Story/Art: Osamu Tezuka
What They Say
Black Jack is a mysterious and charismatic genius surgeon who travels the world performing amazing and impossible medical feats. Through highly trained, he freelances without a license because he disdains the medical establishment. This leads to run-ins with the authorities and unscrupulous, sometimes criminal, individuals. Because Black Jack keeps his true motives secret, his ethics are perceived as questionable and he is considered a selfish, uncaring devil.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
It is hard to say that this volume saved the best for last just because the whole series has so many shining moments. For this final round of house calls the stories gathered examine man as Black Jack watches humanity reacting to the almost miraculous works he has performed. Sometimes his actions lead to people becoming envious to the point of frenzy to capture his work. Sometimes they will learn to love what is before them thanks to him and sometimes even he will be but a bystander as he learns lessons in what humans need most in life.
Possibly the best stories though revolve around the doctor and his assistant Pinoko as the reader learns of her past as well as the depths of Black Jack’s caring for her. To top it all off, there will even be a surprise cameo or two to wink toward the long time fans of the author’s other famous works.
For the final volume the series takes a very hard run at some of its more incredible stories (which for this series is saying quite a bit) as Tezuka allows himself to spend a bit more time in performing fantastical, impossible feats which allow him to approach humanity in a novel and very revealing way. The reader will be treated to some stories that clearly go beyond reality, but after all this time with the character the suspension of disbelief can sit right alongside skepticism with both senses waiting in anticipation to see what this next story will show about the nature of mankind.
It is fairly interesting that Tezuka chooses to examine humanity and its contradictions in nature by using a character who himself is one giant walking contradiction. He is a man who may be the most gifted doctor of any age yet he is shunned by the medical profession. He is incredibly cynical yet always looking for someone to commit an act that will force him to shatter that cynicism, even if just for a little while. He is a man who will do anything if the price is right yet also has a moral standard that can’t be purchased. In these contradictions he is perhaps in the greatest place to examine humanity as a whole as he doesn’t run from his own contradictions or attempt to justify them. He is simply living as he chooses, though that doesn’t mean he can’t judge those he comes into contact with as well.
A last volume of a series can go in a number of directions. Among the options, it can be used to put the crowning moment on the achievement, used to settle loose ends or just continue on as it has and try to send the reader off with a sense of satisfaction with both the volume and the series as a whole. Black Jack opts to use the final option in that regard, though given the emotional nature of the stories throughout the series many of the tales could have been chosen as the last impression to leave and carried it off well. In the end the reader is left feeling like somewhere out there the unconventional doctor is still operating, experiencing to the fullest the best and worst of humanity and continuing to live true to his ideals with Pinoko ever by his side.
Everything ends at some point and even a brilliant series can’t fight that fate forever. However rather than having the volume being one where things wind down the series the volume instead has a highlight of stories that are as powerful- if not more so- than the volumes that came before. Even at the end Black Jack remains true to its conviction of looking hard at humanity and presenting it at its fullest- shortcomings and virtues intact- and leaves the reader in the position of trying to decide how they will accept this record. One can find celebrations and lamentations throughout and come to their own conclusion on if humanity has lived up to its potential. It is a series that will be missed and one that Vertical deserves much praise for putting out with the care and love that they did. Highly Recommended.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Readers Rating: [ratings]