Volume 15 of this series continues to assemble pieces that ran after Black Jack’s original run ended, and in some ways this is the best of the “pick-up” volumes yet.
Most of what we see is, again, self-contained — there’s only a couple of stories that tie into the various arcs and extended mythologies of Tezuka’s renegade surgeon — but some of the very best things that happened in this series as a whole were in the standalone episodes anyway. Among my favorites: Black Jack lends aid to a surgeon who can only do his work when music is playing, and who has the bad luck to live in a country where all foreign music is banned; the good doctor has an encounter with none other than Dracula (this episode plays out in a nicely unexpected way, from beginning to end); and the readers are invited to draw comparisons between the short life of a flower arrangement and the equally short life of its creator.
The only “mythology” story is, sadly, another one that dates the series somewhat. It involves Black Jack discovering he might have been laboring for decades under a posthypnotic delusion, a plot device Tezuka has used in other places with equal shamelessness. But most of the concerns in the story remain timely, like Black Jack dealing with a fatally-polluted island which may be unsalvageable by man (but perhaps not by nature herself). Consider this speculation on my part, but this installment seems inspired at least in part by the Minamata disaster.
And on top of all that there’s the oldest story of all, the struggle of life vs. death, which receives both funny and deeply moving treatment in an episode where Black Jack heals a condemned man — yes, that trope again — so that his body may be donated to science. It’s a little like Tezuka’s take on some of the same territory charted by Shinya Tsukamoto’s Vital.