Posted on 6 January 2016 with categories: Young Blackjack

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.

Posted on 10 December 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Young Blackjack

Thus begins one man’s revenge against those whom have done him wrong. It would not be out of line to say that Hyakki’s transformation from all around good guy to B-movie slasher villain was a tad sudden. The man is certainly desperate and I think suddenly having someone to blame for everything that’s gone wrong in your life could give rise to a thirst for vengeance but in this case we have the beginning and end of the transformation without the progress between. Hyakki accidentally killed one of his targets and suddenly took it as a sign from God that he must finish the job. The thing is that despite all efforts to make him intimating, these men are essentially getting chased by a limbless man. Hyakki has mastered the art of the Jason Voorhees casual stroll which can catch up with anyone regardless of running speed. As I stated before I don’t really feel any sympathy for his victims as they have brought it upon themselves. Any man who’s seen the count of Monte Cristo should know that before slighting a man you better be prepared for payback. A lot of this murder spree is inspired by the character Hyakki takes after who chased demons who stole their limbs.

One thing I must say is that detective has some of the worst bedside manner I have ever seen. I may not be a professional on the subject but I am sure you do not casually tell a patient that they lost an arm and then proceed to tell him his fellow doctor is dead.Then getting surprised when the patient has a complete mental breakdown. Detective, maybe you should have left this to the doctor instead.We did have an interesting moment with Blackjack coming to accept his need to operate regardless of laws. The Maiko made a valiant effort to prevent Blackjack from doing another illegal operation but due to her own lack of skill and experience was eventually pushed aside by Blackjack. It was interesting at just how she reacted to that, she certainly has pride but had to come to accept that Blackjack could save someone she couldn’t. She still took credit for his work to keep him in the medical world but that experience isn’t going to disappear. Other than that Hyakki isn’t making any effort to cover up his involvement with the murders which is odd considering the guy isn’t stupid. Or possibly he has no intent to get away with this at all.

Posted on 2 December 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Young Blackjack

I think the outcome of this episode was thoroughly spoiled by the opening, where we have Blackjack and this Hyakki facing each other as arch enemies. But I didn’t expect that the man’s character would be so interesting. The episodes beginning broke the fourth wall by referring the original Mangaka’s works and how is man is based on Tezuka’s other work. I was fully expecting a villain of the level of zaki from episode two and got instead a sympathetic ambitious man who had most of his limbs lost in a car accident. As well as a doctor who saw Blackjacks recovery and the surgery that made him who he is. He’s a really respectable guy seeing as he lost all his limbs and yet uses his disability to help design better prosthetics and even having a fiancé willing to stay with him regardless if he’s limbless or not.

So it seems that revenge is in order and while the show will likely go the route of how revenge is never right, I can’t help but feel it’s justified in this case. From the looks of things these doctors cut the brakes on his car and fully intended to kill him in order to remove him from the medical world. I don’t see how responding in kind is particularly evil. Still one thing I find odd about how these doctors prevented him from operating again by informing the patient that he would be using prosthetic limbs. Wouldn’t that be par for the course to inform the patient on just who is doing the operation? I mean what would have happened if after the operation he went to see the patient and the patient got furious that he was operated on by a quadraplegic?

A common point that is brought up again and again is that if Blackjack continues to carry out these illegal procedures that he will never be allowed to become a true doctor. Seeing as we already know that he will lose his license and become a back alley surgeon these reminders that Blackjack will lose his license seem to provoke the question “I this the operation that gets him removed from the professional medical world?” So far he’s managed to avoid that outcome but with Hyakki going rogue there’s a chance he might let slip that Blackjack was the one who gave him the ability to operate. These two look to become enemies next episode but just how will they combat each other in a show about medical operations?

Posted on 25 November 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Young Blackjack

While I find the level of risk in this two part arc to be inconsequential, I must admit that I like how it all turned out. For this is the first time in this series that Blackjack failed. While he was able to discern the cause of Johnny’s lack of pain, he was unable to treat it with Dr Risenberg coming in to fix Johnny’s problem himself. So for the first time Blackjack was not in control of the situation and proven that he isn’t invincible. Dr Risenberg is a nice example of knowing too much about those you respect. I think that the internet, in particular Twitter, has given us far too much insight into our idols. This is an issue because people aren’t perfect and we all have our issues and demons. In many ways it’s better to keep that untarnished vision of those you admire than to look too deeply and find they are just as human as you are. In this case, our dear doctor was involved with the experiments done on Jewish people in concentration camps. From the sound of things his thirst for medical knowledge lead him to human experimentation and now he even fears that Blackjack walks down the same path as he did.

So his efforts in this episode were less to give Johnny a normal life but rather to save Blackjack from getting erased by the American military so they could keep their experiments secret. This episode looks like it was dealing with people’s inner demons as we have a sufferer of PTSD, Tommy around to help Blackjack out. And if I am not mistaken it seems that Tommy will end up being another future adversary to Blackjack. Again I must bring up Blackjacks over exaggerated method of presentation, as I truly haven’t come to a conclusion whether it is holding the show back or keeping it from falling flat on it’s face. Blackjack always deals with serious issues but the nature of the show is highly in your face which gives it dramatic punch while sacrificing the credibility of taking it seriously. I am reminded of the Phoenix wright games which make use of a similar method to make what would be rather dull courtroom proceedings in ridiculously theatrical displays that can pull any player in with it’s energy. But those games are often comical and lighthearted as a result despite dealing with murder most of the time. So I wonder if Blackjack was presented in a manner that was more serious would that be a benefit or would it drain the colour out of what has be a really good show so far?

Posted on 17 November 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Young Blackjack

Racism is always a thorny topic to deal with. Regardless of intent there are just so many ways of messing it up, be it by using strawmen or one dimensional caricatures. It’s a topic that requires a delicate hand to prevent pushing it to its extreme all to make an obvious point of Racism being bad. So when I saw what was in store for this episode and knew that something as in your face as Blackjack was tackling a rather touchy subject I was rather worried. For good reason it seems, as we have two black men holding a girl hostage and beating up a guy just for the sole purpose of making a point that violence gets results. I never really looked at Blackjack as being historically accurate but I find the portions of the revolts being spilt between and nonviolent and Violent group to be suspect. Luckily this episode is not about that and instead just uses it as setup for Blackjacks next challenge.

As it turns out, Johnny the immortal is unable to feel pain. In a marvel universe that would equate to a superpower to which can be used to fight crime. In real life however it’s a serious issue that prevents the person from recognising just how damaged his body is. Pain may be agonizing but it alerts you to abnormalities within the body. Without it you could be walking around with a serious injury and never realize it till it was far too late. As our friend saw here when he didn’t even feel his twisted arm. For Johnny this is a double edged sword as it allows him to protest without being deterred by attacks, thus capturing his efforts on camera. But it also means his injuries become far more severe. The focus of this two part episodes looks to be just what is causing this abnormality though the preview of the next episode looks to have already given away the answer.

Young Blackjack remains a fun watch though this episode was one that a tuned out to more than the others. When compared to the intensity of the previous Vietnam episodes, the conflict here lacks weight. It isn’t this mans life at stake but rather something which is more of an inconvenience. The three day time limit just seems to be a attempt to add urgency to the problem but regardless of whether they fail or not this will not result in the man’s death. The conflict just is minor with more focus being on the moral dilemma of letting a man depend on a potentially life threatening defect.

Posted on 12 November 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Young Blackjack

There are times when Blackjacks over the top nature can be entertaining presentation wise and others when it can remove any sense of surprise. While I do like the things Blackjack explores, it is very clear cut on how it shows it. In this episode the man that Blackjack and the army Medic have been spending two episodes trying to save, dies when he wanders out of his room and trips a landmine. This scene was exhibited in such a way that I knew exactly what was going to happen before it did. The minute I saw Steve in that field, I knew he was going to die and he made that all the more certain as he started walking back with tears in his eyes, triggering so many death flags that the reaper himself couldn’t stand it any longer. Bob was quick to blame the Vietcong but I point my finger at the others. In particular I find it funny that Blackjack never thought of the state his patient would wake up in and worse still had no one watching over him. To be fair however, it’s not as if anyone would expect the guy to walk into a single landmine placed in a wide open field. Really, how is it that that single lone landmine managed to remain undetonated right up till this moment or who was the lazy soldier who figured a single solitary landmine in the middle of an open field near a Vietnam village was a perfect place to kill some Americans?

As I said, I don’t think the characters handled this very well, especially when it came to Bob. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to figure out that Bob was in a very dangerous emotional state and yet the characters only seem to make it worse by antagonizing him. Blackjack and the Medic in particular really should have handled the situation better as it was clear to anyone with eyes that Bob was about to do something drastic. Which makes me even more surprised that he was left to his own devices. In all honestly, you guys have no one to blame but yourselves for the guy calling in an air strike. The episode finale is something I raise an eyebrow at, as Black and the others finish surgery on a Vietnam soldier, survive an air strike and carry the guy through a literal sea of fire in what looks to be very flammable material. This show can be silly and over dramatic but that was really pushing it.

The episode’s final reveal was unfortunately lost on me due to my ignorance of the source material. Upon the reveal of the army doctor’s name I was feeling left out as the way the reveal was staged made this seem like a very big deal, yet when I heard his name I had no idea to its significance. So one google search later, I got exactly who he is and it puts these past few episodes in new context. Put simply, this mystery Medic is Doctor Kiriko, Blackjacks future Arch-nemesis. Eventually this war twists his personality causing him to essentially become Blackjack’s evil counterpart so it is rather interesting that these two worked together once to save a life without even realizing it.

Posted on 4 November 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Young Blackjack

With Blackjack and the others captured last episode, it’s only natural that the next step would be torture. Still I expected something much worse than what was presented. All things considered, I think Blackjack and the crew got off easy. They didn’t even get a “Tiger Cage.” Of course the big threat here was that the patient Blackjack treated isn’t out of the woods yet and the conditions of the imprisonment isn’t helping. Having the wound infested with maggots isn’t exactly ideal, even if it worked out for the best. Still I pity the poor souls that had to resort to Maggot therapy, the feeling must be unbearable. In relation we learn more about Blackjacks past and how he came to get his scars. The exploded bomb explanation could use more elaboration though at least we know that Blackjack didn’t simply just walk out of a hospital like nothing happened.

I actually found an article about this episode which complained that Blackjacks Torture scene was sexualized and really that statement has me confused. While watching the scene I wasn’t under the impression that it was intended to be sexual and I think this really is a matter of the eye of the beholder. That said that scene between Yabu and Blackjack was most definitely suggestive. With that blur and the look of compassion between the two you wouldn’t be surprised if the suddenly engaged in a passionate embrace. But let’s leave such fantasies to the fujoshi’s.

Though the main part of this episode was to introduce the American Medic whose methods are borderline insane. Parachuting into war territory with a full host of surgical equipment is something I figured would get any man dead long ago. Naturally he scoffs when he encounters Blackjack and it’s fairly predictable how this turns out. Both dislike each other at first but then see each others skills. Then they share a drink with mutual respect. I can’t say I am sold on this new character yet but I am intrigued to see what he can bring to the show and  whether he will play the role of mentor or rival.

Posted on 28 October 2015 with categories: Currently Watching:, Young Blackjack

Sorry for the lack of updates but I was hit with a sudden nasty case of Kidney stones which left me in hospital for a few days. I had a Keyhole surgery which left me not in the best shape for a week so I can’t say I was in the right mood to blog. Details of said operation would likely make you cringe and cross your legs if you happen to be a guy. Needless to say I was glad to be knocked out for the procedure. So now it’s time to play catch up.

Blackjack continues to be a solid show. The show does lack subtlety however as characters tend to act in over exaggerated manners and everything is placed in your face. That said it might not need it. The stories themselves are interesting in their own right and the over the top nature tends to lighten up some otherwise deathly serious situations. But what I find to be its most interesting aspect is the moral dilemmas Blackjack faces. Episode 3 in particular is a perfect example of how just because a person is technically doing the right thing, does not mean they are not a terrible person. It really begs the question that if the right thing is being done for the wrong reasons, is it is a good deed? The characters themselves seemed a bit too much of a strawman but I liked the dilemma they placed on Blackjack. Both seemed unwilling to put there own neck in a noose to save a life but when it came to Blackjack they were essentially morally blackmailing him. They forcibly got him involved and placed him in a situation where he must put his profession at stake, all the while demonizing him as if he doesn’t help this deserter then the man would most certainly die. The female student is a perfect example of someone using the moral high ground to inflate their own self worth and ego. A kind of person seen all too often in the planes of the internet.

Placing it during the Vietnam war was also master move as it puts Blackjack in one of the most perilous situations for a doctor to be in. I am honestly surprised with how the series is handling the drug addict doctor’s character. Most of the time this kind of character is a walking moral life lesson to not do drugs, yet he’s actually one of the more morally upstanding characters in the show. Using his experiences with past mistakes to help keep Blackjack on the right path. He also acts as a good trigger to place Blackjack in the hotspot of the Vietnam war with his attempt at redemption. There are the moments of old school such as the old “Oh my god, look at him being so amazing” inner monologues but I really like where this is going and so far Blackjack is delivering on a fairly unique experience.

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