Black Jack Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, September 23, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2004
What They Say
In a war zone devastated by minefields and strife, a dying child is missing. She fights a foe more deadly than any terrorist. Her heart is a time bomb that will kill her even as the explosions annihilate her home. Can renegade doctor Black Jack recover his patient before both their lives are claimed by war?
Working with a young dying girl, Black Jack and others brave a war-torn country to try and do what only doctors can do
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, the single fifty-minute OVA here looks very good and hold up well with the 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.
Providing a good cover at last, we get a nice cross section for this piece with half of it showcasing Black Jack with his particular smile while the other half deals with the large cast that's trying to get to him and the two girls who cling to the hope he provides in the center. 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 and Pinoko together. The episodes chapter listings and the voice actor credits fill out the main panel. Unlike previous volumes, the Japanese cast is included here and linked to their characters while a paragraph listing of the English voice actors is below it.
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)
With the first three volumes of the series, we got two episodes worth of OVAs from the series up through episode six. That was the last of the OVAs that got put out back when CPM first picked up the show. The last four OVAs are now set to come out but the downside is that they're being released individually, so each of the fifty-minute episodes gets its own disc instead of being doubled up. Since these were never released before on VHS, the only other way to get them is through the expensive Japanese box set that contains all ten of them. I really do not like the way the last four episodes here are being treated, even at the lower price point from regular releases that it's getting – especially since it's the same as what the double episode volumes have been like.
That said, this is still a good episode. While Black Jack for some reason looks a bit younger this time around, the tale with him takes a bit to happen before he shows up. We're introduced to a fabulously wealthy and eminent doctor who has the world going for him. He's tops at what he does, he's got everything falling into place and he's close to being married to Catherine, an attractive doctor herself who is set to dedicate her life to him and the family that they both want. But he's finding out at the last minute that there's going to be a real sacrifice required on his part. Since she knows she'll be giving up a lot, she wants to postpone the marriage by at least six months if not a year so that she can go to the war torn country of Ardentarl, a desert like place, where she can work with other volunteer doctors to help out there. Though he doesn't like it, he gives in and she begins her journey there, something we see in letters.
Her time spent in Ardentarl is interesting enough but it's when she's part of a caravan making their way back to the main refugee camp that she comes across Black Jack that it gets really interesting. His vehicle has broken down and he indicates that he's heading to the same camp as a doctor, but distrust by the others causes problems and he ends up walking their the entire way himself. Naturally, he ends up in the camp and is still distrusted as a possible terrorist or someone set to cause trouble. But it doesn't take long before they find out that he's there on a mission to save a young five year old that's dying as he's been paid by a rather rich man out of New York City to do so.
This particular episode has a strange feeling to it as it progresses since it alternates between a few things. We get some feel for the country of Ardentarl through flashbacks that show how Black Jack managed to stay in the country and avoid arrest in general and then we get to see how these doctors operate in camps like this. A lot of it really feels like some of those promotional American comic books from the 90's where certain causes are pushed and there's a feeling that urges Black Jack here to drop his normal fees and to just buckle down and help people. I'm almost disappointed at the route the writers went with this since I'm not quite sure it's within his character to act like he does, but a situation that he's in like this can shake most people deeply and change long held beliefs. Another part of the story that plays out in an amusing way is with Pinoko, as she's initially waiting for his return only to find herself in New York City when the young girl from Ardentarl is returned there. Her age again comes into play and I still really can't figure this character out at all.
The show for the most part follows the same animation quality style as the previous six episodes that we've seen as this was produced at the same time back in 1993. Tezuka's works really manage to come across well with this particular style and Black Jack works even when you think aspects of it would fail miserably. Some of the material in this episode really felt overplayed at times and much of it almost felt like an infomercial of sorts but it provides a look at one side of the life of a doctor that many doctors don't think about or even give consideration to. This fits in fairly well with what we've seen before but I have a very hard time recommending it based on the price point compared with past volumes of the show, regardless that this is released here for the first time and had to have a brand new dub struck for it.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
Running time: 50
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Black Jack