"Black Cat" Proof That Gonzo Can't Do Endings
Black Cat, while never a great series, has been a pretty decent one, though marred by Gonzo’s usual flaws. It comes to an end with the sixth volume, and, as usual with Gonzo, it’s a really crappy ending.
Previously, Train, Sven, Eve, the Chronos Numbers, and the Sweeper Alliance had teamed up to storm the Apostles of the Stars’ headquarters and defeat them once and for all. Eve had her big battle against Leon, with the nanotech girl eventually coming out on top. Sven faced off against a guy with acid for skin, while Sephiria tried her luck against Creed. Obviously, only Train could defeat Creed (after all, Train’s the main character!), but it wasn’t easy. Creed mutated his body using nano technology and Tao magic to create a hideous but dangerous blob of an arm. The two fought endlessly, but thanks to the spirit of Saya, Train was able to make Creed see the error of his ways, allowing the former Chronos number to escape. However, just as things seemed to be getting back to normal, Mason, one of the top brass of Chronos, reveals that he has betrayed the organization, creating the Zero Numbers.
We start off with that in “The Lost Cat,” as Mason and his flunkies attack a battered Belze and Sephiria. While that’s going on, the Sweeper Alliance disbands and Sven considers putting Eve in a real school, causing the young girl to run away crying. While Sven and Train search for Eve, the Doctor, another Zero Number, takes control of the girl and kidnaps her. This is a standard “Aftermath of one battle, start of another” episode, where most of the episode lacks action until the very end when our heroes realize there’s another bad guy out there. We do get some good character interactions when Anette shows up and starts to talk with Sven while Train pesters her for more milk. The Zero Numbers themselves aren’t all that interesting (except maybe for the bug guy, but that’s mainly due to Greg Ayres, who voices him in the dub), and once again Sephiria gets her ass kicked when she’s supposed to be this uber-strong warrior. If she’s supposed to be the more powerful Number, it’d be nice if we could see her defeat an opponent all by herself for once.
Our heroes start their attack in “The Cat Bears Claws.” Train grabs a motorcycle (and a biker outfit) from out of nowhere and heads off to get help to rescue Eve. Meanwhile, Rinslet finds Eve’s creator and learns that Eve will be used in the “Eden Project,” an experiment that will allow Mason and Doctor to control every human on Earth. The episode has some really cool moments, thanks in part to Train’s cool motorcycle, but it is still pretty bland overall. We do get to see the Chronos Numbers regroup as Sephiria bands together what’s left of the group together to take on Mason, although the appearance of Anubis, a talking dog with a giant metal tail, might stretch some viewers’ credulity. Thankfully, we also get the much-anticipated (by me, anyway) return of Chaudin and Kyoko, who were regrettably missing during the assault on Creed’s compound. As you might expect, we also get pretty much every other hero teaming up with Train and Sven, including the Sweeper Alliance. We also get to see “Eden,” which is a really creepy Disneyland-type place. Adam also appears, though he’s so smug you just want to punch his lights out.
The final battle begins in “The Cat’s Paradise.” Train and the others attempt to lure Eve away from a nearby city. To combat this, the Doctor sends out hundreds of spirits using the energy of the people already captured by Eve. The episode has pretty good pacing, as well as some moments for the Sweeper Alliance and Kyoko, but it all starts to fall apart once our heroes actually get onto Eve. After that, the various battles barely get thirty seconds of screen time as the episode begins to focus on Train and Sven riding a motorcycle together. The Chronos Numbers actually barely get any battle time as they face off against Mason’s new, more forgettable, Numbers. All we get are some fast-paced slashes and more of the kitschy animation we’re used to in this series, just sped up and made more unintelligible. Once again, Gonzo’s rule about giving its series 24 episodes instead of 26 comes back to bite them, as two more episodes would have allowed everybody to get a decent amount of screen time for one last hurrah. Then again, this particular plot thread probably could have gone another 13 or 26 episodes all by itself.
Finally, we have “The Carefree Cat.” As our heroes continue to battle the Zero Numbers, Sven digs through Eden searching for Eve while Train must both fight Mason and also face his past when the man who murdered his parents and taught him how to shoot a gun appears before him. Now, I just said this arc could have been stretched to at least 13 episodes. Well, this battle right here could have easily gone 3 or 4 episodes, what with Train’s various fights and the continued battles between the Zero and Chronos Numbers. That should be a hint as to how rushed this final episode is. Creed, to the surprise of few, appears to save Train in this episode, but the episode is so jam-packed we don’t even see him fight Mason for more than three seconds! Heck, Echidna appears to sacrifice herself to save Creed, but we learn this only via Train’s suddenly newfound telepathic power, so we don’t even know if she survives or not at the end of the episode! Speaking of which, this episode had a really annoying habit of showing what everybody was doing after the battle ended while said battle was still going on. For example, mid-way through the episode we see some of the Sweeper Alliance talking about what they’re doing now that the Eden Project has been defeated and moments later the episode goes right back to them fighting the Eden Project. It just sucks you right out of the story.
As for Black Cat‘s animation, by this point you either love it or you hate it. The coloring is still top notch and really makes the series pop with unusual color choices and an excellent use of shadows, while the fast-paced animation goes into overdrive. The animation’s so fast-paced it actually gets a little confusing, as one is unsure who is fighting who and where they’re actually fighting. There isn’t anything here that we haven’t seen in previous episodes: if you liked the animation before (specifically during the assault against the Apostles of the Stars), you should be at the very least content with this volume, although things might have turned out better had the writers had more episodes to work with, as the animation during the first two episodes seems a lot more fluid than the last two episodes, probably because of the lack of fighting in these two episodes. There really isn’t much more I can say, except that Train’s sudden change of outfit is pretty cool and Eden is such a Neon Genesis Evangelion ripoff it’s amazing.
Once again FUNi delivers a dub that makes watching the show a lot more enjoyable than the Japanese version. The English voice actors make the series seem a lot more fun than it has any right to be, especially Jason Liebrecht’s Train and Monica Rial’s Kyoko. All of the usual FUNimation crew perform to their usual excellent levels, so if you’ve enjoyed the dub up to this point you’ll enjoy this one. The Japanese version is a decent listen and won’t exactly turn you off, but it’s rather forgettable in the long run. As for the music, “Diamond Flower” continues to be one of my favorite theme songs right now, though the background music and ending theme are average at best. I guess they serve their purpose, but they won’t really stick with you after you finish watching the volume the way the music in, say, Gundam SEED Destiny or the Japanese version of Pokémon will.
For extras we get a textless opening, a textless ending, and trailers. The manga insert ad also includes a promo pic showcasing the main cast in their cat forms. Now, I can’t stand the various “cat-people” drawings, so this little extra sucked for me. Aside from the obvious lack of such things as commentaries, interviews, featurettes, our very own working Hades, etc., the puzzler here is the lack of a textless special ending. Episode 24 has its own visuals showcasing the various characters as the credits roll, but a non-credit version of this closing is nowhere to be found. Sounds like FUNimation simply didn’t bother to pay attention and just produced everything as normal.
Episodes on Black Cat Volume 6: Cat’s Nine Lives:
Episode #21: “The Lost Cat”
Episode #22: “The Cat Bares Claws”
Episode #23: “The Cat’s Paradise”
Episode #24: “The Carefree Cat”