Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: N/A
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Manga Entertainment
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 90
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Black Jack
February 01, 2002
Release Date: April 24, 2001
What They Say
© Manga Entertainment
Black Jack is an underground surgeon, who, although he has no license, has God-Like skills which enable him to perform operations that are impossible for even the finest surgeons.
Charging millions for secret operations, Black Jack is a man who is alone and full of mystery, appearing in operating rooms to fulfill his tasks, and then disappearing.
And now.. his biggest challenge.. An extraordinary number of intellectual and athletic geniuses (the "Super Humans") have the world caught in awe, wonder and excitement. However, little does anyone know about the hideous conspiracy lurking behind this phenomenon... Black Jack comes face to face with a lethal virus, which may endanger the very existence of mankind!The Review!
Overall Rating: 4.4
(on a scale of 1-5)
English Acting: 4
This movie is a tough sell. I mean really, a movie about a surgeon. It sounds pretty dull. Even the phrase “medical thriller” doesn’t do much to catch people’s attention, especially if your target audience is used to giant robots, magical girls and space epics. But if you are looking for something a bit different and you’re not put off by graphic surgery scenes, Blackjack is worth getting.
In the technical department Manga can be hit and miss. How does this movie fare? Well, on my set up it looked rather good. The picture was nice and clear (and widescreen). And the sound was also top notch (would have loved to hear this at my dad’s house with his 5.1 set up). The menu has a medical feel to it and works very quickly. The keepcase tells you everything you need to know except what region this disc is for. It also doesn’t have an official rating but this movie has violence and very realistic surgery scenes so it’s definitely for a more mature audience. The cover itself doesn’t do the movie justice. I don’t know if there was any other art to use but it really doesn’t make you want to see the movie. As for goodies there isn’t much here. If you click on the Manga logo in the extras section you’ll get to see the Manga trailer for Blackjack, but other than that it’s pretty dry. It would have been nice to have some explanations of the medical terms used in the movie, or maybe some insight into Blackjack's past with a character bio or two. I think Manga missed the boat in this arena, especially by not putting in a glossary of medical terms. Most of the terms are explained in the movie but it would have been nice to know a bit more about them. All in all it’s a very solid disc technically. Other than the lack of extras, I didn’t have a problem with this disc.
When I got this disc as my second primary review I didn’t know what to think. A quick glance at the cover didn’t grab me and I wasn’t too familiar with the work of the original creator Osamu Tezuka (I know that he created Astroboy and Kimba but I’ve never seen them). So I set it aside and finished rewatching EVA. Well I realized I couldn’t put it off forever so I popped it into the player after dinner. Boy was I surprised. This movie is really well done, on several levels. And while it does have a few pitfalls here and there, it was surprisingly entertaining.
The main plot is pretty straightforward. Blackjack is a rogue surgeon who helps people who have enough cash to pay for his services. He is a master at healing and most think that he is gifted by a higher power or perhaps there is something “special” about him. When a mysterious woman, Jo Carol asks/forces him to help her treat a group of patients (they kidnap his daughter) he can’t refuse. All the patients have one thing in common, they possess exceptional talents in sports, music, art, and literature. They have been dubbed "superhuman", and now one by one, they are being struck down by a disease that lays waste to their internal organs. Eventually they become too weak to move and internally bleed to death, if the hallucinations caused by a corroding brain doesn’t kill them first. As Blackjack tries to help these unfortunate souls he soon finds himself surrounded by lie upon lie. It’s becomes obvious that Jo has kept vital information from him, especially her role in “discovering” these superhumans. Blackjack is torn between exposing the horrible truth and killing innocents, or participating in the lie and saving all the lives he can.
The animation in this movie is top notch. It has an older look the character design, and a more realistic look to them (with Blackjack himself being the main exception). As a result you are pulled into the drama a bit more. The world inhabited by these characters is also very close to ours, if it isn’t a total mirror. The superhumans make their big debut during the Olympics held in the city of Atlantis (in the United States). The games are covered by BNN. So you can kinda see where the realism element falls into play. The medical scenes are very realistic and might not be the best thing to watch after dinner. Also be warned that with characters having their organs turning into liquid, lots of blood is vomited up (tasty, eh?). But beyond the realism is an excellent sense of style that the director chose to utilize. This comes mostly in the form of particular use of still frames, multiple angles of the same conversation on the screen at once, and creative use of lighting. One short scene was particularly well done.
Blackjack comes to a certain realization shortly after he has been playing the piano. When he realizes a key point, the light on him fades, turning him to silhouette and highlighting the piano. At that moment a couple high pitch notes from the piano eerily break the silence. Combined with the film noir look of much of the city sequences and the sterile feel of the hospital, this film creates mood with the animation and the sound. Both work very well together to make you uneasy as you and Blackjack begin to realize that a web of lies has been constructed. The final scenes take place in a desert country in the Middle East or Africa (it’s never really specified). The dark interiors are lit poorly and the sound of the howling desert wind build with the tension. In these areas this movie is a work of art. The creative team did a great job here.
The plot is a medical thriller. Again, it’s not a genre anime fans are used to. Even in Hollywood films this topic is rarely tackled. Most people don’t like hospitals and seeing sick people can hit too close to home for many. But when the story is well done, and the characters pull you in, you’ve got a good recipe. As a thriller there is the element of danger all the way through. It becomes very apparent that Blackjack has stumbled onto something that people will be willing to kill to expose or conceal. Adding to the tension is that his daughter’s life is in dubious hands. The suspense is well executed and keeps you interested in what will happen next. The only part that fails a bit is the way the mystery is solved. The major obstacle is that our protagonist is a doctor, not a detective. As such his medical knowledge often helps him out of danger (or gets him into it), but clues often fall into his lap. Things happen a little too conveniently and it seems to shatter some of the realism in the series. Of course Blackjack himself is the most unrealistic looking of all the characters. He dresses like he stepped out of the 1800’s: his hair is black on one half and white on the other. And he has a huge scar down one side of his face. The look of the character also defies the reality around him, so you can forgive some of the obvious fudging of the plot.
Our English cast does a respectable job. The leads really got into the parts and made you believe that they were doctors and surgeons. Most of the medical dialogue came off their tongues smoothly (even if they didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t have a clue at times). The actress for Jo Carol was exceptional. She was able to convey confidence and calm even when things got messy, and you never really trusted her from the beginning. Sure the animation was half of it, but her voice actor did a great subtle job. The actor for Blackjack came off a bit stiff, but again it fit the character. He doesn’t seem to trust people and is very straightforward, never mincing words. Mostly the minor parts seemed a bit off at times. But our leads including Pinako, did a good job.
The music flowed along with the animation and sound. It was used to increase tension and build suspense perfectly. While it wasn’t a stand out score, it was utilized by the director to create a mood. The main song is a jazzy tune that seems a bit out of place at first. But as the end credits roll it fits in just fine with the film noir/40’s style of the series. If I’m not mistaken the theme song is sung by the same woman in both English and Japanese. If not, the English version is just as good as the Japanese and the woman they got to sing it has the same voice quality as the Japanese singer. All in all the music was very good.
Can a medical thriller entertain? You bet. Can it be made into a good animated film? Blackjack is evidence of that. It has a great sense of visual style, an interesting story and while parts of it are a little too convenient, it doesn’t really ruin the movie or the suspense. It was a nice break from the rash of giant robots, space adventures, and fantasy shows I’ve seen lately. It’s also nice to see creative use of animation and film styles in anime. I haven’t really seen anything like this since Key The Metal Idol. Blackjack is worth seeing, and owning if you like variety in your anime. If you’re still not sure, see if you can rent it, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Roman J. Martel
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Japanese Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
General Electric Performance Plus (25 Inch), Sony Playstation 2