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Black Jack

The Movie

[ production info ]

Copyright: © 1996 Tezuka Productions (Japan) / Shochiku Co., Ltd., © 1999 Manga Entertainment (North America)
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: NR, parental guidance suggested
Format: Japanese Language/English Subtitled (VHS)

Original Story: Tezuka Osamu Director: Dezaki Osamu Producers: Okuyama Kazuyoshi, Matsutani Takayuki Character Design: Tezuka Osamu Medical Supervision: Nagai Akira Character Design/Animation Director: Sugino Akio

[ plot summary ]

The Summer Olympics have come to Atlanta, and world records have begun falling. Not by slim margins, but shattered by previously unknown athletes. No signs of doping or hormone treatments, the public begins to wonder if mankind has progressed to the next stage of evolution: the appearance of the Super-Human.

Two years later, the spread of the Super-Human condition is no longer limited to athletics. Amazing advances in many fields, including the arts and sciences have manifested itself. People of extraordinary talents are appearing from seemingly nowhere, displaying previously unheard of abilities.

But there's a cost to all this success. These Super-humans seem to be afflicted by a common condition; a condition which brings on a rapid, degenerative and violent death. Jo Carol, director of operations of the St. Joel Center, coerces the aid of Dr. Black Jack to find a cure. But there's more to this "disease" than what Dr. Carol is letting on.

[ capsule review ]

Dark. Sombre. Maybe even film noir in its execution, Black Jack: The Movie carries forward the art-house style of direction that we've seen in the OAV series. Cut scenes utilizing a freeze-to-manga style which can be very effective in ending or transitioning, except here, it's so often that it loses its effect, and even becomes annoying. Director Dezaki Osamu also has a penchant for using thermo-graphs to show what's happening to the victims as they succumb to the disease, but again, it would be much more effective if it wasn't used so often. After a while, your mind gets numbed to the whole experience. One thing that did work very well -- a lot of background material is cut in and out with a series of expositionary scenes; these help progress the story without really interfering with the flow.

Many of the minor character roles harken back to the older days of Japanese-style entertainment. Over-the-top, exaggerated dramatics and vocalisations are the norm here, to the point where it can almost be laughable. This is a production that's just crying to be rewritten and re-released as an English dub. The basic material's there; the execution is questionable at best.

And the story? Well, I'm not a doctor, so I can't say that I'm an expert on the realism of the show, but I can say this much: unbelievable. A viral infection that presents itself as a tight, compact growth which can be removed via scalpel? Last time I checked, virus are not much more than bodies of protien, which have to take over host cells to live and divide. Even more oddities appear -- the armed version of Doctors Without Borders, the "MSJ" -- Medical Surgeons of Justice -- who apparently have no qualms about violating the Hippocratic Oath by arming themselves with automatic assault weapons. Go figure.

Character designs aren't all in the comic style as done in the original manga, but are generally much more dramatic, angular and stark. Pinoko, and a pair of Laurel & Hardy comic relief type art collectors are the exception, but the style is much more palatable for the anime audience.

The end result, however, is disappointing at best. The story's unbelievable, and the direction is uneven at best. There's a lot of material here; it's too bad that it's been wasted.
- AN, 2000.03.22

café rating (english subtitled):


2 stars

[2 / 5] - Timely material when it was released, involving a variety of plot elements that can actually make you think. Long on ideas, but short on believability.


2 stars
[2 / 5] - With all this material, it's too bad that most people will be able to figure out what's going on by the time half the show's over. Too many cues give away the plot and who are the good guys/bad guys. Lots of still cut scenes -- so many in fact, that it's annoying. All of this material ties together with a pat, very predictable ending.


3 stars
[3 / 5] - In typical older Japanese fashion, most of the tertiary characters are over-the-top... way over the top. Only the theatrical-quality acting of the two main characters give this any credibility.


4 stars
[4 / 5] - Good quality animation, fluid and smooth. Blackjack has a more severe, human look than Tezuka's manga series, and much of the movie has an almost 'film noir' feel.


3 stars
[3 / 5] - Minimalist in application, accenting the film in just the right spots without taking over the scene. There's so little, that you won't even notice it.


3 stars
[3 / 5] - Translation that captures the intent of the scene, but strangely inconsistant in its accuracy. Even as basic things like Jo Carol's phone number, which gets repeated over and over, gets translated incorrectly. (Well, they did manage to get it right once, but for all the times it was wrong, it was probably a typo.)

Overall Rating:

2 star
[2 / 5] - It's only 90 minutes, but feels much longer. Story plods along at a too-slow of a pace. Good for Black Jack fans, not recommended for folks who like the tight pace of ER. This is a movie that tries desparately to rise above its poor execution, only to fall back into a quagmire of disbelief. - AN, 2000.03.22

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Page last modified 2000.03.22