Black Jack’s three year journey ends finally comes to an end with these last two volumes. Unfortunately, the good doctor doesn’t go out with a bang, but more of a fizzle, as these last two volumes are the weakest of them all. The stories aren’t bad. They’re just not as engaging.
Like the rest of the volumes in the series, these two volumes feature stories of Black Jack showing up licensed doctors, performing impossible operations and helping the less fortunate, though without the credit. In general, I liked volume 16 more than 17. “Miyuki and Ben” is a typical tragic love story that ends as only a Black Jack story could. “The Nekogami Clan” is a nice homage to horror mystery stories with that Black Jack twist. “I Want My Brother Back!” was my favorite as it mixes tokusatsu shows with Black Jack’s kind nature. In “Cancer Hunter”, Black Jack helps a mother teach her Doctor-son some humility, which I liked, but I was bothered that the son still only did the right thing begrudgingly. But I guess that was also the point. “A Passed Moment” is the longest story in the volume at nearly 100 pages, but really seemed to miss its mark. The story starts out as looking at infantile memories, but then drifts away from this and becomes about Black Jack’s pride and his search for a doctor as talented as him. It’s a real shame too, since the story was off to such a fascinating start, but it ends flat.
It took some thought for me to figure out why I didn’t like Volume 17 as much. None of the stories really stand out, good or bad. I’ve never really liked Pinoko, but her stories in here are especially weak. I understand why “Pinoko Is Adopted” was necessary. There had to be a reason for the cold Black Jack to keep a little girl around, but the story really felt forced. And there are so many unlikable characters in this volume. Usually, that’s not such a problem, since the story would carry the weight of the story, and the unlikable characters were just part of it. But because the stories weren’t as strong this time, the unlikable characters stood out more. The people hunting the girl in “A Girl Who Became A Bird”, the father who wants his daughter to become his supposedly dead son in “Two Shujis” and the boys in “Test of Courage” all do terrible things, but the stories resolutions don’t really make up for them.
There were a couple of good stories, though. “Pure Chinese Restaurant” is another story where Black Jack shows his good-hearted side, and “Money! Money! Money! is the kind of Black Jack story I like, where there is a change of heart. “After the Typhoon” ends the volume and the series nicely, despite Pinoko inclusion. She causes a bit of trouble for Black Jack’s client, which he deserves, but the final panels are a nice reminder that home is where the ones you care for are.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Black Jack these last three years. Tezuka created something unique as he informed as well as entertained. While Black Jack’s abilities were exaggerated, many of the conditions shown were not. And many of his observations of doctors and the medical industry are as relevent today as they were when he wrote them. Black Jack can be funny, sad, serious and silly, but it’s always poignant. No fan of manga or Tezuka should go without reading at least the first few volumes of this series.