By God_Spawn 21 Comments
Out of sheer boredom and nothing better to do, I have decided to do a review on a lesser known little manga series called ...
Black Cat is a manga written by Kentaro Yabuki and is actually the only manga I ever decided to fully collect over the years and when I was younger. The series is relatively short, being about 20 volumes long, but it isn't lacking in any aspects and I will get to the goods and bads later. Also, I shall add links to some of the characters under their names since they pages on this site if you want any further in depth info.
The main character is called Train Heartnet, and he is a sweeper, which is basically a bounty hunter. He was an assassin of a group called Chronos and a member of their elite squad called the Chrono Numbers. He was number 13 and was dubbed the Black Cat due to his golden, cat-like eyes. So by adding the two notions together, he gets the moniker of being "unlucky" and that plays a pertinent role in the series if you choose to get it. So something happens and he befriends a sweeper after she saves him from being killed. She ends up dying due to his former partner and being crazy and obsessive to the point it possibly borders on the erotic. So anyways, he becomes a sweeper and partners up with another guy named Sven Vollfied. They periodically team up with a thief by the name of Rinslet Walker, and acquire a special little girl by the name of Eve. They are then contracted by Chronos themselves to kill Train's old partner and prevent him from taking over the world.
There were quite a few characters in the book that were extremely likable. The cast was large but without being too crowded and it fit well in the 20 volume story. Due to the size, I will only focus on the 5 main characters.
Train Heartnet: The protagonist of the series and the guy in the chair at the top. Train is a 23 year old bounty hunter that suffered through the assassination of his parents and the assassin who killed them didn't realize they had a son and asked Train if he wanted to live or die. Train wanted to live, so the assassin took Train in and taught him to kill properly. Train used the teachings the assassin taught him to try and exact his revenge, which the assassin took as kind of humorous at times, commending the determination of the young boy. Well, the assassin dies and Train hates the fact he cannot exact his revenge. He was eventually taken in by a member of Chronos and raised by them until he achieves the level of becoming unlucky Chrono Number 13. Thus, he is given his trademark and nearly indestructible pistol, Hades. As an assassin, Train was incredibly ruthless and was often able to freeze people in fear just by staring at them as he would brutally slaughter them. Upon meeting the sweeper friend named Saya, he goes on to quote "fell in love with the way she lived" as he felt like she was free. Train was always chained and bound in some fashion so he became a sweeper in her memory and adopted a much more carefree attitude. Train's CV link can be read here.
Sven Vollfied: Sven is the guy with the eye patch and fedora in the picture. He is older than Train (I think he is 30?) and he was a former FBI agent or cop and his partner had a special gift to where he could see the future. So anyways, Sven is captured and loses an eye due to a gang attacking him and his partner dies but donates one of his eyes to Sven, Kakashi Hatake style. He retires from being an agent and becomes a sweeper instead. He ends up meeting Train and joins him on his journey. Sven is basically the tech guy of the group, as he is normal for the most part, and often times is the one inventing new types of bullets, weapons, explosives, etc. He even built a briefcase filled with a myriad of weapons such as a machine gun, net gun, compartments for pistols, an electrocable, and a pressurized diamond cutter. Shooting with class, people. He is also much more serious than Train and is pretty cool in his own right. Anyways, he also expands on his friend's gift to him and I won't spoil that unless you want to read the manga or check out the page which is right here.
Rinslet Walker: The lady in purple. She is 21 and plays the role of sexy thief. She isn't afraid to use her looks to manipulate people and is pretty handy when it comes to whips, guns, and overall stealth. She is actually a pretty strong character without being too serious, providing some funny moments throughout the series. Also, they never put her in a position of does he love me or does he not with any character and I liked that Kentaro did it. I'll explain that a bit more later on in the good section.
Eve: Eve is the little blond girl and is actually a genetically engineered bio weapon. She is full of nanites and can shape or transmute her body, such as forming blades, to transmuting her body into metal to deflect bullets, to even forming blades gloved fists with her hair. She really tries to prove herself as not just a kid and wishes to be a sweeper like the boys when they take her in. I really liked her character progression as far as refinement in powers go. Kentaro does a fantastic job showing her rudimentary shaping with her powers to the point she can grow wings to fly or become a mermaid like being to swim. He also shows little details in the transformations and weapons too to show said refinement. One example I remember is in the beginning she was using blades all of the time and they showed like veiny muscles and shapes at their bases, but she can eventually showed perfect and detailed hammers.
Creed Diskenth: Since Creed wasn't in the main pic at the top, I'll post this here.
So Creed Diskenth was Train's partner at one point. He always tried showing his mother he loved her by doing things like getting her flowers, but she was constantly drunk and beating him senseless since she blamed him for her never getting a man. So one day he poisons her drink and runs away. He lives on the streets and was routinely beat up by cops just venting their frustrations. So the guy didn't exactly have a warm childhood, despite trying to gain his mother's love. Somehow he gets picked up by Chronos and becomes an assassin, wielding his beloved kotetsu. He finds Train, as an assassin, to be a kindred spirit and admires him. He feels like this is the only person he can connect to. When Train changes, Creed goes apesh*t and kills Saya, as he blames her for changing the one person he felt a connection to. Creed was also at one point going to be Chrono Number 13, but was deemed too unstable for it and that position went to Train. So Creed ends up risking his life and ends up gaining the power of the Tao which allows him to generate a sword made of chi with varying stages and attributes. He calls this sword the Imagine Blade. His end goal is to become immortal via nanomachines and live forever while he overthrows Chronos and the governments of the world and he will selectively hand pick those that will survive in his world. He also leads a team of like-minded individuals called the Apostles of the Stars. And he has an obsession with trying to change Train back to his old ways and for him to join his team. This borders on the erotic...Creed is just nuts. He's awesome, but he's off the walls psychotic. Oh, and he too shares that ability with Train to freeze people in fear. That becomes pertinent too. Creed's page if you want to check out more here.
Story: The story is fantastic. It is very smooth and takes place over a period of time of just over a year at the most. It doesn't force itself into certain situations where it has to slow down or speed up and has a few chapters that allow it to kind of stray from the main story itself without becoming filler and going completely off track. Because of this, it allows the characters to move around through various cities so it gives a sort of adventure feel to it, too. Kentaro just does an amazing job developing every little detail with the story. It is a little cliched of a story when it comes to general terms, but the details of it are really great as to not become just another crazy guy bent on world domination and main protagonist must beat him. Like I said, it doesn't ever really spread too thin, it has an adventure kind of feel to it while having very likable characters and great action all around without seeming to stop like One Piece or Bleach.
The Characters: Every character is pretty much likable for some reason or another. He has solid personalities for each one so they don't blend together but the characters themselves have interactions without forcing it. Kentaro does a great job at making every character develop in a way that feels natural. So it's not like Bleach where Ichigo gets his butt whooped, trains for 3 hours, or finds some kind of revelation and comes back and owns the person. No. He has a casual progression and you can see it throughout the story. And to maintain it for a 4 year series, I commend the man for it. He just has a way of molding the characters and eliciting certain reactions. Like Train is a goofy character and often times it actually makes you forget he was this ruthless and cold blooded killer. Or how Creed tried very hard as a kid to make his mother love him and seemed like a sweet boy until he snapped.
The artwork: The artwork is really good. He scales the characters properly so we don't have 15 year olds looking like they are 25. I mean, you could probably guess the character's ages, and I like that because I always had problems in some animes and mangas where story lines just drag on forever and characters are just drawn certain ways that they could be in their 30's but aren't even out of their teens. He does fantastic detail in some panels and the action and detail is always very crisp and refined.
Powers and Fighting: One thing I also liked is the powers some of the characters had. People in Chronos were trained and were thus physically able to do superhuman things and he doesn't force the humans that have not done that to do that. Instead, he gives them basic street level stats, so bullet dodging as long as they are trained to a degree and tech. He also does well when blending these powers into fights. So guys with swords can battle guys with guns. Or someone with the ability to increase his muscle size to the point he can with stand explosive rounds and they must find a way around it. Or a guy who can control gravity to a degree. One guy can manipulate his own blood and we have a girl that can raise her body to 1000 degrees and kiss people to the point they combust. Eve goes crazy with her nano powers and shows she can transform to fly to creating blades that supposedly could cut through molecules. Train has some awesome accuracy feats and gives me that old school Vash the Stampede feel with his attitude and accuracy. Creed's sword is awesome and I love the different effects each stage grants him. It also shows some ingenuity on the characters' parts in certain battles. There are just a lot of diverse powers and no two characters are really the same. It provides fresh battles instead of just constant sword and gun fights. And each Chrono number has their own weapon and have some cool spins on different weapons. They range from a massive spear, Train's gun has a blunt edge for bashing and even a leash that extends to five meters and he does some unique things with that. Other people have a glove with retractable wires that can slice through virtually anything and one guy that has a bazooka that can convert to a massive hammer like weapon. One guy even has massive tonfas, so cool callback on that since I don't see them used very often outside of the old school samurai style like shows, similar to Rurouni Kenshin.
No love: Yes. No one loves anyone in this story and it is great. No annoying love triangles. No oblivious boys to shy girls ala Orihime/Ichigo, Hinata/Naruto kind of thing. Now, they do hint at some certain characters being possible ships but Kentaro never fully follows through with it and redirects it. He makes them friends and family. If I could give Oda one prop about One Piece it is that, aside from Sanji being ...Sanji, he makes the Straw Hats a family. Kentaro here does follow that aspect and I like it. He doesn't make Train and Rinslet go gaga or it isn't Train avenging Saya because he loved her. It is always something different, like how he loved Saya's style of life and how she made an impact on his life.
Cliches: It follows some anime cliches like Creed being egotistical and Training being the goofy idiot but smart when it comes down to it. Or how many of them have some tragic past element which almost every anime character has nowadays. Aside from that, that is really all I can complain about.
Fantastic manga. Fantastic characters. Fantastic story. Kentaro Yabuki kills it in this story and everything flows so smoothly and the art and fights are detailed and crisp. Btw, don't watch the anime. I know some animes change from the manga, but the anime seems like a completely different story with just the same characters.