Posted by psgels on 6 April 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews




Osamu Tezuka is an utter genius. With that I don’t just mean that he single-handedly fired off an entire new medium; he’s also a masterful storyteller. Especially his stories that aren’t aimed at children rock. But what’s more, due to his legacy his stories also have been adapted by some of the best directors imaginable. Ryouruke Takahashi, for example: I may be a huge fan of Votoms, I still consider his masterpiece to be his adaptation of Hi no Tori. Rintarou meanwhile delivered brilliant renditions of Metropolis and again Hi no Tori. The Black Jack OVA meanwhile is Osamu Dezaki’s chance to shine. And again: this was undoubtedly the best thing I’ve ever seen from him.

There have been more adaptations of the Black Jack franchise, but all of them just seemed to be missing something. This however is a perfect adaptation. It’s an epic that took eight years to be fully created. It has only ten unrelated episodes, but each episode is fifty minutes long, and that turned out to be the perfect length: long enough to include some deep storylines, yet short enough not to drag on.

This show… completely took me by surprise. Every single episode has a deeply imaginative story that tests the boundaries of medical science. Every episode is somehow combined with either political, military, corporate or some sort of other intrigue. Seriously, the stories here put in a lot of effort to set themselves apart. Stories are often multi-layered and just keep building up with all kinds of plot twists, in the true fashion of Osamu Tezuka’s best works.

But beyond that, when you look at this show with a more technical view, it’s amazing to see what the creators did here. The attention to detail in all of the medial procedures is stunning. They even got a number of medical advisers in order to make sure that everything is accurate (or as accurate as possible when dealing with made up diseases). It’s well known that Osamu Tezuka used to be a doctor and that he wrote Black Jack with a ton of medical knowledge in mind, but it’s also the way in which this series is animated that is just stunning. It’s all completely uncensored: this show doesn’t shy away in the slightest to show Black Jack’s operations in full detail, whether this is ranging from a simple medical check-up to a brain surgery.

The result is a show that seriously gave me a new interest in medical science, even though this usually doesn’t interest me in the slightest. This show did justice to both inexperienced doctors, and geniuses. It shows that there are many different kinds of doctors, and how even the best surgeon in the world is powerless in some cases. And furthermore it also is brilliant in portraying the actual victims: the people who contracted these bizarre diseases and the people close to them. This show shines like no other portraying the agony that these people go through, and it does so with strength and conviction, (courtesy of Osamu Dezaki’s unique style), instead of cheese.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Just brilliant. Always knows when to deliver its next plot twist. Its stories sparkle with creativity.
Characters: 9/10 – Terrific voice acting, amazing characterization, both for the doctors and the patients in this series. Even Pinoko was adorable this time.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Gorgeous artwork, but granted: Akio Sugino‘s style is completely different from usual anime.
Setting: 10/10 – An amazing medical background, even compared to the other Black Jack installments.

Suggestions:
Black Jack Special (Don’t get me wrong: the Black Jack Special is crap compared to this OVA; it completely got Pinoko’s character wrong. But it does contain the very important episode on Black Jack’s backstory. This OVA assumes that you’ve seen that, even though it aired at a later date…).
Hi no Tori
Metropolis

14 Responses

  1. darkerthanblackswordsman says:

    This backstory you mention – is it part of the TV series as well? Don’t really fancy watching an OVA you rated 69…

    And in more general terms: In what order should I watch this… eh… franchise? There seems to a series, and several OVAs and movies…

  2. elianthos says:

    I watched this series about three weeks ago and I sorta fell in love with this XD. Trust an Osamu to bring out the best of the other Osamu… and I especially love those little touches that are typical Dezaki yet fit so seamlessly into Tezuka’s story&characters (my personal favourite here? Starry skies and fireflies/floating pollens. The same combo he had used in some key scenes of Rose of Versailles (you’ll know which ones when you see them ;D ). Ditto on the pastel and watercolour still frames… so effective and beautiful). Are you going to watch the 1996 movie http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?show=anime&aid=686 as well :>?

  3. psgels psgels says:

    Elianthos: http://psgels.net/go.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fpsgels.net%2F2010%2F01%2F02%2Fblack-jack-the-movie-review-80100%2F&i=0&c=660192d7afb15ff872568c82e8d5f1d406eac9e2

    Darkerthanblackswordsman: unfortunately I haven’t seen the Tv-series, so I can’t comment on that one. Most of that special is indeed something you can skip, but its fourth episode details some key information about Black Jack’s past.

  4. elianthos says:

    @darkerthanblackswordman: the 4 OVA series mentoned by psgels at the bottom of his review adapts some of the early stories, but the manga source starts ‘in medias res’ and it’s quite episodic at first… hence as far as both the 10-OVA series of this review http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?show=anime&aid=2544 , the 1996 movie http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?show=anime&aid=686 and the 4-OVA series http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?show=anime&aid=2672 are concerned, you can watch them in any order you wish basically :> . Dezaki’s rendition (10 OVAs + movie ) is the more adult one, just keep it in mind as watching the franchise handled by other directors might feel ‘kiddy’ in comparison. .
    In the 4-OVA series instead the ‘Like a Pearl’ episode reveals why Black Jack decided to become a doctor, so if you are interested in the backstory that’s the episode to pick out of the four.

  5. elianthos says:

    @psgels: thank you. I spotted your movie review only after I posted XD.

  6. gan says:

    Psgels,have you finished with the TV series of Black Jack?
    Its sequel Black Jack 21 is pretty amazing too!It follows a continuous plot.Are you gonna make a post about it soon?

  7. psgels psgels says:

    Gas: I haven’t watched it yet, though at the moment I have no concrete plans to check it out.

  8. Michael says:

    I watched the first episode of I believe Black Jack 21. I saw a chibi and a doctor who said to a medical board – “I don’t need a medical license to practicing medicine, because I care about my patients!!”

    And that’s when I turned that crap off..

  9. njh317 says:

    This OVA was really a masterpiece in my opinion.
    I really like the style of drawing and the story.
    Short but full of meanings. Thumbs UP!!

  10. elianthos says:

    @Michael (#8): I’ haven’t watched that series, as my BJ and Tezuka’s manga expert suggested me to watch just the Dezaki’s 10 OVAs (&movie) and the other 4 OVAs. But if that was the sentence you heard, they’ve screwed his motivations for being a doc, compared to the manga source ^_^;.
    He does care for his patients, but in his own way… and the doc license (or lack thereof) is tied an entirely different set of reasons related to

    ***SEMI-SPOILER***

    a certain chain of events in his childhood (see the 4th epi in the 4 OVAs series + the beginning of the 1st epi in the same OVAs set )… and his ‘solution’ to that (to my knowledge said solution/aim is explained in the manga source only and it’s quite a twist).

    *****END SPOILER of sort***

  11. astrocurrent says:

    I just want to add that the english dub of these ova are quite good. I remember I was surprised by the acting of the voice acters when I watched them on TV. Some of the stories have a strong eastern culture background, but nevertheless are interpreted quite well in the english dubbed version. In fact, it is more colorful and vivid as in terms of the characters, while the sound effects are surprisingly quiet. The japanese version is more dramatic.

  12. Perrin4869 says:

    Just finished watching all the episodes, and I must say, this series was amazing by any possible standards I know.
    As you said, Pinoko was indeed cute in this series. It’s a shame that in most anime comic relief characters are used so badly, and end up ruining what would have otherwise been a solid experience (at least somewhat), but here it was used exactly right.
    When watching or read older stuff, like, say, Matsumoto Leiji anime or manga, I tend to just enjoy the stories and atmosphere, but I don’t expect the level of storytelling here. If Black Jack manga is as good as this OVA, I find it not surprising at all that Osamu Tezuka did all he did, he was so far ahead of his time.
    I do believe the rating here is too low, this series stands well above many other things you rated higher, but whatever. At least it got me to watch this.
    I can go on adding praises, but I’ll leave it at that.

  13. I didn’t watch any episode but by reading your post I am eager to watch it. Glad to visit your site.

  14. We absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be precisely what I’m looking for.
    can you offer guest writers to write content available for you?
    I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you
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  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 01:23 PM)
    The voice of the main character got kind of annoying though, the dub wasn’t all that good either.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 01:22 PM)
    This was based on/was a homage to a series by the Gigantor creator and having grown up with gigantors 90s reboot this felt like a nice throwback, plot is fairly simple but used effectively. It’s a shame that it feels like there was more to tell but at seven episodes I suppose it avoids outstaying its welcome.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 01:20 PM)
    Decided to marathon Giant Robo, I think this was mentioned by someone on here before. I guess it was fairly entertaining, great action direction, looked good for its time, you don’t notice the hour long episodes go by, adequate characters, nice retro artstyle also, not sure if I got excited over this as big O and Mazinger however but still fun enough nonetheless.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 07:10 AM)
    Seeing Hoffman in before the devil knows your dead and his character being dependent on drugs, that was another thing that hit me a bit knowing the circumstances of his death. Watching most wanted man I could also see that he was wearing out physically.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 07:00 AM)
    This is not Anno bitching about otakus jacking off to his characters and turning around and selling Rei panties, this isn’t the idiots at Shaft throwing around meaningless camera angles and the oh-so-symbolic teeth brushing scenes, this is a human being looking you in the eye with fear and telling you that he’s dying; morbid, honest, moving and remarkable.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 06:55 AM)
    Given my rants regarding Birdman it should be clear that I’m a sucker for these rare instances where the line between movie and reality get blurred- when an actor looks at a camera and just bares their heart out. This is the realism that reality tv tried but could never capture. this is art in one of its most sincere forms.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 06:50 AM)
    Oh yeah Hoffman was a massive talent and a beloved actor, so I don’t take it lightly when I call Synecdoche his greatest role ever. Given his death and knowing the circumstances of his life at the time imbues this performance with a chilling sincerity that just breaks your heart and leaves you in awe.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 06:42 AM)
    Oh Andrew Niccol, oh how the mighty have fallen.
    Hoffman showed up in Capote and most wanted man, the latter which I especially love and there need to be more thrillers of that vein coming out.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 06:37 AM)
    It’s funny how they also each have a Nicolas Cage movie. Kaufman has Adaptation and Niccol has Lord of War. Although despite the usual Cage antics neither of those movies is really that bad.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 06:33 AM)
    Eternal Sunshine and The Truman Show are the two roles where Jim Carrey really demonstrated his acting chops well outside of his usual comfort zone. But Kaufman moved forward from Sunshine with the superior Synecdoche, while Andrew Niccol went from doing Truman Show and Gattaca to doing young adult garbage like The Host *wretches*

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