Young Black Jack
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Young Black Jack ?
Community score: 3.5
Young Black Jack is good at surprises. The "Gruesome Chronicle" took a very dark turn with its most recent episode, one that I wasn't expecting. (Perhaps I should have given that title.) I guess I didn't think the "gruesome" part would entail the honorable, laid-back Hyakki turning into a murderer. I thought it might pertain to what his colleagues did to put him where he is now.
There's certainly plenty of those details in Hyakki's backstory, of course. His former colleagues plotted and then caused the accident that took his limbs. The reason why is not entirely clear; it's clear that all was not well in the Teito University surgery department, and Hyakki was caught up in its rivalries. However, it's an extreme step and a serious betrayal for them to try and destroy not just his career, but his body, over Hyakki's professional allegiances. What could he have done? How deep does the betrayal rabbit hole go?
Of course, this whole setup is another reference to Dororo. In the manga, Hyakkimaru's goal was to track down his limbs and the demons who had taken them from him. This Hyakki can't find his actual limbs, as they were lost in the accident—one of his assailants even says "That's impossible!" when he suggests it. However, Hyakki can take their limbs and claim them as his own. Even if he can't actually reverse what happened, Hyakki can at least enact revenge. He even does it with the sword that bears his name, one passed down his family through the generations. This implies that he's related to the original Hyakkimaru, putting that story in the same universe as Young Black Jack. The original blade was also borne out of vengeance, so while the welder may be concerned about Hyakki using it for evil deeds, it's not out of line with the spirit of the original story. Hyakkimaru killed demons because they did him wrong.
While this plot make sense in terms of the broader references to another iconic Osamu Tezuka manga, it's a huge shift for this incarnation of the character. Hyakki was certainly disappointed by the turn his life had taken, but he was still chugging right along doing lectures and demonstrations at universities like Hazama's. Was he really distressed enough to turn to murder? Granted, things change when you find out your "random accident" wasn't random or an accident at all. Still, it feels like too sudden a shift for a mild-mannered, down-on-his-luck professor to suddenly turn into a killer. We needed some connective tissue to explain that, even beyond the understandable motive. I hope we get some of that next week when Hyakki explains everything to Hazama.
Speaking of which, there was very little screentime for our title character this week. The last several episodes of Young Black Jack have featured Hazama in a diminished role, but this one really short-shrifts him. Other than his surgery moment (which isn't nearly as flamboyant as usual), Hazama's a bit player in Hyakki's story. This gradual shift in focus from him to other characters should prove interesting for Young Black Jack's finale. This episode's opening suggests an eventual reveal of why he refused his medical license after coming so close to it. How will Young Black Jack handle shoving Hazama back in the spotlight after marginalizing him for so long?
The next episode should prove fruitful on that count, setting up for a big confrontation between Hazama and Hyakki. Will we learn the truth about Hyakki's contradictory natures? What was he up to before he lost his position, and what made his colleagues react so extremely? What about all this pushes Hazama away from the medical establishment? It better be something big, considering how static a character Hazama has been so far. The Vietnam War and learning about CIA human experimentation somehow didn't change his course. It will take a lot for these final episodes of Young Black Jack to top those conflicts.
That's the problem with this show: even when it conjures fun references to other Tezuka works, it still doesn't seem attached to the source for this one. Hazama doesn't seem like Black Jack, to an extent that it's hard to see one climactic experience changing. We won't really know until the finale comes, but it's hard to imagine much payoff considering Hazama's lackluster character development so far. It's unfortunate, because these last several episodes have been exciting and promising. Still, I'm excited to see how it concludes with what we have.
Young Black Jack is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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