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Shelf Life
Black Jack The Movie

by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,

This might be a side effect of reviewing anime on a regular basis, but one of the things I enjoy most is being surprised by a series, especially when a show turns out to have more to it than I expected. I started watching Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid this season thinking it would just be a fun little comedy, but it's also been doing a fine job of examining the interactions we all have with friends, neighbors, and coworkers. It's a much more human and relatable series than I thought it would be, even if most of the characters are actually dragons. Give it a look if you haven't already. In the meantime, welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Black Jack The Movie

On Shelves This Week

Busou Shinki: Armored War Goddess - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 325 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $34.49 Amazon

Synopsis: High school freshman Rihito ends up living with four six-inch-tall battling androids called Shinki.

Extra: We don't have much in the way of coverage for this series, though the premise does remind me of an old harem comedy called Hand Maid May. Our user ratings average out at around 6.1 out of 10, and you can stream the series on The Anime Network.

Comet Lucifer - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $36.29 Barnes and Noble|$32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: While exploring underground ruins, Sogo Amagi frees a mysterious girl trapped in a giant crystal and is immediately attacked by troops from a secret military group.

Extra: I did the episode reviews for this series back in 2015. It has its moments, but the ending is pretty weak. You can watch it on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

Nobunagun - Complete Collection [S.A.V.E.] BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $19.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: In the midst of a monster attack, Sio Ogura learns that she is an "E-Gene Holder," meaning she can wield powerful weapons using her connection to a famous historical figure.

Extra: We have a few reviews of this series, including one by me. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.

One Piece - Collection 18 DVD
Funimation - 600 min - Hyb - MSRP $34.98
Currently cheapest at: $22.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Luffy and Boa Hancock arrive at the underwater prison Impel Down, where Luffy must enlist the aid of some unlikely allies in order to rescue his imprisoned brother.

Extra: We have a review of an earlier DVD set covering some of these episodes, along with more recent episode reviews. You can stream the show on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.

Persona 5 the Animation -The Day Breakers- [Import] BD
Aniplex - 48 min - Sub - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $39.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After receiving a letter requesting their help, the Phantom Thieves group springs into action.

Extra: We don't have much on this video game tie-in special, but you can stream it on Crunchyroll if it piques your interest.

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian - Complete Collection DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $39.98
Currently cheapest at: $25.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After inheriting his grandfather's mansion and the library inside it, Hugh Anthony Disward must work with a strange girl named Dalian to deal with monsters trapped inside the books.

Extra: We have a review of the first half of this series. Crunchyroll's streaming license expired a couple of years ago, and the show's page on Funimation doesn't actually have any episodes as of this writing.

Shelf Life Reviews

We've had a lot of comedies in the review section lately, so this week it's time for something a little older and a little more serious. Here's Gabriella's take on Black Jack The Movie, which recently made its first Blu-Ray appearance in the US.

Black Jack The Movie marks the intersection of the two most influential Osamus in anime: Tezuka and Dezaki. Black Jack - a procedural about the eponymous hyper-competent doctor - is one of Tezuka's most beloved properties, and Dezaki (only slightly less famous than Tezuka) is one of anime's most influential directors, responsible for Ashita no Joe, Space Adventure Cobra, and a big chunk of Rose of Versailles. It's hard to name two bigger pioneers in the history of the medium. In light of this history, as well as the fact that these two had worked together since the Literal Beginning of Anime (see Dororo, which I reviewed for a previous Shelf Life), it's a bit surprising that it took until the 90s for Dezaki to spearhead an actual Tezuka adaptation. To put this into context, his career spanned 40 years and included anime versions of some of the biggest manga at the time beforehand. Dezaki was most famous for his work during the 70s and 80s, but Black Jack The Movie came out in 1996. Don't worry – it's still intensely 80s, although that probably says more about the extent to which Dezaki's style defines 80s anime than anything objective about the period. This film is full of hot rods, women in powerful business suits, and people yelling at each other over landline phones. If that doesn't sound like a good time, then I don't know what to tell you.

Anyway, the film's primary selling point is easily its visuals. It's simply gorgeous. I'm so used to seeing Dezaki's style play out in limited made-for-television animation (still frames galore!) that watching the big budget version of his aesthetic was a real treat. Prepare for some intense lens flares, uniquely chunky faces, and lushly detailed backgrounds. The one caveat I have is that this is absolutely in Dezaki's style rather than Tezuka's, so don't come looking here for an animated version of the original comic, which has a much more cartoony aesthetic. This extends to the tone as well. While it doesn't go against the spirit of the original Black Jack or anything, this film primarily reminds me of Dezaki's Golgo 13 movie, as well as his work on the Space Adventure Cobra franchise. While Tezuka's Black Jack was frequently lighthearted, this is predominantly dark, cool, and stylish. Not that the entire scenario is any less ridiculous than usual – BJ is still an absurdly competent medical practitioner, and the entire conspiracy involves a virus that gives people superpowers. Also note that there's quite a lot of detailed surgical imagery, so be warned if you're squeamish about that sort of thing.

Speaking of the story, the film is actually very well plotted. It's yet another standalone narrative rather than a significant installment in Black Jack's personal saga, but it's epic enough to justify the film-sized production and length. The story is that a bunch of world-class artistic and athletic geniuses are suddenly dying, and nobody knows why. Black Jack is roped into the case, which turns out to be a medical conspiracy. This premise sounds simple enough, but it's brought to life by some snappy pacing and a memorable, charismatic antagonist. There isn't a dull moment in the entire thing. I was honestly surprised to check the clock for the first time while watching and discover that there was less than a half hour left.

Discotek's release contains some interesting extras, the most prominent being Manga Video's original English dub. This dub is definitely crusty and old-school, but it was also a blast to listen to and totally adds to the film's retro tone. Kirk Thornton (credited as Sparky Thornton) makes for a great Black Jack, cool and dignified while also imbuing the character with some much-needed emotion. The big issue is that it's not particularly loyal to the Japanese. If you put the subtitles alongside the dub, the two versions contain entirely different lines of dialogue pretty often. Ah well. The dub is a ton of fun, but it's a relic of standards from twenty years ago. Besides that, extras include both the original Japanese and English trailers.

Overall, Black Jack The Movie is a great film from the twilight years of one of anime's greatest luminaries. Its successes are primarily aesthetic, but it works as a great thriller story as well. It also seems to be a nostalgic piece for people who got into anime around the mid-90s. This was my first exposure to the film and I found it very enjoyable, comparable to my experiences with Space Adventure Cobra. I'll probably seek out the 90s Black Jack OVAs now, which were also directed by Dezaki. If your experiences with anime are limited to more recent stuff, I'd recommend the film if you dig stylish, adult works like Space Dandy, Cowboy Bebop, or Redline. I'm not sure if this is the absolute best that Black Jack has to offer, but with those flowing Dezaki locks and high-contrast yet sexy stare, it just might be the coolest.

That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Will:

"My name is Will Murray. I am 65 years old and I have been watching anime for a long time. I posted my shelves here a couple of years ago and it was well received. Bamboo said she was envious. That was cool. One of the advantages of having a really large library is you can do stuff like this. Collecting is more fun if you concentrate on one attribute therein. I think Central Park Media is a really interesting company in a number of ways. They had some great titles. They had some turkeys. They loved the OVAs. They seemed to me to love chaos mayhem and panties. All fun things.

I recommend Labyrinth of Flames, Time Stranger, Arcade Gamer Fubuki, DNA2, & Lodoss Wars along with Utena, Grave of the Fireflies, Slayers & Patlabor which are still available from other sources.

I really look forward to reading what Justin Sevakis has to say about this picture."

I like the focus on CPM, and it's cool to see that I'm not the only one who owns those old Armored Trooper Votoms collections. There are some old gems in there that we don't often get to see in Shelf Obsessed, so thanks for sharing!

If you have an anime collection that you'd like to show off or a particular part of you collection that's unique, send me your photos at [email protected]!

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