Manga of the Month: Black Jack

 Black Jack (ブラック・ジャック) by Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka has an incredibly diverse body of work. There are his high-profile children’s works like Kimba the White Lion, Astro Boy, and Princess Knight. While they don’t talk down to their audience they are clearly for children. You then have his strictly seinen works like MW, Adolf, and Swallowing the Earth. They are clearly for an adult audience with mature themes. But Black Jack sits firmly in the middle of these two extremes. It ran in a shonen magazine but it reads more like a seinen title. It has a fine balance between that make in an extremely accessible but weighty classic.

Black Jack is not just a genius surgeon. He is the quintessence of a genius surgeon. When you have a medical issue that no one else can handle you go to Black Jack. There are only two catches. He is an unlicensed surgeon and therefore his services exist outside the law. The other is that he is astronomically expensive. He charges millions of dollars for his services. While he is not a complete bastard, as he often waves his fee for people honestly in need, he hardly advertises that fact. The manga is mostly episodic tales of Black Jack’s strange cases with everything from operating on terrorists in the sewers to dealing with ectoplasmic patients.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #095

hisuiconThe Tatami Galaxy was a quirky show all the way through but also an entertaining show all the way through. It might take a few episodes to get used to the sometimes light speed pace of the narrator’s dialog or the Groundhog’s Day time loop but if you can make it past 3 episodes and want a 4th you are probably home free. The thing I found most interesting was that about half way through I knew exactly how the series would end. I predicted how the series would end and it played out pretty much exactly how I thought it would. But I took this as a positive more than a negative. It was clear that the series had themes and messages they were being built-in the series and the reached a climax and resolution that tied everything together in a charming fashion. I think the series appeals to anyone who wonders what their life would be like if they just changed one thing. It shows how it is not the little decisions that you should agonized over having made but grabbing the opportunities in front of you. The Tatami Galaxy is going to be a show that pops up on people’s I can’t believe you have not seen this lists for years to come. It will never be anything close to a mainstream success but it will be remembered by those who enjoy it.  It is a great anime for anyone who wants something with an art house vibe but with an upbeat and comedic attitude.

I caught up to (though I’m still not sure how I fell behind) Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated this week with episodes 5 and 6. The fifth installment is a quirky and fun episode involving the “spookifying” of kids throughout Crystal Cove by a mysterious figure of legend called Que Horrifico. Parents are leaving town left and right and we are once again introduced to the tourist attraction concept of letting the mystery go unsolved. I was glad to see the revival of the gang disguising themselves to catch the culprit. The ending chase sequence is really well stylized and quite scary. The less scary but more plot heavy episode 6 was a real treat. It is prom time and there is a ghost girl on the loose whisking off unwitting teenage boys. At the same time a new girl called Alice arrives in town and instantly develops an attachment to Fred. No surprise to see more relationship stuff in this episode, but Velma’s overbearing girlfriend act is starting to be more grating than amusing. I was glad to see Daphne, who is probably my favorite character at this point, taking the initiative in seeking out more information on Mr. E’s clues. And the random appearance of one of her sisters who is in the military was hilarious. The ghost girl culprit is tied to a past case, and by past I mean original Scooby Doo past, references to which hadn’t really been brought up since the first episode. There is also a mysterious twist at the end and we meet a henchman of Mr. E. This episode really adds a lot of information to the overarching case that Mr. E is leading them to. Episode 6 was really stand out and shows what this show can do.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #039

I just got the third hard cover special edition of Black Jack. It’s Black Jack therefore it is awesome. As with any episodic series you will have you ups and downs. Some stories are amazingly powerful or stunningly cool. Other are quickly forgettable or even downright uninteresting. I have yet to see a bad review of a Black Jack book and you won’t see one here. The real question is whether or not the limited edition is worth the additional eight dollars. They are but there is no reason to pay through the nose when they become rare. The hard covers are well designed and you get a little hard to find bonus story in each book. But the extras stories aren’t that amazing if you have to pay a lot more to get them. Black Jack as a whole is worth what ever you have to pay to get it but there is no need to get crazy. And unless you can’t get over Osamu Tezuka’s old school art style, there is no reason not to go out and read Black Jack.

I am slowly going through all that CMX has to offer by manga-ka Nari Kusakawa. I read the first book of Palette of 12 Secret Colors. It is about an island that houses the most beautiful birds in the world. Along with them they train wizards (called palettes) who use the birds’ bright colors to change ordinary things, like cloth and rocks, into precious treasures that are sought the world over. We follow Cello, a wizard in training, who is anything but ordinary. Her magic doesn’t work like anyone else so she has a hard time learning the basics (she is so bad she has been held back a year in school) but her unique abilities get her into some interesting situations. Cello is a great lead, she is positive, funny, and easy to love. Dr. Guell, who is obviously the love interest, is blunt but funny and caring, so much so you can’t help but root for these two to come together. It continues to show her ability to weave fantasy, romance, and a little comedy into a charming combination. This series is after Recipe for Gertrude and you can really see her art style becoming more refined. I am looking forward to getting the rest in the series.

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