Black Jack 14

November 10, 2011

Osamu Tezuka – Vertical – 2011 – 17 volumes

I am behind on my Black Jack reviews! And my Tezuka reviews in general. I’ve got two more volumes of Black Jack to talk about, plus the new Book of Human Insects. And I should probably talk about the last of the bilingual volumes of Princess Knight before I get my Vertical volume one in the mail, so that I can pretend for just a little longer that the one I’m getting is one of the other two versions of Princess Knight and not the one I already own.

But admittedly, what can I say about Black Jack that I haven’t already? It’s pretty consistent all the way through. Then again, it’s consistently awesome, so every volume is worth reading.

Why is this volume worth your time? Well, Black Jack gets married, he saves Dr. Honma’s daughter from a really weird swelling disease, and he delivers a baby on a raft that has run aground on some rocks in the middle of a river during a flash flood. That story’s almost as great as the one where he operated on himself with dingoes bearing down on him. One of the stories ends with a bad man getting sucked into a jet engine.

Sometimes, Black Jack morality still bothers me, though. There’s a Kiriko story. At the beginning, Black Jack is brought in to operate on a patient who has been vegetative for 55 years. He says he can do it, but he only has a 3%-5% chance of success, and he would have to charge the hospital. The hospital can’t afford to pay him, and he says he doesn’t want to do a useless operation, so he leaves. On the way out, he runs into Dr. Kiriko, who has been called in for euthanasia on the same patient. The hospital can’t afford to keep the man alive anymore, since it costs them $6,000 a month and the man has no living relatives. For some reason, Black Jack decides to do an operation, one that lasts 18 hours and gives this man a 95% chance of dying, gratis when he learns that Kiriko has been called in. Maybe he wasn’t told the hospital couldn’t afford to keep the man alive anymore? Is euthanizing him via Dr. Kiriko less humane than shutting off his life support? And at the end of the story, the man wakes up for a second, cries, ages rapidly while asking why they even woke him up, and then dies.


The last story in the volume is another interesting one, where Black Jack runs into another doctor just like himself. He champions the cause of a young girl who attempts suicide over her grandmother’s care, but finds out the treatment is being handled by a doctor who deals with the reality of their situation: the grandmother is terminal, and the family can’t afford any treatment. Black Jack is devastated to hear his own lines from another mouth. I was a little puzzled by this. He is frequently compassionate, of course, but just as often he does deny treatment to normal people, or charge an outrageous fee to people who can’t afford it, but agree to it anyway. Often the money has a moral price tag as well, but just as often it does not. So why is he so shocked that someone else is acting this way?

But the puzzles are part of the fun of Black Jack. Every single one of the stories is worth reading, and every volume of this series is an absolute pleasure when it arrives. It’s interesting, bizarre, and educational, and I can’t recommend it enough to those looking for an interesting, somewhat literary read.

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