As you may have noticed, when it comes to fiction, I most often opt for total immersion. There’s really nothing I love more than completely losing myself in a fictional world (mine or otherwise). And, actually, I think “losing myself” is the wrong term to use, because this process is *such* a personal, intimate experience for me, and when I am immersed in a world this way, I feel entirely *present* in a way I often do not feel in “real life.” I think I am, in many ways, more myself in these moments, when I am able to interact with someone else’s inner life through my own.
All that is really just a complicated lead-up to the fact that I have spent the last few days pretty much immersed in the Black Cat universe, and what will probably turn out to be a long-winded description of just how much I enjoyed that. The weekend was spent with the Black Cat anime, followed by a day or two of rapturous flailing, followed by rapid consumption of the manga, which took another two days, and which pretty much blew my obsession with the anime right out of the water. Not all of it is blown, mind you. I’m still haunted by the music and glorious imagery of the anime, especially in the first six or seven episodes, and there are elements of the anime that I probably love more than the manga, though I love the manga much more overall.
One of the themes I’ve been left thinking about is that of independence, and what that really means for both Train Heartnet (Black Cat‘s main character) and for me. Both the anime and the manga deal with Train’s transition from life as a cold-blooded assassin (owned and controlled by the powerful organization, “Chronos”) to life as a carefree, independent “sweeper” (bounty hunter), and his personality shift between one life an the other is truly startling. Freedom brings Train to life, and gives him the ability to transcend both his tragic childhood and his dark, murderous past, and also awakens his ability to learn to trust and live for others. As I read, I found that I envied him on some level, which surprised me, and I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why.
I know that when I talked here about Kino’s Journey that I mentioned identifying with Kino partly because of my former nomadic lifestyle, and in many ways hers is not that different from Train’s. Both Kino and Train are free to go and do what they want, and live for the sake of experiencing life more than anything else. I don’t think this is what I’m envying. This is a life I’ve lived already, and I’ve happily moved on to other things. What I think I envy in Train is his ability to truly enjoy himself in every moment, just as it comes, which has always been a huge struggle for me. He somehow has managed, through his freedom, to set aside both past and future (that is the hard one for me), and simply, truly live in the present. Not that he hasn’t struggled at all. One of the main issues in the story is his struggle to let go of a very painful grudge, and watching him learn to finally let go of that is incredibly inspiring. Also, I think I am envying the fact that his independence has actually bonded him closer to other humans than he had been before, which is something I struggle with constantly. My urges for independence at this point in my life seem always to coincide with a desire to free myself from the complexity of human relationships, and I think there is something sad about that.
This post has gone further into navel-gazing than I originally intended, but perhaps what I can point out here is how strongly the Black Cat universe has affected me, which is what really makes fiction worth experiencing, in my view, and is perhaps the most compelling reason I can give for delving into this series, though a compelling story line and pretty, pretty art (both of which this series has in abundance) go a long way on their own.
I’ve written a lot more about Black Cat in other, less-public spaces, and I may add some of that over here in the next few days, but for now, consider this a strong recommendation for a beautiful, thoughtful, action-packed series.