Black Cat Review

Train Heartnet is an assassin for an underground organization called Chronos. Or he was until he met a female bounty hunter, otherwise known as a Sweeper, and begins to rethink his life. Mix in hard-on-his luck ex-cop, Sven, a cunning thief for hire, Rins, and a bio weapon named Eve and you can see where the desire for freedom might come up for the infamous Number XIII. Unfortunately, his attempt to run from Chronos’ stronghold of bloodshed is marred by another assassin, Creed, who is planning something far larger than a simple betrayal.

Even though this show contains a great deal of fighting, blood is pretty rare. Usually characters are only scratched up or their clothing is torn. There are a few disturbing scenes, however. One criminal has acidic hands and “melts” his victims. Although detail isn’t shown, it can be a scary scene for children. Also, villains further in the series are cut and shot at frequently and, while they don’t die, their regenerative powers can be a bit gross. Oh and two villain characters kinda shrivel up when they overuse their power. It’s not pretty.

The horrid “illegitimate-son-word” makes a few appearances. Which is why I’m thoroughly confused as to why the official rating is PG…

No outright nudity here, although Rins has a…. um… rack. This is played on a few times (via clothing that shows major cleavage), thankfully not often. Probably the closest to nudity happens near the end of the series with Eve, who is in a capsule of some kind. She isn’t wearing anything. However, all details are covered or her whole body is in a bright glow that obscures any details.

Most of the heavy symbolism is saved for the tail end of the show. Without giving too much away, Eve is taken to a place called “Eden” and there she meets “Adam.” The symbol of eating an apple (which is often understood as the fruit given to Eve by the snake/Satan) triggers the “end of the world.” It’s clear that these symbols are pulled from the Bible (even though there is no evidence that an apple was what Eve ate as the Bible only says it was “fruit”). These symbols are only used for the story’s sake and really don’t seem to have any ulterior motive.
Note: It’s not in FUNimation’s translation, but the idea of “demons,” which in Japanese is “oni,” is often applied to Eve in various parts of this show. Again, unlike America’s ideas of demons, the Japanese understand it as more of a horrifying monster than for any “religious” purpose.

Personal Impression:
First off, this anime is quite a trip visually. Unlike many animated adoptions of Shonen Jump series, Black Cat had an animation team that wanted to be different. They succeeded. Camera angles, colors, style, scene progression, and more are all far removed from typical animation styles. I personally enjoyed it. But then, I’ve seen so many traditional shows, I find this kind of thing interesting. Nevertheless, there are drawbacks. Fight scenes are occasionally hard to follow. But unlike Samurai 7 (another Gonzo studio release), Black Cat’s strangeness is throughout the show, so there’s not much in way of surprises. The camera angles you see in episode one are used all the way through to the end. So if the visuals aren’t to your liking when you try it, it’s not going to change later.
As for characters, Train is a wonderful contradiction of deadly seriousness and goofy. It’s actually quite brilliant how this is pulled off so well in one character. Eve’s personality also grows over time, which is both pleasant and, at times, hilarious. Even some of the major villains have interesting progression. Although the outcome of many of the battles are a touch predictable, the tone of the show, which is largely positive, makes up for it. Where most shows that star heroes with such troubled pasts as Train often become marred in doom and groom, Train largely keeps things positive, which falls in line with the theme of “freedom” the director was originally going for. As does the plot, which focuses on various factions in and outside of Chronos seeking the meaning of “freedom and peace.”
If you enjoy fighting, a dash of plot, well placed characters and a positive message, this show is a great one to try out. Just be well warned that Creed’s laugh might creep you out for a few weeks.

Personal Rating: Young Adult

Episodes: 24
Languages: Dub and Sub
Official rating: PG
Genre(s): Action, comedy
Legal streaming: N/A
Screen shots:


Extra: Your feminism in my FMA

Just to set the record straight, I’m not big on feminism, despite the fact that I am, actually, female. And before you start crying foul, I am a supporter of equality. I’m just not in favor of supremacy, which is what modern day feminism has sadly become. That being said, there has been quite an interesting discussion on feminist prospective on anime over the past few years. It’s only logical that Fullmetal Alchemist, one of the largest shows to hit America in the past decade, was put under the magnifying glass too. Especially the main female lead, Winry Rockbell.

The two sides are pretty predictably split: one side says Winry is the typical female lead and thus over-rated and the other side claims Winry is the new “feminist” heroine. Oddly, both these sides are right and wrong.

Tackling the idea that Winry is some attempt from Japan to show a more pro-feminism side: probably not. The first reason being that Japan is a whole other nation and thus sees “feminism” differently than America. So applying American standards of feminism is a tricky thing. Secondly, the more modern idea of feminism often (though not always) involves taking ground from men and dominating them in some form. This is not the case. Winry is, thankfully, far more realistic. She knows alchemy isn’t her thing, so she focuses on what is: automail. She works hard at her job and seeks to improve herself in it (something that is more apparent in the Brotherhood version). Winry never forces Ed and Al into her point of view. Nor does she force herself into their world. Often she sits on the side, ready to help when needed (or ready to force help when it is needed), but never taking over.
I will admit that in the first animated version of FMA, Winry is more forced upon the brothers. However, in the re-booted version, Brotherhood, Winry is far more focused and she realizes early on that her calling is with automail and that is where she is most powerful, not to mention happy. And to the joy of feminists, automail repair and construction isn’t really a “typical” female role. So while Winry isn’t every feminist’s dream, she does hold a lot of power and voice, something not all females leads have.

Ok, on the more negative end, Winry does follow some stereotypical behavior at times. Specifically her violent tendencies that often end in Edward knocked unconscious via a steal wrench. So it’s understandable where some have claimed that Winry is a run-of-the-mill female lead. Some of her outfits can lead to confusion as well. When she’s working she will occasionally have her jumper top down, revealing not much more than a thin tube top and outside her job she commonly reverts to a black miniskirt. On the surface, this looks a bit demeaning. However, it’s worth asking why it’s such a bad thing for Winry to wear feminine clothing. While it may not be as conservative as many would like (including me), it’s not nearly as revealing as it sounds. In fact, fanservice from Winry is pretty rare in the series overall (both versions). So Winry is clearly more than eye candy.

Of course, those who believe Winry to be a stereotypical “female” enjoy citing the many instances in the series where she cries. My question being: Why is crying such a bad thing? Crying is neither feminine nor masculine. It’s human. Humans cry. And having emotions like any normal person would makes Winry that much more realistic. Also, in case you missed it, Ed cries in the show, too. As do Roy Mustang and Armstrong. Well, Armstrong isn’t a surprise really, but you get the idea. In no way is FMA pushing its female characters off as “typical women.” In fact, FMA has some of the more complex females seen in anime. Hawkeye and Lan Fan being other good examples.

In the end, the refreshing thing about Winry that I personally have come to appreciate is that she is very realistically female. She has a job that may be considered male-dominated, but that doesn’t stop her or even slow her down. In fact, she never even thinks about gender roles with her job. She just goes for it. But she never fears the joy of being a happy-go-lucky girl either. She wears skirts when she wants, bakes when she wants and then pulls another automail all nighter afterwards. For Winry, gender never fits into the equation. She knows what she loves and she really doesn’t care if society thinks it’s feminine or not. After all, if the world won’t judge you on your gender, they’ll find something else to nit-pick. True feminine strength is not in recreating some system, but living life to the fullest regardless of whatever system tries to stop you.

[C] – Control Review

Kimimaro is a young college student who works hard to earn his keep and could always use more money. It isn’t long before his wish is oddly granted and he is approached by a figure from the mysterious Financial District. This strange man, who seems to be able to bend basic physics, offers Kimimaro a deal. He will be provided with a new “account” and money, but in return he must participate in various battles with other account holders. His collateral if he loses? His entire future.

This show has a pretty large amount of violence that’s at least on par with the levels in Samurai 7. Which is strange because the fighting is mostly contained to just the “futures,” which are like avatars that can be ordered around by the account holders, fighting. Visually it can be a bit graphic though, with money flowing out of wounds in the Financial District like blood. Actual blood is shown as well.

Common language problems, a few da-ms and b-words flung about. Thankfully, it’s nothing frequent or overwhelming.

Not much here aside from one scene where a female investigator takes a shower and puts on her clothing again. No details are shown, but we do get to see her messaging with the back of her bra strap for no good reason. This same character also likes wearing her shirt unbuttoned enough for the top of her bra to show. Bikinis are worse, but it’s still a tad annoying.

The “futures” or “assets” of a person in this show often take strange forms. Many are human like, aside from having horns. This could be interpreted any number of ways, but that isn’t really talked about in the show. Largely this show focuses on the economics of its world and thus all symbolism, which is very likely to exist, is left unexplained.

Personal Impression:
This is definitely one weird mamma-jamma of a show. It’s short, but pretty packed full. The animation and music is all pretty good. In fact, the animation is really high quality. It’s also interesting to note, however, that the animators decided to integrate some CG into the mix. It’s well done and not too noticeable and actually works well for the world it’s in and the high line count animation masks it well. Unfortunately this blend makes the creepiness of some of the characters and the violence that much more vivid.
On the topic of the story, it’s straight forward enough on the surface, but the mechanics are pretty complex. In order to truly appreciate the show, one needs a pretty good understanding of economy and money exchange and how all of that works in the world. I only have the very basic idea down, so I got lost on many of the finer points of the show. Still, while that angle isn’t for everyone, it certainly made things more interesting than a run-of-the-mill show. It’s too bad the characters themselves were so flat, with any dimensions being seen only at the end and never fully addressed.
Overall this show left a pretty bland taste in my mouth. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. If you’re a proud nerd of economy or just want to taste-test a show that focuses on pressing world issues, this is a good place to look. It’s short too (only eleven episodes,) so it’s not something that will eat up too much of your life. Just don’t expect too much from the characters.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 11
Languages: Sub only
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, cyberpunk, fantasy, economy
Legal streaming: YouTube or FUNimation
Screen shots: