Monday, August 25, 2008

Black Cat (manga, vol. 14) by Kentaro Yabuki

Train and Eve have gone to meet someone who can supposedly give them information about Creed's location. However, a sweeper (bounty hunter) named River challenges Train to a fight first - Train's gun against River's fists. Train wins, of course, but unfortunately Glin, the man River was with, won't tell them anything about Creed yet. Glin gives Train and River each a disk and invites them to join an alliance of sweepers, united by their goal to beat Creed. The disk turns out to be a game disk, and Train struggles, with Eve's help, to beat it and thereby earn the instructions to the meeting place for the sweeper alliance. Meanwhile, Train's partner, Sven, is working hard to improve his ability to use the Vision Eye, which allows him to see just enough of the future to stay out of immediate trouble (dodging bullets, that sort of thing). Train, Sven, and a whole group of other sweepers, all part of the new alliance of sweepers, go on a trip to infiltrate the hideout of the Apostles of the Stars (Creed's group), but things go very badly. Some people end up dead, and those who live are separated.

I enjoy Yabuki's artwork and usually find this series to be interesting, despite the fact that it's not very original (I've heard of people saying that this series ripped a lot off of Cowboy Bebop, but, as for myself, I notice more similarities with GetBackers). This volume wasn't what I would consider the most interesting of the series, but it wasn't bad either. This isn't the best volume for those who most enjoy action - Train and River's fight is action-packed, but it's short and not very interesting, and the last part of the volume isn't a fight, because there's no time for anyone (besides Train) to do much fighting back. For the most part, the appeal of this particular volume is its humor - it was funny seeing Train, who is incredibly competent with a real gun, completely fail when he is confronted by a shooting game.

There's not really all that much I can say about this volume, since not much happens. The only real revelation (this is a spoiler, but not, I think, an earth-shattering one) is that Glin is actually X, a member of Chronos - I wonder if the alliance of sweepers is Chronos' super-sneaky way of giving Train some resources and getting him to do their dirty work, killing Creed, for them. Then again, X could also be doing this on his own - Yabuki hasn't revealed much about this character yet, so it's tough to know what his motivations might be.

Overall, this is a so-so volume in a series that is usually fun, if not exactly original. As far as extras go, there are character drawings from Yabuki's manga debut, Yamato Gensouki, a few character drawings from Black Cat, and a funny annotated drawing of Yabuki's new workplace.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Cowboy Bebop (anime TV series) - Spike Spiegel is a bounty hunter with a laid-back attitude, amazing fighting skills, and a dark past. He's partners with Jet Black, a former cop, and, as the series progresses, his group grows to include Faye Valentine (a sexy, tricky gambler who can't really remember her past) and Ed (a weird and cheerful young hacker). There are a couple manga series based on this anime, but they're not nearly as good as the anime. In addition, there's a movie that takes place fairly late in the series timeline - I'd recommend watching the series before seeing the movie. Those who enjoy Black Cat's characters and who'd like another story featuring a group of bounty hunters might like this series.
  • Loveless (anime TV series); Loveless (manga) by Yun Kouga - Twelve-year-old Ritsuka's life isn't very normal - his older brother died not too long ago, his mother is physically abusive, and a strange 19-year-old man named Soubi has shown up, claiming to have known his brother. Soubi says he is Ritsuka's Fighter, while Ritsuka is a Sacrifice. Ritsuka slowly comes to understand what this means, as he learns to battle other Fighter-Sacrifice pairs who may be able to lead him to knowledge about his brother's death. Overall, this series has very little in common with Black Cat, but those who liked this volume of Black Cat's use of a video game as a way to discover important information may want to try Loveless, in which a similar situation occurs. In addition, Loveless, like Black Cat, features some pretty cool battles between characters. The anime is beautiful and follows the manga pretty closely, but it ends well before the manga does, and therefore doesn't actually resolve or explain much of anything. I own both (at least, as much of the manga as has been published so far in the US) and consider it worth it.
  • GetBackers (anime TV series) - Ban Mido and Ginji Amano are the GetBackers, people who will get back for their clients anything that has been lost or stolen from them. Both men have useful powers - Ginji, the cheerful and goofy one of the duo, can generate thousands of volts of electricity from his body, while cool and mysterious Ban has the "Snake Bite" (hands with a gripping power of 200 kg) and the "Evil Eye" (with certain limitations, he can make anyone who looks into his eyes experience powerful hallucinations). Those who particularly like the characters in Black Cat may enjoy this series. Just to give some examples of similarities, Ginji, like Train, is a light-hearted guy whose cheerfulness hides an incredible fighting ability, and Ban, like Sven, is a guy with magical eyes. This anime is based on a manga series, but I haven't read it yet and can't comment on how similar or different it is from the anime.
  • Hunter X Hunter (manga) by Yoshihiro Togashi - Many people in the world aspire to be hunters, for the fame, wealth, or special privileges they would receive, but few people are able to pass the qualification test. Gon, whose father was one of the greatest hunters in the world, begins his quest to become a hunter and find his father. Gon befriends others along the way, including a member of a renowned assassin family, someone who wants to become a hunter in order to avenge the deaths of his tribe members, and an aspiring doctor. Those who enjoy Black Cat's characters, action, and humor might like this series. What a hunter does depends on what type of hunter he or she is - they can hunt for rare items, archaeological ruins, criminals, and more. The Blacklist Hunters, who are a lot like bounty hunters, may interest fans of Black Cat the most. For those who are interested, there is an anime series based on this manga, but I haven't seen it yet and therefore can't really comment on it.

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