Black Cat 9-11 by Kentaro Yabuki: B+

I’m at somewhat of a loss to explain how Black Cat manages to be so incredibly appealing, but these three volumes were a real pleasure to read and left me wanting to devour more of the series as soon as possible.

Volume nine begins in the middle of a confrontation between Cerberus, a trio of elite members of the Chronos Numbers, and Creed, the villain of the piece who is looking markedly glam this arc. (Seriously, here’s some evidence.) First, they must fend off a nanotech werewolf while Creed laughs his head off on the sidelines like any self-respecting villain must.

When this story started, the members of Chronos were the bad guys, but we’re obviously supposed to root for them here, and the fight is actually extremely cool. The fallout’s nice, too, with Creed freaking out that Train refused to fight him (preferring simply to rescue one of his friends) and a couple of his minions deserting him after it becomes clear that his true goal is not really what he represented it to be.

Volume ten begins with the fates of Creed and the members of Cerberus in question, though they are pretty quickly revealed. Creed decides that the reason Train will not fight and/or join him has to do with his ties to Sven, and so he kidnaps said fellow and is about to turn him into a nanotech monster when Train intervenes and ends up shot with the tech instead. This results in him turning into a little kid, and while that would be stupid in any other series, it actually kind of works here. Train’s laid-back personality compels him to enjoy the change, but when it begins to affect his shooting ability (and hampers his efforts to protect a defector from Creed’s ranks against some unscrupulous Chronos fellows), it’s time to consult the foremost nanotech expert, who happens to be Eve’s creator.

I could probably go on describing the plot for paragraphs on end, but suffice it to say that this series is a great deal of fun. I like the characters a lot, and all of their conflicts with the bad guys are satisfying in that way only shounen manga can be. Sure, what’s going on is sometimes kind of silly, and the overarching plot with Creed and Chronos is kind of half-formed, but that’s okay. One shouldn’t read Black Cat because one wants to think deeply about world-dominating criminal organizations and those who seek to thwart them. One reads it for the fast-paced action and a compelling narrative that makes it a real page-turner.

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