Black Jack (1993) – A Good, Traveling Doctor

You guys remember when I wrote the Black Jack Movie post? The one from Osamu Dezaki? A post I wrote about a pretty great movie that I think about and remember pretty fondly. When I said I was interested in checking out Dezaki’s OVA series around it, I never expected that to actually happen. To my surprise, it appeared on RetroCrush and I just had to watch it. No questions asked. With every single 45+ minute episode that I watched, I had one of the best times watching anime in such a long, long time. I didn’t feel exhausted by anime at all when I first started it, but I feel like I found something that was missing from my anime watching experience. Somehow, I felt complete. These ten episodes, because I want to save Black Jack Final for another day, are things I can’t recommend enough. Yeah, I spoiled my rating but whatever.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Black Jack, he’s a character thought up by the great god of Manga, Osamu Tezuka. The character’s name is Kuro Hazama and Tezuka used some of his for medical knowledge, because he studied medicine, to bring Kuro to life. Of course, the character’s name I will be using throughout the review is Black Jack. An unlicensed doctor that will take up any medical challenge as long as the price is right. He is that loner doctor out in the world that only top-class people can hire or the doctor that will heal people depending on the circumstances for as low as $1 per medical case. That variability is what makes him so interesting. What will his morals be this time? Will he bribe the richest people? Will he help the poor who have no money? Either way, there is a lot to uncover.

Black Jack (1993) is a series that ran from 1993 to 2000 and, as mentioned earlier, is an ova made out of 10 almost feature lengthened episodes. Each one is only attached to each other through characters that may or may not spill out from one episode to another maybe. Each story is different from each other in different ways. Some feature a mysterious disease that appeared from nowhere, others feature a war in the South American Jungle for independence where Black Jack is tasked with keeping a revolutionary alive, another features Black Jack dreaming about samurai in a snow storm, and others are one where Black Jack is barely featured, and yet another one will feature him fighting for the right of a homeless girl whose legs are failing her to have free medical care. Black Jack is the unknown hero we need.

The worst thing about writing this post? Each episode deserves so much better then to be summarized in a sentence or two. There is so much to think about, to analyze, and to discuss from the large amount of content in them. In a perfect world, I would write about each singular episode in their own posts. Maybe I will someday, because it would be entirely worth it to do so in my mind. Especially since each episode has so many more things going on than just a medical emergency. Surprise! The show would have been so good with just being a medical drama. But no, the show had to go even harder and give us a full movie experience with political plots, military plots, tons and tons of cool backstories in cases, and of course, digging into the lives of his patients with as much respect and care as possible.

As much as I’ve talked about Black Jack in this post, he really is only an observer and not even the central focus to a lot of these stories. Each episode is focused on the patients at the core. Their lives and the people who care about them are why these episodes happen. Black Jack is simply a doctor that provides medical care to help these people to hopefully live out their lives. Mostly everything we learn about Black Jack comes from how he interacts with patients and whether or not he needs to go further. It’s that delicate balance which makes the show so great. When will the balance tips and Black Jack has to go into control mode? A major deal. That tension of whether he does or not creates some intriguing drama that makes it so exciting.

Of course, that leads to some discussion on some of the weaker episodes of the show. Or should I say, those are the episodes focused more on Black Jack then other people. Yeah, those episodes are still decent and allow the audience to learn more about Black Jack. The snowy dream episode shows what the world is like in his imagination and the episode with the mysterious miracle doctor shows how, despite how logical and great Black Jack is, his understanding of medical knowledge is limited by his lack of believing how miracles can just happen without explanation. Its thing you can add to along with his list of having the best medical bedside manner possible, having the utmost respect for other doctors by never talking down about them, and just how cool and charismatic he can be. Through his actions, Black Jack is a wonderfully full rounded character. No wonder so many people, like me, like him.

Of course, Black Jack wouldn’t work as well without some recurring characters. One being the loli, Pinoko. The anime aged loli of 18.The girl who stays with Black Jack, keeps the house warm, and sometimes goes on medical cases with him and gets involved in her own way. She also helps Black Jack do medical care, getting attached to some of the parties in fun ways that make other episodic cast members enduring and such. She has enough time on screen to be like this without being too annoying. The second one of note is the inspector Tomobiki. A person who used to chase after Black Jack, but is just having fun with him now and even helps Black Jack when it’s needed. He’s not just a joke character, but one that carries a lot of meaning too. There are others, but these two sticks out to me the most.

This leads to the insane production values of this show and wow does it look good. I can easily say just look at my Black Jack: The Movie post from earlier and just say ditto. I am not sure if that’s fair enough though. Especially since the production values of this show were great in 1993 with updated Tezuka character designs for the 90’s, having characters move with a lot of weight, great environments and such, but each episode just improved as the episodes moved on. Not to mention how full of mood and dread that each shot feels just by how they are drawn in shadow. This isn’t not an action-based piece of media with great scenes of sakuga, though there are some, because Black Jack 1993 does rely on some still frames and focused in shots of mechanical things. You know, when they still frames are Dezaki still frames full of mood and atmosphere.

Black Jack 1993 is such a great OVA series. I feel like I’ve said enough praises about it at this point with this entire post. The only problem is how each episode is a little different in quality in terms of story and depth, but I think the whole OVA series is great. If anything, I think this Black Jack OVA is one of my favorite pieces of anime that I’ve seen in a while. Ever since Crest and Banner of the Stars amazed me a couple years ago. I will treasure the movie copy that I have for as long as I can until the series gets released again on Blu-ray or something. I would jump on that sort of release in a heartbeat. I guess you could say this would be a solid series.


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13 thoughts on “Black Jack (1993) – A Good, Traveling Doctor

  1. I so wish that I had access to Retro Crush😢😢😢 I keep checking it every week, literally. Another anime that’s been on my watch list for very long…but eh, this one I’m not very likely to see anytime soon. Great post as always Scott!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, the solution is to read the manga lol. I just also need to take a deep breath and see if the show has the ‘essence’ of the manga since that’s what matters.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dezaki behind the wheel (once I re-looked up his name), does give me more reassurance. Especially since he’s done other Tezuka adaptations! Now to just remind myself it’s an adaptation and things naturally change from one media to another lol.

        Liked by 1 person

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