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WARNING: Chapters extremely out of order, but at least in original right-to-left reading style.
on September 15, 2012
My biggest problem with the Astro Boy comics sold in the U.S. was that the art was mirrored, and I felt kind of betrayed by that. I really love Tezuka's art style and I try really hard to learn from it, I feel maybe looking at the art backwards makes it more difficult to get where Tezuka was coming from. It's nitpicky, but nice to know before buying, which I didn't know when I bought Astro Boy.. So Black Jack is NOT MIRRORED. It is in it's original format, but chapters are extremely out of order and it makes it very irritating, something I didn't even know until I finished all books. It really ruined the experience for me!
But the chapters are out of order for a reason. For someone who is picking up the series without knowing anything about Tezuka, or Black Jack, or anything, that's why it's out of order; The most grabbing chapters at the beginning, so you get sucked in and won't get bored before better chapters come along.
With that out of the way, let me review the book and story itself.
I never read a Tezuka comic before Black Jack. Thinking before I read Black Jack is difficult. I had a completely different mindset, I was absolutely terrified by doctors or even the thought that there was blood and guts and all these gross things inside us, I was completely determined never to even consider becoming anything remotely similar to being a doctor, always saying, "What a horrible job they must have! They must hate it, having to deal with all those horrible and gross things!"
However, after reading Black Jack, absolutely everything about that mindset changed almost immediately. I love the series so much and it has even inspired me to start shooting for a medical PhD. All my fears of insides are eliminated, I'm more fascinated by them than terrified. When I read the book in the living room and start small-talking about it with my family, they usually have the same reaction I did, "Ewww! That's horrifying! That's disgusting! Why would you want to read that!?"
It's very obvious, however, that Black Jack is Sci-fi. Tezuka does a great job at making ridiculous things seem real, and when ridiculous goes just slightly over the top, it makes you laugh a lot. Black Jack, as a character, feels more real to me than most comic book protagonists. He's selfish, he's out for nothing more than revenge, he has massive mood swings with his adopted daughter (At one point spoiling her with money, at another yelling at her for having selfish thoughts.) You could say this is bad character writing, but on the other hand, Black Jack is extremely humanitarian. He goes through all hell, even reviving bodies that have been dead for a long while, pushing and yelling at everyone who tells him that it's useless, and he succeeds almost every time, and when he has to face that he can't save somebody because their time has come, he steams into a tear-filled breakdown. Black Jack is real, he's messed up. He's blunt. He is unpredictable, but predictable. He's human, especially for his traumatizing backstory.
Even though Black Jack as a story is dark, creepy, and horrifying, it's goofy, light-hearted, and funny. Black Jack's interactions with his adopted daughter, Pinoko, is extremely cute. This story is so well-written, but still knows it's cartoony, and takes full advantage of it. It manages to take Micky Mouse and examines his anatomy. I remember one chapter where two characters were all over eachother kissing, and as the scene went on, the woman casually swallowed the man's head, but it was never really acknowledged in dialogue.
I wouldn't really recommend this to young children, it definitely has an 'M' rating. There's a chapter about a teacher and a delinquent who uses some pretty awful language, also naked women's chests, but it's not there for sex appeal. (It would be quite irritating if Tezuka had to censor women's breasts when Black Jack has to operate by cutting open their chests all the time. Be reasonable.)
I also bought this with school money, with the excuse that I'd learn lots of medical stuff. I did!! But a lot I had to look up on Wikipedia to keep on track with what they were talking about, sometimes. The story is still totally understandable without knowing, however!
I give it a three-star rating for that chapter rearrangement, otherwise a solid 5/5 10/10 100/100.