Saturday, December 26, 2009

Black Jack Volume 8 by Osamu Tezuka

Another 14 tales of medical heroics from Osamu Tezuka, himself a former medical student before he gave it all up to write and draw manga, and starring Black Jack, an unlicensed surgeon who charges outrageous prices for his medical care, but is better than any other doctor in the world.

In "What Lurks the Mountain", Black Jack is forced to take shelter with a poor family when his car dies. On the way up the mountain, he sees a vicious-looking dog, and the family he takes shelter with believes their eldest son is turning into a wolf, while Black Jack knows that the boy is suffering from rabies. But when Black Jack goes to talk to the family that owns the Dog, he is attacked and bitten himself! Will he allow himself to be browbeaten by the rich family who owns the dog?

In "Fits", Pinoko decides to redecorate the house, but when Black Jack finds out, he's furious. He tells her to have everything returned and to apologize to the stores. He simply can't afford it. but when Pinoko says she has found a super-duper patient for him- a girl with fits and stomach pains, will Black Jack have to operate, or can he find another way to heal her?

In "A Wrong Diagnosis", Black Jack attends a dinner with former medical school students who now look down on him because of his unlicensed status, but when a cocky up and coming doctor disagrees with the head surgeon about the necessity of operating on a patient with acute abdominal pain, the surgeon asks Black Jack to assist him with the surgery to prove him right. But how will the head surgeon handle himself when he realizes he's made the wrong diagnosis?

"The Tattooed Man" has Black Jack being asked to operate on a man with a full-body tattoo- but the man swears vengeance on Blackjack if his tattooed bodysuit is harmed or scarred in any way. When his son comes to inspect his father's tattoo years later, after he's left it to science, he is determined to fulfill his father's promise. But did Black Jack leave a scar, and if not, how?

"Abnormal Pregnancy" has Black Jack being asked for a donation to an "anti-cockroach" fund set up by an old schoolmate. But when the pregnant maid at the hotel collapses, Black Jack is asked to look into a problem with her pregnancy. The child seems to have mummified inside her body, but when they open her up, the placenta is still attatched, and disappears inside the rocky covering. Can Black Jack save the child *and* the mother? And how will he removed the covering around the fetus without killing it?

In "On the Way", Black Jack is robbed in the Pyrenees and left for dead. Taken in by some villagers, they tend to his wounds and help him. In return for their help, he agrees to help a rich man's son who has fallen ill with Tetanus. But he also accuses the boy of being one of the men who robbed him, which the man angrily denies. When Black Jack is finally able to save him, the man offers him money. Black Jack refuses, only wanting his original payment back. Will he ever get his money back?

"Cold Disdain" has Black Jack being called to operate on a woman with a pulmonary embolism, but while the other surgeon in the room seems to cut Black Jack off at every turn, Black Jack discovers that this is not the woman's first surgery in that exact spot and feels that the vein itself may be causing those embolisms. But will replacing her vein section with a piece of synthetic solve her problems? And will the hospital doctor ever change his mind about Black Jack?

In "A Visit from a Killer", Black Jack is visited by an Assassin who wants to prevent him from saving a tyrannical and despotic ruler who will soon be visiting Japan. So he keeps Black Jack imprisoned inside his own home. But when Pinoko is injured attempting to go for help, will the killer let Black Jack work on her and save her life, or let her die?

"Accident" chronicles the story of a young man who accidentally hits a woman with his truck. He makes every effort to save her, but after the accident that saves her life, she can remember nothing of her life before. This man, Akira, takes her home and looks after her, becoming her boyfriend. All the while, saving up money for another operation she needs. But the night before the operation is about to happen, she is in his apartment alone, and she drops a knife on her foot. Suddenly regaining her memory of her life before the accident, but not rememering anything since, she returns to her real home. Akira, not knowing why she vanished, gets depressed, gambles the money away and becomes a thug... until he is arrested and finds himself in the court of a strangely familliar female judge... who no longer remembers him. Can Black Jack finish the operation and restore her memory?

"One Hour to Death" reintroduces Doctor Kiriko, bringer of death. After buying a drug that causes death very slowly, his bag is stolen by a young boy, who gives the "Medicine" to his sick mother. Can Black Jack and Kiriko track down the thief and save the life of his mother, who simply has a cold?

In "Random Killer", BlackJack is accused of killing a young boy's uncle by slicing him to death. But in reality, he's been trying to find the true culprit. Convincing the boy to come with him, they discover other victims, including animals and trees. What is responsible for the strange deaths and mutlations, and when Black Jack and a Detective fall victim to the killer, can Black Jack save the man's life?

In "Pinoko Goes West', Black Jack is accused of fraud when he tries to heal a couple's son of Rickets, but when he leaves Pinoko alone to go into hiding, she decides to seek him out, and to distract the detective who is on Black Jack's tail, But will she be able to lead him off the trail while still finding Black Jack herself?

"Swapped" has Black Jack being contacted by a woman who is raising a young boy, her son. But she is being blackmailed by a nurse who saw her switch her child for another because her own son was born ill. She confesses to Black Jack and is arrested for her crime. But Black Jack must come to the trial to clear up the confusion. Is the boy she raised her own son, or not? And how is it possible?

In "Finish", Black Jack is brought in to extend the life of an author who is dying. The author has been writing a novel about a heroic young man fighting against thugs, and everyone in Japan has been following the story. Both he and his doctors want him to survive long enough to finish the story. Can Black Jack do as the author asks? And what will be the outcome of the story?

Another enjoyable collection of stories, which was enlivened for me by the discovery that Osamu Tezuka was studying to be a doctor before he became a mangaka. While some of the stories are a bit outlandish, most of them are very down-to-earth and accessible, deaing from ailments ranging from lockjaw to rabies to cancer.

Here we also get to see that, despite Black Jack's monumental arrogance, the price he pays for living the life he does, and the toll it takes on him. He warns off people who idolize him and want to be with him or be associated with him. He knows he can live with the toll the life he lives takes on him, but he's compassionate enough to want to spare others from having to go through the same experience he has.

I continue to enjoy the Black Jack stories, which never seem to repeat particulars or get old. I really like this series and even though it is old-school in the extreme, I highly recommend it.

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