"Black Jack (OVA)"Publisher: U.S. Manga Corps (Central Park Media, USA)
Format: Region Free DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 10 Episodes x 50 minutes
Production Date: 1993 - 2000
Currently in Print (as of writing): No
After Tezuka’s death in 1989, there was a giant push in the 1990’s to turn most, if not all, of his works into anime. Strangely prior to Tezuka’s death, Black Jack had only appeared in a number of anime works in cameo roles only. This OVA series was directed by Osamu Dezaki and spans seven years. I still can’t figure out the actual release dates of the individual episodes, but I know they were released in short spurts, not one or two a year as you might expect. Being a Dezaki directed anime, straight away you can pick his unmistakable style. The 10 stories are taken directly from Tezuka’a manga and none of the episodes continue on from each other. You could watch the series in any order you like. Probably the worst aspect of the show is that the origins of Black Jack and more importantly Pinoko’s origins are never explained. If you hadn’t read the manga, Pinoko would seem to be a very strange character. Is she a girl? Is she really 18 as she says? What’s her relationship to the doctor? Unfortunately CPM didn’t provide any translation or background notes which would have helped greatly.
Tezuka did have an extensive medical background, but the stories are extremely hard to swallow. Often they resemble no known real life medical conditions (but have origins in real life conditions) and often delve into the world of the supernatural. For the most part the series is excellent in terms of both production quality and story and drama. However I thought the two middle episodes were a bit iffy. There’s also Dezaki’s style, which really hasn’t changed a great deal since the 1970’s. Some of the designs and backgrounds hark back to that era. In particular I thought some of the settings looked rather generic when in fact they were meant to represent actual specific cities. However the OVA gets back on track and there’s some brilliant stories towards the end. In particular I liked the character called Dr Kiriko, a doctor whom specialises in euthanasia, a practice that Black Jack seems to despise. Also of note is the appearance of Megumi Hayashibara, first as a teenage girl in episode two, then as young boy in episode eight. Seriously, was there any anime she wasn’t involved in during the 1990’s? Akio Ohtsuka of Batou (Ghost in the Shell) fame does the voice of Black Jack. So damn well too. Such a great voice. The last three OVAs are 16:9 anamorphic widescreen which was a bit of a welcome surprise. CPM’s release has the first six OVAs on three discs, but then puts the last four on separate discs. Rather wasteful as far as I’m concerned. Sort of ridiculous and farfetched at times, but really enjoyable. It did dip in the middle quite a bit, so I’m going to give it 7 out of 10.
"Black Jack the movie"
Publisher: Manga Entertainment (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 93 minutes
Production Date: 1996
Currently in Print (as of writing): No
This movie version was released in the middle of the OVA series. Unlike the OVA episodes, the story is a new one dreamt up by Osamu Dezaki, but is in the spirit of Osamu Tezuka’s manga. It’s very much like an extended OVA episode and Dezaki’s usual direction and visual techniques as well as his influence on the character designs is unmistakeably his. What impresses me the most about this movie is how well it fits on with the OVA series. You can’t really tell that this is not based on one of Tezuka’s stories (unless you knew the Black Jack manga really well). Again the medical condition here is on the verge of being completely unbelievable, but the story and characters seem to wipe out any disbelief in the medical condition. Where the movie falls over slightly is the introduction of a crack squad of heavily armed medicos, who are on a mission to right the wrongs of big pharmaceutical and medical companies. It’s just way, way too absurd to accept in what is essentially a drama. One thing I did notice in watching this movie in conjunction with the OVA series is that Pinoko seems to become more infantile in each successive episode. With this movie, the good outweighs the bad. The animation and production where fantastic as was the story (for the most part). I just wished Manga had a 16:9 anamorphic print rather than a letterboxed 4:3 version for the DVD. I’m going to give it 7 out of 10.
“Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations” and “Tsubasa Thunder Spring Chronicles”
Publisher: Funimation (USA)
Format: Region 1, 2 and 4 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 3 Episodes x 25 mins (Tokyo Revelations), 2 Episodes x 29 mins (Thunder Spring)
Production Date: 2007 – 2009
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes
If you haven’t see this yet, gee, I hope you’re not expecting any sort of resolution to the previous two anime series. When I first got heavily into anime, I discovered something called “Magic Knight Rayearth”. God I love that show. It introduced me to the all-female manga group called CLAMP as well as to shoujo manga and anime. During the late 1990’s and beyond, I discovered more of their works and loved most of them. Their modern stuff? Well I can take it or leave it. I quite liked the original TV series of this show, but was quite unimpressed with the second season. Quite a lot of crap in there. I was really hoping these two sets of OVAs would wrap up everything. Instead it raises a whole bunch of new questions and manages to give a lot of characters “get out of jail free” cards, which I always find rather annoying. Look, either kill the character or not, you can’t have it both ways. There’s a lot of dialogue and plot presented very quickly (compare with the slowness of the TV series), a lot of fight sequences, our favourite characters in peril and gee, if anyone is dire circumstances or the plot comes to halt, hey, let’s summon up Yuko to get us our wish. Arggg! It’s totally overused. On the plus side the animation by Production I.G is gorgeous and it was nice to see the entire cast of “X” again. However I just didn’t care one little bit about anything. It’s mostly all flash and very little substance. They went for big spectacle, but there’s nothing behind it. Really quite disappointing, 5 out of 10.
Remaining Backlog: 21 months (it's much easier this way than listing the number of discs).