Black Cat
Volume 1 - The Cat Out of the Bag

Starring (voice): Keiji Fujiwara, Misato Fukuen, Takashi Kondo and Yukana
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 01 October 2007

Train Heartnet, known as the Black Cat, is an efficient, conscienceless assassin. He's very good at what he does and what he does is kill people. When he meets Saya Minatsuki he starts to question his destiny, enough to give up the life of a killer to become a bounty hunter...

Black Cat: Volume 1 - The Cat out of the Bag contains the first four episodes of this twenty-four episode show. It will be interesting to see how many of the shows actually turn up in the series as outside of Japan only twenty-three of the episodes have been previously available. Directed by Shin Itaggaki for the Gonzo Studio (Afro Samurai) it was an adaptation of the Manga by the mangaka Kentaro Yabuki.

In episode one, The Solitary Cat, we are introduced to two of the main protagonists... sort of. Although the Black Cat appears at times, he still remains an enigmatic figure. Most of the show is seen through the eyes of Sven Vollfied, a sweeper who captures bad guys for money. The two first meet when they are both sent after Mr Tyrant. Train gets the kill, but not before Sven learns about his competitor.

Episode two, The Hesitant Cat, and both Train and Sven get new jobs. Sven saves a girl, Elana, who turns out to be rich and needs her sister rescuing. Train, meanwhile, meets an attractive and friendly woman whose persistence starts to break through his emotional armour. She is Saya and she is also a sweeper.

Episode three, The Cat in the Dark, and Sven and Train are once more on a collision course as they are both after the same target, Eve, who unbeknownst to both of them is a genetically engineered bio-weapon. After an abortive rescue Rinslet, a professional thief, admits that Eve is not her sister and tells Sven the truth about Eve's past and how Torneo created her.

The last episode, The Grinning Cat, and both Sven and Train go after Eve again - Train to kill her as an bio-weapon and Sven because all he can see is a little girl in trouble. But who will get to her first? Is Eve looking at elimination or emancipation?

In truth there is not much in the way of extras, save for the textless opening and closing sequence plus a trailer. Audio is limited in its selection to English 5.1 or Japanese stereo with subtitles. The animation is sharp and crisp and the discs have a flawless print.

The show uses a nice balance of humour and pathos to tell the story, most of the humour is reserved for Sven. The show is very slow to get going, I don't mean in action (which is on the screen from the get go) but over the course of the four episodes there is little background information given on the characters. There is a lot of sporadic interaction between the main protagonists, but as yet few of the relationships have started to gel. That said, the premise is sufficiently interesting to make you want to know how the whole thing works out.

Charles Packer

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