This is a prequel to Osamu Tezuka’s manga series Blackjack and upon starting the series I worried that it’s old school sensibilities might interfere with telling a good story. Now having finished the series I can say that Young Blackjack was an interesting show. There aren’t many shows that feature medical drama with historical events and in that regard this anime is a breath of fresh air. The series mainly features Blackjack getting into a dire situation where he needs to perform surgery on someone. So Blackjack finds himself getting caught in the middle of the Vietnam war, student political activism and the Civil Rights Movement. It does prove to be quite entertaining though doesn’t quite reach the potential it could have had. The cast are relatively intriguing with Blackjack and his drug addict assistance being the standouts. Though his friend sadly disappears for the second half of the series. The rest of the character tend to have one time appearences and once there arc is over they are never to be heard of again. Many of them tend to be a standpoint in character form to express radical views or heighten the drama.
One of the particularly odd things about this series is in its presentation. It deals with some fairly dark topics but it is shown in the most over dramatic way possible. It’s a double edged sword as it allows the series to dive into some thorny topics without letting it get too grim. But in doing so it doesn’t quite give those topics the depth they deserve and often makes the nature of the problem rather one dimensional. Characters act too erratically in order to present a point and Blackjack is rarely in a position that tests his moral compass. There are also moments where the sillier aspects of the world break the down to earth nature of the series. A prime example of this is a villain presented in the final episodes whose resourcefulness with prosthetics leads him to gain tools on the level of Inspector Gadget. Even his eyeball has the functionality of a Swiss army knife. The second episode even has Blackjack perform surgery that’s practically magic. When coming into a series like this you have to remember that this is based on a old Tezuka anime that featured a little girl sidekick who was in actuality a sentient tumor in a plastic exoskeleton. For this kind of series, when it throws something ridiculous at you, you just have to roll with it. If you can’t then one of the final arcs is bound to throw you off balance completely.
In terms of visuals and sounds blackjack preforms adequately. The soundtrack is suitable but forgettable and the visuals provide whats needed while looking quite good at times. The biggest failing of the series is that the titular promise of seeing the event that turns Hazama into Blackjack is never kept. The series taunts that each event might trigger it but sadly all we have is a random number of events that may have slightly influenced it and an ending note that he will indeed become Blackjack. Young Blackjack wasn’t an outstanding anime but it was interesting enough to keep me coming back week after week. As an introduction to the series it served its purpose well as I am now interested to watch it’s predecessors. According to fans, it didn’t do its source justice so it should prove worthwhile to look at previous anime adaptations. I have started the OVA and it’s already looking promising. If one was to see this as a incentive to check out the Blackjack series I consider this anime a success.