It’s delightful how easily the premise of Hirotaka Kisaragi’s Innocent Bird (Blu) translates into buddy-comedy bluster:
A devil trying to do the right thing… An angel upholding God’s law the only way he knows how… Genesis… was just… the beginning!
Inventing variations on bombastic movie trailers throughout my reading of this book probably led me to like it more than I should. It’s not especially gripping, and readers hoping for sexy blasphemy will be sorely disappointed, but Kisaragi does chart some interesting, even moving territory along the way.
Shirasagi is a very bad devil. He’s gone so far as to abandon his demonic duties to become a priest in a low-rent neighborhood, ministering to the downtrodden and teaching children mathematics and Japanese out of a shuttered nightclub. Karasu, the angel, cares more about the spirit of God’s law than the letter. When sent to convince Shirasagi to resume his duties as Beelzebub’s favorite sex toy, Karasu lacks the bureaucrat’s enthusiasm for order and regulation.
The two are essentially soldiers in a war that has become so codified as to be void of passion or meaning. Angels and devils do what they do because that’s what they’ve always done, and individual moral choice has been divorced from the equation. Shirasagi and Karasu are outsiders simply because they take a nuanced, personal view of their by-the-numbers circumstances. Even putting aside their mutual attraction, they’re dangerous because they think for themselves.
That conceit interests me, and it helps overcome a lot of the mundane mechanics of the story. Nothing particularly startling or even unexpected happens in terms of plot, and Kisaragi is much better at illustrating emotion than event. In spite of those shortcomings, Kisaragi has convinced me to want a happy outcome for her protagonists and to be curious about what happens to them next. (A sharply observed back-up story about building a family of choice goes a long way to sell me on Kisaragi’s abilities.)