Black Cat: Short, Simple and Conclusive

Long-running series tend to be great well-done pieces of work, but they can also fall into the trap of not knowing when to quit. Shows that run on for too long tend to experience either a dramatic drop in quality or simply decide to spin the wheels.

In the West, sitcoms like That 70s ShowMASHand Scrubs, all suffered from lackluster final seasons due to cast departures, script changes, or a general weariness of running such a long-term show. The Godfather Part 3, will always remain a strange postscript from the first two installments for this reason. In regards to Anime, there have been many mangas and series that have been criticized for overstaying their welcome, or not ending when they should.

Things like the 2nd half of Death NoteInuyasha, Dragon Ball’s Buu Arc, Bleach after the Aizen storyline is concluded, and current running series Food Wars have all suffered for not knowing when to quit on a good note. There is a debate on whether current fan darling Attack on Titan is suffering the same fate. There are many reasons for this, either due to editorial mandate, a desire to remain published, or general burnout and disinterest in the work. These series and many more have had part of their legacy be sticking around for just a bit too long. Even Naruto, while having a satisfying conclusion suffered from having plotlines and villains remain long after their storylines should have naturally concluded.

The series we are looking at today doesn’t suffer from this and actually succeeds because it decides to end when it finishes its story. Let’s take a Shallow Dive into Kentaro’s Yabuki’s Black Cat

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The “Bronze Medal” of Shonen Jump, but the good kind.

I should note, that I am talking specifically about the Black Cat manga series, not the anime that adapted it. While the anime is good, they make too many changes and add an anime-only arc at the end that changes sometimes things. Whether or not this was intentional remains unknown, but the fact that the anime continues ON after the manga ends sort of proves the point I’m making here.

Anyway, Black Cat is a unique Shonen Jump title, in that while considered by many to be “boilerplate Shonen” it actually does something that few other series are able to do: have a solid beginning, middle and end, with no filler. Black Cat’s story of Train Heartnet, Sven Vollfield, Eve and Rinslet Walker all have character arcs (of varying quality) that are wrapped up by the time the final volume concludes. Train’s story of seeking to walk away from his assassin past and his confrontation with series villain Creed Diskenth is a good story that is brisk, simple and wisely does not overstay it’s welcome. Revenge stories can be great entertainment, but when they are dragged on too long, or expected to carry an entire series, they can become frustrating to the viewer, and if the series tries to move on from that story the level of success is varied. Naruto was able to pivot the character of Sasuke from revenge to (ironically) another revenge story quite well, but Dragon Baloften had Vegeta treading water for a significant majority of the story. Inuyasha was notorious for stretching out the big bad Naraku WAY longer than he should have been around.

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Did what Sasuke Uchiha took 700 chapters and almost 15 years to do in about 4.

Furthermore, when Black Cat wraps up the Train and Creed storyline, it is smart enough to know that it’s overall story has finished and ends things right there. It doesn’t attempt to try to make another plot happen, and it doesn’t have any interest in one-upping it’s previous villain “just because”. Many fans bemoaned when Bleach attempted to continue its story after Aizen was defeated, and the following two arcs, while having good singular moments, suffered from a fan backlash that ended up getting the series axed by Jump. Black Cat isn’t interested in saying anything more than what it does. The story was about Train and Creed, their conflict and how it ropes in the other characters. Once that is put to bed, the story is over and while the addition of an anime only ending arc may have been requested by the author himself (it is unknown if Black Cat was canceled, and this was his remaining plot ideas), it feels tacky, out of place and disjointed from a tightly knit and well-told story, especially since if it was canceled, Black Cat betrays no hint of rushing to its conclusion.

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Throwing just a little bit of shade here.

Finally, Black Cat is damn funny, full of heart, great (if a little standard) shonen action and character designs that actually lasted beyond the respectable 21 volume run. Series favorite Eve’s design and personality were so popular with the author that he literally reuses the character, along with her “mother’ in the ecchi series To Love-Ru where he served as an illustrator. While the Eve in that story is a different character, her same design, powers, and attitudes are pretty much carried over. Whether or not that works for fans, considering the heavy use of ecchi fanservice in To Love-Ru remains to be seen.

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Oh, Eve, you never needed Rule 34, your author took care of that himself.

Black Cat probably won’t ever be the lists of great Shonen works, nor has it seemed to have maintained a dedicated following long after it’s run ended fourteen years ago (holy fuck that’s a long time). However, Black Cat is a rare series that shows up, says everything it wants to say, and then gracefully exits the stage. It is a solid and respectable piece of work that has the courage to not try and be something it isn’t, or drag things on because it feels like it has to. I own the entire series and I’ve been wanting to pick it up again and enjoy a story that has a clear start and finish. I suggest anyone who is looking for a shonen series but is intimated by the length of things like Naruto and One Piece to try and give this a shot.

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