Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Rich Doctor, Expensive Tastes
Midori Ringo | Lawai, HI United States | 07/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD boxset made me so happy! I am a HUGE fan of Tezuka Osamu's work, and although the style of the animation in this set does not reflect the style original manga (Japanese comic(s)) work of Tezuka Osamu, it is still beautiful and very well-done. In addition, the episodes in this set are not chronological, so they can be viewed in any particular order, which is handy for you because you won't miss any plotlines in between episodes or have to watch boring fillers! If you love medical dramas and mysteries, Black Jack will find a place in your anime-lovin' heart!
The only complaint I have about this animated series is that it does not explain much about Black Jack's past, and so some viewers may become a bit confused about, for example, the little girl who follows Black Jack everywhere (Pinoko), or why Black Jack himself charges so much money. So, if you are going to watch these episodes, I recommend being a little familiar with Black Jack's storyline, which you can find out about by reading the manga or doing a quick internet search!"
Ever uncovered an unknown gem? Black Jack is one.
Aion | England | 11/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Every once in awhile, I stumble across an anime which manages to surprise me. Knowing nothing about what I'm going to watch in advance, I start viewing, ending up with this rare sense of...joy; as if I've unearthed a buried treasure. Whilst watching this OVA, based on the work of Osamu Tezuka, I ended up feeling this way.
I'm not experienced with Tezukas work. So far, I've only watched three or so anime adaptations of his numerous manga titles. However, going on what I've read, this OVA is darker, and far more realistic in its approach than the source material. The character designs, for example, are said to have been altered from cartoonish to a grittier style. But, in the end, different or not, I doubt it'll matter to most reading this; most, like myself, not knowing a lot about it prior to viewing.
:: Story :: -- 9/10
The story is about a man known by the name of 'Black Jack'. He's an unlicensed doctor, said to be the best in the world, who will do almost any job asked of him... for a price. With a black cape he keeps wrapped around himself even in the heat of the desert, he travels the world, being paid crazy amounts of money to find the cure for various diseases and illnesses that normal doctors can find no remedy for. No-one knows much about him, only a basic description: he has a surgical scar on his face, a mixture of black and white hair and, as his name suggests, he wears black.
The best way for me to explain the series to someone totally in the dark is to use Mushishi; a very popular, totally episodic title, with very little development for its lead and few recurring characters. Like the lead of Mushishi, Black Jack is always on the move, attempting solve mysteries in order to save the lives of his patients. Each episode focuses on a different problem, and Black Jack often finds himself in a race against time to save lives. There's isn't much in the way of greenery, the stories mostly taking place inside towns, and there isn't any relaxing music that soothes the soul, but the basic premise of both titles are very, very similar. There are even a number of supernatural cases included, meaning there's no realism/supernatural divide separating the two. Black Jack does try to stick closer to reality, with its lead using the power of science rather than information about supernatural life-forms, though.
In the first half, the focus is heavily on realism. There's a story involving the effects drugs have on people and how they destroy lives; there's a story about a clearly-not-renamed-version-of-America attempting to re-capture the leader of a smaller nation out of greed; there's a story about an actress being unable to eat, edging ever closer to starvation and, finally, there's a story about a young man trying to uncover the mystery behind his dreams, which result in him having spasms and bleeding from an old bullet wound. The first episode involves a supernatural illness, but the majority of the content in episodes 2-5 doesnt stray too far from what can be viewed as believable.
However, the second half differs greatly, and it came close to making me lower my rating slightly. I won't go through them all, but one episode I can use as an example is the sixth. It involves a box full of money arriving two years late at the residence of Black Jack and a rather bizarre dream sequence playing out, where Black Jack goes back in time and has to try to figure out why a princess is suffering as if a serpent is wrapped around her, with her also going into rages where she attacks others. After what came before, it struck me as being out of place, although the later episodes made it fit in better. Honestly, I didn't get as much enjoyment out of episodes 6-9 as I did out of 1-5, and only the moving and very involving final episode about a 'mermaid' compares to the earlier episodes in my mind.
I wouldn't go as far as to say Black Jack is a tale of two halves. The second half did have some interesting episodes, nearly all of them being entertaining, and the final episode allowed the series to end on a high. I will, however, say that, depending on if you enjoy realistic or supernatural elements more, you'll probably end up preferring one half of the series over the other.
:: Characterization :: -- 8.5/10
The characterization is the main plus or negative, depending on your perspective, though. Black Jack, and his youthful looking and immature assistant, Pinoko, receive no real development throughout the series. Black Jack always attempts to distance himself emotionally from his patients and, while he does sometimes end up becoming close with a number of the females involved in each story (even sleeping in the same bed as one of them), the relationships never advance to a point where you learn more about Black Jack. He's quiet, he's kinder than his the fees he asks for suggests and he's a God with a scalpel - that's all you'll ever learn about him from this OVA. Nothing is shown of his past, and you aren't even told why he lives with the ever colourful Pinoko; a character that wasn't needed and often got in the way with her light-hearted scenes, especially in the last half.
The flipside of this coin is that all of the main characters in each of the stories get fleshed out significantly. More often than not, I was able to sympathize with their struggles... or, at the very least, I was able to understand enough to care. Using the characterization in episode four as an example, a woman was shown to gradually deteriorate until she was close to being a skeleton. From time to time, she dreamed about her childhood days spent with her friend; when they both shared childish dreams. As she neared death, despite her will to live, she wanted her pain to end, and to 'see' her friend once again. Because of the slow pacing and powerful images shown, it was impossible for me not to become emotionally involved, and I felt similarly about a number of the other characters.
While I would've loved to learn more about Black Jack and Pinoko, I don't think it damaged what is a totally episodic title. If anything, knowing little about Black Jack made him more of an enigma; adding to his appeal.
:: Art / Animation + Sound :: -- 7/10 & 6/10
By far, the visuals and sound are the most disappointing aspects of the series. I like the gritty art style, I like the detailed and bloody surgery scenes, I like the dull colour usage and the voice acting is perfectly acceptable. The problems lie with the animation and soundtrack. There's very little animation of note included, sometimes still-shots being used. The openings and endings are both very disappointing, the opening in particular because it flashes between poor quality (video) artwork for around three minutes. And the soundtrack is totally unmemorable, me not even noticing when there wasn't any music during the many parts with only voice acting and sound effects. While far from horrible, this isn't something to go into for eye and ear pleasing material.
:: Overall :: -- 8.5/10-9/10
To sum it up, Black Jack is an excellent, slightly under-rated and VERY under-watched anime. I highly recommend it to fans of Mushishi's story-telling style, or to anyone looking for something not reliant on moe to appeal. Without wanting to sound pretentious, Black Jack is an anime aimed at adults; aimed at those who can look underneath and appreciate stories not needing to be pushed along with constant, attention grabbing plot twists. Unless you believe you need 2000+ flashiness, do yourself a favour and look back in time; you never know, you might just see what I saw when I watched it."