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Master surgeon Black Jack is able to perform operations beyond the capabilities of other doctors. When large numbers of intellectual and athletic superhumans appear, Black Jack investigates and discovers a medical conspiracy threatening the future of the human race.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Attention Hollywood: if any Japanime is perfect for a live-action remake it's this stunner based on the comic by Osamu Tezuka of Kimba the White Lion fame. With his long black cape, scarred face and strange work practices, it's not too hard imagine this phantom of the operating theatre being turned into a successful franchise. There's a killer plot in this medical thriller that opens with little-known athletes smashing world records at the Olympics. Everyone's impressed except the mysterious Black Jack who senses some unholy medical mischief is afoot and decides to investigate. He's a fascinating character who carries no official medical degree yet can perform operations other surgeons would not even dare to attempt. Black Jack is no angel, either. His answerphone asks patients to leave their name, medical condition and how much they're prepared to pay for his services and when duty calls he's ready to leave his bubbly young daughter Pinoko alone for days on end.

Apart from its intriguing anti-hero, this one is loaded with juicy elements including corporate cover-ups, dastardly experiments, hideous side-effects that turn healthy specimens into decrepit wrecks in minutes and an enigmatic heroine/femme fatale who keeps our man on his toes as the action moves to exotic east European destinations. This is top-drawer anime, with its compelling story and excellent characterisations even more impressive than the dynamite visuals.

It's so well directed and edited it didn't even seem like I was watching a "cartoon" half the time. The only let-down is a rather silly and superfluous sub-plot involving a band of armed guerilla surgeon good guys. There aren't any extras here apart from a few Manga trailers but it is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which isn't always the case with Japanime DVD releases. I recommend the Japanese language soundtrack with English subtitles rather than the annoying American dialogue track which seems to have been softened for home consumption. In one scene the subtitles read "first she was bleeding from her colon" yet the dialogue says "she suffered from liver failure"!

Lighter on fantasy and larger on plot and character than many of its type, Black Jack is a cracker.

Published June 13, 2002

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BLACK JACK (1996): DVD (M)

VOICES: English Voices - Melissa Williamson, Sparky Thornton, Christopher Joyce, Julie Maddalena, Destiny. Japanese Voices: not credited

DIRECTOR: Osamu Dezaki

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: Manga Previews. Languages: English, Japanese. Subtitles: English

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: The AV Channel/Madman Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: February, 2002

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