Monday, October 10, 2011

Manga Monday: Black Jack may not have very many friends, but he'll do anything for the ones he has

Black Jack's skills are stretched to the limit treating children, presidents and even whales in Black Jack Volume 2.

Note:Black Jack Volume 2 is, of course, the sequel to Black Jack Volume 1.  The Vertical edition is published not in chronological order, but in the preferred order of Osamu Tezuka, so spoilers are not generally a problem.  The review for Black Jack Volume 1 is here.  Otherwise, read on!

In any collection of stories, there will be better ones and worse ones.  Black Jack is no exception, but the gems here far outnumber the duds.

We get a look into Black Jack's past in "Where art thou, friend?."  Sickly as a child, Kuro'o needs skin grafts to survive.  After his classmates run out of the hospital, making excuses as to why they couldn't possibly donate the grafts themselves, a shy boy named Takeshi steps forward and tells the doctors that he'll donate the skin if it helps Kuro'o.  A nurse points out that because the boy is half-African the skin grafts will never match Kuro'o's own skin, but the doctor is more concerned with saving his patient than vanity.  The boy moves away before Kuro'o is well enough to leave the hospital, but he never forgets the kindness that he was shown when he needed it the most.

The theme of greed that runs through the series is addressed in "Emergency Shelter."  Black Jack goes to the new office building of a businessman to collect payment for a procedure that he performed.  The businessman laughs at Black Jack for not having drawn up a contract for payment, and tells him that he'll get paid eventually, but probably not the ludicrous amount that Black Jack is claiming is owed.  While he's there, black Jack takes a tour of the new, high-tech facility with some investors and other business associates.  When a demonstration goes wrong, and only Black Jack can save them, with they finally value their lives over their money?

Even Pinoko gets her own story in this volume.  In "Pinoko's Challenge," Pinoko gets her certificate for passing a correspondence school, and now she wants to go to high school, or at least a nice finishing school.  black Jack humors her by bribing a school to let her take an entrance exam, ignoring the fact that all her papers say that she is less than a year old.  But can Pinoko stand up to the rigors of a Japanese high school entrance exam?

Black Jack Volume 2 does a very good job of establishing our two main characters for the rest of the series.  While I may not always agree with the morals of each story, there's always something to like.

Highs:  If someone does Black Jack a good turn, he'll more heaven and Earth to pay them back

Lows:  Perhaps, as in Granny, Black Jack goes a bit far to make his point

Verdict:  Some of the stories will stay with you for a long time

Further Reading:  Pluto, Ode to Kirihito

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