The Autumn of Black Cat continues! Before we get into the final arc of the series, I want to take some time to discuss the main character and his place in the overall theme and ideas of the story. Let’s waste no time, after the cut join me as we take a character dive into the main character of Black Cat: Train Heartnet
At the core of his character, Train Heartnet’s entire story arc is something that isn’t new to manga, or the shonen genre in general. A love of freedom, a happy-go lucky attitude and a dark past hidden behind his smile has been done several times, MANY times throughout the history of the anime industry. Some of them have been great, like Kenshin Himura from Rurouni Kenshin, and some have been not so great, which are too long to list here.
Train falls squarely, like all of Black Cat, in the middle. He, like everything about this series is extremely basic and simple and that is the strength of the series and Train as a character. He isn’t trying to make some sweeping grandiose statements about the ideas he represents, nor does Train and his struggles overwhelm and dominate this character, which can be a determent. Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan falls into this problem, as his quest for his vaguely defined idea of “freedom’ involves him being aloof, angry, combative and passionate, and while he has a considerable fan base, I’ve personally found him to be one of the most annoying and grating characters of all time. He seems like an angry angst-ridden teenager, mad at the so called “establishment” for not giving him what he wants.
Yet on the other side we have a character like Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece, who has the story has developed seems to want to be Pirate King because they have “the most freedom in the world.” Again it is never really defined what freedom is for Luffy, what he’ll do with it, it’s left vague, probably intentionally, and that desire for freedom while played in a macro sense through the series arcs, doesn’t define his every waking moment like it does for AoT’s Eren Yeager.
Train falls into the middle of these two extremes, and his idea of freedom and the way he wants to live his life is simple, but explained. His all too classic backstory of being a ruthless assassin who, once given the taste of freedom wants nothing else again, is a tried and true story beat not just in anime, but in other genres as well. Yet Train’s idea of freedom is simply that, to be free. To run around with Sven and Eve, living off bounty to bounty and just enjoying life, the life that Saya lead and the life he wanted. He’s not bound to anyone but himself and those that he trusts, not to an organization, or a vague ideology of some government or another, just himself, just his friends.
Train’s relationship with Saya is a key part of his character, and it is a credit to Black Cat that the relationship is completely platonic. Train doesn’t love Saya, instead he falls in love with ideals, the idea of being a “stray cat’ with the ability to go where you want and do what you desire. Train, sworn to Chronos as an Eraser, a walking trigger waiting to be pulled is instead given a taste of a world beyond the bitter and cynical one he has lead, and Saya, herself coming from a broken home who has rebuilt her own life, she represents the possibility, the chance that maybe Train can do it as well, that perhaps his life doesn’t have to be filled with death and orders, but whatever he wants it to be.
Yet his love of freedom doesn’t stop him from seeing the bigger picture, and his fight with Creed is something that evolves as Train himself comes to terms with Saya’s death and what it means for him. At the start Train feels that he must kill Creed to square the death of his friend, but as the time goes on and Creed becomes more and more deranged, with his plans for world domination becoming more serious, Train realizes that he needs to actually take the fight to Creed. Both for the sake of the world and Saya, because if he wants to move on, Train must deal with the past FIRST, then move on.
So why am I saying all this? Really what I want to say is that Train Heartnet’s desire and plot arc is basic, but effective. A man who want to simple life, but a life that he has chosen of his own will, not thrust upon him by his abilities, or out of guilt, debt, or a commitment to some ideal or ideology. He just wants to live and isn’t that enough sometimes? I think it is, and I think that Train Heartnet is a great example of a simple goal, and a simple man who wants to achieve it.