I’m back! Had to take a few seasons off for various reasons, but I’m happy to be back to doing reviews! Here’s my first one of the season:

It was hard to find a picture of Kuroo that wasn’t a shirtless shot

We are introduced to our protagonist, Hazama Kuroo, a doctor with a scar-covered body who describes himself as “a patchwork” but is better known by his nickname, Black Jack. He started his career as a medical student during the tumultous 1960s, amidst protests at Tokyo University and general chaos throughout Japan. Elsewhere, Maiko, a clumsy hospital intern, finds that she is the only intern still performing her job because the others are protesting the position’s low wages.

When a devastating train-bus collision fills the hospital with critically injured victims, Maiko is desperate to find anyone willing to abandon the protest and help. She finds Kuroo, and is initially reluctant to approach him due to his bizarre appearance and strange reputation, but eventually convinces him to help. Kuroo quickly attracts attention when he agrees to reattach a young boy’s severed arm and leg – for the price of five million yen.

Kuroo takes the boy to the hospital of his acquaintance, a drug-addicted, blood-phobic, twitchy doctor named Yabu. With only four hours until the limbs become useless and can no longer be reattached, Kuroo and Maiko set to work.

As Maiko narrates in amazement, Kuroo completes the surgery with practically inhuman speed. However, a major artery is damaged, seeming to render the surgery impossible. Kuroo comes up with the idea of using a piece of artery from the boy’s other leg, and the surgery is completed successfully with seconds to spare. Alone with Yabu, a visibly shaken Kuroo reveals that it was actually his first surgery. The episode ends on a dark note as the boy’s parents, rather than being grateful to Kuroo for saving their son’s life, discover that he is a medical student rather than a full surgeon, and pay only a fraction of the agreed-upon price.

I realized I didn’t have any caps of Maiko. So, here she is!

Going into this series, I had pretty much no idea what to expect. “Young Black Jack” is a prequel to Osamu Tezuka’s famous 1970s manga “Black Jack,” which I know next to nothing about. However, the first episode managed to grab me despite my lack of knowledge. It manages to maintain a fast pace without barraging you with too many events or character introductions, so it’s still easy to follow. Kuroo is a compelling character; it’s definitely hinted that he has secrets (most prominently his strange appearance) but he’s more than a walking, talking tragic past. What I find most interesting about Kuroo is the fact that he is both caring and somewhat amoral/greedy – he desperately worked to save the boy’s life, but still demanded 5 million yen for his efforts.

Another thing that struck me about this show was the visual style – specifically, that it’s unafraid to be ugly. So many anime are filled to the brim with pretty characters and sparkly backgrounds that I found Young Black Jack’s design choices to be rather refreshing. Though Maiko is fairly pretty if rather bland-looking, Kuroo himself is in a word grotesque. (A fact the show is not ashamed to show you – scar-covered Kuroo receives many shirtless scenes, including in the opening credits, while Maiko wears practical scrubs and is never sexualized). In addition, many minor characters – both male and female –  in the episode sported oversized noses, bizarre mustaches and hairstyles. This is clearly a tribute to Osamu Tezuka’s distinctive style, and the ending credits, showing the characters in Tezuka-style manga panels, is a nice touch.

This was a pretty cool way of depicting surgery, but I hope they switch it up in future episodes

Another design element I loved is that the show is ugly and grim without being gory. Though the episode features some blood and a few closeups of veins and arteries, it was a lot less than I was expecting from a series with a focus on surgery. The scenes of Kuroo actually performing the surgery were represented symbolically with images of scalpels cutting silver wires or thorny brambles. (Though I hope future surgery scenes change up the symbols and images, because I could see the wires getting stale.)

The only downside to this episode was the pacing during the actual surgery scene. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Kuroo would successfully reattach the boy’s limbs, but the show tried a little too hard to make it suspenseful, with constant cuts to the clock and Maiko’s repeated voice overs of “is there enough time” “will he make it” “we’ve only got a few minutes left”. I can forgive this, though, because this was the first episode and more focused on introducing Kuroo’s character than the actual surgery.

Though this is only the first of my First Impressions, this show has definitely grabbed me and is already a strong contender for the show I’ll blog this season.

Out of 5 Dios, Young Black Jack receives this many:

dio  dio  dio  1/2

An example of some of the show’s interesting character designs