“Is There A Doctor In The House?” – Black Jack (manga) – 9/10 Pumpkin Pies


Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. ~Maria Robinson

Mangaka: Osamu Tezuka

Genre: Action/Drama/Medical/Shounen

Review Status: Incomplete (9 Volumes/17 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US.

Art: This is Tezuka- very cartoonish, with round faces and exaggerated expressions. He will throw in visual gags with the panels or in faces, or even in background items. It’s easy to read and follow. The actual medical art is fairly detailed and anatomically accurate.

Summary: Black Jack is an “unregistered” doctor with a clouded, mysterious past. He works with his little assistant Pinoko (who has a massive crush on the doctor), dealing with medical cases not very well known, which can be strange, dangerous, or not known at all. But he is a genius, and can save almost any of his patients’ lives (as long as they have the money for it, that is), and is known to many around the world, especially to those of medicine and science. He’s a man of science himself, and does not believe much until he has seen it, yet it is many times he is surprised by love and nature often overpowering the science he bases his life in. (ANN.com)

Review: Black Jack- a man both sunned and reviled for his apparent unrivaled greed and lack of a license, yet admired for his God-like prowess with surgical tools, saving lives like nobody’s business, holding to a moral compass that’s nigh inscrutable and dealing out justice where he deems fit. He is part cowboy and vigilante in his dealings. Yet even with his skills, he cannot save everyone, either because it simply is their time or his patients have no desire to keep going, or even unfortunate accidents that prevent his cases from surviving. Each loss hurts him deeply, and fuels his need to be the best and keep working and to keep people alive.

This manga is more of an anthology of Black Jack’s cases. There is no particular running storyline, with Pinoko, the young teratoma-cum-girl the only thing that gives it any sense of time. Each volume seems to have a theme to it, one containing stories that mostly deal with how Black Jack is shunned by society, another that has various stories dealing with the will to live, and the thematic elements give it something interesting since Tezuka manages to deal with them in so many different ways.

Not only are the stories wonderfully created, with Tezuka dealing with morality and even the occasional theological question in captivating stories, but the characters manage to pull it off well. I admit to having no fondness for Pinoko, the often-annoying comedic relief, but Black Jack himself a man with many sides to him. His greed is tempered by his kindness, often receiving his ‘payment’ in forms that allow his poorer patients to breathe a sigh of relief. Those who are corrupt or evil will often find themselves at the mercy of some trickery or deception that leaves them in unfortunate predicaments.

Even when the stories focus on those he treats, there is often something compelling to their stories and their desperation. It’s easy to see why they are acting the way they do, and how Black Jack comes off to them- why he has the heartless reputation he does.

The only thing that irks me the slightest bit is how Black Jack is supposedly an unknown doctor except to the richest and most desperate. In virtually every story, though, somebody knows who he is, which flies in the face of that.

Overall, this is a fascinating medical drama that manages to show all the nuances of life, even in the face of death.

Recommended:
13+. There’s about one d-word per volume, and in the nine volumes I read, only three instances of any other language. No f-bombs. Patients do die, from old men to children. This deals with death in all its forms, from execution to suicide to congenital defects and diseases. The manga also holds a lot of medical information and procedures. Surgery of all sorts is performed, but is no more gruesome than a medical textbook. There is violence occasionally, with people being shot, crushed underneath beams, bitten by animals… if it can hurt you, it will appear in here.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Ode to Kirihito (manga)
Team Medical Dragon (manga)
Monster (anime and manga)

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