Between the gore and gaped mouth screaming within the majority of Hideshi Hino’s series, Hino Horror, lies a profound understanding of human nature. More specifically, what does human nature look like to an outside observer? A cat, perhaps. Better yet, a black cat. A creature cursed from birth to be shunned for bringing bad luck. Through the eyes of the furry narrator, Black Cat, comes a story about strange and tragic people trying to cope with the unfair and often violent lives they make for themselves.
Black Cat is vol 6 of Cocoro Books’ 2004 series, Hino Horror. Like so much manga it was only carried by one company that has since gone belly up, but thankfully it and the other volumes of Hino Horror are readily available in most used bookstores. Previously I talked about Hino Horror vol 5: Bug Boy. Like vol 5, vol 6 follows a character that is powerless to stop what is happening around him and must come to his own conclusions about his place in the society that has shunned him. But Black Cat differs from Bug Boy in several ways. At center stage is the narrator of each book. Both Bug Boy and Black Cat are outcasts from the start and find comfort in aloof isolation; but while Bug Boy comes to his own final conclusions about the world around him, Black Cat remains aloof asking himself, “Human beings… what are they really?”.
(Spoilers) Overall Bug Boy ends with few questions left. Like Frankenstein’s monster, the main character comes to a concrete conclusion that his death is the only solution. Black Cat, however, continues to live his life and is only left with little resolution and mostly more questions. Questions which can’t be answered. Therein lies the horror of Hino Horror vol 6. Bug Boy comes to terms with the injustice of life and the responsibility of ones actions. Black Cat never goes beyond an observer, and yet even by distancing himself from harm he can’t remove himself from being a discrete actor in his world.
I like to think that this is perhaps attributed to the difference between the eyes of the observer. Bug Boy is about a human who becomes a monster after he’s been human long enough to create some kind of standard for acts of evil versus good. Black Cat isn’t human, and thus looking in on our world he can’t infer things beyond the gut reactions of scared, shocked, hungry and inquisitive. At no point in Black Cat does the titular observer make a judgement call of good versus evil, leaving one to wonder if good and evil are a concept that are learned, not intuitively known. If the impassive stare of a cat is the most sympathy we can expect from someone on the outside of our world.