Sunday, April 04, 2010

Black Jack Volume 10 by Osamu Tezuka

More tales of operations and medical miracles from Osamu Tezuka's infamous surgeon character, Black Jack.

"Avina's Island" tells about Avina and the man she loves, Kuna. Her father, the chief of the island, doesn't want her to marry Kuna, but according to the tribe's ritual, the biki biki, if he can dive from the cliffs and bring up a shell, he can marry anyone he wishes. Unfortunately, he hit the rocks when he dived and broke many of his bones. Avina goes to Black Jack to heal Kuna so he can try again, but can't afford to pay him much, so she offers him her island instead, which is a shrine to her people.. Black Jack finally agrees to perform the surgery and discovers that the Shaman deliberately mistreated Kuna so he wouldn't be able to marry Avina. Next year, when Kuna is ready to try again, the chief and the shaman use trickery, releasing a shark to attack Kuna when he dives. But Avina went into the water as well to find a shell beforehand that she could hand to Kuna and is attacked by the shark. Kuna dives in to save her... but is there any happy ending for Kuna and Avina?

"The Mask Chosen" has Black Jack being contacted by his father under his real name Kuro'o. His father, who abandoned Black Jack's mother, wants Black Jack to save his wife's face, as she was afflicted with Hansen's disease. She is cured, but his father wants Black Jack to do plastic surgery on his new wife and make her the world's greatest beauty. Black Jack reluctantly agrees... for 70 million yen. But can he resist taking revenge on his own father?

"Revenge is my Life" has a young woman whose family was killed by a bomb put into her father's bag by mistake. The man on the phone who warned her of the bomb called himself Black J... and was cut off. Black Jack endeavors to save her, but when she hears his name, she thinks he is the bomber, and only her hate for him keeps her alive and fighting to live, so that she can have her revenge on him. But by the time she is fully cured, she knows she has only him to thank for her life, even though she will always be blind. But who was really responsible for what happened to her?

"Unfinished House" has Black Jack telling Pinoko the story of his house, and why it has remained unfinished. When he first bought the place, he wanted to turn it into a clinic, and Ushigoro, the man who originally built the house, came back to do the work, pleading with Black Jack not to let anyone else but him touch it. But Ushigoro was sick with late-stage Lukemia, and despite his best efforts, Black Jack was unable to help him. He sent Ushigoro to a bigger hospital. But will he ever return to finish the job?

"Strangers at Sea" has Black Jack kidnapped to save a young man injured in a Bank Robbery. His brother, who is in charge of the band that did it tells Black Jack that if he saves the boy, he can share in their loot, but if his patient dies, so will he. But when the ship is becalmed at sea with its compass broken, perhaps only the dolphin that Black Jack saves after it is shot by the third member of the gang can bring them back to land to save them all...

In "Pinoko Returns", Pinoko befriends a thief who is attempting to rob Black Jack. He gives her a sob story about needing money for his family, and she believes him. But when Pinoko attempts to give him some money, he spends it and loses it all in gambling, and when Pinoko doesn't come home, Black Jack believes she's been kidnapped and must search for her. Can he find her before something horrible happens to her?

"The Man who Threw Up Capsules" finds Black Jack on an airplane with a sick passenger. However, he's acting like an ass and Black Jack refuses to treat him, instead, putting him to sleep for the flight. On the ground, he finds the man in the men's room, throwing up capsules. Black Jack collects the capsules and takes the man to the clinic he wishes to go to, where he meets the Doctor in charge, who is making money smuggling in drugs- pure morphine. But when the head of the clinic attempts to have Black Jack killed, can Black Jack survive and bring the Doctor to justice?

In "Flesh and Blood", Black Jack is summoned back to the side of his father, who is dying of a stroke. Unfortunately, even Black Jack can't save him, but someone doesn't want Black Jack anywhere near his father's deathbed. Who wants Black Jack dead so he can't inherit? His half-sister, Shoren, or someone else? And is anywhere in Macao safe from the killers on his trail?

"Burglary" has Black Jack being approached by the husband of an old patient whose wife had prosthetic limbs made by Black Jack after she was in an accident and had to have all her limbs amputated. But now they have been stolen in a burglary, and she doesn't want to pursue the thief. Can Black Jack find the limbs, or failing that, cast her another set?

"Ashes and Diamonds" has a surgeon named Hyakki summoned by a multibillionaire who wants to confirm that the 300 diamonds, worth 3 Billion dollars that were placed in his body are all still there. But when Kyakki operates, he finds that all the diamonds were replaced by plastic beads by the original surgeon, Black Jack. Enraged on his patient's behalf, Hyakki finds Black Jack and calls him a fraud, demanding to know where the diamonds are. But when he shows Hyakki where they are and what they are being used for, will Hyakki still disagree with Black Jack's reasons for keeping them?

"Hot Night" has Black Jack summoned to the side of a plantation owner who has just been shot for the third time. Black Jack saves his life once more, for another hefty payment, as he did twice before. But who wants to kill this man, and why? And when the killer is revealed, can Black Jack bring him some real justice?

In "Ransom" a criminal abducts a Rich man's son, but when he is injured in collecting the ransom, he decides to keep the boy. Akira, the boy, helps the man with doing the things they both need to survive, but when the boy is seriously injured and runs a high fever, the criminal calls Black Jack in to save him. Black Jack agrees to perform the operation... for ten million yen. But afterwards, he demands to look at the Criminal's injured arm. It must be amputated, and Black Jack takes the boy back to his father while the criminal is passed out cold. But what will become of them both?

"Mannequin and Officer" charts the relationship between a safety mannequin who looks like a Policeman and an actual policeman who performs the same job. The officer begins to treat the mannequin like an actual brother policeman and comes to know Black Jack through his relationship with the dummy. But when the cop is run over, can Black Jack save his life, and will the cop ever find love when everyone thinks he's strange for the way he treats the mannequin?

and, in "Playing Doctor", a boy who is the school bully has a sick sister, and when she asks him to find Doctor Black Jack to cure her disease, he "convinces" his favorite punching bag to play along. But when the real Black Jack overhears his young double berating her for money to do an operation, can he be persuaded to take on the case and make her well again?

I liked this series of stories very much. Black Jack can be quite fickle, and when he believes a patient needs to be taken down a peg or two, he can be quite demanding moneywise or use his skills to ensure justice is done or even to take vengeance on someone who he believes has done a great wrong. He's also quite capable of twisting words and being legalistic to make a point. like when his father demands that his new wife be made the most beautiful woman ever, Blackjack makes her into the spitting image of his own mother, which he tells his father, is his own standard for "most beautiful", at the same time reminding him of the woman he abandoned every single day of their remaining time together.

Most of the time, the readers will definitely agree with Black Jack's judgements, but even he can change his mind, and he's not totally money-hungry, as he does several operations for free or next to free if believes the patient deserves it. He also has a softer side, which he lets out, saving the shot dolphin and in doing the surgery on the bully's sister for free, probably because he's somewhat pinched by the other boy's money-grubbing imitation of him. In short, Black Jack is a complex man who can't be easily defined, and even though he charges lots of money for his operations, he's definitely got a conscience and cares for his patients.

Reading this manga always makes me feel a bit uplifted and happy. Osamu Tezuka had studied to be a doctor before becoming a manga-ka, and he shows the two sides of medical practice, if exaggerated, in these stories. While each story is short, they never become rote or tired, and each one shows us what makes the main character so fascinating and wonderful to read. Anyone who enjoys Osamu Tezuka's stories or loves reading stories of human nature and medical mysteries will deeply enjoy these books, all of which have the deft touch of a master storyteller. Highly recommended.

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