Black Jack Vol. #3 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: C+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Black Jack

Black Jack Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     June 07, 2004
Release Date: June 08, 2004

Black Jack Vol. #3
© Central Park Media

What They Say
From Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Metropolis, Astro Boy, and Kimba!

Episode 5:
While on vactation, Black Jack comes across a young man haunted by the vision of a woman who beckons him to return to a town he's never visited. He also has vision of being shot in a battle in which he was too young to have possibly fought! Bullet wounds mysteriously appear on his body, bleed, and disappear. Is the young man insane? Could it have anything to do with an operation performed on the young man many years before? Or are they other forces at work? It's up to Black Jack to solve the mystery!

Episode 6:
In the middle of a strange blizzard, Black Jack finds himself trying to rescue a dying princess. Taking poison to avoid a loveless marriage, she would prefer death to a life where she was forever denied the arms of the man she truly loves. Now, Black Jack is forced to question what is real when he opens up the girl and finds a demon waiting inside...

Contains 2 complete stand-alone episodes (5&6)

The Review!
Black Jack returns for two more tales though these really start to take on a more surreal and fantasy-ish styling than past episodes.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The two OVAs here feature a good sounding stereo mix that's mostly center channel based for its dialogue but provides a fairly well rounded stereo mix for the ambient effects. This is mostly noticeable in the first episode with the sounds of the crashing waves. Most of the show is dialogue and a few quick bursts of sound effects, so it's not problematic with the format. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and the show simply sounds good.

Originally released to video back in 19943, each of the fifty minute OVAs here look very good and hold up well with their quality animation. The transfer lets a lot of the detail really shine through, particularly the black folds of the leads jacket/cloak. The majority of the colors are fairly dark and subdued with only a few bright vibrant areas coming through, but the look in general is excellent with no noticeable over saturation or cross coloration. There's some minor shimmering of aliasing during some panning sequences, but nothing that's overly distracting. The materials for this have held up well in the last ten years.

Using artwork just from the first second episode, the mix of painted and what looks to be cel pieces comes across fairly ok here as we get a mixture of characters together from different shots while the main backdrop is an of an action sequence with helicopters attacking. It's a decent piece but the mixture of the various designs doesn't hold up too well after looking at it for a bit. The back cover provides only one piece of artwork with a full body cut and paste shot of the good doctor set against a dark backdrop. The discs features and technical information are all quick and easy to find. The reverse cover goes for a simple shot of Black Jack close up on one panel. The two episodes have their chapter listings and a fairly useless English language cast list with no match-up to their characters is here. And in the continuing poor trend, none of the Japanese actors are credited since "no information is available" for it. This is one of those cases where you wonder why CPM continually has this issue but none of the other studios do when they work backwards on their catalog or deal with older shows.

The menu is a catchy little piece that uses the same design layout as the first volume but isn't quite apparent at first. With the medical and surgical aspects of it, the screen is made up of "sewn" patches with animation from the show playing underneath it. It looks a bit creepy once you realize that it's all over the menu. The selections are lined down and across the screen in the usual format we get from CPM. Access times are all nice and fast and we had no issues with the menus.

The extra included in this release is a video gallery of art pieces from the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Black Jack gets into the second half of the OVA series, the show takes on a few more surreal turns with the standalone tales. While there's always been an element of disbelief that needed to be suspended with prior episodes, a good chunk of what was happening was close to the realm of possibility. These two episodes, particularly the second one depending on your point of view, shift it out of that realm and into something more make-believe.

The opening episode has Pinoko cashing in on her once a year deal with Black Jack to give her what she wants. This year she chose to go on a three week European rail tour and see all sorts of things with him. The downtime is good for him since it lets him ease his mind from the things he sees and for her, well, it's a chance to be closer to the guy she really likes. Pinoko continues to be a real mystery since she's not been explained in the anime, as it's presumed you know her deal from the manga, so I really have a hard time discerning their relationship never mind her age. Regardless, she has fun with him on this trip until they come across a very nice young Englishman whom she takes a fancy to.

Leslie, a cadet in the Royal English Academy, has a serious problem. When he has these dark dreams of a young mother and her young child walking and singing, his body reacts to something from it and causes explosive bullet-like wounds from his back to erupt, taking him out and causing a massive amount of blood to be released. This happens initially on the train as Leslie was riding with them as he's trying to find someone who can help him deal with these dreams, and it happens again at a chateau along the trip where he and our lead ended up staying over. As Black Jack examines him while he's unconscious, he discovers that Leslie actually had major surgery when he was probably one or two and it was done by a master surgeon. There's some root cause to his problem there that Black Jack offers to help, but he's also highly interested in learning who the man was that did such an operation as the skill level is simply astounding.

It moves into a mystery/discovery combined with a haunting little song that the mother and daughter in his dreams sing as they search for both a cure and the surgeon, all while discovering what it is that causes the explosive moments. It's an interesting tale but for some reason it feels very different than the first four tales we've seen in how there's more psychological going on here than really physical. It's interesting and definitely unsettling but has that feel of going beyond "reality". And when you add in a fair amount of Pinoko time?

The second episode has us back in Japan and Black Jack and Pinoko finding a mystery box sent to them requesting their aid filled with small bills. As it turns out, the package was two years in arriving at their address, so there's likely a chance of nothing being able to be done. But his ethics and something about the request gets him to try and follow-up even after all this time and the two end up in a rental car going into an area heavy in snow. Their journey still has a ways to go, but the road is impassable so he opts to go into the shrine that's nearby. With Pinoko asleep, he carries her inside and looks for help.

The female monk that's there, completely shaven, takes Pinoko in and offers to watch her while letting him know that he's actually close to the village he's trying to reach and gives him directions. His arrival near there takes a very strange turn when the man he's supposed to meet, Saburo Taneda, is dressed in full armor and looks like he stepped out of the fifteenth century. The village is filled with similarly dressed warriors and the woman he sees is continually referred to as a princess. Her condition is dire, though she toughed out the last two years surprisingly well, as her skin has developed a layer of scales on it and her heart is being constricted with a murmur and something obstructing a valve. But there are larger elements at play as a war is about to break out over whom this potentially dying princess is supposed to marry as a lord from Kyoto has arrived with his troops to take her away.

So Black Jack has stepped back in time and is embroiled in a fun little war between two clans over marriage rights and much more. The story plays out very strangely for the most part as we learn who is who in this game and why people are killing each other and so forth. The surreal nature of Black Jack in his garb performing his tests without much of a glance from the others, an oddity considering his tools, is pretty strong here. The passions and denials of love play a big part of this story and the mystery over the scale affliction of the princess, but overall it was very difficult to get into this episode since it just didn't click the same as the others. While the ending itself was decent and it worked within the context, I didn't like the game that was played about it in general.

In Summary:
These two tales aren't exactly more of the same of the Black Jack franchise but rather tales that aren't like what we've seen. There's some intriguing elements in both of them but I think they strayed too far from what made the earlier episodes work for me, which was their basis in reality, be it a slightly stretched reality. These felt more like a guest writer had taken over and penned a few tales to fill in while the real author went out for a smoke. They've got some of look and feel down but something else is just missing.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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