Otaku USA Magazine
Black Jack Volume 6

It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting on the couch reading Black Jack volume 5, so I was a little shocked when the next one came my way like some mist-born apparition. Then I sat and thought about how I live in a world where Black Jack is released regularly in thick, 300+ page volumes, and that’s a pretty awesome fact to mull over. Try it. As with its predecessors, this collection of medical thrills is packed to the gills with frightful maladies to which only ONE man can tend. Jack’s tales dig deeper than that, though, and that, my friends, is why we love him.

This volume is equal parts cynical and hopeful. It has its dark places, but light shines in others, and maybe that’s the end result of producing such a large body of work centered on a single character whose occupation holds such wild narrative opportunities. Quite a few chapters continue to bemoan the inadequacies of the medical system and the lack of oil in “The Machine” in general, but others, like the train-nuisanced “Vibration”, may flip some readers’ expectations in that regard.

Getting back to darker waters, “A Body Turning to Stone” contains one of the more chilling conclusions to date. A young boy whose body is slowly hardening has only one way out of his predicament, and that’s via a full-on brain transplant. This operation would require the fresh body of another child, though, and the village isn’t exactly filled to overflowing with near-dead kids. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that putting a “rush order” on one isn’t something the ailing boy’s father is above considering.

The issue of Black Jack’s medical license, or rather the lack thereof, comes into major play in the latter half of this volume. In “Revenge”, Jack is locked up for not heeding the Japan Medical Association’s final warning, insisting that he take the exam and become licensed at last. With Japan’s best surgeon behind bars, now would be a really bad time for an extreme case to pop up,  and that’s precisely when it does. However, the JMA chairman won’t budge on this matter, no matter how much the patient’s father begs and pleads.

So where does Black Jack stand when moral quandaries like these rear their ugly heads? He seems mighty unscrupulous in some instances,BlackJack6_COVER-m but he also clings tightly to his own personal convictions. One of the more intriguing facets of BJ is the air of mystery that still surrounds him. Tezuka can go into laborious detail about any one aspect of his life and still have the reader coming away from it with an enigmatic perspective on the character and his motivations.

Black Jack volume 6 is a pleasure to read from beginning to end. There’s maybe one lazy panel in an otherwise expertly crafted collection, and while I can’t decide if there really were more standout tales in the last one, this has enough succinctly told stories to keep the car running for some time. With this series, Tezuka created a world that can be simultaneously detailed and meticulous about its subject matter in one chapter, and outlandish to the point of science fiction (see: something like “Nadare”) in the next.

After straight up loving the series for six volumes, I’d love to be able to pick it apart and find something to moan about for a change, but that would be like pointing out a couple of stray nose hairs on an otherwise attractive face. Plain and simple: just go get you some Black Jack.

Publisher: Vertical Inc.

Story & Art: Osamu Tezuka