A new volume of Black Jack means another volume filled with stories of our favorite medical mercenary saving lives, fighting against corporate greed and cover-ups, family betrayals and “legitimate” doctors pitting their pride against Black Jack.
Some of the stories that exemplify these themes are “The Two Pinokos”, where Black Jack meets the girl who he modeled Pinoko appearance from. She and the people of her village are dying from beryllium poisoning, and the corporation responsible will do anything to keep that fact from getting out. In “Hurricane”, a young wife wants Black Jack to keep her old husband alive, but only until she can get him to make her his beneficiary. Comeuppance theater ensues. And in “Black and White”, a “reputable” Doctor takes a patient away from Black Jack, believing he is saving him from a quack, but gets in way over his head.
The main theme of this volume though, seems to involve animals. In several of the stories, Black Jack is either working on an animal to save it directly, or saves a person important to an animal. “A Cat & Shozo” has Black Jack encountering a man who is suffering from Cerebral Hematoma. As a result, he has come to believe that a family of stray cats is the wife and children he lost in an accident that destroyed their home. This story is more on the humorous side, as the mother cat is shown trying to be like a wife, such as doing the shopping, and fortunately has a happy ending for all. The second story, “Goribei of Senjogahara” isn’t so uplifting. Black Jack becomes involved with, Goribei, a monkey that has been attacking people for milk. A hunter has been sent to kill Goribei, but Black Jack discovers the truth and tries to save him and his children. No happy ending for this one. The third story, “A Hill for One”, splits the difference. Black Jack is asked by his old elementary school teacher to help re-forest a mountain sloped cleared by the government for the Winter Olympics. At first, Black Jack refuses, until he is saved by Taro, a bear who lives on the mountain. Black Jack agrees, but then Taro is taken off the mountain, and it’s up to him to save the old bear. This story has a bitter-sweet ending.
These stories offer a good example of why Black Jack continues to be so entertaining. There is no certainty that things are going to work out the Black Jack or the reader wants it to. We all want the happy ending of the first story, but life doesn’t always work out that way. Tezuka does a great job of showing both life’s ups and downs, keeping this episodic series from getting into a rut.
This volume also give us another glimpse into Black Jack’s past, as well as his motives. “Unexploded Bomb” explains why Black Jack needs so much money. It shows what happened to him and his mother, and now he is seeking revenge for his mother, who could not be saved as he was. He takes a very “eye for an eye” approach, as he traps the man the found was responsible in a mine field. The story ends ominously, with Black Jack stating “…four more to go.” This story makes Black Jack a little more sympathetic. He’s not just greedy, trying to fleece people for money. He has a purpose, a goal. You don’t have to agree with his purpose, but you certainly can see how he would feel justified in what he’s doing.
Black Jack continues to be a fantastic read. Even after 6 volumes, it’s a hard book to put down. The stories are so engaging, and the continued hints about Black Jack himself are just fascinating. Tezuka’s masterful story-telling really shows in this series as he continues to create episodic, yet engrossing stories, that leaving you wanting more.