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

black cat

Black Cat 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.

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Black Cat 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.

Black Cat - Train and Saya.

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 - Saya's death.

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.

But does any of that stop him being cool to watch? Not really. Just not very coherent as a character.

Train - Black Cat

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.

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.

Creed dares you to find a plot - Black Cat

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 - Creed isn't playing with a full deck.

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.


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.


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?

Images from: Black Cat. Dir. S Itagaki. Gonzo. 2005.

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Karandi James

18if Episode 13: We Came, We Saw, We Drank Tea and Ate Cake


Review – With Spoilers:

While I’ve enjoyed 18if all the way along, what this show really needed to lift it to something I would actually enjoy rewatching was a strong conclusion that really brought all those weird elements together. While they certainly brought back all the characters this episode, what we didn’t get was anything particularly satisfying about this conclusion.


The revelation that Lily is Eve even though Lily wants Haruto to kill Eve (kill turning out later in the episode to mean sully her purity, as in kiss her, which doesn’t happen either mind you so seems like an incredibly pointless part of the narrative) was pretty obvious when you sat and thought about it and again, does it matter? They don’t do anything with this idea of Lily representing Eve before and Eve being who she was after so is it necessary at all?


On the other hand, Eve has the incredibly clichéd motivation of being annoyed at god and clearly that means you should hate men and destroy the world. I really find this kind of motive for a bad guy dull. And even the writers must have realised how petty Eve was being given they appeased her by throwing a tea party. Not even joking. The witches all come back and eat cake and drink tea and that more or less stops Eve from destroying the world.


And then we finally get to Haruto, the one character the audience have had a chance to actually connect with. We know he’s in hospital in a coma and then… Then he decides to go with Eve through some door to someplace humans can’t go but says he’ll come back. Cut to scene in hospital where essentially he flat lines. No more from Haruto.  I’m not entirely convinced that this is in anyway a satisfying way to wrap up this show. Basically, I’m still glad I watched it because it has been visually interesting each week and some of the dreams have been quite fun, but the overall narrative has falled pretty flat in the end.

I’ll do a full review soon.

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Karandi James.


18if Episode 12: I’m Feeling This Was A Little Anti-Climatic



This kind of seems like 18if has finally pulled everything together and is moving toward the final showdown between Haruto and Eve in the dream world, which means it really should be feeling exciting. We learn this episode where Haruto is in the real world (though no actual hints about how or why) and we also finally find and save the professor’s sister. That’s two big mysteries from the series solved and yet it all just felt kind of ho-hum.


What made it worse was the show seemed to be trying to set up various characters in a sinister light in the real world but that has no weight given everything of interest that’s happened in this story has happened inside the dreams. More importantly, even the witch that died came back this episode which means even death lost its weight and importance in this particular story.


While it is coming together, it is more working on paper than in reality. The feeling that you should have when watching this episode just isn’t there and the confrontation with Eve that will occur next week probably won’t fix the problem.

Thanks for reading.

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Karandi James.