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BLACK JACK

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Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Sparky Thornton, Julie Maddalena
Director:  Osamu Dezaki
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Prologic  (English and Japanese)
Video:  2.35:1 Widescreen
Subtitles:  English
Studio:  Manga
Features:  See Review
Length:  90 Minutes
Release Date:  April 24, 2001

Film ***1/2

From its very opening, Black Jack is a very taut and intelligent anime thriller that never lets up.  

Geared towards adults, the film’s plot concerns a master surgeon for hire named Black Jack, a disfigured genius to whom people will pay enormous fees for his skills.  When, one-by-one, people known to the world as “super humans,” for their enhanced abilities in the fields of the arts, sciences, or athletics, start dying of horrible diseases, Black Jack is coerced into discovering what caused their demise, and how to stop it.   

Watching Black Jack, I was immediately impressed not only by the originality of the plot, but also its cleverness (this movie also boasts some incredibly believable and detailed medical scenes).  The film poses many powerful questions about the cost of fame and fortune, and also the lengths science could, and should, be allowed to go in the name of discovery, before becoming unethical, and even inhumane.  Is it wrong to test one, if that one could result in saving fifty?  Is the individual or the group more important?  Black Jack pauses on such issues as it moves toward the conclusion of its story.

All in all, this is an engaging film that kept me interested from start to finish.  I loved it and, for those who aren’t already fans of anime, this film is one worth taking a chance on to see if you like the format.  However, I would keep this one out of the hands of children, due to the realistic nature of the medical scenes and the amount of blood that’s involved.

Video ***1/2

Even though the film itself has a soft hue to it, the transfer looks fantastic, with colors coming through naturally and brightly.  Flesh tones are very lifelike, and the color contrast and black levels come across really well.        

Audio ****

Something of a surprise: for Black Jack, Manga includes an impressive audio track.  The dialogue is mostly center channel oriented and crystal clear.  Occasionally there are great moments of directionality, where voices can be heard coming from off screen.  The rear surrounds are active, being utilized for anything from buzzing medical equipment and explosions, to screams, and even the score. 

A very impressive mix by Manga! 

Supplements **

Included on the disc were previews for other Manga DVD releases such as RayEarth, Perfect Blue, Ghost in the Shell, Street Fighter Alpha, and others.  As usual, rounding out the package is a detailed Manga DVD catalogue, as well as a Manga catalogue for merchandise and weblinks.

Summary:

With a great video and audio transfer, this gripping tale is worth checking out.  Manga should be happy with their final product; this one’s a winner.