In the latest volume of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack, the good doctor goes above and beyond the call of duty many times to show that he’s just about the coolest manga character there is. He takes rabid dog-bites to the arm to prove a point, performs surgery through a yakuza member’s tattoo under pain of death, and smacks the hell out of a handful of people without a hint of age or gender discrimination.
Concurrent with these various badass acts are further glimpses into what makes the man tick, and this is where Tezuka continues to show that he still has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. At this point, whenever it seems as if Black Jack does something that sours him in the eyes of the reader, you can rest assured there’s more to it than meets the eye. Despite fully expecting both last-page twists and somber, contemplative closings, they remain effective more often than not as one of the series most enduring staples.
The ratio of standout stories here is about on the same tier as previous volumes, though I noticed immediately that Black Jack’s operations appear to be at an all-time high level of danger. There are frequent ticking clocks in the form of angry, gun-toting yakuza, impatient assassins, and one very peculiar pregnancy, among others. Black Jack handles them all deftly, with the patented form of brash compassion and dedication to personal ideals that makes him who he is.
While most of the stories soar, something about “Accident” was a little off for me. It’s not the story itself I’m hung up on, but the way Tezuka presents it. In fact, I think the story—which involves a man who takes a woman to the hospital after an accident, becomes attached to her as she experiences a brief state of amnesia, and is ultimately cast aside once the memories come flooding back—is deserving of a more relaxed pace. Perhaps it’s spread out over too large a period of time for that to work, but I think it would at least have made the ending more powerful.
With that in mind, if you want a direct look at the way manga can manipulate the way you read it on the sly—specifically Tezuka’s way of doing so—this volume is a meaty course in the matter. Look no further than the top two panels of page 108 in this volume, for instance. Prior to the page turn, Black Jack was setting up a brief explanation of the circumstances behind a particular operation, and how he experienced a similar ordeal with Pinoko. Then, as soon as he wraps up the chatter, he lifts his head boldly and simply says, “Let’s operate.”
The sweeping speed lines, the angle of his rising face, and the way this small panel of swift action contrasts the one before it almost conjures a theme song in the reader’s mind. That’s what it did for me, at least, blasting the fanfare of decisive movement.
Whatever slim faults there may be over the course of 300-plus pages, it’s still clear that I’m in for more treats from the master every time a new volume of Black Jack arrives. Anyone that hasn’t fallen in love with Tezuka’s art by the first volume—a common complaint from those weened on newer titles—surely will have by now, and the stories he tells here are timeless. Get some Black Jack in your life right now.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Osamu Tezuka
© 2009 by Tezuka Productions