First Look: Young Black Jack

youngblackjack1title

Manga Adaptation by Tezuka Productions
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Set in 1968 amidst the chaos of the Vietnam War and student protests in Japan, this is the origin story of a young but physically scarred surgical genius, who will eventually become known as the infamous Black Jack.

Artemis’ verdict: More Sparkles Than Anticipated

The title of the show should really be more along the lines of Bishounen Black Jack, because wow. Personally I don’t remember Black Jack being as ripped as one of the boys from Free!, but hey, it’s been over a decade since I last watched those OVAs – maybe that just slipped my mind.

On the other hand, I do definitely recall the Jerk with a Heart of Gold trope. Black Jack – or rather, Kurō Hazama, since he has yet to earn the notorious nickname – is kind of like House, only a surgical genius instead of a diagnostics one. Without a medical license. Who charges the families of his patients lavish sums of money. Okay, so he’s not really like House at all, though that doesn’t make him any less of a jerk. A medical student who seems to be actively cultivating his status as an antisocial weirdo, Hazama is utterly obsessed with his craft and isn’t afraid to show it. Conversely, it looks as though the money is just as important, if not more so, than the actual surgery, at least if his reaction to being swindled by his first ever patient’s father is any indication. Look, I get that the father is meant to come across as a greedy asshat himself, but I don’t think Hazama has any right to feel so bitter about it, given that he’s the one who decided to charge five million yen in the first place.

Anyhow, jerk-factor aside, Hazama is clearly a brilliant doctor in terms of skill. He also sparkles a lot, and in a scene that somehow reminds me of Twilight in more ways than one, whips off his shirt to change into his medical scrubs as the camera pans up and down his upper body – ostensibly to reveal his myriad of scars, but mostly to show off his ridiculously toned torso. In fact, we get to see that scene twice, since it’s the pre-credits opening sequence as well as being part of a longer scene halfway through the episode. I probably wasn’t supposed to laugh, but I did anyway. Incidentally, the disco-inspired music that started up just before the surgery didn’t exactly make me take this show any more seriously, though it did provide me with plenty more amusement, so I’m not complaining.

ybj1muscles

Which I guess brings me to the production values of Young Black Jack. Like the main character himself, this show feels like a motley patchwork that doesn’t meld together quite right. Hazama, with his broad shoulders, ultra-skinny waist and general sparkliness looks like he could be in a 90s magical-girl series, or quite possibly a 90’s boys love one, while the minor background characters look more like 60s Tezuka, à la the original Astro Boy. Meanwhile, some of the music sounds as though it’s been ripped from a slightly retro shounen sports anime – and given Hazama’s bishounen-ness and improbable talent, that put me in mind of something like Prince of Tennis.

In short, I really don’t know what to think of this anime. I’d be attracted to the setting at least if I thought that it was going to be depicted with any kind of realism, but I wouldn’t put my money on it. The mishmash of art styles isn’t bad per se, but it’s certainly odd, and the story is told with a particular kind of theatrical drama that again isn’t necessarily bad, but is going to make it difficult to take the show with any kind of seriousness – and I’m pretty sure this isn’t meant to be a comedy.

ybj1thorns

Iro’s verdict: Sparkly and Hilarious

I was laughing my ass off during this entire episode. Alas, the humor derived from Young Black Jack‘s self-seriousness combined with its unapologetic bishounen aesthetic and sprinkled with the usual cartoony Tezuka folk seems completely unintentional. I also got flashbacks to Atlus’s Trauma Center series and to the Saijou no Meii manga, both which feature the same hilariously serious tone with regards to surgery (not that surgery isn’t serious, of course). I don’t see myself watching any more of this going forward, but I was definitely entertained, which is more than can be said for many of the other premieres this season. Also, having Akio Ohtsuka (voice of adult Black Jack in more recent series) be the narrator was a nice touch.

2 thoughts on “First Look: Young Black Jack

  1. I watched this with the mindset that it is a homage to Osamu Tezuka, so the mashup of humour and seriousness were not surprising for me. Tezuka humour is jarring and needs some getting used to.

    • I’m not sure about that. I mean, I don’t doubt that the creators respect Tezuka and the source material, but this series isn’t really based on his work so much as it is based on the Young Black Jack manga, which wasn’t written by Tezuka and is relatively new. I’ve also watched some other Black Jack material before and didn’t find the humour at all jarring – when there was any humour as such to be had, Black Jack being one of Tezuka’s darker creations.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.