WARNING. This episode takes place in a war zone and the content is fairly disturbing. Screencaps do not contain any blood/violence but it is described in the review.
Yabu opens the episode with a startling declaration: he plans to put his medical talents to use in Vietnam. He has been inspired by watching Kuroo work and wants to help people. Flash forward to Kuroo in Vietnam, looking for an apparently missing Yabu. He meets a photographer, Takayanagi, an acquaintance of Yabu’s who has some information about his location. Their meeting is interrupted by soldiers attacking civilians in the street, and Takayanagi explains that during the war, life has no worth and there is no point to Kuroo saving lives. He states his own purpose for being in Vietnam: to reveal the harsh truth about the brutal war through his photography. When Kuroo refuses to be dissuaded from searching for Yabu, the photographer sees the potential for a story and agrees to arrange transportation.
The two set out on a transport headed for the village of Dalat, Yabu’s last known location. Along the way, Takayanagi asks Kuroo how he got to Japan. Kuroo explains that he received help from Raymond, the man he saved via plastic surgery in Episode 2. (Additionally, Maiko is shown in Kuroo’s apartment, taking care of his fish.) Takayanagi also questions Bob, the leader of the transport, about his philosophy on killing. Bob explains that he sees himself as protecting the Vietnamese people, and sees the people he has killed as a necessary evil.
The talk is interrupted by a surprise attack, with Bob taking control and aggressively fighting back. Kuroo is knocked from the car and left out in the open in a dangerous situation. He is frozen in shock as he watches soldier after soldier be shot down. Taking inspiration from memories of Yabu, Kuroo runs through a hail of bullets to treat a wounded soldier. To the shock of those watching, Kuroo performs an operation in the middle of the battlefield. He succeeds, but is held at gunpoint by Vietnamese soldiers, who take him prisoner.
Young Black Jack has really re-caught my interest with this episode. Kuroo’s black-and-white (pun fully intended….cause of his hair…get it?) view that a doctor should save a life no matter the consequence comes under serious fire (again pun intended) in the battlefields of Vietnam. The ‘inspirational’ streak Yabu developed back in Episode 2 continues as he heads to Vietnam to conquer his fear of blood and become a wartime doctor. I’m really loving Yabu’s character arc, and I can’t wait to see more of him in Episode 5, which will continue the Vietnam arc.
My favorite thing about this episode was the animation. We were in the heart of a battlefield and Young Black Jack was unafraid to show it. It was ugly, filled with blood and destroyed vehicles and mangled bodies. I’m not saying I’m the kind of person who revels in gore, but you can’t make war pretty, and Young Black Jack definitely didn’t.
Another thing I loved was that we saw Vietnam through so many sets of eyes. Kuroo took a rather back seat role this episode as an “observer,” though he still got his moment to shine when he reaffirmed his dedication to saving lives, even as bullets rained down upon him, even though the man bleeding on the ground was an American soldier who saw Vietnamese lives as worthless. (It did not slip my notice that surgery was back to being beautiful silver wires again, as opposed to the constricting thorny vines of episode 2 and 3. Seems like Kuroo’s got his conviction back!) We got to see what Vietnam meant to different people – Yabu, who saw it as chance for redemption, Takayanagi, who just wanted a story, Bob the American soldier, who does not see life as having worth, and Phan the interpreter, an actual native of the country witnessing horrors done to her people. It was a raw, daring episode, and I commend the writers for it.
Episode 4’s only really downfall was the pacing. Like the previous 3 episodes, it started with a brief scene taking place in the middle of the action before flashing back to reveal the circumstances. However, we actually got two of these scenes before we got to learn why Kuroo was in Vietnam, and the rest of the episode was littered with poorly spaced flashbacks further expanding on this. We even got an incredibly pointless flashback for Bob, about him watching villagers going about their daily lives and realizing that…people have daily lives. I would have liked to see fewer flashbacks and more focus on the present, although the return of Raymond (as the sponsor of Kuroo’s trip) and Maiko (looking after Kuroo’s fish) was quite nice.
Still, pacing issues aside, this was a stunning episode, and I eagerly await part 2.
Out of 5 Dios: