Friday, September 30, 2011

Black Jack, Volume 14 by Osamu Tezuka

Fourteen more stories involving Black Jack the world's best unlicensed surgeon. He charges outrageous prices for his interventions, but his skills are more than enough for him to triumph.

In the first story, "The Corsican Brothers", Black Jack and Pinoko are at the circus when there is an accident. One of a pair of high-flying twin acrobats takes a fall, and the brothers share a psychic link that one twin feels the other's pain. When the circus owner calls on Black Jack to help, can Black Jack save the one brother while convincing the other that he won't die even if the surgery somehow fails?

"The Third Call" has Black Jack at home when he gets a call from a man who blames all Doctors for the death of his mother. Doctors are too expensive and can't be trusted, so he threatens to kill Pinoko after kidnapping her. When the time comes, he shoots Black Jack. But when the man's sister shows up to stop him, he ends up shooting her accidentally when trying to finish off Black Jack. The only way to save her life is for Black Jack to operate and remove the bullet- and he can only do that with the help of the young man. And even if he does save the Sister's life, will the man help Black Jack save himself?

"A Transient Love" follows Michiru, a young girl dying of cancer who is in love with love and wants to get married before she dies. But when she fixes her hopes on marrying Black Jack, he wants nothing to do with it. But can Black Jack save her life and show her the man who truly loves her and wants to marry her?

"Full Moon Disease" follows Black Jack as he makes a visit to a grave. Afterwards, he goes to a restaurant for coffee and discovers that the waitress who used to work there abruptly disappeared. Through her ex-boyfriend, he is able to track her down and discover that she is suffering from Cushing's disease- also known as "Full Moon Disease". But far from the sob story that her boyfriend told Black Jack, he broke up with her when her disease affected her, and once Black Jack operates to cure her, can he keep her safe from the man who dumped her? And why did he save her?

"Captain Satan" brings a former American officer who served in Vietnam to Black Jack to have surgery to remove the bullet from his head. He was shot at the end of Vietnam, but the bullet can't be removed because of where it is- if lesser surgeons tried to remove it, it would kill him. But the children who are survivors of the village he massacred don't want Black Jack to save him, saying that he should die for murdering their parents. But can he teach both sides a lesson before he operates?

"Urashima" has Black Jack facing off against Dr. Kuriko to determine the fate of a boy crushed in a mining accident 55 years ago. But even though he is in a coma, he hasn't aged. Who will win the fight to save him, or is this a fight that can even be won?

"Little Devil" follows the problems of a small boy whose mother is going to be worked on by Black Jack. When he gets the idea that Black Jack is going to hurt her, not fix her, can he prevent the operation, or will Pinoko be able to get it through his head that Black Jack is only trying to help her?

"Stop Drawing" follows a man who supposedly creates a manga that wins a famous award. The problem comes because he isn't actually the artist- he's a mere stand-in for the resl artist, who is sick and could lost the use of her arms if Black Jack can't save her. But to do the job, she's going to have to stop drawing. What will happen when the secret comes out, and can Black Jack save her life?

"A Rapid Current" sees Black Jack needing to cross a river, but the Bridge is out. Nearby lives a ferryman, but he is busym and only his wife and children are there. She agrees to take Black Jack across, but she's heavily pregnant, and in the course of their trip, starts to give birth, only to be interrupted by a Flash Flood. Stranded on a stone in the middle of the river, can Black Jack save her life and her baby's as well?

"There Were Two Films" sees a famous director come to Black Jack to try and save his son, who was born with illness and stayed that way all his life. Now, he's afflicted with cancer, and he wants Black Jack to save him. But he also wants to film him doing it, and Black Jack agrees- as long as he gets to pick his assistant. But when the surgery is over and the boy is saved, will the medical association allow the film starring Black Jack to be shown?

"The Man Swallowed by a Whale" tells of Shoichi, a whaling worker swallowed by a whale along with teo other sailors washed overboard. Only he survived, but he can't remember anything, and he was so burned by the whale's gastric juices that they had to construct a whole new face for him. They have decided to give him back to his mother in hopes it will jog his memory. But while she tries everything, nothing seems to work for him. What can make him regain his memory?

"The Vanished Noise" has a man who stabbed his own eardrums three times to stop being driven crazy by the noise of jets taking off and landing from a nearby airport. Can Black Jack find a way to defeat the problem, and will the man be grateful for the fix?

"Black Jack Disease" has Black Jack finding out that there has been a disease named after him. It's an ironic name, since only the rich recover. But when the man who named the disease, Dr. Kooma, starts sending Black Jack the stomachs of the people infected by the disease asking for his help in discovering a cure, can Black Jack help the small African country affected by the disease, and discover the cure in time to save Dr. Kooma as well?

"Just like B. J." has Black Jack witness a young girl trying to commit suicide. Saves her, only to discover that her attempt was necause her grandmother is ill. Her doctor saved her life three times, but the money it cost is bankrupting the family. Can Black Jack make the Doctor, so very like himself, see reason? Or will he continue to save the grandmother;s life, with each attempt costing them more and more money?

I liked how this volume was less about the operations (although, yeah, that was important), but led right into some of the things that are around the doing of medicine: medical ethics, quality of life, and the ability to choose when life was over and the DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders. As well as ongoing medical problems. Some of the problems showed Black Jack that he was wrong, like "Just like B.J.". There are tales about Doctors with too much pride, who think they are like God, but life and death and the universe can be their undoing.

And it's not just Black Jack who learns that, but a whole lot of other Doctors as well, including Dr. Kuriko, his longtime Nemesis, who feels it is better to let people out of their pain rather than try and save them. And sometimes, sacrifices must be made, as when Dr. Kooma sacrifices himself to save the people who are ill in Africa. And though he passes away by the end of the story, Black Jack is determined to find a cure (and we assume he does so) for the disease named after him.

A fairly widespread set of stories, in kind and aim, but altogether interesting reading. As this series goes on, it's getting more and more interesting, as the people are becoming as important as the diseases. Osamu Tezuka makes an interesting case for what is wrong about the practice of medicine, mainly in Japan, where he studied to be a Doctor, but here we see that even Black Jack, brilliant and dedicated as he is, doesn't have all the answers and is guilty of pride. A fascinating series. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this detailed post. ^^

You're right about that! Black Jack does eventually find out the cause of Black Jack Disease... this story is continued in the chapter "Falling Object," which is one of the sealed chapters not included in any official collection. However, it has been translated by fans! It's a very good read.