Black Cat Series Review: This is A Hot Mess of A Show

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in July 2016 and can be found here.

Review:

It’s hard to know whether Black Cat is truly amazing or truly dreadful or somewhere between the two. It’s a lot of fun but there are an abundant number of flaws with this show that only become more pronounced during a rewatch (and on rewatching again before the repost I’m more convinced than ever that it is hard to tell where this show actually lies). I’m going to start with the characters and then get on to the plot.

Train and Saya on the roof

Let’s start by looking at Train and Saya. Saya’s a sweeper and carries a gun and gives Train the very profound advice that if she doesn’t want to shoot someone she won’t. Somehow this is a revelation for Train, who other than being incredibly good at killing people and a friend to stray cats seems to have very little personality in the first few episodes. That doesn’t mean he isn’t cool. Train is very cool. The anime bends over backwards to make you feel that Train is cool. He’s an assassin. He’s the cool silent type and he has cat like characteristics. Not the nice house-cat kind. The aloof-stray-cat kind.

The relationship between Train and Saya develops super fast and ends tragically, which is essentially the catalyst for Train’s actual transformation and almost every event that occurs after this in the series (apparently Train is someone people become obsessed with on first meeting). A lot of my issues with the anime stem from the fact that I really feel Saya (given the number of flash backs she gets and given how profound her impact is supposed to be) needed to be a lot more fleshed out.

That said, Train and Saya’s relationship and the tragedy of her death is one of the better handled ideas in the show and to be honest if the anime had stuck with this initial plot line, and then had Train simply get his revenge, ultimately I’d probably have loved this show from start to finish. Instead it really feels like this sequence, while it is brought up endlessly as a motivator for Train, is merely a side-story to the overall plot. And the overall plot is messy.

Train finds Saya dying

Train as a whole isn’t such a great character. After being Mr Super Cool and aloof he goes through a moody hating the world stage before bouncing back as an absolute and complete slacker who occasionally snaps and goes homicidal. He’s all over the place and while a tragic childhood and really warped start to adulthood may account for some of his inability to cope with the world in any kind of coherent fashion it doesn’t make for fantastic viewing. It’s impossible to know whether he’s going to spring into action or simply yawn and go look for more food at any turn in the story. He regularly ditches his friends to pursue his own vendettas and he even places others at risk.

That said, I like Train as a character. He is hilarious and when in assassin mode he is ice cold. Plus, he has the characteristics of a cat which would make him kind of amazing regardless. Is Train a good or a balanced character? Absolutely not. Does he develop in a sensible manner? Not really. Is he at times completely boring due to a lack of actual personality traits? Yep.

And I haven’t changed my opinion. I still like Train but I still see him as a dreadfully unbalanced and poorly written character who is getting slung around by whatever the plot needs from him at that point in time. There’s also a lot of angst going on at times and when it puts his friends in danger it makes it really hard to see Train’s point of view.

Black Cat - Train Heartnet

So with Saya being dead for a great deal of the story, and Train having almost zero to add to characterisation within this show, who are we left with? For better or worse we are left with an entire cohort of characters (some of whom you will have forgotten even if you’ve watched the show). We have the other numbers and various other agents for Chronos. Then we have the Apostles of the Stars which is a group made by Train’s other fanboy and which ostensibly exists to wipe out Chronos but mostly just seems like a place for various crazy characters to assemble and have their hearts broken. Then we have the Sweeper alliance and all of the members therein. Plus the people they regularly fight in their work as sweepers. And those that hire them. And a waitress who seems to follow them from town to town.

However, the three other characters that really get any development are Sven, Eve and Rinslet. Rinslet is a walking cliché so we aren’t going to go any further into the professional thief who tries to charm her way through any situation. Eve is a developed weapon so has the blank and robotic personality of one to start with and takes almost everything literally. While her growth as a human is impressive throughout the series and her combative/protective relationship with Train is one of the more interesting relationships formed, Eve herself is pretty dull.

And can we mention that every female character in this show is either dull or a trope of some sort. Okay, I’ll be fair, the male characters aren’t fairing much better but seriously, just one decent female character could have really added something.

Black Cat - Train, Sven and Eve

That leaves Sven. He’s actually good at his job (though his lack of finances would not have you believe that). He’s also forced into a father role with Eve and Train both having the world knowledge and coping skills of three year olds. Of all the characters in Black Cat, Sven is probably the least dynamic as his character regularly has to portray the voice of reason, support, complaint, and deal with the every day. It also makes Sven the most interesting in terms of his characterisation. His personality isn’t a one line wrap up about being a cute girl with powers or a flamboyant guy with a sword, gun or other weapon. Sven is very human (even with the power in his eye) and during this story he faces a lot of challenges well above and beyond his abilities and while calm isn’t the best word to describe him, he is quite sensible in most of his approaches.

It’s understandable that Sven and Train regularly clash. Train is like the rebellious and lazy teenage son who doesn’t really want to listen and doesn’t think Sven knows anything. Sven on the other hand takes his responsibilities very seriously and while he didn’t actively go out of his way to pick up a stray, Eve’s attachment to Train left Sven little choice.

Now onto plot.

Black Cat - Creed

My problem with the plot is that it essentially has two separate storylines (either one of which would have been fine) crammed together and as a result it gets messy. Not complex. Both storylines are pretty simple, but the telling and delivery becomes overly complicated leaving both storylines feeling confusing and lacking (I had a very similar issue more recently with B the Beginning for much the same reason).

The main plot seems to focus on Creed and Train. I’m going to call that the main plot because it is the one introduced in the very first episode with a fight sequence followed by a flash back to how we got to the fight and it is the one that seems the primary motivator for most of the series.

Essentially, Creed is in love with Train. Don’t really know why. Apparently it is something to do with Train’s eyes, which are adorable to be sure but somehow I’m not feeling homicidal because of it. Creed becomes convinced that Saya is corrupting and ruining his Train and kills her. Which seems pretty straight forward and a nice set-up for a revenge plot except that it also turns out that Creed has a power hidden from Chronos and an entire group (The Apostles of the Stars) and after totally destroying Train emotionally, Creed somehow thinks Train is just going to come join his group.

black-cat-2400x300

Crazy, delusional and deadly. Great combination in a villain without any real purpose other than to occasionally stir Train into actual action. Yeah, I am certain there were various motives and plot points explained but you leave the anime without remembering them. And this is really kind of a problem because as I mentioned with Train’s character, if this had been the focus we could have developed Train more, Creed more, and Saya’s death would have felt more purposeful. Everything would have clicked nicely together. Alas, the story wants to do more.

We still have Eve, the developed weapon and the people that want to use her and the research to… do something bad? Again, not well explained and while there are references strewn throughout the episodes to this plot, you can more or forget it while getting caught up in other events and then somehow it comes back again.

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As I said before, the plot would have been better either just telling a revenge story or telling a story about helping a bio-weapon escape. The two together just kind of end up mangled and neither is as satisfying as it might have been. I’m not actually opposed to multiple storylines mind you, just poorly delivered ones.

train.jpg

So after saying all that, the question is, do I recommend watching Black Cat?

If you like anime that involve crazy weapons and powers and you don’t really care about the villains motives and you can tolerate pacing that is all over the shop and characters that sling shot through the emotional spectrum a mile-a-minute, then you will probably have a lot of fun with this anime. I really had a lot of fun with this anime. It’s definitely a case where the whole is better than any of its parts. Certainly it is flawed and it feels like it is about three different shows mooshed together at times, but there’s just a fun kind of energy running through it and there are some great moments and scenes (even if the road to them is sometimes littered with the debris of the parts that missed the mark).

And despite all my complaints about it, I own this one on DVD and I’ve rewatched it quite a lot. It is good popcorn viewing even if it doesn’t really hold up to any kind of scrutiny.

Have you seen Black Cat? If so, what did you think?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Characters Who Love Their ‘Darling’ To Death

Yes, this post has been inspired by Darling in the Franxx’s Zero Two, unfortunately she doesn’t get a place on the list due to the uncertainty about how her character will develop from here.

Certainly she has all the traits of the characters below so far. Obsessively possessive of her chosen ‘Darling’, not entirely needing consent though does appreciate the thought, and willing to cut other people out of their ‘Darling’s’ lives if necessary. I’m pretty sure you can guess some of the names below but as always, I’d love to know who you would have included on your list. Which anime character do you think loves their ‘Darling’ to death?


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Honourable mentions: Zero Two of course.

Number 5: Misa Amane from Death Note

There is no surprise that Misa made this list. The cute, sweet idol obsessed with Kira. She latches onto Light and promises to be helpful. She’ll follow his every command and do as he says. But no, he cannot date anyone else and no he cannot even pretend to be with other girls. Why? Because she’ll kill them in an instant and does not care that they may bring the police down on both of them. Misa was never one for a strategy. She went straight after what she wanted and what she wanted was Light’s absolute loyalty. And while Misa never did get Light killed, that was more good luck than good management. If it hadn’t been for her he would never have had to go through the whole confinement thing which would have made life a lot easier for him later.

Number 4: Haru from My Little Monster

Now, Haru is an interesting character and a lot of the time his bizarre actions are more a lack of understanding of norms than actual malice, and yet threatening to rape a girl the day after you met her is kind of extreme. The fact that these two end up being an adorable couple is kind of terrifying when put in that context, mostly because Shizuku spends a lot of time putting some very clear boundaries in place, particularly when he did punch her (technically an accident but still not cool). However, while Haru becomes far better at moderating his behaviour as directed toward Shizuku, Kenji Yamaguchi, who also kind of likes Shizuku, is not so lucky. At one point Haru nearly pushed him off a flight of stairs and was only stopped because he was distracted by Shizuku and another time Haru made it clear that his change in behaviour only applied to Shizuku. Not exactly an amazing example of reform or healthy relationships really. Fortunately though, no deaths in the show. It is a romantic comedy despite the serious doses of ‘what’ going on in Haru’s character description.

Number 3: Creed Diskenth from Black Cat

The guy is just obsessed with Train. That’s literally hit entire motivation and reason for being. He follows Train within the Chronos organisation and when Train leaves he completely loses it. The fact that Train left after being influenced by a friend (possibly closer than a friend) truly infuriated Creed and so Creed killed her. And then made sure Train knew that he had killed her. A lot of the time it is unclear is Creed is trying to kill Train or confine him or just mess with him but basically Creed is pretty stable as a character (as much as possible for a villain), until you throw Train into the mix and then he is a complete and utter psycho. I guess it never really occurred to him that Train legitimately did not care about him at all until he killed Saya. And even then, Train didn’t actually care about Creed. He just wanted to destroy the person who destroyed Saya. It didn’t matter that it was Creed. Again, Creed doesn’t manage to kill Train but he does come very close on multiple occasions.

Number 2: Yuno Gasai from Future Diary

I can already hear people asking, why is Yuno not number one on this list. And certainly, if we were just going with being crazy, Yuno is definitely a good contender. Still, in terms of loving their Darling to death, Yuno’s got some fierce competition. Mostly because I’m not entirely certain how much Yuno actually is in love rather than just obsessed with Amano. On the other hand, she’s one of the few people on this list who did in fact kill her Darling, even if it was in another timeline. So, basically, she swears to protect him in the death game, but mid-way through she tries confining him by tying him to a chair. Afterwards we learn that previously these two were the last two left standing and she killed him in order to be the victor and then she’s killed her past-self, inserted herself into that life, and done the whole thing again. You just have to wonder if she expected it to end differently the next time.


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Number 1: Road Kamelot from D Gray Man

It absolutely had to be Road. She is a truly sadistic character who is, unfortunately for Allen, obsessed with our white haired exorcist friend. Mid-battle she can go from attacking him with kisses to shoving a spike through his eye in about the space of a heart beat and she sure doesn’t care about anyone near Allen, unless she thinks she can torture him by hurting them. Her obsession runs deep and she’s more than once allowed him to live when she could have killed him, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t had a fair go at inflicting quite a bit of pain on him. D Gray Man Hallow saw her assisting him from her doll form, though whether that will continue or whether she is just leading him to yet another disaster is anyone’s guess unless we get another continuation of the anime (or, you know I could eventually read the source material). Either way, Road was the first character I thought of for this list. She is ice cold, completely obsessed, and has a real taste for pain.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Black Cat Series Review

Overview:

Train Heartnet is an assassin for Chronos. More importantly, he’s one of the numbers, meaning just mentioning the Black Cat kind of scares all sorts of people silly. However, his latest mission leads him to meet Saya and through meeting her he is changed. Soon Train joins up with Sven, a reasonably down on his luck Sweeper (bounty hunter of sorts), and Eve, who is some sort of weapon, and they begin working together while dealing with a whole lot of conspiracies and other world changing events.

Review:

It’s hard to know whether Black Cat is truly amazing or truly dreadful or somewhere between the two. It’s a lot of fun but there are an abundant number of flaws with this show that only become more pronounced during a rewatch. I’m going to start with the characters and then get on to the plot.

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Let’s start by looking at Train and Saya. Saya’s a sweeper and carries a gun and gives Train the very profound advice that if she doesn’t want to shoot someone she won’t. Somehow this is a revelation for Train, who other than being incredibly good at killing people and a friend to stray cats seems to have very little personality in the first few episodes. That doesn’t mean he isn’t cool. Train is very cool. The anime bends over backwards to make you feel that Train is cool. He’s an assassin. He’s the cool silent type and he has cat like characteristics. Not the nice house-cat kind. The aloof-stray-cat kind.

The relationship between Train and Saya develops super fast and ends tragically, which is essentially the catalyst for Train’s actual transformation and almost every event that occurs after this in the series (apparently Train is someone people become obsessed with on first meeting). A lot of my issues with the anime stem from the fact that I really feel Saya (given the number of flash backs she gets and given how profound her impact is supposed to be) needed to be a lot more fleshed out.

black-cat-box-set-20080504110123198-000

Train as a whole isn’t such a great character. After being Mr Super Cool and aloof he goes through a moody hating the world stage before bouncing back as an absolute and complete slacker who occasionally snaps and goes homicidal. He’s all over the place and while a tragic childhood and really warped start to adulthood may account for some of his inability to cope with the world in any kind of coherent fashion it doesn’t make for fantastic viewing. It’s impossible to know whether he’s going to spring into action or simply yawn and go look for more food at any turn in the story. He regularly ditches his friends to pursue his own vendettas and he even places others at risk.

That said, I like Train as a character. He is hilarious and when in assassin mode he is ice cold. Plus, he has the characteristics of a cat which would make him kind of amazing regardless. Is Train a good or a balanced character? Absolutely not. Does he develop in a sensible manner? Not really. Is he at times completely boring due to a lack of actual personality traits? Yep.

d41944927fa716c09463e71cc57d66b8So with Saya being dead for a great deal of the story, and Train having almost zero to add to characterisation within this show, who are we left with? For better or worse we are left with an entire cohort of characters (some of whom you will have forgotten even if you’ve watched the show). We have the other numbers and various other agents for Chronos. Then we have the Apostles of the Stars which is a group made by Train’s other fanboy and which ostensibly exists to wipe out Chronos but mostly just seems like a place for various crazy characters to assemble and have their hearts broken. Then we have the Sweeper alliance and all of the members therein. Plus the people they regularly fight in their work as sweepers. And those that hire them. And a waitress who seems to follow them from town to town.

However, the three other characters that really get any development are Sven, Eve and Rinslet. Rinslet is a walking cliché so we aren’t going to go any further into the professional thief who tries to charm her way through any situation. Eve is a developed weapon so has the blank and robotic personality of one to start with and takes almost everything literally. While her growth as a human is impressive throughout the series and her combative/protective relationship with Train is one of the more interesting relationships formed, Eve herself is pretty dull.

black-cat-box-set-20080504110123839-000

That leaves Sven. He’s actually good at his job (though his lack of finances would not have you believe that). He’s also forced into a father role with Eve and Train both having the world knowledge and coping skills of three year olds. Of all the characters in Black Cat, Sven is probably the least dynamic as his character regularly has to portray the voice of reason, support, complaint, and deal with the every day. It also makes Sven the most interesting in terms of his characterisation. His personality isn’t a one line wrap up about being a cute girl with powers or a flamboyant guy with a sword, gun or other weapon. Sven is very human (even with the power in his eye) and during this story he faces a lot of challenges well above and beyond his abilities and while calm isn’t the best word to describe him, he is quite sensible in most of his approaches.

It’s understandable that Sven and Train regularly clash. Train is like the rebellious and lazy teenage son who doesn’t really want to listen and doesn’t think Sven knows anything. Sven on the other hand takes his responsibilities very seriously and while he didn’t actively go out of his way to pick up a stray, Eve’s attachment to Train left Sven little choice.

Now onto plot.

91553-darkcreed_1_super1

My problem with the plot is that it essentially has two separate storylines (either one of which would have been fine) crammed together and as a result it gets messy. Not complex. Both storylines are pretty simple, but the telling and delivery becomes overly complicated leaving both storylines feeling confusing and lacking.

The main plot seems to focus on Creed and Train. I’m going to call that the main plot because it is the one introduced in the very first episode with a fight sequence followed by a flash back to how we got to the fight and it is the one that seems the primary motivator for most of the series.

Essentially, Creed is in love with Train. Don’t really know why. Apparently it is something to do with Train’s eyes, which are adorable to be sure but somehow I’m not feeling homicidal because of it. Creed becomes convinced that Saya is corrupting and ruining his Train and kills her. Which seems pretty straight forward and a nice set-up for a revenge plot except that it also turns out that Creed has a power hidden from Chronos and an entire group (The Apostles of the Stars) and after totally destroying Train emotionally, Creed somehow thinks Train is just going to come join his group.

black-cat-2400x300

Crazy, delusional and deadly. Great combination in a villain without any real purpose other than to occasionally stir Train into actual action. Yeah, I am certain there were various motives and plot points explained but you leave the anime without remembering them, so whatever.

This plot carries through for most of the anime and works. And if that had been the only plot it would have been just fine.

But… We still have Eve, the developed weapon and the people that want to use her and the research to… do something bad? Again, not well explained and while there are references strewn throughout the episodes to this plot, you can more or forget it while getting caught up in other events and then somehow it comes back again.

18-05

As I said before, the plot would have been better either just telling a revenge story or telling a story about helping a bio-weapon escape. The two together just kind of end up mangled and neither is as satisfying as it might have been. I’m not actually opposed to multiple storylines mind you, just poorly delivered ones.

train.jpg

So after saying all that, the question is, do I recommend watching Black Cat?

If you like anime that involve crazy weapons and powers and you don’t really care about the villains motives and you can tolerate pacing that is all over the shop and characters that sling shot through the emotional spectrum a mile-a-minute, then you will probably have a lot of fun with this anime. I really had a lot of fun with this anime. It’s definitely a case where the whole is better than any of its parts. Certainly it is flawed and it feels like it is about three different shows mooshed together at times, but there’s just a fun kind of energy running through it and there are some great moments and scenes (even if the road to them is sometimes littered with the debris of the parts that missed the mark).

Have you seen Black Cat? If so, what did you think?

Tuesday’s Top 5: Eye Patch Wearing Characters

I really don’t get why so many anime characters wear eye patches (and there are a lot of them when you start looking) but I do know that some of these characters are pretty cool. Some of them it is clear why they need the eye patch, for others it is an unexplained mystery. Here are my top 5 anime characters that wear eye patches. Share yours below.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions this week go Misaki Mei (Another), King Bradley (Full Metal Alchemist), Valmet (Jormungand), Ciel Phantomhive (Black Butler), Nice Holystone (Baccano), and all of the Data Masamune’s out there (though special mention to Sengoku Basara). That’s a lot of honourable mentions and that is only a fraction of the list I started with. Too many characters with eye patches.

Number 5: Sven Vollfied (Black Cat)

So with so much competition, how did down and out sweeper Sven find his way onto this list? Probably because he was one of my first eye patch wearing anime characters and his eye patch served a purpose. Sven can see a few minutes into the future but using that power takes a great toll on his body so most of the time he keeps his eye covered. However, when things are at their worst, he will lift the eye patch and use that power to his full advantage. Besides, Sven is more unlucky than incompetent.

Number 4: Kaneki Ken (Tokyo Ghoul)

This was an obvious choice but a necessary one. The way the eye patch and mask are used to show Kaneki’s dual nature is actually quite clever and a critical plot device throughout the story. Basically, he keeps his ghoul eye covered when he is human and his human eye covered when he’s a ghoul and slowly we see the divide between these two existences disappear.

Number 3: Rikka Takanashi (Chyunibyo)

After the last two serious entries, I really wanted to include Rikka. Rikka is a fantastic character who suffers from 8th Grade Syndrome and so believes that she has super powers which she cleverly conceals by wearing an eye patch, among other things. She get’s some very cool moments when she reveals her eye and at first it appears magical but then it’s revealed she is wearing a coloured contact in the eye under the eye patch. While her eye patch is definitely an affectation, Rikka is a fantastic character and the eye patch is almost inseparable from her as a character so I felt she deserved a spot on the list. It’s such a fundamental part of her character that when she gives up her ‘delusions’ she removes the eye patch and essentially becomes a different person. However, that transformation is short lived.

Number 2: Worick Arcangelo (Gangsta)

This one is included because unlike a lot of these characters, Worick isn’t hiding a super power but rather is covering an injury. One that the memory of haunts him and when we flash back and see the injury it actually makes the audience wince. This is a physical and emotional scar on the character and is definitely a symbol of the events that have shaped who he is.

Number 1: Lavi (D Gray Man)

Yes, some of the other characters have more dramatic stories and more purpose behind their eye patches. I’m not going to argue that this choice is anything but my own preference. Lavi is awesome. I loved him as a character and like Sven, Lavi was one of the first eye patch wearing characters to catch my eye. And while it isn’t fully explained, the eye patch is a part of who Lavi is and the thought of Lavi without an eye patch is just kind of strange.

So who would you have listed? Share your favourites in the comments below.