(A Black Cat Book Review)
by Daryll Hanna Dulay
During Aklat Awards 2017, Ice Habunal won as the Most Favorite Writer and Black Cat is the comic book she created that also won the Most Favorite Comic Book category. Having these knowledge sets my expectation before reading Black Cat.
The heroine named Catherine was labelled as the black cat for her misfortune. The story became more interesting when she met Remlas en Cantas, a real black cat that can turn himself into a human. For a cat person, this is like your dream put into pages. Some say, women who do not have a boyfriend marry their cats. So reading this manga is like tolerating your fantasies to be with your adorable cat and wishing it can turn itself into a handsome boy.
In my opinion, I think Black Cat can pass as an archetype of the Japanese manga Kamisama Hajimemashita because of two points. The first one is, mythology and cultural beliefs are present in the story. If Japanese believed in the keeper of the shrine and spiritual practices, in the Philippines, where Ice Habunal came from, there’s a belief of small creature called duwende. They have the ability to bring good fortune or bad fate to people. The second point is the noticeable similarities of the power of the male lead characters. This fact is actually the first thing that reminds me of Kamisama Hajiimemashita. Black Cat has Remlas while Kamisama Hajimemashita has Tomoe which both can turn themselves into an animal. Regarding the characters, it should be noted that despite their similar physical form, their personality are different which means that their approach in the story is dissimilar.
About the concept, I admire Black Cat for incorporating mythology in the story because it gives some sort of originality that it is indeed made by a Filipino to present the Philippine culture. This might bore some, but if you have observed, many manga readers admire Japan because they see the beauty of Japanese culture through their manga. So if we do the same, by using this kind of concept to Filipino made manga, it will or can also capture the attention of the Filipino and foreign readers and they will discover more of the Philippines.
The mixture of fantasy, comedy, and romance genre along with the excellent illustration pushed the Black Cat to deserve an award. The book has it all—great story line and nicely drawn characters. It is just sad because it came out as a single story. I think it will be great if it will be written as a series with the integration of more characters and mythology. However, I can say that Black Cat really stood out. It can diverge itself when mixed with local and foreign manga because of its uniqueness. No doubt it is a winner.