Adapted from the manga by "Godfather of Animé", Osamu Tezuka
Black Jack is a medical-drama science-fiction piece. Our protagonist, known as "Black Jack", is a mercenary surgeon who lives a reclusive lifestyle with a little girl named Pinoko. He commands huge prices for his work and is exceedingly skilled at what he does.
The primary plot covers our protagonist's experiences as he is commissioned to discover the cause of a new phenomenon that causes people to exhibit super-human talents. This delves into some medical whys and wherefores that someone with no knowledge of biology will just let wash over them. To some people this may sound like the scientific jargon that is thrown around in Star Trek, but most of it seems like moderately sane science. There are a couple of things that seem a little far fetched but it's not that difficult to suspend disbelief if you have been watching animé with giant robots saving the world or magical sailor scouts.
I personally liked the film as medical things interest me. There are depictions of surgery that are for the most part not particularly gory; there is however graphic violence and blood in the film. If the idea of people dying of disease and bullet holes turns your stomach then don't watch this. Having said that, I don't believe that any of the violent content is gratuitous.
Created by Osamu Tezuka, arguably the Godfather of Animé, it is not surprising that the animation and art style in the movie are really well done. Computer effects are integrated well, the only really obvious computer work in it, being some of the water textures and pixilated images that are being looked at through a view screen. Those people paying attention will recognise a reference to premiere animé, "Astro Boy" which is created by the same artist. A sly parody is also made of Star Wars.
Copyright 1996, this seems to be set in an alternate reality. It covers events that happen from 1996 to 1998. To viewers now it may seem like a piece designed to be futuristic. It comes across as being a little dated, but this far less ridiculous than Space1999.
Some critics will find the plot of this movie under explained. Why has the protagonist got scars all over his face? How did he get his extraordinary skill? Why does he have a little girl living with him? The reason for this is because these are characters from a series of comics. A movie cannot capture all of this back-story and present it in a way that wouldn't come across as cheesy. In my analysis the film works well as a stand-alone piece, and those elements of back-story are unnecessary to the plot.
Cheese value, I believe, is something that this story is lacking. The characters are believable and sincere and for the most part, the plot follows logical progressions. The themes get a little strained as we get a barrage of rants, toward the end of the movie, about environmental responsibility, but I didn't allow that to destroy my viewing experience.
Black Jack is a thinker's animé that will probably be favoured by those of us who prefer our cartoons on the darker side. It's not as flashy as Ghost in the Shell is, or as psychological as Perfect Blue, but all in all it's worth watching.
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