The penultimate Black Jack collection still sports some of the same hit-or-miss flavor of all the volumes since #11 or so, but the standouts this time around are as good as anything ever created for the series. Most striking is the last story in the volume, “A Passed Moment”, which runs for almost a hundred pages — an epic-length production compared to the usual 16- to 24-page stories that made up the series. It opens with a young taxi driver who has a taste for embroidery and other decidedly nonmasculine things, and then works its way by various Byzantine degrees to a country in revolution where said young man died once … or did he? It’s a dizzying achievement, one of the sorts of things Osamu Tezuka fans will most likely point to as an example of how uninhibited and absorbing his imagination could be; spun out a little longer, it could have become a self-contained epic in its own right on the order of MW or Book of Human Insects.
The rest of the book is no total slouch either: I particularly liked a story about Black Jack’s assistant Pinoko becoming the object of a crush by a man who never sees her face (they share the same bathhouse), and there’s a remarkably cynical skewering of Hollywood (and, by extension, inequality in America) in a chapter where Black Jack’s skills are to be captured on film against his will. And in “Miyuki and Ben”, there’s the recurrence of a theme which has pervaded Black Jack since its inception (and which also appears in “A Passed Moment”): how body and spirit are interwoven, and how the death of one can mean a new lease on life for another. It’s always amusing how Black Jack — and Tezuka, too — can see organ and tissue donation as something inherently romantic instead of, as most of us do, something quite a bit icky.Read more
Always nice to see a series continue to fulfill and surpass the promises laid down in its first volume. Here, in the second installment of this minutely-detailed look at life amongst the 19th-century nomads of the Silk Road (distant ancestors of mine!), Amir, the bride of the title faces down the threat of violence aimed at her and her young husband; develops friendships with both older and younger women via two different domestic crafts (baking and embroidery); and learns a little more about what drew the mysterious Englishman, Mr. Smith, to her corner of the world.
The detail on the page isn’t just limited to Kaoru Mori’s illustrations, although that’s where the reader encounters it first: it’s also in the web of relationships that binds both Amir and her young groom Karluk to people both close and far. The only thing that seems slightly out of place is the action-movie heroics that Karluk uses to protect Amir when her family attempts to steal her back away. So much of what Bride’s Story special had nothing to do with such things in the first place, so it’s distracting to see such flashy theatrics shoehorned into something that revolved mainly about not just whether or not this young couple would remain together but whether or not they deserved to.
But forget the quibbles. If you haven’t started picking this one up, go back to the first volume and see firsthand why it’s such a standout title; it’s a beautiful series in more senses of the word than one.