Black Cat, by Kentaro Yabuki
Genres: Shonen, Action-Adventure, Science Fiction
Favorite Characters: Eve, Train Heartnet, Lin Shaolee
“I make it a policy not to second-guess my instincts. Life’s more fun that way.”
Black Cat was the manga that I read when I wasn’t into manga—I mean really into it. I’d heard about it in a book, and when I saw it on the shelves, I decided to give it a shot.
What I like the most about Black Cat is that it has an original twist. Most shonen manga are about demons and spirits, or sports. Black Cat intertwines the mystical powers of the Tao with the science of nanomachines, and it’s full of sleuths and assassins—sort of like a crime novel with a supernatural twist.
The story’s protagonist, Train Heartnet, is a former assassin of the secret organization called Chronos—number 13. Two years earlier, he betrayed Chronos and, though he was supposed to be executed, has instead set up a life as a bounty hunter (“sweeper”) along with his partner, Sven Vollfied, and Eve, a little girl that has been turned into a living weapon thanks to nanomachines. Though carefree and laid-back, Train is actually full of revenge towards Creed Diskenth, the man who murdered his friend Saya Minatsuki. Now, Creed is forming a group called the Apostles of the Stars, who have been granted with the power of the Tao and plot world destruction.
Black Cat is not that deep. It’s not the kind of story that keeps you clinging to the edge of your seat, frantic, desperately hoping that your favorite character isn’t about to die. (*Glances over at Attack on Titan.*) Most of the drama is pretty light, and there’s plenty of comedy to go around (executed mostly by Train), but it is still one hell of a ride. It’s not too wordy, not too dense, but has just the right balance to keep the story from never dragging.
Another thing that I love about Black Cat is Kentaro Yabuki’s art style. He’s mentioned that one of his inspirations is Takeshi Obata, the artist behind Death Note and Bakuman. Takeshi Obata is well known for his semi-realistic style, which also inspired Mark Crilley in Brody’s Ghost. You can see traces of it in Kentaro Yabuki’s work, yet he still keeps hints of traditional manga intact.
I do wish that we could’ve gained more history about the Chrono numbers, because they seem almost like backdrops. I know that since they’re a part of Train’s past, they’re not as important, but they seem more transparent up against characters like Eve and Kyoko.
What I love the most about Black Cat is the cliche, but still important moral to use your powers for good, not evil. When Train becomes a sweeper, not only does he clean up the bad guys, but he refuses to kill them. The same goes for Eve, who was raised as a killing machine. They know that aiming for the kill would make things a lot easier, but they still refuse to – and I love that about them.
Black Cat is a great manga. It has a clean, simple story arc, lovable characters, and fantastic artwork. I know that I’ll remember it, even in the years to come.
“I’ve come to deliver some bad luck.”