The Autumn of Black Cat: Volumes 1 through 5: The Introduction Arcs

The Autumn of Black Cat begins! Today we will be talking about the first five volumes of the series, which encompass what I am calling the “Introduction Arcs.” As is common with most shonen series, the start often has several small mini story arcs to help establish the characters, the relationships and powers, as well as just prototype some story ideas or plots. Often as is the case with the start of a shonen, the art style looks very different than it does by the end or middle of a series. Either way, this is usually were fans will know if a series is worth sticking around. After the cut let’s get into the very first five volumes of Black Cat!

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Run and Gun

At just twenty volumes, Black Cat is a mean and lean story that gets right into the point and doesn’t waste anytime. In these first few volumes where it is absolutely crucial to balance the story and the slew of characters to introduce, it could have been too much for a series to handle, but I was surprised at how well Black Cat handles it. While the typical pilot elements are there, the one off ‘first chapter’ that establishes the main lead, the quick little follow up chapters that continue this trend, and then the first real ‘arc.” Black Cat has it all, and it like I said before, it does it well. In the span of the first 48 chapters, each running about 19-20 pages we are introduced to Train, Sven, Eve, Rinslet, series villain Creed, as well as getting a brief look at the Chronos Numbers, and some key members of the Apostle of the Stars, the resident baddies. Eve gets her entire introduction and sub plot started, we see Sven’s backstory, and we get more than a few hints of Train, his feelings of loss towards Saya, and his past history as both a Eraser and with Creed.

That’s a lot to throw at a reader when you just look at it on paper, but Black Cat makes it work. I think most of that reason is because the series wisely decides to “stay in it’s lane” in terms of the central plot and world. While Black Cat does give lip service to a wider world, one where a mysterious organizational called Chronos seemingly controls everything, the story isn’t about the geopolitics. Instead it is about Train, once a former member of that organization living a life as a carefree bounty hunter. This part of the story never really changes throughout the entire twenty volumes, even when the story does start involving a greater scope, it is still a personal battle between Train and Creed, and the people who are their friends and allies, one at this time Train has no real desire to get involved in.

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Train’s story is hinted at, but not really explained much at this point. Thankfully he’s not much of a Sasuke clone.

Secondly, the story also takes time to introduce the most important secondary character: Eve, whose freedom from becoming a living weapon and discovery of her humanity is the main second plot of the overall story. I will talk more in depth about Eve when I get into her character dive next week, but what I will say is that Eve does a lot to help the story work in terms of its cast. She is a great addition to the Sven and Train dynamic, giving both of them someone to raise and nurture, and giving Eve two ‘parents’ to help guide her. Considering how much of Eve would be later re-used by Yabuki in To Love Ru, it is great to see an “ecchi free” take on her in Black Cat, which only highlights Yabuki’s skill as a writer.

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I’ll get into Eve later, but she is a great asset to the series.

In terms of actual story, there really isn’t much to get into depth at this point, as most of the five volumes is about setting up the core cast of heroes, supporting characters and villains and starting to move them together for the inevitable clashes. If there is one thing to knock the series for at this moment, is that Black Cat is anything but “new” Most of the archetypes you would see in Shonen series, both past and present are here in the series. As much as enjoy Train’s happy go lucky attitude, Sven’s gruff exasperated attitude, Rinslet’s independence, and Creed’s obsession with Train, it is also everything I’ve seen before in other series, done either better or worse. While the cast does grow (especially Eve) as the story goes on, the cast of Black Cat never do grow beyond that basic road-map. Whether that works overall will have to be discussed later.

The first few volumes of Black Cat were a great joy to read, and it was fun to come back to this world and revisit a series that was a big part of my youth. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more interested in deeper stories, or fun ecchi romps, but so far Black Cat has been so entertaining for just how purely simple it is. In two weeks we’ll see if that feeling continues as we tackle the next five volumes, but I am sure things are only going to keep getting better now that most of the foundation work has been done.

ASSORTED THOUGHTS

  • Train and Sven’s bickering is quite fun to see, and I love how every time Train gets the chance to score a bit bounty, he always gives it up and gets into a big fight with Sven.
  • Rinslet feels very much like a more relaxed version of Nami from One Piece, she loves her independence and money. I’m just glad she isn’t Train’s love interest, in fact I don’t think there is even a single love interest in the entire story.
  • The dinosaur they fight in the fourth volume is so dumb. It just feels like Yabuki was like “yeah, let Train shoot a T-Rex, that’ll be cool.”
  • Sven’s Vision Eye feels like the Naruto Sharingan before the Sharingan became even a thing. 
  • Black Cat never really takes the time to develop or explain any of the powers in the series, they just call it “Tao,” and expect you to just get on with it. That works for me, who is more than two decades into anime, but I wonder how people felt if this was their first series, did they even care?
  • Charden and Kyoko of the Apostles are two characters who I wished got more screen time, which I know they do, but right now they are probably cooler than Creed.
  • The Chronos numbers have a cool gimmick, with each of them having completely mastered one single weapon to the highest human potential. I remember a couple cool guys and gals showing up later with some cool takes.
  • Despite Eve being the only anime character in history who never needs to Rule 34 herself, I am simply amazed by Yabuki’s restraint shown in this series. There has been ZERO fanservice so far, and this is the guy who is pretty much Mr. Fanservice.
  • Since Black Cat is an early manga that was brought over to the west, the first five volumes do suffer from quite a few cat puns. This was a thing that Shonen english translations did for a while, and it was really evident in those first few volumes of One Piece, I do hope that goes away.
  • Train is really fucking good with that gun, and I like how that is (for now) his only real power. Train also feels like a sort of happier version of Kenshin, just without the angst, and able to laugh.
  • I am ALL ABOUT those Eve angel wings, and she uses her powers quite well. She makes a knife and fork with her fingers! The girl is a genius!

 

 

 

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