Black Jack OAV
In the medical profession, there is a name spoken in hushed tones, of an unlicensed genius physician who can save lives - for a price. His name is Black Jack, and he is a dashing, moody figure, caped in black, a Harlock of medicine, a man who lives by no rules other than his own - and the Hippocratic oath. A man who would defy the will of God himself in the name of preserving life.
This OAV series features nine standalone stories of his cases, and are a dramatic portrayal of what it means to be a healer in the human world.
At first Black Jack seems to be the archetype of the arrogant doctor - a man who only works for as much money as he can get, a man who seems purely selfish and conceited. But this is only a facade he puts up to ward off the curious and capricious. Black Jack is a doctor in the truest sense of the word. Unhampered by HMOs, licenses, and all trappings of the real-world bureaucracy, he is free to work medical miracles, when he can manage them. Yet he isn't just concerned about the physical health of a person - he helps people to live beyond the situations they are thrust in, whether in peace or war. As such, he is a very noble and heroic figure cut from the same cloth as any of the best of anime and manga. Nothing less than you'd expect from a creation of Tezuka Osamu, Japan's "God of Manga".
The series itself is well plotted and acted. Each case poses not only a unique medical challenge for the master doctor, but a very human struggle as well. Sometimes Black Jack must watch as lives he thought he'd saved are futilely thrown away. What seem to be simple cases turn out to have complications far beyond the lives of the patients. And the medical procedures themselves, though sometimes completely unbelievable, are still portrayed realistically, reflecting Tezuka's own experiences as a doctor. The animation depicts Tezuka's manga style well, while updating it for '90s audiences. The characters don't look nearly as cartoony as in the original manga, which is better for the tone of the series. The dramatic pause is also used very effectively, heightening the tension and suspense of a given situation.
The music is appropriate and effective. Though you wouldn't expect hard rock as opening and ending themes, the lyrics are what make them work. The background is very appropriate and dramatic. As far as the animation style, it is glossy and well done, and still scenes are sometimes used, though to very good effect. Not standard anime, but an experiment that not only works well, but also pays brilliant tribute to Tezuka Osamu, who had passed on before this project began. Were he alive, he would've been proud, as this was one of the series that was closest to his heart. As far as the dubbing, it is one of ZRO Limit's better translations, and the voice of Black Jack is simply dead on. Even the thickly accented Hispanics in one episode are believable, unlike some very stereotypical "ethnic dubs" (like Lajendra in Heroic Legend of Arslan).
Black Jack is a hard series to describe. It is unlike any other anime out there, in style, pacing, and content. And it's done very well. The only real objections there might be are that the surgeries can get a tad *too* unbelievable, but then again, only those with a medical background would really notice that. Also there is a very thinly disguised United States invading a small Latin country and arresting its leader for supposed drug offenses, and it's not exactly a favorable view on the "Federal Unites" either. Keep in mind, however, that the rest of the world might just have a different opinion on US than its inhabitants do. Still, Black Jack is an exceptional drama that deserves far more attention than it's received here. It's easy to overlook because it's a US Manga Corps title, but it may very well be the most brilliant gem in their tape inventory. If you have a solid stomach for medical procedures, and a desire to see something that is thought-provoking and socially redeeming, this is the anime for you.
Highly, highly recommended. — Carlos Ross and Christi
Recommended Audience: Fifteen and over. The squeamish need not apply, as there are very graphically depicted surgeries, though nothing worse than on the Learning Channel or ER. Very brief, non-explicit nudity, though no sex and only one sexual situation in the series. There is also a hefty bit of violence in several of the episodes that can be pretty graphic, but not gratuitous in any way. This is purposeful, mature animation that is intended for a mature audience, but it is far from offensive. Mature teens could probably handle this one, though parental guidance is strongly suggested.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, English dub
Review Status: Partial (6/9)
Black Jack OAV © 1993 - 1998 Tezuka Pro / Nippon Columbia
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