Thursday, September 09, 2010

Black Jack, Volume 12 by Osamu Tezuka

Thirteen more tales of the world's best unlicensed surgeon- not unlicensed because he can't do anything- unlicensed because he doesn't want to deal with the BS that hospitals push on Doctors and patients.

"Wildcat Boy" has Black Jack called in to save the life of a captured boy raised by a mountain lion. His skull is malformed, and after the surgery he learns to speak and live like a human. But when he finds his "mother" dying, and begs Black Jack to save her, will the famed surgeon be able to do anything for the animal?

"Signal" has a company president planning to build a factory where Black Jack has his home. Black Jack refuses to sell, and the President and his men leave. But when an accident leaves the president paralyzed, his aides reveal how they really feel about him, thinking he is in a coma. But can Black Jack reveal that the man still exists within?

"Invader" has a boy who feels that everyone around him has been replaced by alien invaders who are trying to kill him, even his mother. Can Black Jack reveal and defeat the source of the strange malady before the boy harms himself... or another?

"White Lion" has Black Jack called in to treat a dying, very rare White Lion Cub. But when he is unable to save the beloved Cub, what trickery will the zoo resort to to make it seem the beloved cub is still alive?

"Tatsu the Outie" tells the story of young man who has found an important dinosaur skeleton and refuses to let anyone but himself dig it up. But when he collapses with a strange swelling on his stomach, Black Jack diagnoses it as a life-threatening hernia. The Dig is threatened bv a collapsing cliff, and Tatsu takes off to be with his dinosaur skeleton- but can Black Jack save him again when the stitches burst, threatening his life?

"Son of Hariti" concerns a woman who runs a kidnapping ring for children. When she comes under suspicion as the brains behind the kidnapping, she decides to kidnap her own son to make it seem she is also a victim. But her son is a fighter, and her arm is injured. Her men take her to Black Jack to whom she confesses all. Black Jack fixes not only her arm, but her face, too. How will her son react to her disappearance when she is carted off to jail?

In "The Second One", Black Jack goes to see a man named Takuzo Ubamoto, only to find him dying of metastasized cancer. His daughter begs him to perform an operation saving him, telling Black Jack that she will donate her own organs to her dying father to save him. And so, Black Jack operates, after a long period of soul-searching. It's only after the operation, when he dies of a heart attack as he is recovering, that he reveals why he truly tried to save her father...

"The Boy in the Sealed Room" introduces a boy who has been sick for a long time, and through concentration and sheer animus at life, has developed strong Telekinesis, which he has begun to use to cause accidents and hurt people. But when he nearly kills a man, the Doctors call in Black Jack and tell him they think the boy is possessed. But when Black Jack determines the true cause of things, he prepares to operate to make the boy well. But when the boy is made to hate Black Jack for being a liar because he is unlicensed, is the world prepared for the fury a boy can unleash?

"Save the Baby" introduces an African spirit doctor, who can reach into bodies without incisions to operate. But when he is told that Black Jack is unlicensed, and charges lots of money for his work, he thinks Black Jack is evil. While Black Jack plans to do an abortion to free a woman of her child, the spirit Doctor decides he must work to save the baby. But does this one deserve to be saved?

"The Bear" sends Black Jack to save a hunter who has been injured by a Bear named Jinrei. A second confrontation nearly kills Fuyuko, the Hunter, and Black Jack must step in to save him again. But Fuyuko feels that he has killed Jinrei and has nothing to live for. But when the Bear shows up again, can Black Jack find it in himself to repair the damage once more?

"Operation of the Spirit" has Black Jack asked to Operate on young man possessed by a restless spirit. But can operating on a spirit while it is in someone else's body be legal? And can Black Jack charge for the operation?

"Looking Good" has a juvenile delinquent who picks on the kids at student fairs. But when a problem with his heart makes itself felt, he can no longer get up to his old antics. Can Black Jack persuade him to change his ways, or is his reputation and appearance more important to the young bandit?

"Prone to Laughing" tells a story from Black Jack's younger days. Of the driven Black Jack, and of a schoolmate who wasn't able to stop laughing once he'd started. But years later, when Black Jack encountered him again, he'd given up laughing because it could kill him. But can Black Jack alleviate the condition and bring back his friend's laughter?

Osamu Tezuka studied to be a doctor before he became a manga-ka, and this manga harks back to his former profession. It's somewhat gross, showing people's interior body parts on a regular basis, but really, it's nothing worse than what you'd see on CSI or The Learning Channel's old operation shows. Tezuka almost never goes for the gross-out, but at the same time, he doesn't pull punches.

What saves this from being gross-out material is that Tezuka draws like a clinician rather than a horror artist. There are few images meant to be shocking, but this volume does have one- the baby that Black Jack is trying to remove in "Save the Baby" it's meant to be shocking and disturbing, and it is, but the Baby is still drawn with the touch of the clinician-it's not exaggerated for effect.

It's these and other touches, and the character of Black Jack himself that make this series. I also liked this one more in that Pinoko makes only two appearances, and the second one is a very small appearance. Having her annoying presence left out makes this a more readable book, for me.

This book is enjoyable and always interesting to read, touching not only on the diseases or accidents themselves, but medical ethics, the duties of doctors to patients and patients to doctors and also to themselves. In a way, this series is a testament to human spirit. Highly recommended.

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