Monday, May 21, 2012

Manga Monday: Even Doctor Black Jack makes mistakes sometimes

From pickpockets to fugitives to yakuza, our favorite unlicensed doctor works on all types in Black Jack Volume 4.

Note:  Black Jack Volume 4 is, of course, the sequel to Black Jack Volume 3.  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, and the review for Black Jack Volume 3 is here.  Otherwise, read on!

In 'False Image,' Black Jack attends his grade-school reunion.  As the students reminisce about what led them to be successful, the conversation keeps turning back to Mr. Shima.  Word was that he left in disgust after he uncovered proof that the principal was taking bribes for admission.  Black Jack is tasked with finding the teacher, and is shocked when he finds the shell of a man that he has become.  Will Black Jack be able to get him presentable in time for the next reunion?

In 'Thieving Dog,' a stray mutt steals the umbrella from a man reading a book on the sidewalk.  She gets chased into the street and his hit by a car, right in front of Black Jack and Pinoko.  Pinoko throws a fantastic tantrum until Black Jack agrees to bring the dog home, and he eventually fixes her up.  Largo, so named because Black Jack has never seen such a lazy dog, seems to have a bit of a problem with stealing things.  When she runs off with the necklace that Black Jack has just received in appreciation of a procedure, will Black Jack be able to teach her not to take things that aren't hers?  Or is there perhaps a reason for this behavior?

And in 'Lost and Found,' a man is doing whatever it takes to save his wife.  He's heard of Black Jack and his abilities, and he's also heard about Black Jack's exorbitant fees.  He and his son sell everything they own, including the house that he built himself, just to try to save the woman they love.  He draws a check for the full amount and heads to the train to Black Jack's to deliver payment.  The envelope with the check ends up in the trash at the train station, and even after a day of digging through the trash, he admits defeat and heads to Black Jack empty-handed.  Will he be able to strike a deal with the heartless doctor?

Once again we see a good mix of stories here.  As we start to think Black Jack is completely heartless, we are reminded of the woman he loved and lost.  When we think he's always cool and collected, he almost chokes working on someone he cares about.  Tezuka does an amazing job keeping his characters human, and keeping the series fresh.

Highs:  Sometimes the best treatment is no treatment at all, and reminding the patient of what she has to lose

Lows:  It's hard to watch how cruel some of the other characters can be sometimes

Verdict:  More of the high-quality storytelling that we've come to expect from Tezuka

Further Reading:  The Book of Human Insects

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