Daydream Sanctuary Features

Friday, May 21, 2010

Anime Review: Black Cat


Black Cat
Animation Production: Gonzo | Director: Shin Itagaki | Series Composition: Shuuichi Kouyama | Original Creator: Kentaro Yabuki
Train Heartnet is known as the Black Cat for his quick reactions to attacks and his title as Number Thirteen as member of the secret society Chronos. He is an unbeatable master gunman, a cold and unfeeling killer until he meets Saya, a bounty hunter, or "sweeper". She teaches him the value of a human life, and that one should live in order to repent for one's mistakes rather than die because of them. Through her, Train learns to love and care for other people as he too becomes a sweeper and travels with his partner Sven and the mysterious girl Eve.

[ OVERALL IMPRESSIONS ]


Black Cat's premise is honestly not original. Shounen action fans would certainly have encountered another series wherein the main character used to be a cold-blooded killer but eventually changed into some goody-goody (yet can still be badass if he wants to) idiot. The series also follows the typical shounen miraculous ending (where the leading character will always be triumphant no matter how impossible and that he will get the luck he needs in the end).

But who cares if it's unoriginal and typical if it manages to be so awesome?!


(Train hit Creed with his gun while in the manga he punched Creed with his fist)

Usually, the original manga materials are better than their anime adaptations; I'm not sure if the same can be said about Black Cat because the anime series didn't seem to intend to cover everything in the manga in the first place. The anime made a lot of changes on the story; aside from the chronological order, it even changed some events that have happened and also on how it was presented. I believe the anime staff were left with no choice but to compress the story and make it more fast paced that it already is. Most likely the main reason is because of budget limit concerns.

I have to agree that many of the events had been better in the manga; but comparing this to other series that had been experiencing a similar situation, the result of this one's had been pretty good.

How the anime connected different events in the manga had been impressive; it blended so well that you wouldn't have thought that the first arc actually consisted of more than two arcs in the manga. And no matter how compressed the story had been, it managed to cover what's necessary in the main plot. I admit the disappointment on the changes of the events that have been much better in the manga.... but the series composition was really done well so I think that totally made up for that.

However, the story development went downhill on the later half of the series because of those filler episodes and that epic fail original ending. The idea and attempt on the ending wasn't actually bad (it tried to make all the events that happened in the series [ah, even added Train's childhood!] more connected compare to the manga) but actually, what they've come up with wasn't good enough and it seemed so rushed.

Then again, perhaps it could be excused because of the episode total and budget limit, but the script writer had so much potential that I think he/she could've done a better job on it. I'd rather have a cliffhanger or an open ending than a nervewrecking one... guh.


(Creed versus Train)

I think the script writer is very promising for he/she impressively improvised the manga's story and narration. Sadly, the anime originals that deviated a little too much from the manga's storyline were those that had kinda sucked. So my conclusion to that: the script writer is excellent when it comes to improvising/compressing an existing story but needs a lot on work in making up original stories and in making drastic changes on the original story.

Aside from those, a big difference I've noticed if we compare the manga and the anime to each other is that it appears that the anime is targetting a younger audience compare to the manga (the anime's so shounen-ish while the manga is almost like in-between shounen and seinen). Explains why the characters look younger than their actual age.... and some characters even had their ages changed like the kids that Saya rescued. The bloodshed, violence, and sexy scenes were milder and lessened in the anime as well... (best example on that would be on Kyouko.... 'coz she burns people and her clothes get slightly burned along.) thus making the manga cooler for me. But if you think about it, they're still equal when it comes to awesomeness if you have the target audience in mind.

Despite their differences, the manga and the anime are actually both full of cliches. It's a similar case with the characters....


(wahehehehehehehehehehhe)

But at least the cast has a good variety! It's not your usual bunch of teens kicking ass, and the main character isn't even one (from what I recall he's supposed to be in his early twenties). The age group varies not only on the main cast alone, and further varies on the other bigger groups.

Naturally, they don't only vary by age, but by personality, ability, and specialty as well. Even so, majority of them are fun and kickass in their own way! Haha! The cast is so lovable that it's difficult to pick whom I dislike a lot.... except for those that were meant to be disliked. But yeah, it had the typical evil villains... not to mention that the main one is old. And yeah, the main characters seem too powerful and lucky at times...

But characterization and character development actually hadn't been bad... the only problem that I see that some of the minor/supporting characters lack of it or the development had been done really really fast. On the later, it might be because the series is fast-paced; but still, no harm in making it a little less rushed, right?


(Manga!Saya didn't say that line in the anime and vice versa)

Surprisingly, development on character relationships had been better compare to the development on the characters individually. Train and Saya have a beautiful relationship, whether you see it as platonic or romantic. They only spent time together for a short while but Saya had such a huge impact on Train. On their story, the anime had been better on their fun moments while the manga did a much better job on the drama. Another pair that I adore would be Sven and Eve and I love how their bond grew stronger and stronger as episodes go by. It's a beautiful father-and-daughter-like relationship.

There are many other interesting relationships, even if they didn't get enough moments (like with Jenos x Rins! w00t!), but the most entertaining one for me had been Train and Creed's twisted relationship! Haha! Creed's obsession sounds so BL but it's not: Creed's just simply a twisted stalking bastard that it surprises me that Train hadn't peed on his pants yet because Creed is so CREEPY! But hhhmm... psychopathic bishies in anime/manga amuse me... so his crazy personality actually entertains me. Haha!

Speaking of entertainment, though Black Cat seems to be more of an action series, it has good drama and comedy too. Most of the fights seem standard and generic though.... but there are several that had been really impressive, like Saya's special move. On the drama, the lonely parts are okay, but it has been better on the touching parts~ Oh they're so sweet~

But where Black Cat has been best, though, is in comedy!!! It had been very funny in different ways and they're mostly obvious humor (so you don't always need to read between the lines to get the joke). The comedic scenes aren't out of place either; the series knows when to be funny, or if ever it mixes some humor on some serious scenes, it blends well and it's not on an awkward timing. What made me laugh the most by the way is Train's random singing about different kinds of milk! Hahahaha! Oh just thinking about it makes me chuckle again xD


(The part when Train had been singing his milk song)
White milk and red milk
Yellow milk is oh, so bad!
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, yeah!
It's our milk festival, ooh!
(Watch and Hear the Rap at YouTube: Jap and Eng version)

Speaking of songs, the opening and ending themes are okay. The song and the visuals in the opening theme don't seem to match though for some reason... well, for me. As for the ending theme, it's really really CUTE and FUNNY. I'm no cat lover, but the kitty versions of the characters are just so adorable! Kyaaaaa~

Though the opening and ending themes are pretty much average, the background tracks, however, ROCK! The beats and tunes are awesome, and they fit the mood of the scene so much. The character themes also suit the characters. The best for me are the operatic ones.... which mostly involve Creed. They were so frighteningly eerie.... fantastic! This series definitely has one of the best soundtracks out there!

But you know where the anime excels in the most? For me, it's the animation directing, or whoever handles the storyboard sequence and comes up with the ideas on how the scenes will be presented (since there are different kinds of directors in an animated show, I'm just not certain which of them).


(A scene of when Saya encountered Creed)

I love how the story events were arranged, how they were impressively connected, and how they're creatively presented. I'm not sure of the proper term of those directing techniques, but the one of the notable styles is how a certain event from a different place/situation/timeline is connected to another one (like if we see a character shoot someone, we're later shown of a character in a different place who is shot at the same time afterwards. We saw the outcome of a different scene but we're not certain if it's the same with the previous scene. Yet they felt like they're part of the same scene). Another is how some of the flashback's were presented: it doesn't show you the actual event but just glimpses of it. Like with the part on when Saya encountered Creed, we see her shift dialogues and conditions, and from those we get hints of what exactly happened. Another notable style is how the last episode was presented. We already get glimpses of the epilogue early in the episode because they're inserted in between the narration of the actual climax/resolution/ending. It may have been pretty confusing to some, but I think it's just doing some foreshadowing style. This is a good way to make up for the already very cliche ending.

I am happy that such a talented staff had worked on a really fantastic series. Even if we don't consider those aspects, Black Cat's already very interesting with its main plot alone. I don't think I'm the only one who's fascinated with stories that involve skillful assasssins (I find the Chronos number stuff pretty cool too) ~ It's not just an action show; it also included some supernatural and sci-fi elements with taoism and nano technology respectively. Occassionally it consists themes related to fighting for what you believe is right~

It has references to other areas by the way, and Black Cat himself is both a supernatural and literature reference. His being a murderer and his favorite line awesomely fits the superstition reference of his alias, for there's a belief that black cats bring bad luck. His bad luck-ness was even more emphasized by his Chronos number, which is thirteen, that is also popularly believed to be a symbol of bad luck. He was still considered a Cat even when he's no longer an assassin. The initial black cat superstition may no longer be applicable to the new him, but his alias had still become a reference to another medium, which is literature, particularly Aesop's fable entitled "Belling the Cat". With that, Train's ribbon and bell on his neck aren't just mere decorations, but have a meaning behind it. I really love how those various references got linked to the series~



Black Cat may seem average, but I see it as a terrific series despite its numerous flaws. The cliches and the stereotypes dragged this down too much, but the impressive twists and modifications done to the story and the characters had made up for those. It's already a very interesting show, and its execution/presentation/directing and background music made it even better! Overall, it's a very awesome and enjoyable series. Do check it out!

1 comment:

namelissis said...

This bring back memories. I was so inlove with this show along Tsubasa Chronicles when it aired in Animax.

That milk rap, I remember me and my friends singing that out of randomness! It was so funny and OOC but how can you not love it.

This post made me want to read the my Black Cat manga that's been unread for 3 years now oTL.

Honestly, I find this series really good despite the not-so-good ratings and review. I remember that everybody was all over Death Note during the time it was aired =_=, so...

Yeah, I do agree that I love how they manage the relationship here. I didn't like Saya for Train that time, and up until now. I always want him to end up with Kyouko(even though my friend said that in the manga it didn't show that she was interested in Train)! Also, Leon x Eve. A good shota and loli pair XD.

The fillers was okay, since they kept it at minimal. And yeah, the staff involved here had a good sense of direction. IT WAS JUST THE ENDING that really ticked me off. It's like, "Eh, SO THAT's the ENDING? Gimme something better."

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OT: Kentaro must have really liked cats. Mayoi Neko is also his work if I am not mistaken.

Train = Sai Akuto. THIS fact alone made me want kind of hooked to Ichiban XD. Takashi's voice is so fitting for comedic badass characters~

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