Back in Black: The Long Hiatus Is Finally Over.
Writer/Artist: Osamu Tezuka
What They Say
In a chapter devoted to Pinoko, we follow her to the pool where she is starting to take swimming lessons. The nineteen-year-old in a tween's body is struggling with her slow development and is anxious to learn to do what most everyone else her age takes for granted. So after finding herself in a bit of a verbal bind, she decides to take the plunge only to quickly sink like a rock. Her body made of prostetics, she had little chance of floating let alone swimming very far. But a proud teen came to her aide. The boy is a genius. A budding animator he is working on the animated adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's Jungle Emperor Leo but there is something lurking within him that might take his dreams away... cancer. Pinoko knows too much about the disease, and she knows that there is someone in her life that can treat it like no one else ever.
Marilyn Swanson, the top female actor of the 40s, is suddenly seeing a revival among the cinema inteligentia. Her films are being broadcast on TV through almost every channel in prime time and every major film festival is devoting screenings to her performances. She was a rare beauty that captivated a generation on and off the screen. But age has caught up to her. Because of her pride she cannot make any appearances at these events, and worst of all she cannot perform again without regret. So she asks a medic with god-like skills to reverse time, if only briefly, so she can dazzle audiences one last time.
Black Jack's 13th volume is a strong and eclectic collection that ranges from topics like the indomitable human spirit and the paranormal. As always, the whole of humanity is on display in these 14 stories, and while there is almost always a cure, there isn't always a solution. These stories are raw, revealing, desperate, and uplifting, but above all, they are entertaining. After 13 volumes and over 100 stories, any fan should know what to expect this time around: Black Jack is put in a variety of scenarios and it is only his skill and compassion, or lack thereof, that can ultimately resolve the issue. If that seems like a tiresome formula, rest assured that nothing could be farther from the truth. Even after all this time it's amazing how effortlessly these stories are told and how engrossing they can be. Tezuka is fearless; he injects so much life and passion into each of these stories that it's hard to imagine a more sure-fire bet.
Some of the notable chapters this time around are "The Pirate's Arm," where a promising young gymnast loses his arm to gangrene; "A Night in a Cottage," where Black Jack helps a woman who is bent on suicide; and "A Lucky Man," when an Iranian man gets plastic surgery to steal the identity of a wealthy Japanese engineer. Each chapter focuses on some facet of human nature that is exaggerated to show us who we are in no uncertain terms. The same is true for almost any Black Jack story, but these three really seem to stick out.
Tezuka can do more with 20 pages than most writers can do with whole novels. It's a rare breed of artist who can make stories about suicide with humor in them or stories of aliens with genuine human compassion and who isn't afraid to make his characters test their boundaries. With each passing volume of Black Jack we see more examples of Tezuka's willingness to do whatever it takes to tell a great story, and with every rule he breaks, every precedent he creates, we peer ever further into his genius.