Black Jack can do anything he wants. Money isn’t an issue, and there’s hardly such a thing as going too far to teach the kinds of lessons he deems important. Take the case of one Mr. Ichigahara, for instance. Formerly involved in the disposal of explosives after the war—an operation treated with careless disregard in a populated housing area—he suddenly finds himself entangled in the type of extravagant lesson that could only be pulled off by the world’s most simultaneously renowned and reviled unlicensed surgeon.
No matter how much shock the schooling carries, there’s always a point, and the stories that spur Black Jack’s cause are bleak, often centering on human negligence or greed, the two rarely being mutually exclusive. Of course, there’s more to this particular payback, but discovering it yourself is part of the fun. Black Jack stories like “Unexploded Bomb” are never done twisting and turning until the final panel zips past.
So yeah, he can do anything he wants, but to put it a little more frankly, it’s because he’s an all-around badass. That may sound crude, but it’s true. He’s the original “most interesting man in the world,” only he doesn’t care for fame, and his desire for great fortune is a mythical apparition that constantly comes into question. In this volume alone he does battle with man and beast alike in his quest to live life The Black Jack Way, and he’ll cut you or kiss you depending on which side of his ever wavering line you fall.
This might be my favorite volume of Black Jack yet. Something about it affected me more than the others, though it could be as simple as there being some really bittersweet animal stories within that would tug at most anyone. As before, the chapters continue to paint Black Jack as an increasingly complex character. Just when the reader thinks they have his motives nailed down precisely, he pulls something out of left field that shakes and rattles all preconceived notions to their core.
Stories like “Black and White”, “A Hill for One”, and “The Two Pinokos” are as good as anything Osamu Tezuka developed through his Black Jack run, and they stand out in the company of fellow standouts. There are quite a few individual panels here that I’d consider some of Tezuka’s most effective, as well, some showing the power held in even a simple glare from our deft doctor.
Though I think Black Jack could be picked up and thoroughly enjoyed at any point, I’d recommend taking the long ride through volumes 1-6. Build up some solid familiarity with the character, his recurring aids and foils, and the masterful way that Tezuka keeps his life and practice intriguing, unpredictable, and above all else, thoroughly entertaining. You won’t regret it.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Osamu Tezuka