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.

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).

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: Trains and Train Sequences in Anime

Tuesday's Top 5

I love a good train sequence and I know I’m not alone. There’s a reason why it is a staple of action movies and dramas alike. Trains can let the cast sit back and have those poignant conversations to catch the audience up on details and ensure that the characters can’t escape midway through, they allow for some thrilling cat and mouse, and mostly they allow for an escalated sense of drama because until they get to the next station you aren’t getting off. At least not without a few bumps and scrapes. There’s just something really fun about trains and they serve so many purposes in stories outside of just getting the characters from point A to point B.

Below are some of my favourite train sequences. When I thought of this list my main consideration was how memorable the train or train sequence was within the anime. I’d love to know your favourites so leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mention: Full Metal Alchemist – It is amazing how much exposition takes place while the characters are on the various trains travelling around the country.

Number 5: Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail - Natsu Sick on Train.jpg

Okay, the train in Fairy Tail has a number of purposes. Firstly it does just get the cast from point A to B. It also allows for some bonding between team members. It’s also one of the many sources of the ongoing joke that Natsu gets motion sick. And, because it is Fairy Tail, the train and the train tracks are also the sight of a fairly intense battle sequence. Or it would have been fairly intense if the battles that came after it hadn’t completely eclipsed it. At the time when you watch it, the battle seems like a big deal. Whichever way, the train and the fight were well remembered even though its been quite awhile since I put Fairy Tail on hold and I need to get back and finish watching it at some point.

Number 4: Chuunibyou

Chuunibyou - Train.gif

Love and Other Delusions indeed, but the scene that stands out to me more so than any other save the climax of season one is the scene where Yuuta watches Rikku do her thing and stares in amazement as the train door opens and she struts on, before realising he neglected to get on and he is now late for school. It’s a classic moment and one that really defines the relationship the two characters will carry on with for the better half of season one. So while technically not on a train, when thinking of train scenes, this one immediately came to mind.

Number 3: Spirited Away

Spirited Away Train.gif

A rare entry from an anime movie on one of my lists. I’m not the biggest fan of Spirited Away, it’s pleasant enough but it doesn’t really stick. And yet, for some reason the train scene does. It isn’t even a major point in the story as it really is just a visually pretty interlude as we move from one setting to another and stretch out the run time of a story with some striking scenery. However, it did serve its purpose and it is quite an iconic sequence.

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Number 2: Izetta: The Last Witch

Izetta - Train.gif

As much as I ended up not enjoying Izetta very much as a whole, the train sequence from episode 1 was pretty brilliant. It was exciting, it got me hyped for the setting and time period of this anime, and it was actually the highlight of the entire series. Too bad it peaked in episode 1. But, it does make this train sequence one that it worth remembering because it did exactly what it needed to in grabbing the audiences’ attention.

Number 1: Baccano

Baccano Train.gif

Could there ever have been a different choice for this list? The Flying Pussyfoot is legendary and this train dominates as the setting of the most memorable of the interwoven stories in the series. So many characters have converged in a confined space with their own backstories and motives. There will be laughs, mis-understandings, and blood. So much blood before this train ride is completed. Definitely a train ride to remember even if it does take the better part of a season to see the entirety of it.

Again, this was my list, but I’d love to know your picks below.

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Karandi James
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Code Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ Episode 4: Just a Few Holes in the Plan

Review:

While this show is obviously not trying to be a super spy thriller  (quite obviously so), this episode still made me raise my eyebrows more often than I would like as I struggled to ignore lapses in logic that were just trying to throw me out of what was an otherwise enjoyable romp (even if not a realistic one). But before I get to that, basically we finally see the attempted train job where they want to abduct Finis and it goes about as well as you would expect such a plan to go this early in a series.

Code4b

The actual train job itself is fun to watch but you really can’t spend too much time thinking or it all kind of falls apart. Firstly, what is with the plans they are looking at in the mansion? Basically it is the drawing of the outside of a train carriage. It isn’t a map of the tracks, nor a detailed view of the carriage interior. There aren’t even enough carriages for them to be mapping out who is going to be where. Yet all the characters gather around and stare at it as they discuss their plans like it has any kind of significance.

Secondly, what did Cardia think her role was? She seemed totally surprised when Lupin passed her the explosive and told her to take care of the decoupling. Given she served no other purpose in the plan up to that point, what exactly did she think she was accomplishing other than escorting Lupin? Admittedly, they could have made that work if Lupin had given her the explosives after being confronted by the hilariously named Herlock Sholmes and Lupin was improvising but he gave her the explosive and the explanation before that as though it had always been his plan. If Lupin had always planned it, why wasn’t Cardia in on it? Seems weird to suddenly thrust that on her mid-job.

Code4c

There’s a couple of other bits and pieces but the biggest one is the flying contraption thing that originally carries Lupin with Impey flying and Lupin comments on its shakiness to which Impey points out it is only designed to carry one. Then at the end we have Impey flying, Lupin hanging from a ladder carrying Cardia in his arms and Van holding onto the end of the ladder and yet no issues flying away from the air ship. Um… If it was shaking with two and you add an additional two common sense would suggest the thing shouldn’t still be in the air.

None of this really stops the episode being fun because we get to see all the characters in action and Cardia actually doesn’t repeat anything back to anyone this episode as a question so has come a long way in the last three episodes. It is good fun, just not logical.


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Nazotokine Episode 3

Review:

Well, at least I don’t know the answer to the riddle yet. That’s a plus. Mostly this episode follows Tokine around her normal day as she gets herself fired up for a late night of work before rushing for the last train. It was interesting seeing what happens to other people when they are taken into the game, though I guess we aren’t getting any explanation about why Tokine is an exception other than that ‘chosen one’ rubbish the magic pig thing keeps throwing around. All and all, seven minutes for an episode doesn’t seem like much and yet they are still managing to waste minutes and the story is progressing at glacial speed. Oh well. I guess I’ll find out the answer to the riddle next week (or if anyone else watched the episode they could just tell me).

Nazotokine is available on Crunchyroll.

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.

78397

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?

Joker Game Episode 6

An overview of the series can be found on my episode 5 review.

Review:

I didn’t love this week’s episode. The first two minutes go for a slow, stylistic and dialogue free lead in and then the first words spoken (by a child) are “I’m bored” which only echoes my feelings as I watch a train snake its way along the tracks. The situation gets worse when they break into the know your train history and if they were going for cute with the spy using the kids, they really missed the mark. Mostly, this episode didn’t have any cleverness or intrigue to it. That doesn’t make it bad, as the story was perfectly functional, but there isn’t a lot to recommend the watch.

Joker Game is available on Cruncyroll.