Black Jack: The Movie – Performance Comes with A Cost

Ok, I’m going to be honest with all of you on two things. The first one is this post is a replacement for the Kyousougiga post that I really wanted to write. Wanted to, but have continually failed time and time again. The problem is that this is one of the few times that I’ve ever had a loss for words on what to say on something when writing about on something for this blog. Usually I would dive in and see what happens when I write it, but I’ve been staring at too many blank word processer screens when doing that with this series for that to work. There is just something that goes beyond explanation when writing about this series. Even compared to Kaiba and Tatami Galaxy where the words just flew for me. With that thought, go look at Irina’s post and Pinkies’ post from a while ago. Two more talented bloggers that knew how to tackle Kyousougiga unlike me. That one random guy in the corner.

The second one is watching and talking about Black Jack: The Movie means talking about an absolutely tone-deaf subject thing in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic we are facing right now. That should tell you a lot what this movie is about. An epidemic with a massive, corporate conspiracy behind it. Not what is actual truth of this virus, but what some stupid people think could be the case. This is an adaptation of a character from the great mind of Osamu Tezuka and directed by the amazing Osamu Dezaki. It’s a 90-minute movie with the sole focus on the famous and intelligent, but unlicensed doctor by the name of Black Jack (Kuro Hazama) working hard with professionals to solve an epidemic from the super human virus. It’s a virus that started with normal people over performing in the Olympics, then many other things, then the reality hitting them. Their insides aging is the end result of the disease.

The most interesting thing about the beginning of this movie is how Black Jack didn’t want to even get involved with it. This film starts with Black Jack off to heal people for business while the little girl living with him, Pinoko, is watching the super human feats from the Olympics. He also gets a mysterious phone call from a certain Joe Carol Brane to work for him. A call that he ignores until it’s too late. A patient that he helped a while ago, a young girl whose an astounding artist, came down with the disease and he didn’t know what to do with it. After yet another operation and the sudden appearance of the female Joe Carole Brane, Black Jack is immediately recruited to join a group of talented doctors from different parts of the world to solve the secret of the virus.

Black Jack is a ninety-minute movie and moves at a very fast pace. Yet with those ninety-minutes, it does a lot of work. It establishes some side characters, Black Jack himself in a short manner, has some cool action shots to show where the virus comes from and who wants to keep it quiet, has a lot of good operating scenes, gives patients time to feel like real people, and a lot more. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t have a single second of breathing room so you have to pay attention to every second of it to get the full context of the next scene. Also, the movie is hyper focused on one singular goal, telling the tale of the virus. You know, all of it. How it effects the people who have it, how the families of the victims get increasingly desperate, the medical team handling the problems, and larger things I don’t want to share any spoilers about. It’s a very well thought out movie.

The major problem is that the film is too fast and hyper focused. So yes, the movie tells you a complete story with a possible cliff hanger towards the end to a future movie that doesn’t happen. Because of this singular focus, the movie isn’t that deep or explore any unknown territory. The world is mostly known or enters the world through a battering ram. Except for some twists you probably don’t expect because you feel like the movie is setting up something, there are no surprises in this film at all. That doesn’t mean that the film itself doesn’t have anything to say that is meaningful. Oh no, this is an adaptation of a Tezuka property. It’s just that the message that the watcher has probably heard before and that’s ok.

I feel like Black Jack: The Movie has done Osamu Tezuka incredibly proud from a subtext level. The story isn’t just getting his famous doctor to solve a virus case and then go home. It’s more human than that. There is a lot more into the history of the virus then that. The history of greed, trying too hard to push forward a goal without ever thinking about the consequences, and the political consequences too. Just don’t yet Black Jack: The Movie as your go to to explain the Coronavirus, ok? Let’s not be stupid here and just have fun talking about a good film. You know, this film. Smart, focused, too fast, but predictable and unpredictable at the same time.

I don’t usually talk about the voice cast, but I watched this filmed dubbed. This wasn’t a choice that I felt immediately sure about at first, but the dub was absolutely solid. Black Jack was voiced by the talented and very underrated Kirk Thornton who carried a lot of the dramatic weight of the film through his voice acting. I feel like he’s played a lot of side roles, so it’s nice to see him take a main role for once. Black Jack seemed to be in his late 20’s, early 30’s in the film so Kirk’s grown up, intelligent voice worked. As this was a small cast, the important role of Joe Carol Brane was from the Major, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn herself. I really just do love how her voice exudes this sort of intelligence and confidence naturally. The kind the character needs to work because that’s how this character functions. Those two are at the core of this series, but the side characters are well casted too. They just aren’t as important to the story over all.

Joe Carol Brane and Black Jack

I feel like this is my third favorite edition of older/Tezuka like character designs in a series or movie. Black Jack: The Movie is from 1996 and it updated the characters to look a lot more realistic. The older standard, large noses from the old anime art style are there, but in a more realistic sort of way. Also, Black Jack is still distinguishable from everyone else even if he looks more realistic too. Each character have a larger feeling of heft to them so they move with a lot of weight behind their character models. The world is treated like this too. The world is realistic, the mechanical designs when they appear are stellar, and have some excellent weight to them. It all fits the heavily realistic tone the show is going for. Some with dezaki 4:3 expressive still frames. There is a lot of his standard sort of emotional and expressive still frames in this movie and I want to make them backgrounds for my computer.

Black Jack: The Movie gets a good rating for me. It’s a wonderful and well-done story for one of Tezuka’s famous anime characters. One that I didn’t know a lot about either, so it feels like a good origin story and/or way for people to learn about this character. A simple character, but one that comes with a lot of thought and meaning for why they do things. That’s enough honestly. Black Jack: The Movie is a great movie that suffers from its hyper focused nature and it’s time limit, but it doesn’t suffer a lot from it. I am honestly sort of astonished that this movie didn’t become some kind of mid 90’s classic because it’s honestly stunning and very expressively made with a lot of attention paid to detail. It’s not a Macross Plus, but it has human emotions and impact to it that a lot of the best movies have. Just needed a little more time in the even to be complete. (I’ve been baking recently, sue me.) It’s still somewhat tone-deaf to watch this film, but I’m glad it took the subject matter seriously.


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16 thoughts on “Black Jack: The Movie – Performance Comes with A Cost

  1. Kirk Thornton is also one of my favorite VAs, especially for his role as Hajime Saito in Rurouni Kenshin. That alone intrigues me enough to watch this movie, even though I’ve never seen Black Jack before. The only Tezuka work I’ve ever watched is Dororo, both the original anime and the remake, and those were great.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, he was perfect as Saito too.

      Also, I’ve been trying to watch more and more Tezuka things recently after watching Dororo. There is just so much to dig into from different perspectives.

      I hope you enjoy Black Jack: The Movie if you get to it!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, I was not expecting to see a Black Jack post from you Scott! First off, I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much for being ‘tone deaf’. Some people are coping better watching medical based stories in this time, and some are avoiding them. I wouldn’t be too worried about that aspect.

    It’s been awhile since I’ve watched this myself. It’s still a stunning film seeing your screenshots and how well they’ve held up over the years. I do agree with the hyper focused plot, then again that tends to be the game when it comes to Black Jack stories. Focus on one issue, and only one, finish it and move to the end. So to see it embodied in film it makes sense that it would be a bit more of an issue.

    I really appreciate your analysis! It really made my day to see Black Jack pop up today!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been slipping more Tezuka related things in my daily diet :). Even started reading some Astro Boy since I saw 8 volumes of the manga on sale a little while ago. Had to jump on it.

      And fair enough. :).

      Yes, I agree. Hyper focused seems to be highly possibly considering that Black Jack is a simple, but complex enough character to build stories off of in that capacity. I suppose there is a difference between an episode and a move, because I can see him being apart of many singular sorts of episodes and story arcs.

      Not that it’s a bad movie, it’s quite good. I really did like it a lot and even dad who watched it with me was into it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That sounds like something I should be adding back into my own lol. I’m glad you were able to snag 8 volumes of it for cheap!

        I’m more familar with the manga, so the way you described it without having read the series or watched (?) is incredibly accurate. He works best as someone who remains the connecting thread, but is characterized by who and what he’s interacting with. A really fascinating look at how episodic stories can build a character when done right.

        I’m glad your dad got into it too! My mom tried her hand back in the day with reading the manga, but got pretty over whelmed. She still thought he was a cool dude though.

        Like

      2. Oh, it’s mainly because I’ve watched a lot of series like that which do a similar thing of having a single character reference? Like, I can feel Black Jack would be like that. The original Kino’s Journey is my favorite anime, but Kino is the character we follow as they go through other people’s journey.

        My dad likes watching anime in general, so didn’t take that much to coerce him into watching :).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember watching this years ago when I first got into anime. I don’t remember to much about it beyond thinking it was pretty good. The one thing I do remember (spoilers ahead) is the performance enhancing nature of the issue he is dealing with. I remember this because at the time I was taking an exercise physiology course, and the professor showed us a study of professional and semiprofessional athletes, that showed a majority would use a performance enhancing substance if they wouldn’t get caught and even if it shortened their life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the believability is what makes it so interesting to because it’s slightly above being unrealistic. I mean, the guy who broke the speed record for track killed himself after the operation to save him was complete. It really is a human story.

      Like

  4. Yes! Black Jack! I’ve seen multiple episodes of the TV series, but not the OVAs or movies and I heard they were great. This certainly would be a relevant watch given the state of the world. I do want to review something from the Black Jack series since I liked what I saw as well as some bloggers thinking I only focus on a certain other Tezuka project. Okay, I did review a short film compilation, but that’s not what I got a reputation for with anibloggers and film critics. Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, you certainly have a reputation for sure. 😁.

      I’ve been trying to get into more Tezuka recently. This was a step and definitely a good one, but I’ve also got a few volumes of Astroboy on sale a few weeks away. It certainly goes places. That’s for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, and I’ve certainly earned it despite that particular Tezuka work not being in my top 10 favorite anime series. Then again, last year REALLY didn’t help when I realized how the controversy was far bigger than I expected and didn’t just involve that anime let alone the existence of that remake which I heard was atrocious anyway.

        Sure thing. I’m actually reading Barbara when I have some spare time. Some of his manga is quite out there, to say the least. Black Jack is good from what I saw, but I heard the 90s adaptations were darker. New volumes? Was that for the anime or the manga?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There was a video I saw somewhere that the Disney movie in question was supposed to me an adaptation of the Tezuka work. Something changed mid production though. I will send the link through email if I find it.

        I’m not sure about the Astroboy manga I got. Like, it does have original Astroboy manga, but also has a Tezuka character, himself, talking before each new chapter or arc.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Gotcha. I did hear about that in some of the articles I checked out, but even Disney still denied it. That change must have involved Tezuka’s death in 1989 when he was directing the first remake of that series. One of the co-directors of [rip-off movie] even lived in Japan during the 80s, so there was no way he didn’t know about that character or Tezuka. I did see your email and I will check it out tomorrow. I certainly don’t want to repeat myself with some of my posts or my reviews of that series, but I’ll give you my thoughts after I watch it in that email.

        I see. It also seems that emanga/DMP licensed a TON of Tezuka works and alot of them are cheap to pick up. Some of my favorites that I read so far are Brave Dan and Captain Ken. I didn’t know Tezuka wrote himself into the Astro Boy manga. Haha! That’s nice. Random fact about Astro Boy, did you know that Mega Man was based on him and Capcom created that character as an homage when they couldn’t secure the rights to the first ever anime TV show character?

        Liked by 1 person

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