors, to help cope with his trauma, Doumeki seems almost normal by comparison, a point several characters make throughout the volume. He’s just too composed, a fact Yashiro uses to his advantage on a number of occasions, pushing Doumeki’s buttons just to get a rise out of him, with mixed results. The relationship between Doumeki and Yashiro is messy and while I’m not opposed to their sexual encounters, I am not sure how healthy their relationship really is in the long run. I cheated a bit and read through the second volume and I must say, this is only the beginning of what promises to be a pretty tumultuous relationship between two truly damaged individuals.
Twittering Birds is one of those “must read” BL titles and not for the reasons you may be thinking, it’s just a really great story. Everything, from the characters to the premise is a one of a kind experience that diehard BL fans and casual fans alike, should not miss. This is not the first BL title to feature gay gangsters and it probably won’t be the last, but Kou Yoneda manages to put a fresh spin on an overused premise and it works!