The Autumn of Black Cat: Volumes 11 through 14: The Tearju/Saya Arc.

The Autumn of Black Cat continues! While work has been kicking my ass lately, I made sure that this post was going to be done. We are now in the final half of the series and while I did say that this post would cover the next five volumes, I’ve reduced that to four. The reason is that the 14th volume actually ends at a perfect spot, while volume 15 is the start of the final arc of the series. It only made sense, but there is still plenty to talk about. Join me after the cut as I dive into the next set of volumes of Black Cat!

Image result for Black Cat volume 13
Tragic and To the Point

In these four volumes, the build up to the final arc of the series, we finally get to see start to come together, not just for Train, but for Eve and Sven as well. While the first ten volumes were more concerned with setting up the story, characters and the world, these next ones handle the job of trying to explain the reasons and motivations of our main cast, but most specifically Train.

While I’ll get into this more into this character dive next week, what I enjoy about Train’s backstory is that it doesn’t’ dive too much into the melodrama that someone of his character type would expect. Shonen isn’t new to the idea of the “tragic backstory”, just ask One Piece and Naruto’s entire story arc, but as good as those can be, they can at parts get a little grating, especially if they drag on too long (more on that later). Train’s relationship with Saya works because it is A) completely platonic, and B) deals more with the overall theme of the series: Personal freedom. Her meeting with Train and showing him another side of the world, her death at the hands of Creed all revolve around that theme. The decision made near the middle of the arc, for Train to finally take the fight to Creed and stop him comes from him wanting to move on, but after he confronts his past head on. It’s simple work, but effective, and it is really refreshing to see a shonen series, go through the entire “revenge and loss” story trope pretty quickly, instead of being bogged down by years upon years of build up.

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By this point in the story is clear what Saya represents to Train; Personal Freedom and the ability to choose.

However Train is not the only one who gets development in this arc, and Eve and thankfully Sven both get time shine. Eve again cements her place as the story’s second most important character by giving her more room to grow, develop her skills and contribute actively to the group. It is Eve who is the one to broach the subject of finally taking the fight to Creed, something that I do not think Sven and Train would have done themselves if not for her. Sven meanwhile finally gets a chance to step up, as he begins training to improve the use of his vision eye, realizing that if he wants to help his friend deal with the past, he needs to step up and make sure he can actually do something.

Additionally, this arc sees the formation of the Sweeper Alliance, a group that joins the main characters on the quest to take down Creed. While a few of them are disposable, the introduction of characters like Kevin, Silphy and River provide more chances for the cast to bounce off each other. Despite being extreme late in the story, I found that the new supporting cast, and especially River fit right well into the group dynamic, another benefit of Black Cat having a simple story with simple characters.

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River is the story’s Renji or Rock Lee and he does it well for the time that’s left in this manga. Also he punches bullets.

The Saya arc of Black Cat is very much the set up for the final arc of the series, getting all the characters to where they need to be, explaining the story behind Saya and Train, and the realization that they can’t just run away from this problem. At this point all the side stories have either ended and everything has converged on dealing with the problem at hand, and there is little left in the way of loose threads. Train’s child problem is dealt with, Eve has made peace with her creator Tearju, and everyone is heading to the final battlefield. I really enjoyed these manga volumes, which brought a laser focus onto the overall plot of the story, especially after seeing how varied the first half of the series ended up being. There is only six more volumes left of Black Cat, and soon we’ll be able to see if everything can come together at the end. So join me next week as, before we reach those final chapters, take a character dive into the main lead: Train Heartnet!

ASSORTED THOUGHTS

  • These volumes also deal with the fallout of Kyoko leaving Creed’s group. It actually takes up a decent chunk of a volume and is pretty good. Kyoko’s transformation from Train’s words help drive just how much Saya had an effect on his life.
  • Kyoko herself leaves the story after this, and it’s a shame really, I think it would have been great to have her stick around and help the group. Rinslet also departs, and isn’t present at the final battle. Again it is rather strange for a Shonen, but I do like how Yabuki is trying to keep the focus JUST on the Train and Creed struggle.
  • The introduction of Train’s rail gun ability is overall solid, and the reason for his power-up is well explained and given time to grow. It doesn’t feel like an ass-pull power-up out of no where.
  • I really REALLY like that Sephiria, the leader of the Chronos Numbers doesn’t fall into the trap of being the “heartless ice queen leader.” She is dedicated to her job and won’t hesitate to kill, but she is also still human and understand what Train is going through, as well as giving Kyoko the chance to redeem herself.
  • By this point in the story, the art style has FULLY formed, and Yabuki has finally ‘arrived’ as a manga artist. What you see in these volumes in terms of drawings would follow him through To-Love Ru and beyond. It’s only REALLY fucking great character work.
  • I really dig Tearju as a character, the quiet and reserved scientist (who is fucking sexy as all hell), but can’t cook for shit. The gags involving her and Sven are still some of the best in the series.
  • Eve realizing that if they take down Creed they can wipe out all of their debts just makes me chuckle. I love how she’s completely assimilated into human society and her role in the main trio.
  • The video game Train and Eve have to play to get into the Sweeper Alliance is a cute little scene, and shows the two characters bond. Sven meanwhile has to dodge cannonballs for days.

 

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