Black Cat 6-8 by Kentaro Yabuki: B

blackcat6Black Cat is the story of Train Heartnet, who used to be an assassin with a group known as Chronos but has left that life behind to become a bounty hunter (Sweeper). He travels about with his gizmo-making partner Sven and Eve, a young girl/weapon, trying to life as free and peaceful a life as possible while nabbing wanted criminals. Of course, his past just won’t leave him be and he’s been approached both by Chronos and their adversaries, the Apostles of the Stars, to get involved in their conflict.

In volume six, the gunman of the Apostles of the Stars grows impatient with the plans of his leader, Creed, and decides to challenge Train. He hurts Eve as a way to lure Train out, and it’s nice to see Train be furious for a while as he and the other gunman battle it out. Afterwards, Sven tries to leave Eve behind but he’s miserable without her and Train covertly engineers a reunion.

blackcat7Volume seven introduces Jenos, another of Chronos’ Numbers (an elite group of assassins), whose job is to recruit Rinslet (a thief and occasional ally of Train’s) for information-gathering purposes. While Train and friends encounter a string of various small fry—he tells Sven that he knows Creed’s going to challenge him again one day, but until that time he’s going to carry on his Sweeper work—and help a kid whose desire for revenge sparks memories of Train’s own past, the plot with Jenos and Rinslet ramps up and they seem poised to work together.

While each volume has featured its fair share of fighting, volume eight, which introduces still more of the Numbers, has perhaps the most, as Rinslet and a team of Numbers find their way/are lured to Creed’s hideout and must make their way past his minions in order to get to the man in charge. It’s kind of weird that the series’ protagonist is absent for such a long stretch, and I think I’d like this plot better if Rinslet wasn’t so obnoxious to the Chronos commander. In any case, the volume ends on a cliffhanger just as Train is about to enter the fray. In place of a final chapter is a bonus story called “Stray Cat,” which was a trial version of the series.

blackcat8Black Cat is a lot of fun in general, and my complaints about it are few. It’s to be expected that a shounen series would involve a lot of fighting, so I don’t consider that a flaw whatsoever, even if such chapters don’t afford a reviewer much to say except “the art is clean in action scenes.” The big issue is the overarching plot. It’s not difficult to understand or anything—Chronos and Creed are at odds and they both want Train on their side—but I don’t really care about it much. More, I’m enjoying the series on a purely volume-to-volume basis and while characters’ actions are propelled by this plot, it’s not as if I’m particularly invested in its resolution or anything. The real strength of the series is the camaraderie between Train and his team, and it’s for those interactions that I truly stick around.

That said, there is something nice in knowing that Black Cat wraps up in only 20 volumes. “Only?” you might scoff, but that’s actually rather short for a Shonen Jump series. With endearing characters, enjoyable action, and the promise of a story that will resolve without (hopefully) dragging on so long you no longer care, Black Cat is definitely a series worth checking out.

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