"Black Cat" Vol. 3: Because You Can Never Have Enough Angst
Most every other Shonen Jump series spans hundreds of episodes, so it’s rather refreshing to get a more normal-sized series. Enter the Black Cat.
On the previous volume, Train Heartnet, assassin, had left Chronos, the secret governmental body that controls all the nations in the world. Creed Diskenth, obsessed with bringing Train to his side, eventually killed Saya, the woman most important to Train, saying that she had bewitched the boy into believing a lie. Train tried to get his revenge, but Creed still got away. Six months later, he has teamed up with a Sweeper named Sven and a young girl made of nanotechnology and is trying to lead a nice life. Unfortunately, a mysterious duo calling themselves Charden and Kyoko are giving bottles of Spirit Water to various criminals and observing their reactions. It’s up to Train to stop them.
In “The Charming Cat,” Train and company come across a large town that has been desolated by the return of a Spirit Water-enhanced rapist named Gyonzo. While wandering across town, Train saves Kyoko from a group of hooligans, and the hyperactive young girl falls instantly in love with him; unfortunately for her, Train’s not really interested. Eventually this all leads to a big battle with Gyonza, who has strangely become the Hulk. The episode has some great comedic moments, thanks to the character interactions among Train, Eve, and Kyoko, and a great scene where Sven lures Gyonza out by dressing in drag. But the action scenes near the end seem anti-climactic, as if the writers knew they needed to conclude the story and rushed an ending.
In “The Cat Unleashed,” Train arrives at San Angeles, which has been taken over by Creed and his Apostles of the Stars: Charden, Kyoko, a young boy named Leon, a sumo-wrestler-type fighter named Maro, gunman Duncan, and the famous actress Echidna Parass, all of whom have amazing powers. Creed shows off his in a battle with Train, which is actually the weakest part of the story. Creed’s got a big, invisible sword and can’t be hurt, and all Train can do is run fast and shoot a gun. Not exactly a fair fight. Still, Charden and Kyoko have some great scenes with Train; we learn the origin of Sven’s Vision Eye; and Kyoko’s love-struck mannerisms provide some much-needed humor.
In “The False Cat,” Eve saves Woodley, a man posing as the Black Cat, from a group of thugs; later, Duncan, angry that Creed wants another gunman on the team, goes after Woodley and almost kills him before Train arrives. It’s rather pathetic that so many people believe Woodley’s the Black Cat, but the Train-Duncan battle is decent, even though Train beats Duncan with remarkable ease. Maybe Duncan is just weak, as his character design (standard long-haired cowboy with weird mouth guard) screams “throwaway.” At least he has an explanation for his unlimited stock of bullets.
Finally, in “The Fighting Cat,” Duncan shows Train where the Apostles of the Stars are hiding out. Before he can storm their castle, though, Jenos and two other Chronos numbers attack it first. This is good, since Chronos has seemed really weak ever since Sephiria let Chronos go and Creed defeated all those numbers back in Volume 2. Train’s battle with Creed here isn’t really all that different from their previous fights, but it’s enhanced a bit when Sven and Rinslet are captured, and Creed voices even more disdain for Saya than he has before. This is the statement episode, where Train gets his priorities straight and the battle lines are redrawn.
Though Black Cat is darker than the normal Shonen Jump shows, Gonzo does the series justice, combining some very nice and fluid animation with excellent coloring to make a very attractive product. While it won’t blow you away quite like Samurai 7 or Basilisk—and it is not quite as fluid as something like Kiddy Grade—it’s still one of Gonzo’s better works and has improved a lot since Volume 1. Thanks to FUNimation’s usual excellent transfer, all the colors are sharp with few artifacts or fuzzy lines.
The English dub continues to rock, especially as the rest of the cast starts to get into the show. Monica Rial is just perfect as the hyperactive Kyoko and brings out the girl’s childishness without being too annoying. Jason Liebrecht’s Train continues to impress me, and contrasts very well with Chris Patton’s insane Creed. The Japanese dub, while not quite as well-cast, still works, especially its Kyoko, who’s the typical high-pitched, high-energy voice you’d expect from a Japanese dub. The background music works well enough for the series, but it lacks the impact of other Gonzo series.
Since this is a Shonen Jump series, that means few extras: textless opening, textless closing, trailers, an insert for the Black Cat manga, and FUNimation’s catalog. While I’m sure Basilisk, Trinity Blood, Samurai 7, and Afro Samurai have drained much of FUNi’s budget for extras, it is rather sad when the two-disc Yu Yu Hakusho sets have more substantial extras. At least give us a commentary!
Overall, Black Cat continues to improve, and while I still won’t rate it above Naruto or Bleach, it’s still a pretty decent buy if you’re starved for something different from the Shonen Jump line.
Episodes on Black Cat Volume 3: Cat and Mouse
Episode #09: “The Charming Cat”
Episode #10: “The Cat Unleashed”
Episode #11: “The False Cat”
Episode #12: “The Fighting Cat”