Young Black Jack
Episode 8

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Young Black Jack ?
Community score: 3.6

Previews can be misleading. The end of last week's episode and the opening to this one heavily suggested that this week's focus would be PTSD, implying that civil rights protester Johnny's analgesia (immunity to pain) would be the result of some traumatic experience in his life. We find out that Johnny was in Vietnam, and the assumption is: "Oh, of course."

However, it turns out that the only PTSD-ridden soldier here is Tommy, Johnny's friend from the military. It's a minor focus of the episode, a red herring, since Tommy is only here as Yabu's patient to reveal the real answer: Johnny wasn't in Vietnam at all. The "jungles" he fought in were in Okinawa. He volunteered for a special ops mission that got him out of going to a warzone, and that's where the real mystery starts. I don't usually expect this kind of curveball from Young Black Jack. The series can be weird, but it's usually predictable once you get into an episode. The episode immediately became more engaging, and I thought it was one of the best episodes yet overall.

It turns out that Johnny was the subject of a top-secret military program, conducted at the army's Okinawa base. Our CIA members are pretty sinister after all—one of them, who first appeared in episode 3 to deal with the anti-war protesters, threatens Johnny's life. He's a walking clue to their past activities, especially after he keeps putting himself in harm's way during civil rights protests. They can't be the only one noticing that "Immortal Johnny" doesn't notice his own pain until he sees his injuries. Hazama figured it out too. It's up to Risenberg, the celebrated doctor that Hazama came to study under, to fix everything, but he too is not who he seems, secretly struggling with some demons of his own.

This episode also proves that Young Black Jack has really studied this era's history. Those CIA experiments sound like fantastical nonsense, but the CIA did conduct some equally weird and disturbing stuff during the early Cold War. Additionally, bringing over top Nazi scientists and offering them immunity in exchange for their research was another real thing the U.S. government did after World War II. (You might also recognize this from the movie Dr. Strangelove.) Dr. Risenberg, really Dr. Linge, must feel some guilt for the human experiments he carried out in concentration camps, because he uses his power to get Johnny and Hazama out. In general, these past two episodes have shown a surprising awareness of sensitive parts of U.S. history and politics, even with a few missteps like last week's thugs, and the CIA operative's "Jewish organizations" comment and its unfortunate implications. This bodes well for the series' exploration of historical events going forward.

Like the one before it, this episode put Hazama himself in the backseat, along with Yabu and other main characters. He still had some memorable moments: Hazama's trick to get Johnny to spill the beans about his record was brilliant. (Although it was also yet another point where it became difficult to imagine him growing into Black Jack, who isn't as brazenly manipulative and much more empathetic.) Even seeing Hazama sleep-deprived and loopy was a lot of fun. Still, many of the major decisions and pivotal scenes here did not involve Hazama at all. Risenberg shuffles him back off to Japan so he can't interfere, and we spend several minutes with Risenberg ironing out the Johnny situation, returning his ability to feel pain and witnessing the consequences. (He loses his "hero" status when he runs away from a beating at a rally). Only then do we see Hazama under a tree, reading a letter about how everything shook out.

In spite of that, this week felt like an event that could lead to Hazama's eventual distrust of the medical field. It was hard to find that in Vietnam, where doctors were portrayed as the only noble people in the whole outfit. This time, we see how easily The System can manipulate doctors into corrupt activities—up to and including the horrific actions Risenberg committed in Nazi Germany. Risenberg gets Hazama out of America partly to save his life, but partly because he feels guilty "mentoring" someone so new to the field considering what he's done. He doesn't want to corrupt Hazama too.

We'll see someone else try to shift Hazama down that line in that future, making him quit legal medical practice for good. For the moment, Young Black Jack serves up a surprisingly thoughtful episode with more nuance than the previous episodes combined. He may not know the details of what happened, but this event sowed the seeds for his eventual decision, which might make for a more exciting finale down the line.

Rating: A-

Young Black Jack is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a music Ph.D. student who loves overanalyzing anime soundtracks. Follow her on her media blog Rose's Turn, and on Twitter.


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