RJ Bayley Reviews: Black Jack

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By RJ Bayley

Directors Osamu Dezaki and Fumihiro Yoshimura’s film adaptation of the character (if not a story of) Black Jack does something very few other stories do. That is to take an mundane, everyday job,that of a surgeon, one washed of ideology, and twist it into something more resembling a vigilante. You may question how being a surgeon is mundane, but compare this to the police and lawyers, defenders of justice, or firemen who literally charge into burning buildings for a living, and you can see why cinema normally focuses its gaze on those professions.

As such Black Jack is a fascinating character in this apparently near-future sci-fi world – probably the world’s greatest surgeon but without a license, operating (literally) on a complex personal code. He’ll demand huge sums of money to perform an operation, but if a story moves him he’ll do it gratis.

Unfortunately the story that Black Jack himself appears in would have the pay the fee. There’s a lot of great ideas going on here, with the ‘Atlantis Olympics’ demonstrating that an apparently new breed of super-powered human is emerging being a genuinely fascinating one. Even more so during revelations about the exact origin and nature of this phenomenon. However the film seems to be utter dispassionate. As we go into plenty of extraneous and lengthy surgical details which we could have done without, the film proves to be a real clock-watcher as it descends into medical porn.

Likewise the animation isn’t of a level that can express the subtleties in emotion the story demands of characters. The art style is just too simplistic to convey nuanced expression and so the characters just look perpetually bored, apart from when they’re having an emotional outburst.

Like Hellsing, nice ideas, shame about the execution.

★★

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