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AKA: ブラック・ジャック 21
Genre: Medical drama with action and sci-fi elements
Length: Television series, 24 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently available streaming on Viki.
Content Rating: PG-13 (adult themes, intensity, violence)
Related Series: Black Jack (TV), all other Black Jack works; Ray: The Animation
Also Recommended: Black Jack: The Four Miracles of Life, Black Jack TV, Black Jack: The Movie, Black Jack OAV, Detective Conan, Metropolis, Pet Shop of Horrors, Hi no Tori
Notes: Based on the series by "father of Japanese animation," Tezuka Osamu, this series continues the adventures of the young doctor that ended in episode 61 of Black Jack TV.
Rating: Five StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive Stars

Black Jack 21

Synopsis

(taken from the YTV media kit for Black Jack)

A young boy is born into happy family has his bright future ripped away in a horrible accident. Facing certain death, he survives countless hours of critical surgery and endures a long, torturous rehabilitation. Orphaned and disfigured, the boy vows to become a surgeon and follow in the footsteps of the kindly old doctor who was not willing to give up on him.

Many years later, the miracle worker Black Jack is born. A doctor of unearthly skill who can do the impossible on the operating table. A doctor who charges his patients unbelievable fees. And a doctor who plies his trade without a license.

It's not clear why he works underground. Perhaps his license was revoked, or perhaps he has too much contempt for formality to be licensed in the first place. But licensed or not, there's no denying that this man is a surgeon the likes of which the world has never seen.

Many come to seek his aid, from dubious characters to children and even animals. Patients on death's door, patients whom other doctors gave no chance, all turn to Black Jack as their last shred of hope.

When they arrive at the doctor's house overlooking the sea, they are greeted by his only companions, Pinoco, a childlike girl who claims to be an adult and a strange dog named Largo. And then the mysterious figure in black appears.

"I will perform the surgery. But it will cost you..."


Review

One of the things that stood out most for the first series of Black Jack was the fact that you could take each episode individually and enjoy it, without the need of backstory or continuity concerns. Each episode was self-contained and enjoyable all on its own. There were no cliffhanger endings, no conspiracy plots ... and not really many clear-cut antagonists.

Well, welcome to Black Jack 21, a Black Jack series for the 21st century ... so the previews boast. Filled with action and suspense, the series picks up the pace as we learn that the explosion that altered Kuro's life forever was in fact not an accident. Based on several of Tezuka's original series, it is still too early to say whether or not the series will stray too far from the original storyline. Only three episodes have aired at the time of this review, and there is a much more serious, slightly darker tone to this series. The supporting cast takes a back seat as Black Jack takes a rather unapologetic approach to his past, as he learns that the explosion might not have been a freak accident after all.

Black Jack and Pinoco are uprooted from their quiet home off Yamanote and Seibu, and they must flee as some mysterious organization sets their sights on the doctor for their unknown purposes. Over the years Black Jack has made his share of enemies along with those who owe him their lives. But what happened so long ago that someone would go so far as to want Black Jack dead?

For those of you that found the abundance of supporting cast to be a bit much, the forecast for this show seems to show a greatly reduced amount of air-time for characters such as Sharaku and others. (Though they attempt to make up for it with the end portion of "Search for Sharaku" after the credits ... but that is so easy to skip.) This is a great relief for those fans (like me) that wanted more of our doctor (and in my case--Pinoco!) and less of the characters with little or no consequence.

This title has a far way to go before real judgment can be passed on its hit-or-miss status. But thus far, Black Jack 21 takes everything you love about Black Jack and puts it into a pressure cooker. The tension is high, the suspense and action add a new dimension to the series that showcases the flexibility of one of Tezuka's most beloved characters.

A little different from the first TV series, but it manages to carry on the story seamlessly. Take away a star if you hate the idea of Black Jack wearing a fedora (c'mon guys...) or if you would rather do without a continuous storyline. Melissa Sternenberg

Recommended Audience: Unless you absolutely MUST have romance as a centerpiece of your anime viewing experience, or you need pretty boys or pretty girls, this series is great for anyone.

Content-wise: teens and up for dark overtones, unapologetic handling of life-and-death situations, but really nothing above your usual ER fare. Add some action-based violence and murder attempts on our beloved doctor.



Version(s) Viewed: Television broadcast, YTV (Tokyo), raw Japanese
Review Status: Partial (3/24)
Black Jack 21 © 2006 Tezuka Productions / NTV
 
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