Trigun Series Review: He’s The Most Wanted Man Ever But He’s Just Looking for Love and Peace

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.

I’m going to be honest, after rewatching this one and re-reading my review, I’m not changing much. So this post is really just here for people who weren’t following the blog back in 2016.

Review:

I had to wonder when I first started watching this series what all the fuss had been about. It was a not so well drawn, cliché comedy with a main character whose hair just kind of made me want to pour a bucket of water on his head.

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Really, really, glad I didn’t stick with my first impulse on this anime.

Yep, it starts out as a screwy comedy with a character who hops around in the desert, dodging bullets like Daffy Duck, and B Grade villains who really need to learn the meaning of restraint but don’t seem to offer any genuine tension. And that kind of hurts the show because of the sheer number of viewers who will probably walk away in those early episodes. I definitely would have if I’d watched this for the first time now when I have access to so many other titles.

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Somehow, after you get to the end of the series, you realise this show couldn’t have started any other way. Vash the Stampede is one of those shows where you don’t even know where the tone changed, but by the end of the series you are left feeling you’ve just watched a dramatic masterpiece. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration (alright definitely an exaggeration but you get the point), but for something that starts the way it does, the character development and the way the plot is revealed just work so well. There isn’t a moment where you think, okay now it will get serious. It’s just that the blend of comedy and drama in each episode shifts more and more to the drama end of the spectrum while still holding onto some of the comedic elements and you don’t even realise its happening.

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Part of that transition comes because a lot of the story is filtered through Meryl’s perception of Vash and it takes her awhile to a) recognise who actually is Vash and b) begin to understand that there is more to Vash than the goofy persona he deliberately chooses to portray. Meryl’s growth as a character and her increasing empathy for Vash work well as a frame for so much of the story. Because, like Meryl, the audience is coming in to this half-way through.

Vash has a very complicated back story and while I’m still not entirely convinced by the seemingly subjective amnesia or the overall villains plot or even some of the twists that lead us to the conclusion, it didn’t matter while watching. I was engrossed by these characters as they slowly revealed themselves.

I do want to talk about Wolfwood though.

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He’s an interesting character. Like Vash, he plays the fool far too well, though his facade has a lot more chinks in it than Vash’s. More importantly, Wolfwood get’s the distinct role of playing a character while knowing he isn’t convincing anyone but pretends he doesn’t know that he isn’t convincing them. It’s interesting to watch given the animation isn’t amazing and yet Wolfwood’s nuanced expressions and the subtle (and sometimes less than subtle) shifts are well used to show us that he is well aware his antics aren’t convincing and yet he’s enjoying the chance to just play for awhile.

Far and away Wolfwood is my favourite character of the series because of his similarities to Vash, and yet the distinct path he chooses. And they use the contrast well. While they both play the fool, at the end of the day, Vash is an idealist whereas Wolfwood is firmly grounded in reality. Which is probably why the outcomes for these characters vary so deeply.

And at some point I really should give Wolfwood his very own post because he’s just an awesome character.

So should you watch Trigun?

Absolutely.

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It’s funny and heartbreaking and has fast paced action followed by some excellent characterisation. It builds a rich world where humans fight for survival and shows the history behind the current circumstances. Characters respond in not necessarily realistic ways, but in consistent ways to the conflicts surrounding them and there are some very cool characters who will appear throughout the series. While the villains are of the over-the-top and bad for the sake of it nature, the hero is also good for the sake of it so it kind of balances out and ultimately the story isn’t about who is good and who is bad but about choosing your own path.

That, and there’s a lot of gun fights and some fairly great weapons to admire. I love Vash’s sunglasses and coat but really would love to fix his hairstyle. However, since writing my review of this initially, I met a cosplayer who had the single most awesome Vash the Stampede look you could imagine and after seeing it in real life I kind of don’t know that Vash could be any other way.

Have you watched Trigun? What were your thoughts?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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THE CALIGULA EFFECT: OVERDOSE

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Jormungand Series Review: She’s Going to Devour Everything

From my first watch to the most recent, I haven’t really changed my thoughts on Jormungand. It is still a problematic show to try to convince someone to watch because of the subject matter, but it is still a lot of fun to sink your teeth into. If you missed my original review, here it is again with some minor edits (probably just as many errors though).

Review:

Jormungand is a tricky show to sell to someone. It’s about an arms dealer and a child soldier. It’s about selling weapons and the perpetuation of violence and war. It has a child soldier in it and doesn’t continuously drive home the point that this is immoral and wrong (they touch on this occasionally but it isn’t the central theme). When you put it that way it kind of makes it tricky to convince someone that this anime is entertaining or that the subject matter is actually palatable.

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Breaking it down, Jormungand is an amazing anime to watch. It is sometimes funny, sometimes action driven, sometimes character driven, sometimes thoughtful and thought provoking, and occasionally (but not too often) preachy.

It acknowledges that the main characters in this story are selling weapons and are not the ‘good’ guys. They aren’t fighting for a noble cause. They are selling guns for profit (and don’t try to pay Koko in drugs, it does not end well). It also does a great job of first convincing us to like these characters and yet strategically giving them moments where you see them as true villains. This rich contrast is actually quite interesting because you see them as real people. Yeah their job is kind of morally reprehensible but a lot of them fell into it after their former lives as soldiers or the like fell apart. Or they just enjoy the rush or they like Koko. They aren’t trying to make these guys out to be underdogs. Just showing a group of well trained soldiers brought together by Koko.

On rewatch, it is this group dynamic that really does sell the show. You spend a lot of time with this crew and they are all interesting in their own way but it takes time for you to get to know them. That’s what makes watching it again so great because you pick up more about these characters each time.

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Koko is a fascinating character. A little over the top in places and not as nuanced as she might have been, but her views on weapons and the world are interesting and provide a fairly ground perspective even as she acknowledges that she is becoming a monster of a human being. Running through both seasons of the show is the ongoing storyline that Koko is up to something outside of selling her weapons (and various agencies and parties are interested in finding out what). When it is revealed you realise fully that Koko is crazy. Somewhere along the road she was pushed too far and she has come up with a scheme that should never have been followed through with. It makes for an interesting frame to hold all the other missions and characters together because there isn’t a lot of coherence in the plot outside of Koko travelling around and selling her weapons.

And if you know the legend of Jormungand you kind of already know what Koko is up to though how they interpret that legend in this anime is unique.

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The relationship between Koko and Jonah is also intriguing. Throughout the story they develop what kind of looks like an older sister and younger brother relationship with Koko regularly imparting some ‘wisdom’ upon Jonah (who due to his background has an understandably warped view of the world). However, Jonah also acts to keep Koko from crossing too many lines (you know besides selling illegal weapons and travelling with a child soldier). While Jonah’s around, Koko maintains a facade of civility and rationality.

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We do delve into Jonah’s backstory. His reason for hating weapons and how he ended up being recruited to work for Koko. It’s a tragic story but Jormungand doesn’t really try to make you feel sorry for Jonah. It isn’t that sort of story. Mostly we see him develop from someone who simply follows orders, to someone who questions orders, to someone who becomes very confused because he doesn’t know what he should do, to someone who makes a clear decision. While we may disagree with his decision it is an important step as a character and an important step for Jonah as a human being. Most of his life was dictated by circumstances and to actually take control of his own life and make a choice is a massive progression. Jonah is a much more understated character than the extravagant Koko and he is also younger. At times he seems very mature but at others we see the child beneath.

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Of the other members of Koko’s bodyguards, R is my favourite. No spoilers on his character development but pay attention to him early on. I must admit the first time I watched this show when the episodes suddenly focussed on him I was like ‘who are you?’ but on rewatching you see he’s actually there the whole time. He’s certainly the character I remember fondly when I get to the end of the series.

The other bodyguards all have their moments and as I said earlier, the show tries hard to make you like this crew. In between action set pieces we see them trying to tutor Jonah, messing about at the beach, relaxing while eating, and generally just being people. The relationships between the members are realistic and feel comfortable despite their different backgrounds. They each have their specialities but at the same time, they all work together for common goals.

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While we are focused on characters I just want to say the American agents are probably the worst portrayed in the story. They are either idiotic, arrogant, clueless, a combination of all three, or just plain crazy. These characters do not get any real development or growth nor are they given any particular human characteristics. In a show full of characters doing horrible things, Jormungand really wants you to hate most of these agents and gives them very little in the way of redeeming features.

The other character who I haven’t mentioned yet is Koko’s brother, Kasper. Mostly because he is a bit of an enigma and a jerk. He is necessary for the plot but mostly he’s a pain in the neck and he doesn’t feature very much.

I’m not going to comment on the weapons themselves or whether or not any of the combat sequences are realistic. I’m not into weapons and I don’t really play first person shooters so to be honest I don’t really care whether it was realistic or not. Most of the action sequences were exciting or dramatic and they all served their purpose in the plot so that was good enough for me.

So down to business, should you watch this anime?

I’d say yes. It presents an interesting premise and doesn’t try to direct you to take a certain view of the situation. Rather it tries to get you to question the circumstances surrounding each event and draw your own conclusions. It has a rich cast (though at times they play them up a little too much in order to soften the quite dark themes) and develops some interesting characters. Visually it is interesting (not amazing but it does do some interesting things) and the diverse range of settings used actually makes it feel like these characters are travelling the globe.

I really loved this anime. I thought going in it would be a bit too confronting but was pleasantly surprised. Certainly there are moments of sickening violence (more so because unlike a lot of anime this isn’t a fantasy or set in a future time but is firmly grounded in the world we know) and there are confronting ideas at times but it makes for a thought provoking piece of entertainment. And it is entertainment rather than a diatribe against weapons and arms dealers. At no point do the themes get in the way of telling the story.

If you’ve watched Jormungand, what did you think?

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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Jormungand, Vol. 1

Jormungand, Vol. 1

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Nier Automata PS4

Tuesday’s Top 5: Non-Weapon Items Used as Weapons

Tuesday's Top 5

Alright, this list could literally go on forever because anime has used a lot of items that we usually don’t consider weapons in fights. Cards, coins, crosses, hair pins… You name it and some anime character somewhere has attempted to weaponise it (probably successfully). I narrowed this list down to characters and items that were genuinely fun to watch in action and where the item was used in its standard form and didn’t have some magic transformation applied to it (sorry Orihime’s hairpins but that ruled you out). Weapon effectiveness was not the primary consideration which explains a few of the choices below. That said, this was a fun list to make and I’d really love to see what you would have included on your list so please leave a comment below.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Lin Shaolee in Black Cat for their creative use of a scarf as a weapon (though a lot of the weapons in Black Cat could have ended up on this list). The other honourable mention:

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I’m just going to leave this here and get on with my list.

Number 5: D Gray Man – Soccer Ball

You have to admit, soccer is not the first thing you think about when someone mentions D Gray Man. In a show full of weird weapons as every Innocence is just a little bit unique, Daisya Barry’s stands out because it is just a ball and he is just a kid playing even when fighting for his life. For a character that only really appeared in three episodes his impact is enormous because his personality is a breath of fresh air, the impact he has on others is incredible, and then he dies tragically (as do most side characters in D Gray Man so I guess we all saw it coming). Still, odd ball weapon choice and still incredibly awesome to watch.

Number 4: Hunter X Hunter – Fishing Rod

Again, Hunter X Hunter is full of plenty of weird items being used as weapons, but I think Gon’s fishing rod is a classic. I kind of thought it was cute when he was training to be a hunter and was using a fishing rod, and then the more we learned about being a hunter the weirder it seemed and some of the situations Gon ended up using that rod are fantastically non-sensical and yet it always ends up pretty effective. But mostly this made the list because it so suits Gon’s personality. I did notice that he was using it less often as the story progressed and I still have a fair way to go through the series so I’m kind of hoping it doesn’t get totally forgotten later.

Number 3: Black Butler – Cutlery

Did anyone seriously think I was going to make this list without adding Sebastian to it? The reason this isn’t number one is because I’m pretty positive the only reason these weapons are effective is because they are being thrown by a demon. I somehow don’t think the average person is going to throw a fork hard enough to penetrate skull from a distance (I could be wrong but I hope not). Still, watching Sebastian in action with the silverware… Just another reason he is one hell of a butler.

Number 2: Soul Eater – Tombstone

For a show about people who can literally transform into weapons, Sid’s first fight might seem a little underwhelming given he is just hurling his own tombstone around. And yet, in any other show awesome. Here’s a zombie literally fighting off his attackers by pummeling them with his own tombstone. There’s a certain level of craziness to that idea that really appeals and it doesn’t hurt that this fight is the first time we see Maka and Black Star ‘working’ together.

Number 1: Love, Chuunibyou and Other Delusions – Pigtails

Yep, it is the Dekimori Spin and other random attacks by Dekimore (aka Sanae). Okay, her attacks are almost never effective but they are always awesome to watch whether we see her own delusional version of the attack or whether we see the real world action, it is always fun. Including the time she tangles herself in her own hair and falls over. I also liked the time she increased the weights on her hair fora more effective attack and then couldn’t even really move. Yes, weaponised pigtails. We definitely need to see more of this even though I’m pretty sure most villains will not be shaking in their boots.

There’s my list for the week and as I said before, I’d love to hear what you would add on your list. What’s your favourite non-weapon item that has been weaponised?


Thanks for reading.

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Karandi James.

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Hitorinoshita Episode 9

Review:

Soran’s rescue by Houhou continues but doesn’t. She fights the guy from last week in a protracted ‘but I have this trick’ kind of fight and finally she takes off those ridiculous shoes. Kind of glad she weaponises them in the end because otherwise what was the point of wobbling this far. Soran on the other hand wins his bet, says something vaguely intelligent before returning to his stupid form and getting punched through the floor, and landing right in front of Houhou. Anyway, that would more or less wrap things up but instead we have to pretend we care about Houhou enough that her actually listening to Soran and not moving and then getting multiple stab wounds is something that is going to be dramatic enough that we’ll look forward to next week. Incidentally, I’m just kind of miffed that weapon master guy isn’t a better shot.

Hitorinoshita 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Jormungand Series Review

Overview:

Jonah is a child soldier who is given the job of working as a bodyguard for an international arms dealer, Koko Hekmatyar. He hates guns and those who sell them but through circumstances beyond his control he remains reliant on weapons to live. While at first he resents Koko, Jonah slowly learns that there is more to her than meets the eye.

Review:

Jormungand is a tricky show to sell to someone. It’s about an arms dealer and a child soldier. It’s about selling weapons and the perpetuation of violence and war. It has a child soldier in it and doesn’t continuously drive home the point that this is immoral and wrong (they touch on this occasionally but it isn’t the central theme). When you put it that way it kind of makes it tricky to convince someone that this anime is entertaining or that the subject matter is actually palatable.

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Breaking it down, Jormungand is an amazing anime to watch. It is sometimes funny, sometimes action driven, sometimes character driven, sometimes thoughtful and thought provoking, and occasionally (but not too often) preachy.

It acknowledges that the main characters in this story are selling weapons and are not the ‘good’ guys. They aren’t fighting for a noble cause. They are selling guns for profit (and don’t try to pay Koko in drugs, it does not end well). It also does a great job of first convincing us to like these characters and yet strategically giving them moments where you see them as true villains. This rich contrast is actually quite interesting because you see them as real people. Yeah their job is kind of morally reprehensible but a lot of them fell into after their former lives as soldiers or the like fell apart. Or they just enjoy the rush or they like Koko. They aren’t trying to make these guys out to be underdogs. Just showing a group of well trained soldiers brought together by Koko.

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Koko is a fascinating character. A little over the top in places and not as nuanced as she might have been, but her views on weapons and the world are interesting and provide a fairly ground perspective even as she acknowledges that she is becoming a monster of a human being. Running through both seasons of the show is the ongoing storyline that Koko is up to something outside of selling her weapons (and various agencies and parties are interested in finding out what). When it is revealed you realise fully that Koko is crazy. Somewhere along the road she was pushed too far and she has come up with a scheme that should never have been followed through with. It makes for an interesting frame to hold all the other missions and characters together because there isn’t a lot of coherence in the plot outside of Koko travelling around and selling her weapons.

And if you know the legend of Jormungand you kind of already know what Koko is up to though how they interpret that legend in this anime is unique.

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The relationship between Koko and Jonah is also intriguing. Throughout the story they develop what kind of looks like an older sister and younger brother relationship with Koko regularly imparting some ‘wisdom’ upon Jonah (who due to his background has an understandably warped view of the world). However, Jonah also acts to keep Koko from crossing too many lines (you know besides selling illegal weapons and travelling with a child soldier). While Jonah’s around, Koko maintains a facade of civility and rationality.

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We do delve into Jonah’s backstory. His reason for hating weapons and how he ended up being recruited to work for Koko. It’s a tragic story but Jorungand doesn’t really try to make you feel sorry for Jonah. It isn’t that sort of story. Mostly we see him develop from someone who simply follows orders, to someone who questions orders, to someone who becomes very confused because he doesn’t know what he should do, to someone who makes a clear decision. While we may disagree with his decision it is an important step as a character and an important step for Jonah as a human being. Most of his life was dictated by circumstances and to actually take control of his own life and make a choice is a massive progression. Jonah is a much more understated character than the extravagant Koko and he is also younger. At times he seems very mature but at others we see the child beneath.

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Of the other members of Koko’s bodyguards, R is my favourite. No spoilers on his character development but pay attention to him early on. I must admit the first time I watched this show when the episodes suddenly focussed on him I was like ‘who are you?’ but on rewatching you see he’s actually there the whole time. He’s certainly the character I remember fondly when I get to the end of the series.

The other bodyguards all have their moments and as I said earlier, the show tries hard to make you like this crew. In between action set pieces we see them trying to tutor Jonah, messing about at the beach, relaxing while eating, and generally just being people. The relationships between the members are realistic and feel comfortable despite their different backgrounds. They each have their specialties but at the same time, they all work together for common goals.

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While we are focussed on characters I just want to say the American agents are probably the worst portrayed in the story. They are either idiotic, arrogant, clueless, a combination of all three, or just plain crazy. These characters do not get any real development or growth nor are they given any particular human characteristics. In a show full of characters doing horrible things, Jormungand really wants you to hate most of these agents and gives them very little in the way of redeeming features.

The other character who I haven’t mentioned yet is Koko’s brother, Kasper. Mostly because he is a bit of an enigma and a jerk. He is necessary for the plot but mostly he’s a pain in the neck and he doesn’t feature very much.

I’m not going to comment on the weapons themselves or whether or not any of the combat sequences are realistic. I’m not into weapons and I don’t really play first person shooters so to be honest I don’t really care whether it was realistic or not. Most of the action sequences were exciting or dramatic and they all served their purpose in the plot so that was good enough for me.

So down to business, should you watch this anime?

I’d say yes. It presents an interesting premise and doesn’t try to direct you to take a certain view of the situation. Rather it tries to get you to question the circumstances surrounding each event and draw your own conclusions. It has a rich cast (though at times they play them up a little too much in order to soften the quite dark themes) and develops some interesting characters. Visually it is interesting (not amazing but it does do some interesting things) and the diverse range of settings used actually makes it feel like these characters are travelling the globe.

I really loved this anime. I thought going in it would be a bit too confronting but was pleasantly surprised. Certainly there are moments of sickening violence (more so because unlike a lot of anime this isn’t a fantasy or set in a future time but is firmly grounded in the world we know) and there are confronting ideas at times but it makes for a thought provoking piece of entertainment. And it is entertainment rather than a diatribe against weapons and arms dealers. At no point do the themes get in the way of telling the story.

If you’ve watched Jormungand, what did you think?