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Black Jack: The Movie Blu-Ray Anime Review

7 min read

black-jack-blu-ray-coverWhat They Say:
Black Jack is a master surgeon who possesses impeccable skills, enabling him to perform operations that are impossible for even the finest surgeons. He is a man alone and full of mystery, appearing in operating rooms to fulfill his tasks, while charging millions for his secret operations.

He now is faced with his most difficult task to date and must challenge the limits of medical science… before it’s too late! An extraordinary number of intellectual and athletic “Superhumans” have the world caught in awe, wonder, and excitement. These “Superhumans” far exceed the framework of common sense and possess the ability to outperform all of their rivals… but how did they get this way?

Black Jack discovers the truth behind this unusual occurrence… a hideous conspiracy lurking behind this strange genetic phenomenon…. and a dark secret that is about to endanger the existence of all mankind.

This new edition contains both the Japanese language with English subtitles, and the English dub.

The Review:
Audio:
Both the Japanese and English audio played out clearly in 2.0 and presented no distortions during playback.

Video:
The picture is rather nice and bright compared to the previous Manga Entertainment DVD. There is the definite expected improvement in video quality here. Saturation is heightened and lines have more definition in both the foreground and backdrops. Very nice results here.

Packaging:
We get a slipcase package with the original theatrical poster on the front adorned by English text., including the large masthead in the lower thirds. The back has screen shots in the top and lower thirds on a black background. Info from the “What they say” section is found in the middle thirds with technical and credit information taking up the lower area. The inside case is a standard blue blu-ray case. The insert is reversible. One side has the pictures and info from the slipcase. The reverse has an entirely different promo picture of Black Jack on the front, while still retaining the previous back side images and info.

Menu:
The film’s theme song “Invisible Love” by Mai Yamane repeats in the background. There are white text playback options horizontally across the bottom of the screen which has a dark themed background, making everything easy to read. There is a single image of Black Jack himself dominating much of the screen with a couple smaller images displayed vertically on the left side showing the cast as a whole.

Extras:
This was rather cool. We get the trailer from Manga Entertainment’s release of the film. We also get a few of the Japanese theatrical trailers as well, which are fun to compare to the American one since they’ve never been brought over before. Also, the film here utilizes the original Japanese character graphics for the opening and closing sequences. As an extra, we get the English versions which are nice to have except for one thing (which I’ll get to below.)

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Recently, I had the pleasure of viewing a really cool Blu-Ray called Blackjack The Movie. The film focuses on the adventures of an unlicensed doctor who travels the world solving rare and unusual ailments. Black Jack is known throughout the medical world for his incredible expertise and surgical prowess, but due to his licensing situation cannot be publicly acknowledged for any problems he might solve. Many aspiring doctors want to learn from him, while others are disgusted by the fact he charges exorbitant fees for his work.

At first glance, he might be mistaken for anime icon Captain Harlock due to his long forelocks, scarred visage and ebon garb. That’s about where the similarities end however since Black Jack’s personality is not one you’d normally see in a doctor. He can be cold and condescending to his patients both before and after treating them. This demeanor seems to work quite well for him since he’s so methodical when researching as often as he can to save a patient’s life. Basically picture Gregory House without the British background or drug use. Between cases, he spends time reading books and caring for Pinoco, a little girl whose life he saved in a most bizarre medical operation. Suffice it to say she’s an 18 year old girl trapped in a 5 year old’s body, who often refers to herself as his ‘wife’ while taking on the roles of caretaker and business manager at times. If the client doesn’t get past her, Black Jack is less likely to take the case.

This particular story starts with a focus on the 1996 “Atlantis” Olympics, during which single athletes break records in various competitions at an incredible rate. Press outlets call this the emergence of the “Super-Humans.” Soon, others begin to show exceptional abilities in sports, music and other areas. Around the same time, Black Jack operates successfully on teenage art prodigy Lisa Seagill to remove a complicated tumor. Two years later however, Black Jack is called to help Lisa who is in critical condition… and does not survive. Her resulting autopsy reveals startling information that Black Jack can’t understand or explain. Also however, a mysterious woman calls him repeatedly offering little information but a blank check for his services. Since she doesn’t say her name or the exact medical problem, Black Jack refuses to call her back. However, the woman eventually reveals her name as Jo Carroll, and she takes drastic measures to secure his help for what turns out to be a massive problem.

The Black Jack movie was produced in the mid-1990s and was preceded by several OAVs based on the comics created by “the God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Metropolis, Phoenix). Black Jack was one of several characters Tezuka tended to use in a troupe of sorts as one would characterize a group of actors doing various plays. Tezuka was a medical student before he became manga artist, so when the time came to do stories strictly about Black Jack himself, Tezuka already had a strong medical foundation and poured much of his knowledge into those comics. The science in these videos seems pretty sound, but then I’m not a med student so take that for what it’s worth. Still I could handle it about as well as I could deal with watching hospital shows such as ER and Grey’s Anatomy. There’s enough science to complement the stories’ movement while the drama unfolds.

The dramatic element is why I think the team of director Osamu Dezaki and character designer Akio Sugino were perfect for bringing the Black Jack stories to anime life in this period. As evidenced in previous works such as Brother Dear Brother, Rose Of Versailles and (The Professional) Golgo 13, they had this penchant for creating realistic looking people in heavy contrast artwork along implied motion lines, the animation of which stops on painted pieces for dramatic effect, which Dezaki was known to do quite often and referred to as “The Postcard Method.” The pair also loved doing close-up shots of reflective eyes for emotion responses and shiny glares in the upper corners of the frame. Highly detailed backgrounds, split-screens, and perspective pan & zooms were also elements found in their works. I’ve been addicted to this duo’s animation style for many years now and feel its uniqueness is one of the most underrated treasures of the anime industry.

Dezaki collaborated with Eto Mori for the screenplay, which played out in typical fashion for a Black Jack story where he takes on crazy conspiracies with dramatic flair and gets into dangerous situations in the process. It can be a bit too fantastic some times but then again this is the same character who operated on himself once while fending off wild dingos in the manga. As long as you accept this, anything is possible. The voice acting is decent in both Japanese and English.

However, this did lead to one thing I wasn’t happy with. The dub was produced by a group called ZRO Limit. In the credit scroll, various actors are listed, but there is no corresponding listing of who did which role. It took a search of imdb.com to determine that Kevin Thorton did a pretty competent job as Dr. Black Jack with a commanding and determined presence. Also, it was good to hear Mary Elizabeth McGlynn of Cowboy Bebop fame as the determined and manipulative Jo Carroll, while Julie Maddalena was able to portray Pinnoko with a combination of innocence and stubbornness that doesn’t sound too cheesy for a 5 year-old child. I remember when Central Park Media would release the OAVs with little direct recognition of the voice talents but that was in the 90s and 2000s. I don’t understand why this was necessary now.

In Summary:
The voice cast bit is actually a minor annoyance. As a whole, I was very happy for yet another solid release of classic material from Discotek Media and better presentations my inspire newer fans to check out what came before while giving older fans a chance to reminisce about old school fandoms talents and the like. I’m happy to recommend buying Black Jack The Movie as it’s one of the best old school releases of 2016.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Discotek Media / Eastern Star
Release Date: December 6, 2016
MSRP: $24.95
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3

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