Black Panther and Sweet 16
黒豹と16歳 (Kurohyou to 16-sai)
Shoujo – Comedy, drama, mature, reverse harem, romance, smut
11 Volumes (complete)
While exploring her new neighborhood, Taiga finds an old house — and a body inside! However, the guy is very much alive… and hungry. Taiga reluctantly gives him a drink, and he pays her back by passionately kissing her! Not the type of romance she was dreaming of — and definitely not when he offers to be her pet!
Readers with an appetite for love triangles and sensuality may want to feast on Black Panther and Sweet 16.
Taiga moves with her family to Tokyo, and while exploring the area, she is taken aback by a body in an abandoned house. Well, the guy was just cooling off from the heat, but she couldn’t leave him hungry and alone. She only has enough money for a ramune, but Taiga gets him to point out the major buildings in the area as thanks. He, however, decides to carry her off! Taiga thinks she’s going to be kidnapped (or worse) and never get to fulfill her dream of a happy high school romance. Turns out, he was just going to show her the fireworks. But he gives her the ramune — and then drinks from her mouth!
That causes her to lose all her strength, but once she regains her senses, she hits him three times. Taiga is still ticked off when she starts school. There she hears about “those untamable tyrants” — and the guy she met, Anri, is one of them! Taiga goes to confront him again, but he wants to be “fed” by her again. Since she doesn’t want news of what happened to spread, he offers to keep quiet in exchange for being her pet.
Well, that bit of gossip was probably worse for Taiga! And well, her new pet continuously wants to be fed and never leave her side. Including at home, as he decides to live in her closet. Between Anri demanding food and messing with his master, Taiga has her hands full. Taiga may not have any friends, but he certainly does: the often cruel analyst Mikihito, the harsh idol Sena, and the yankee-looking guy with a heart of gold Kurogane. It’s Kurogane who ends up helping Taiga managing Anri, and Taiga quickly develops a crush on him. Anri both helps her and teases her for his amusement, so that secret doesn’t stay quiet for long.
Author Toriumi writes she debated whether Taiga should end up with Anri or Kurogane all the way up to chapter 42 (called “Traps” here). There are only 44 chapters in the series. So even before I get into the real positives and negatives of Black Panther and Sweet 16, this is one of those manga where either way one young man was going to end up heartbroken… and a large number of readers were going to be upset that their preferred pairing didn’t win in the end. On one hand, you have Kurogane, a seemingly scary lad who at first doesn’t (and doesn’t want to) see Taiga in that way. On the other, Anri is an enigma, sometimes helping prod the relationship between Taiga and Kurogane along, sometimes messing with her to get a rise out of her, and yet also at times wanting to cling to her and have her look only at him. Judging by the covers, you’d think Anri would have the position of Taiga’s future boyfriend all locked up, but that’s clearly not the case. There are plenty of heart-racing scenes with both boys, but since Toriumi hesitates on the ending until the last minute, for many readers, Taiga’s indecision will be annoying — if not downright cruel.
Anyway, like a certain other famous manga girl named Taiga, this manga’s protagonist is rather hot-tempered. She mentions she got into fights a lot in middle school, but we don’t see Taiga show a lot of physical strength. But she’s got some mental toughness, and Taiga’s pride won’t let her back down once she’s decided on something. There are sparks of Taiga’s ojou-sama-like dominance, and she admits to readers this is a strange situation. It’s not like she spends all her days and evenings training him or doting on him, but she certainly tries to snap some of his bad habits and is worried every time he disappears.
Throughout the manga, she hears bits and pieces of Anri’s situation from others. Toward the end, Anri’s situation becomes a central part of the story — along with the love triangle, of course. It provides context to Anri’s actions, but I don’t think anyone should expect the strongest finale in a manga that involves a boy offering to be a pet! It’s enough to wrap up Anri’s backstory as well as the love triangle, including ending with an update on everyone’s current status and for Taiga to spend some time with her boyfriend.
But much of Black Panther and Sweet 16 is Taiga drawing closer to her two potential suitors. With Kurogane, Taiga is dreaming of a picture perfect romance. With Anri, Taiga is trying to get a handle on his strange behavior — and the reason for it. With Anri and Kurogane being friends, both don’t want a girl to divide them. Anri often toys with Kurogane, but the latter knows Anri’s situation. Kurogane even offers for Anri to live with him, and although Taiga knows it’d be the better solution, she vetoes it. But even as the two young men find their attraction to Taiga growing, Anri restrains himself from forcing Taiga to become his and Kurogane continues to want to help Anri break the chains that bind him.
Their friends want to help Anri too, but they also avoid stirring the pot too much in regards to the love triangle. Neither of them are romantically interested in Taiga, and they don’t serve as much in the role of advice givers or anything. Mikihito and Sena are around constantly (except in date-like scenes), but I was surprised more focus wasn’t given on their friendship with Taiga (and the others). They each get a chapter where Taiga (and readers) get to know them more, but they never quite live up to their main character status.
Which is surprising, since Taiga doesn’t have many other important people in her life outside of her family. Taiga does start getting along with her class after a while (they were scared of her and confused by the way she hung out with Anri and company), but she doesn’t gain a female friend until just past the halfway mark. Surprisingly, they aren’t in the same class (or even the same grade!), so their friendship is formed rather fast, let alone giving each other the moniker of best friend. She is has a secret eccentric side, but I love how she truly wants to help Taiga with advice and such.
Toriumi mentions that as she was thinking of ideas for her next series (which turned out to be Black Panther and Sweet 16), she wanted to include a lot of food. The manga does feature many scenes of Taiga feeding Anri and innuendos about hunger/appetite. The series’ bread-and-butter is its risque content, and food makes up much of it. Even without cookies and cakes, hormones run high at times. Characters — including Anri and Kurogane — are drawn with fangs, a common manga style, and they certainly use their teeth at times. The series never gets too graphic as clothes stay on and hands don’t go underneath, but feet/legs and necks are fair game. This manga is in the same league as manga like Missions of Love — maybe not as extreme, but it’s designed to provide a gateway to the racier stuff.
I admit I was a little surprise the manga wasn’t as raunchy as the manga’s covers suggest. I didn’t study Black Panther and Sweet 16‘s synopses before reading, and I assumed Anri would be as the covers suggested and just keep pinning Taiga down as he tries to have his way with her, but while his personality is still not one to emulate, it was far from downright awful.
But I wasn’t expecting Anri to live with Taiga… while her mom (sister and dad, when they’re not at boarding school and working respectively) live there. Anri has a little box with his belongings and lives in Taiga’s closet. While mom works a lot, she’s not gone constantly, so of course readers are supposed to at least suspend some logic and just indulge in the fantasy of having a hot guy acting like a moody cat. Especially when someone discovers the truth and still doesn’t reveal that there’s a teenage boy living in a teenage girl’s closet! I mean, c’mon!
But the manga has a certain allure that’s hard to ignore. Ignoring the love triangle indecisiveness, Taiga has enough bite in her personality to be more than just a plucky heroine or a misunderstood tsundere. The love triangle itself will also keep readers hanging on, as the odds go from a 100% assumed Anri ending to Kurogane’s stock rising and then Anri’s rising again, etc. There’s all that drama, but the manga can be humorous as Taiga inflicts physical punishment or Anri tricks Taiga into revealing her secrets. Those scenes bring its own flavor to the story, but if you don’t like the idea of love bites and someone’s heart breaking, even the mystery of why Anri doesn’t have a normal home isn’t going to overcome all of that.
But again, the manga’s sensualness may carry you through. Toriumi certainly has an art style that’s not easily replicated. I kept being reminded of Gakuen Prince, because of the harem and lonely heroine aspects, the second love interest has a similar scary expression, and also because the love triangle is resolved late in the series. Taiga’s master side has some Kyoko of Skip Beat! vibes, but the manga also has a Say I Love You. atmosphere with a guy trying to push to see other sides of the feisty heroine. Plus I already compared this series to Missions of Love, another let’s-push-the-limits-of-Nakayoshi-magazine series.
Toriumi is a fan of thick eyelids and fang teeth, and those are hallmarks of this manga. Taiga can be drawn inconsistently with a more rounded face. I do like how we see Taiga occasionally style her hair and shows off the volume. There’s a chapter where she suddenly gains (and loses) weight a la Kiss Him, Not Me!, which was one of the weakest sections of the story. It’s not like Toriumi doesn’t include a lot of chibified characters, but it’s one thing to emphasize emotions versus being a part of the plot. But it was also nice to not have a manga where there were jokes about the protagonist’s height, chest, etc. Taiga is certainly pretty, but I think her scary expressions Otherwise, the author knows to explain the story well enough to show what’s going on and the leads’ conflicting emotions, but the real emphasis goes on the romantic and the erotic panels. Which is all most people are going to care about anyway, and Toriumi certainly gives readers plenty of memorable, passionate moments.
Honorifics are used. Western name order is used. The manga captures Anri’s Kyoto accent with a Southern style one, like “yew” for “you”. Some footnotes are included.
Black Panther and Sweet 16 is not going be used as an example of what a good shoujo romance is — and in many ways, it relies on some of the biggest criticisms of the genre and demographic. But for those of you who just like to indulge in escapism stories (including two guys fawning over one girl), you may be captivated by this manga.