Black Jack is a freelance master surgeon with unrivalled skills that allow him to perform the most difficult and dangerous operations. Cool-headed, professional and reclusive, he goes wherever he is called before disappearing as mysteriously as he had arrived. Following a crop of record-breakers at the Olympic Games, a group of people dubbed “super-humans’ by the media send shockwaves through sports, the arts and sciences with their astonishing abilities. The death of a former patient draws Black Jack into the mystery surrounding these super-humans. How did apparently ordinary people acquire such amazing abilities? Could they be in some way connected to the patient he could not save? Who is the mysterious woman who wants him to help her? Before long he is plunged into a medical conspiracy which could have repercussions for the entire human race.
There are two things that Black Jack has in its favour right from the outset. Firstly, it is based on a manga series by none other than Osamu Tezuka; secondly, animated scientific thrillers are rare to say the least. In addition there is a likeable hero, realistic animation and a well-paced storyline that work together to make this film mature and compelling entertainment. There are one or two character designs that are very much in the style of Tezuka such as his young protégé/assistant Pinoko (who adds some much-needed levity to the proceedings) but the whole film has a very grown-up feel, largely due to the attention to detail in the graphic surgery scenes and the remarkably convincing scientific principles that form the background to the story.
There are a few short pencil-drawn sequences (presumably frames from the original manga) that are in a somewhat different drawing style to the animation itself so come across as being rather out-of-place. This aside, the plot moves along very well with the revelations unfolding at a pace that allows the viewer to keep up while wrapping up the whole story in the 90 minute running time. Black Jack himself is a charismatic hero who shows skill and dedication, and the plight of his patients give a real sense of urgency and suspense.
The only disappointment is the DVD extras, in that there are absolutely none apart from the standard set of Manga trailers. For a film that combines CGI and traditional cel animation, not to mention the nature of the original story’s author, it seems strange that there are no cast/crew interviews or even a stills gallery that could have been included.
Black Jack stands out as a well-written and original film, with an enigmatic central character, good quality animation and an intelligent storyline that make up for the lack of extra features on the DVD. If you are looking for an anime film that’s a little bit different, this is well worth checking out.