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Monday, 16 January 2012

A discourse in Chinese culture: Black Cat Detective


Ah, Chinese culture. We like to think the the French are foreign, but our peculiar relationship with our European cousins seems more marred by our similarities than our differences. A superficial glance at Chinese culture promotes a sense of marked divergence in our histories. When one observes modern Chinese urban life, it's easy to imagine that their societal paradigm is patterned after ours in the manner of the Demiurge in Plato's Timaeus. Whilst conjecture suggests that oriental societies may be predicated on a non-Aristotelian logic, especially in the realm of the Melpomenean muse, it's not until one watches their kids' cartoons that one realises just how fucking mental they are.

This is a Chinese cartoon from the early 1980s called "Inspector Black Cat" or "Black Cat Detective" and you can pretty much guess what it's about from the cover of the DVD - there's this cat, he's a policeman, it's his job to keep the animals safe from crime. You can imagine that he'll be dealing with complex woodland crimes like missing bicycles or kids that get lost, right? Nah, this is China.

I probably need to have a word with the police tailor about
these frigging epaulettes

This pretty much sums up Inspector Black Cat's approach to
crime-solving: cruise around on a motorbike (which can fly in
later episodes) and blast the shit out of anything that looks
like it might be illegal.

Aw, yeah! We're totally moles and there's nothing we like
better than digging up worms and eating them. Yeah!

Oh no! It's night-time and some criminal mice are breaking into
the moles' crib with giant drills. That's what mice do.

Apart from digging up worms, moles apparently love to
stockpile vast quantities of alcohol. Damn these criminal mice -
they're so cocky they're not just stealing the alcohol,
they're actually getting pissed during the robbery.

Every house in cartoon China has an alarm system that's
directly connected to all feline police

See?

Inspector Black Cat's on the way! Although there must
be a motorcycle lightbulb shortage in cartoon China

Mice ain't to keen on mole grasses

They do seem oddly cheerful don't they?

Right, who wants shooting first?

Oh no, criminal mice; you really shouldn't throw knives at
Inspector Black Cat. He really doesn't like that.

GAZE INTO THE FACE OF FEAR!

Kill everything!

Fuck me, they really don't shrink from the violence do they?
Gotta love the red hot glowing bullets of justice flying
through the night sky

Blimey!

Hey am I the only one doing the mouse murdering around here?
Shouldn't you cats be beating up a suspect or something?

Doh! Sorry guv

I thought Mao purged all you intellectuals during the Cultural
Revolution. Cuff him and get the truncheons out.

Stop that, you cats. There'll be plenty of time to torture
the victims later. There's loads of mice to shoot first.

Bang! Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang! Shoot them till they
explode with blood!

Damn. I'm getting a little short on henchmen.

Note that Inspector Black Cat has donned a helmet with a
full-face visor. He doesn't need one to ride his motorbike -
he just doesn't like getting mouse blood on his whiskers.

We must conserve ammunition for the glory of the
People's Republic of China! Crush them under the wheels
of the eternal communist revolution!

I am pleased with the carnage.

These frigging mice have got a surprisingly well-stocked
and furnished headquarters. I guess that stuff about
the best laid plans of mice or whatever might have
something to it after all.

Oh no, we've been caught in a surprisingly sophisticated
trap (ironically somewhat reminiscent of the one from
the board-game Mousetrap). Whatever can we do?

All problems can be solved by gunfire

Some people might have shot at the control panel, but
they are weak.

GAZE INTO THE FACE OF FEAR!

JUSTICE FRENZY!

Kung fu?
Kung fuck you

There's police brutality...

...and there's Chinese cartoon police brutality

You've got me! I give up. I surrender!

Surrender is for the weak!

This flour will obscure your vision and permit our escape!
(And this can apparently be said in just one Chinese character)

Hey, I'm Inspector Black Cat. Note the "Black"!
Piss off with the flour.

Hmm, I need a plan. Perhaps something involving gunfire?

Get the hose! Flour and water combine to form glue

"Argh! You see the death and yet you don't intervene" - literal
translation of the subtitle. No idea what it means.

Chain them! They'll be easier to shoot then.

Don't be gentle, lads. There's only one language they
understand. Mandarin, presumably.

They really have dished out a surprising amount of
crippling injuries in such a short time.

Oh no! One of the mice is escaping!

Going somewhere?

 I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six hundred and
fifty two shots or only six hundred and fifty one?"

Ouch! Ooh, the remains of my head

The smiling, unblinking face of justice

Tune in next time... when Inspector Black Cat will shoot an
elephant in the face (and I'm not kidding about that)

The Chinese government are often seen as controlling and censorious, yet it's clear from the cartoon we're going to look at that whilst they might seek to restrict widespread political dissent, they don't give a toss when it comes to graphic violence for the kiddywinks. Oddly enough, I'm pretty certain nothing like this could be shown to children here. Freedom's a funny thing isn't it?

5 comments:

  1. Oh my God this show was a staple of my childhood! I think the screencaps you posted were from the episode explaining the backstory of the recurring antag (a one-eared mouse). I don't remember much, just that there was once an episode where there was a giant eagle that was eating the forest citizens, so they all got into their kitt-copters and clipped its wings so to speak...

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    1. I have five episodes of this, including that eagle one. If you'd like a copy drop me a line via kodabarATgmailDOTcom

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  2. This makes that North Korean "Squirrel and Hedgehog" cartoon look as safe as the Peter Rabbit stories by comparison.

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  3. Hello, I am in Beijing, we're shooting a Black Cat Detective movie, I'm doing English-language research, and this was AMAZING.

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    1. Wow. That sounds terrific; I'll have to look out for the finished film.

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