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[Black Jack box art]
AKA: ブラック・ジャック, Blackjack, Black Jack: Carte, Black Jack: Clinical Chart
Genre: Medical drama
Length: OAV series, 9 episodes, 45-60 minutes each
Distributor: Currently available streaming on Viki.
Content Rating: R (language, mature themes, brief nudity, violence, explicit surgical procedures)
Related Series: all other Black Jack works; Ray: The Animation
Also Recommended: Black Jack: The Four Miracles of Life, Black Jack TV, Black Jack 21, Black Jack: The Movie, Metropolis, Pet Shop of Horrors, AD Police
Notes: Based on the series by "father of Japanese animation," Tezuka Osamu, this series was directed by Dezaki Osamu, one of Tezuka Osamu's proteges.

Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars
 

Black Jack OAV

Synopsis

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.


Review

This isn't the Black Jack of our parents and grandparents. Produced in the 1990s, the trend was dark, sexy, gritty, bloody, violent ... a far cry from the average Black Jack TV fare.

Now I can handle a darker Black Jack. The artwork has certainly been updated for the times, and the animation, though showing age, was still lovely ... even if it was struggling to show traces of Tezuka.

I will go ahead and state for the record that I did not enjoy the OVA nearly as much as I have the TV series. That isn't to say that the OVA is bad. The story of Black Jack compliments the OVA format--uncontinuous series of one-shot medical cases. So it isn't like some sort of plotline is being compromised for the sake of a short format. (If you want to see that being done to Black Jack, let's talk about the 2000 TBS drama starring Motoki Masahiro. Painful.)

What the OVA does compromise is the integrity and characterization of the lead. Rather than the vengeful and cunning doctor, whose life was literally ripped apart as a little boy, we get a waxing poetic, brooding shadow. A ladies' man, a cold heartbreaker ... and every woman leaps at the opportunity to land our skillful surgeon into the sack.

Is it because I am a woman that I found it so revolting? Admittedly, the doctor is, in my book, all kinds of sexy. But I realize that, like the disfigured Zelgadis Graywords in Slayers, he isn't supposed to be. Is it because my favorite Pinoco is totally getting the shaft? Perhaps that has something to do with it. But I am one to prefer quality over quantity: the Pinoco in the OVA is extremely enjoyable and plays up the maturity which is present in the manga, and conveniently absent in the softened TV series.

So what is with the director making the decision to morph Kuro into Don Juan de Black Jack? He doesn't actually flat out reject the girls like the normal doc would. Instead he plays hard to get and leads them on--resulting in one "client" approaching him in the shower, another aksing him to spend the night with her, another crawling into his bed stark naked.

Frankly I grew quite annoyed with the brazen women and gratuitous nudity. This is something better suited for A.D. Police. The nudity doesn't do anything to further the plot. It only succeeded in infuriating me, and cheering on the death of the "heroines." What a laugh. How dare those hussies make a move on the doc! This isn't James Bond, you know!

Fortunately, the sex factor died down a bit after episode three, but I refuse to believe that the production team wasn't actively looking for an excuse--any excuse!--to show the boobies of every pretty lady to grace the screen. An episode hasn't passed without at least a full minute of boobie airtime.

Maybe it is the mood I have been in, but normally I can overlook minor things such as nudity--but when it is so blatantly sexual in a series that was never, at least in any other incarnation, even an afterthought, I can't help but find myself struggling through the episodes, trying to enjoy it through ignoring the scenes. But it was too much for me. Black Jack is a fantastic series, and the stories in this series are great. But I feel that the OVA series has the same disturbing problems that A.D. Police did. It was just too much.

Black Jack is still Black Jack, and this is still one of the better series out. But the minor offense of the outright sexuality in a series I think is better off without was enough for me to nix out a star. Melissa Sternenberg

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: R2 DVD
Review Status: Partial (6/9)
Black Jack OAV © 1993 - 1998 Tezuka Pro / Nippon Columbia
 
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