If you haven't checked out Black Cat yet then you're missing out on one of FUNimation's best and newest series. Granted it's not a sweeping drama or grand expose about a complex world so if you're looking for a deep show this isn't for you. However, come expecting to have a good time with some fun characters and a vibrant world and you won't be disappointed.
The show takes place in a town renowned for being over run with criminals, gangs, and all manner of bad people. This is a world filled with bounty hunters known as "sweepers" and people that are out to make a name, buck, and living for themselves. Train Heartnet is the titular character because his nickname is the Black Cat. He's an assassin of sorts for an organization known as Chronos and wherever he and his number 13 tattoo go trouble and death is sure to follow.
At least he used to be an assassin for the organization. After the introduction to the show Train turned to the good side and broke free from Chronos' powerful grip. Helping him live his life as a sweeper are Sven the one-eyed bounty hunter, Rinslet a thief, and Eve a nano-technological breakthrough with the ability to transform her body into weapons. Unfortunately Chronos isn't about to let Train go freely and an old ally named Creed steps forward with aspirations of his own. Several other such warriors have joined his cause to become revolutionary Apostles and through it all Train and company find themselves walking on eggshells.
This volume picks up where the previous one left off with Creed's hand being revealed and introduction to some of his minions. In particular Kyoko appeared with a crush on Train and though she worked for Chronos she has since renounced her ways. Charden was also introduced and had an encounter with Chronos' Number One agent as she approached Train. The volume also featured a ton of character development that put much of Train's, Eve's, and Sven's personalities in perspective.
With the series winding down in episode count the fifth volume keeps up the momentum with a fantastic batch of episodes. Things start out with Train recovering in a mountain retreat that seems to be a heavily armed fortress. The exact purpose of this contained militant base isn't displayed right out front but as Train begins to dig deeper he has flashbacks to Saya and the brief friendship they had. The woman taking care of him resembles her in many ways and even sings the melody that Saya captivated him with. It's soon revealed that she is actually protecting a child believed to be a bringer of destruction but Train sees sincerity in her and goes to her aid.
The next episode features Chronos sending their newest Number to convince a group of Sweepers to attack Kraken Island and take down Creed. Considering Train and Sven are a part of this group you can just imagine that they don't accept the job so willingly. However, when some monsters attack the town the Sweepers rally and everyone heads off to the Island anyways. Creed's ambition to use Tao Magic and Nanotechnology is a frightening thing and it's a plot everyone agrees must be stopped.
When one of Creed's Apostles assaults the ship carrying the Sweepers to Kraken Island the passengers are left for dead. Fortunately Train and the rest survive and manage to get ashore only to encounter some resistance by Creed's gang. Ironically Chronos also sent numerous Numbers to the Island and with the Sweepers added to the fray the final battle has begun. Despite the vast amount of soldiers and monsters under Creed's employ there are many individual battles that have ties to previous incidences in the series. The real juicy bit is saved for the fourth episode here and while things seem to wind down in the aftermath there is still plenty of story left to tell in the last volume.
Once again Black Cat provided everything that I was looking for. The action, storytelling, and character development has been fantastic throughout this series and the fifth volume propels those facets even further. With one climax seemingly resolved in this volume I'm anxious to see what remains of the show. If you haven't had the opportunity to check this out and you're looking for a unique and fleshed out series definitely give Black Cat a spin.
Black Cat is presented with a 16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer which isn't too surprising considering that the show finished production within the past year. The image is pretty clear with a vibrant palette and that great sense of style and fluid animation we have become accustomed to from Gonzo. Like previous volumes there were many moments where compression and grain could be found in each episode. They don't make the show look bad by any stretch of the imagination but they are a flaw that can't be completely ignored.
As is the case with most all anime these days Black Cat gets an English 5.1 presentation along side of pair of stereo tracks for English and Japanese. Like the first volume this one features very strong audio quality in each of the selections. The 5.1 track offered quite a lot of depth during action sequences and the sense of immersion was pretty good. At other points the use of rear channels was minimal with some dialogue and music being improved only slightly. It's still more diversification than you'll get out of the 2.0 stereo track though.
All you're going to find on this disc for bonus features are textless animation and some trailers for other FUNimation products. This is a show that deserves better supplemental material but that department has unfortunately been lacking.
I'm really upset about something with this fifth volume. The fact that there is only one more disc to be released for Black Cat has me beside myself. The show's straightforward concept and flippant personality make it something of a guilty pleasure but there are so many strong points. The fighting is intense, the story is highly intriguing, and the characters are very memorable. In so many ways this is a great show. It's not "epic" or a "must have" for everyone but if you're looking for a series that is very enjoyable and worth the investment you can't go wrong.
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!