Featuring the famous doctor by Manga/Anime legend Osamu Tezuka, Black Jack was a notable entry in the mid 90′s anime revolution.
The Black Jack film tells the story of Black Jack, an unlicensed surgeon, attempting to find the origin and cure for a deadly disease. Unlike any other disease encountered before, this particular virus grants the infected with superhuman abilities before causing them to whither away horribly. Working with a large group of world renown scientists, Black Jack discovers that not all is as it seems: the virus didn’t just randomly show up, and it’s up to him to find out why.
Representing one entry in the long-running history of the Black Jack character, the Black Jack anime was a part of a group of movies that bridged the gap between classic-style anime and modern day anime. Featuring character designs reminiscent of the late 80′s/early 90′s and computer-generated images (mostly in surgery scenes), Black Jack has quite a unique presentation amongst its peers. From still images drawn in a dark pencil style to bright, detailed locations to the inner workings of the human body, the art style is simultaneously clean and gritty.
The 2001 DVD transfer is impressive. Bright colors and clean shadows compliment smooth animation and excellent detail to clothing movement. While the character design is reminiscent of late 80′s/early 90′s anime, the backgrounds are solidly mid-90′s in style. Most of the CGI is subtle and doesn’t clash with the traditional drawing style, fitting in nicely with the overall look of the film. The sound mix is equally excellent, with a good balance between voice, effects, and music volume. The low end is slightly weak, however the film has very few actions scenes, so this isn’t too big of an issue. While the Japanese version is preferred, the English dub is quite well done.
Even though the overall storyline would be considered generic at this point, it is still executed well in the context of a mid-90′s anime. The pacing and presentation give you enough information to think you have it figured out, but chances are you won’t be able to guess the fine details. One thing that Black Jack lacks is a side plot; the entire film focuses on the virus and the team of people trying to figure out where it came from and how to stop it. This focus helps keep the film streamlined and prevents it from becoming more complicated than it already is, however it’s disappointing that the storyline wasn’t as deeply explored as it could have been. Keeping in mind that the Black Jack character has a appeared in a large number of Manga and an OVA it works well enough, but it still feels a bit like a missed opportunity. I personally would have preferred the movie to be 15-20 minutes longer, however I suspect I am in the minority with this opinion.
With great animation, entertaining characters, an interesting story, and a unique feel, Black Jack is one anime that deserves a spot on your shelf. The Manga is also highly recommended, although there are a large number of entries, so be prepared to do some hunting if you want the entire collection.