Is it bad luck to break a mirror with spilled salt and throw the mirror shards over your left shoulder? Because ever since last week, I have been having a lot of bad luck. First of all, my cat suddenly turned black and has a nasty habit of walking by my feet when ever I get up. Second, people keep throwing horseshoes at me. And finally, my toilet exploded! Huh. Well, as I wait eighteen years for the plumber to get here, let’s take an in depth look at an anime that is all about bad luck. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Black Cat.
Actually, I think just the act of watching this anime is increasing my bad luck. The main character, named Train Heartnet, nicknamed Black Cat, is assigned the number of 13, and goes around the place delivering bad luck bullets to the back of people’s heads. I feel that he may be sneaking up on me right now as I write this and… OH GOSH! No wait, that was just my cat knocking yet another mirror to the floor. Whew! Oddly enough, the shattered pieces of the mirror remind me of this Black Cat’s shattered past. While we don’t know what happened in this dark man’s past, we can piece together that someone killed his parents when he was a young lad. That didn’t deter him from living his life to the fullest, though! He took up the rich and rewarding career of being an assassin for a secret organization called “Chronos.” Uhh… at least this organization is striding for peace by killing evil mean nasty people, right? So, I guess he can write this off as community service…
Then, during one mission, he runs into the most gentlemanly gentlemen in a white suit and eye patch ever. Sven Vollfied is his name and sweeping is his game — with some fortune telling on the side thanks to his “Vision Eye.” Sweeping means he is a bounty hunter — without the killing, despite the wanted ads clearly saying “Wanted: dead or alive.” Strangely, this anime is more about morals than having posters make sense. The Sweepers believe in removing the trash from the streets to make a peaceful place for the people without resorting to killing. Why? Because the Sweepers are humane. Chronos, on the other hand, believes in murdering people until world peace is achieved. I’ll leave it up to you which group has a better outlook on life and peace. Thus, Train gets stuck in between the free living Sweepers and the responsible Chronos Numbers. And that “Black Cat” nickname? It isn’t just for show. The entire cast makes continuous cat puns and references when talking about Train, which he really does feel like a cat. He ends up joining the Sweepers, using the reason that a cat never listens to what you tell it — a lesson I should take to heart since mine keeps setting up ladders outside every doorway and won’t stop no matter how many times I tell him to.
As I said, this anime has a lot of morals for us to think about. Can the world achieve peace by killing everyone who doesn’t play nice? Can the world ever have peace? Is the perfect Utopian society even a tangible thing in this world? Like every philosophical question, this doesn’t need to be answered completely. It should be debated between these two groups of people who share a common goal but have different methods — and debate it they shall as they clash a few times since Train abandoned one for the other. Apparently, Chronos is like that one hotel in California only with less dancing in the sun set and more dancing with Death. Anyway, fate smiles down upon Train and he meets up with Sven again as they team up with the lovely Eve, a biotechnology weapon experiment who was saved by Sven. Together, this desperate trio journey the countryside taking bounties and feeding Train’s ever growing appetite.
As the story carries on, we learn about what happened to Train after his parents died and how he became the famous murderer he is today. We also get some back story on Sven and his magic, future-seeing eye. Eve also gets some pay off as a developing character with a major one-on-one battle she has near the end of the series and… Well, there is something I should say about the ending without spoiling things. Naturally, there is this huge build up to confront the big baddie and sure enough there is some closure on that plot point. As expected, the anime pulls out another huge event with just few episodes left in the series. Up until that point, everything was well paced and intense. Then this thing comes along and rushes out a final story for every single character in the plot. Literally, every character that is still alive comes in and has one big battle that we barely see any of. There is a point to it being there, but it comes and goes so fast that I often forget about it when forcefully talking about this anime with random normal people on the bus ride to the market. Speaking of which, here’s a little pro tip for dealing with normal people: do not assume they actually want to hear you talk about anime with such vigorous interest. I have no idea what that man said to me after I finished my two hour explanation of the series to him, but I think I should scrub my ears out… with bleach.
There is also a life lesson Train learns from another sweeper he meets named Saiya, but the powers that be prevent her from joining him in his travels. In fact, his whole drive for leaving Chronos, joining the Sweepers, and living like a real black cat comes from her; she is the moral center of this story. She’s like Black Rabbit from Problem Children, but more competent. Unlike Problem Children, this anime takes a more grim approach to battles, rather than having people come out with only a few bruises and stretches. No! People die here! On screen, in very detailed ways! This is a very well detailed and animated anime. Simply put, this anime has class. The sound track is a mix of synthboards rattling off some sweet beats and opera of all things. Honestly, I find that it fits together very well! The drama in the episodes plays up on the opera, dragging out the actions of the characters and even the art style plays up on the music choice and class. Often times, battles take place at slanted angles and ridiculous close-ups of people’s eyes. In my opinion though, the best part of the art style is how it will tilt up on a character with opaque animations running over it from the fight scene you are watching right now. It builds a very beautiful masterpiece of friendship and murderous intent! Like calling up your best buddy to come over so you can beat the stuffing out of each other while listening to opera as your independent filmmaker friend captures it all for his new piece, Lost Stuffings. Sundance Film Festival, here he comes!
Final note: this anime is well worth every minute of your attention. It has well made and well developed characters that have amusing chemistry when put together. The drama these characters go through feels real enough that you can bond with them and feel their pain. The art style and animation techniques used are not seen in many other animes from back then or indeed even now. The music choice is very fitting and compliments the art as well as the story. A few plot points are overlooked, so the logic can be a bit confusing to follow when some things just straight up change without any reason or explanation. Fortunately, those points are few and don’t hurt the flow of events. It keeps you entertained and is something that you can talk about when trying to seem classy at your next ballroom dancing class.
Story – B+; Characters – A; Logic – B; Animation – A+; Music – A; Voices (JP) – A-; Voices (ENG) – B+
Total – A-
Is it just me, or could Sven also be the world’s classiest pirate with that eye patch?