Black Jack Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, April 29, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, April 06, 2004
What They Say
Two victims thrash in agony, scarred by war. Once again, renegade doctor Black Jack is caught in the crossfire. With Death breathing down his neck, he braves bullets and deadly biohazards to save the afflicted. Will the detective doctor prevail once more? Or will he pay the ultimate price for his mercenary ways? Contains two complete, stand-alone episodes (3 & 4).
Black Jack returns for two more distinct adventures in a series I wish I had managed to catch back when it first came out.
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 1993, 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 second episode, the backdrop of the multicolored windows sets a great visual piece that brings the attention to the two male leads here, both of the underground doctors that are prominent in the second half of this volume. The artwork here looks really good, nice and clean and well colored. The back cover provides some creepy shots of both stories with very brief three or four lines of summary. The discs features and technical information are all quick and easy to find. The reverse cover goes for a series of shots from the show ring around two of the edges. 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 and a commentary track by the director for the 1st episode on the disc (Episode 3). Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to check out the commentary track in any detail.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first volume of Black Jack, at its conclusion, had me wondering why I had kept passing up this series over the years. Then I go back and remember some of the vague descriptions and the artwork used as well as some of the comments of the time. Ignoring things like that now, I've found with the second volume that while it's not getting better, it's maintaining it's solid feel and providing some stories and scenarios that you don't find in many other places. That alone makes it more interesting than half the other shows out there.
Just like the first volume, we get two standalone tales that run just about fifty minutes each. Each tale has nothing to do with the other in any sense of continuity that I can tell, which makes it pretty easy to get into and takes on the form of what's essentially an hour long drama that's done like the old days before serials started becoming popular. The only difference is that Black Jack isn't really a drifter in the sense of many of those dramas.
The opening tale is one that hits close to home as it has the "world's police", the Federal Unites, invades the republic of Ortega and arrests it's president. Under the charges of allowing massive amounts of drugs to flow from and through his country into the Federal Unites, they've adopted a zero tolerance policy and have brought him into a heavily guarded prison. The president of Ortega, General Cruz, is fairly well beaten down and poorly treated during his time from the capture to the prison stay itself. While all of this is going on, a small group of soldiers from the republic of Ortega have made their way into the Federal Unites and are planning to spring Cruz when he's transported for his trial appearance.
Before they do that though, the only woman in the group, a tough but attractive soldier named Maria, makes a deal with Black Jack for half a million dollars to wait for her at a hotel so that she can then bring him to the patient. The good doctor is unaware that his patient will be Cruz until he ends up dealing with Maria after the springing occurs and he's brought out to the wilderness where the small cabal of loyalists are hiding Cruz while they decide how to get him back to Ortega. Black Jack is able to make a quick diagnosis of Cruz, a terminal cancer that the group knows about. They simply want him to be kept alive long enough so that he can return to his country and die on his own soil. The rest of the episode shifts between him keeping Cruz alive and the pursuit by the Federal Unites.
Depending on your political views, this episode will be fun for a lot of people because of how the Federal Unites is perceived and portrayed. I was particularly amused when you could tell that one of the flags for the country seemed to have the standard US flag but the stars were replaced with the "FU" for the country name. And of course, there's oil behind the heart of the story.
The second story is a bit more personal and a bit more disturbing. Black Jack is hired for a smaller sum this time around, just two hundred thousand, to help out an actress who has been unable to complete her latest film. She's the lead in the movie, her first major production since getting out of the adult industry, and there's only one major scene left to shoot. Before she started filming the movie though, she took on a diet to lose ten pounds. She managed through it fine, but when she went back to eating normal foods again, nothing would stay down at all. She's barely able to survive on just water, but almost everything seems to come back up. She's made it through a lot of the production without a problem, but the effects of not eating are now weighing heavily on her and she's becoming a shadow of what she once was.
So she heads off to a small town out in the mountains and tries to deal with it with an old family friend who is a doctor, but he's at a loss. So he goes to the underground and brings Black Jack in. Though the expenses aren't quite his norm, he still ends up taking up the case and works a deal for the full payment with her, since he's sure he can cure her and collect. But things become more complicated when another underground doctor, Dr. Kiriko, enters the scene and has a completely different idea of what procedures to use to save her. This episode is much more focused on the mystery and investigation side of the sickness since they don't know what she has, so it plays out more slowly than the first one.
Both episodes are quite enjoyable for a variety of reasons. The first one is sheer fun for me just to see another take on world politics from a different perspective while the second episode gives us something new in letting us see another of the underground doctors and the strange codes that they all seem to live by at times. The animation for each of them is again similar to the first volume in that we're getting people with some meat on their bones and not the typical lanky teens that populate the TV airwaves these days. These characters all have more mature designs to them and look like they'd exist in the world without defying the laws of reality.
Black Jack has been a really fun show to watch to offset some of the blander and typical things we've been watching lately, so it's made something of an impact. There is definitely some bloody and mature moments throughout both episodes, so that's made it more difficult to watch in family situations since the show really doesn't qualify as that. But if you're not terribly squeamish and are looking for something well animated with a medical twist, Black Jack is one of your best bets to satisfy that need.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Directors Commentary (Episode 3)
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.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Black Jack