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AKA: ブラック・ジャック
Genre: Medical drama with sci-fi elements
Length: Television series, 61 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Anime Sols for streaming and DVD release. (26 episodes so far on DVD.) Also available on crunchyroll and viki.com
Content Rating: PG-13 (violence, adult themes, intensity)
Related Series: all other Black Jack works; Ray: The Animation
Also Recommended: Black Jack: The Four Miracles of Life, Black Jack 21, Black Jack: The Movie, Black Jack OVA series, Metropolis, Pet Shop of Horrors
Notes: Based on the series by "father of Japanese animation," Tezuka Osamu, this series ended at episode 61 and picked up in the Spring 2006 season with the series Black Jack 21.
Rating:
 

Black Jack TV

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 Perhaps his license was revoked, or perhaps he has too much contempt for formality to be licensed in the first place.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

Tezuka Osamu presents the quintessential antihero in the character Kazama Kuro. The young, charismatic but sinister prodigy whose god-like medical skills are spoken in careful whispers throughout the hospital hallways. Under the pseudonym Black Jack, the rogue doctor performs incredible, even impossible, procedures, vowing to defy science, ethics, and even fate for the sake of life--the very life that was tragically ripped from his mother during his early childhood.

Equally as famous as his medical skills are his outrageous service fees. No one knows what the doctor does with the money he receives--he lives modestly with his assistant and companion Pinoco (the "eighteen-year-old elementary-schooler" who smitteningly insists she is her doctor's wife, regardless of her childlike appearance) just off the Yamanote and Seibu Shinjuku lines near Takadanobaba (*fangirls* where I live!!!). But the fees certainly scare off the frivolous. Black Jack only operates on those who truly understand the true value of life.

Though the tone of the television series is still quite serious, Black Jack TV is drastically lighter in tone than its grittier releases from the mid-90s that American fans are more familiar with. Some might consider that a drawback--whereas I do not. The Black Jack TV series is able to reach a wider audience--still maintaining the soul and depth of our hero, without subjecting the audience to the sometimes shockingly graphic medical procedures that would never back in American or Japanese prime time.

Having worked as my father's assistant in his veterinary practice, intestinal fortitude has never been an issue of mine. But the Black Jack movies and OVAs quite successfully portrayed the horror that can befall a human body (and just seeing clips of it made me pale). The television series chose to focus on a different aspect in the battle called life--and that is the horror that can befall society that doesn't appreciate the value of even the smallest life. Rather than a medical psycho-thriller, Black Jack TV presents us with a progressive and timely social commentary (really deeming BJ a classic character, considering he was conceived in 1973) based loyally on Tezuka's original manga.

Contrasted against Black Jack's lone, brooding presence is a supporting cast who, outside of Pinoco, had a much smaller presence or were completely absent from the storyline prior to this series. Pinoco and Largo, the sixth-sense dog thief, have nearly equal (though not quite!) airtime to the Doc--but fortunately they never over-stay their welcome or ruin any serious or touching scenes. Normally a viewer should be annoyed by the loud, bossy, and pushy little girl (Chibiusa, anyone?), but Doc loves her, and so do we (especially if you know her backstory).

Other regulars include other Tezuka regulars, namely Sharaku--the soft-spoken boy with a strange bandage on his forehead he refuses to remove (he is actually one of Tezuka's most beloved characters from the Three-Eyed One manga, which was his second most popular boy's manga after Astro Boy--the bandage is actually covering a third eye--but there is no sign if this is true in this series' canon), his tomboyish partner Wako, the Master of Tom Coffeeshop Tetsu, and the daughter of the late Dr. Honma Jotaro, who pieced the young Kuro together after the explosion.

None of the supporting cast are too intrusive on the feel of the series--though if I really wanted to be nitpicky, I would complain that Sharaku serves as too much a distraction for Pinoco, whose heartwarming and sometimes tragic love for the doctor takes a backseat or serves more as comic relief for the kiddos. Certain details are omitted, such as the mirror in Pinoco's room which distorted her reflection so as to make her appear more adult, in favor of lightening the tone to make the show more standard kiddy fare. (It does air in the time slot before Detective Conan, after all.)

But this is okay--really, I don't think I could handle thirty minutes of dark brooding every week (especially since I am following NANA currently). Maybe some of you can, but I like to be moved and entertained at the same time. I like feeling good about things after watching them.

Again Tezuka Productions makes good on the Tezuka name. Though the TV series isn't without its gimmicks ...

1: celebrity appearance by Hiro--formerly of the group SPEED--who sings the second theme song,--Detective Conan did it with Two-Mix, it's a YTV/AvexTrax merchandising scheme,

2: stock footage on the rare occasion -- BJ scrubdown! *henshin!*

3: a larger supporting cast of reoccuring characters.

...it doesn't take away from what is a quality, long-running television series.

I think I have a new favorite series--and yes--an anime lust object. I have returned to the fandom full-force!

(Sidenote: This series gets my vote for best opening theme ever. "Gekkouka" by J'anne de Arc was the 2nd best-selling theme song last year.)

Now excuse me. I have Japanese fansites to browse...

I cannot remember the last time a series reduced me into a fangirling mass of goo. Best theme song ever, best anime character ever--who would expect less from the god of manga? Take away a star if you insist your Black Jack be dark and nasty all the time, or if you really can't stand Pinoco. (How could you?! T.T) Melissa Sternenberg

Recommended Audience: Recommended for anyone who wants thought-provoking, but not angst-inducing, drama.

Teens and up for dark overtones, unapologetic handling of life-and-death situations, but really nothing above your usual ER fare.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (24/61)
Black Jack TV © 2004 Tezuka Productions / YTV