BlackJack: Biohazard

Long live BlackJack! Although I haven't seen every last bit of the OVA series, it has finally reached its conclusion with Central Park Media's release of BlackJack: Biohazard. Unlike many other anime series, each episode of BlackJack stands alone; for those who enjoy medical dramas, it means that you can pick up any disc and jump into a dose of the unlicensed surgeon's work on display. The stories vary in quality, but all of them are pretty good. Such is the case with Biohazard, an ending that isn't really an ending at all, just another solid episode in the continuing stories of the good if unconventional doctor.

An important port known for its baths and fishing has been obscenely polluted by a careless manufacturer. The area's water has been contaminated with metallic toxins that slowly poisoned the populace. As the show starts, the industrial giant is fined massive amounts to help alleviate the suffering of those who've lost their livelihoods (and, in some cases, their lives) because of the contamination. Blackjack is called in by the corporation's medical facility to help them assess the situation and cure the toxicity that is attacking people's joints. He reluctantly agrees to visit in order to see what he might do. Unfortunately, when his status as a renegade gets out, he's forced out of the consortium of doctors.

Blackjack finds that the solution for the city's troubles may lie in the cure of a young woman. Crippled on land but able to swim almost perfectly, she still catches fish as an underwater diver. Although otherwise a normal girl, she is infatuated with the tale of a mermaid who gave up her tail in order to meet the human she loves. She lives her life in a little cave, alone, and so the medical establishment has never given her any treatment. But Blackjack cares for her predicament, and perhaps starts to care for her, too. Blackjack can cure her legs. Can he cure her obsession?

As has been the case with this series, the artwork has just gotten better and better. It's just a striking show to watch from start to finish. Although not incredibly detailed, Biohazard is the perfectly realized OVA in terms of look. I also have to say that I'm impressed by the music, particularly the theme song for this episode. I have my share of favorite anime songs, but I am not a soundtrack collector like some of my colleagues. That being said, the opening vocal here is outstanding. Technically, this is near flawless.

Biohazard is perhaps the most well-balanced episode of the OVA series yet. We've seen fantastic stories, even science fiction and horror, up to this point. Blackjack beats the odds time and time again, only stumped when the supernatural gets in the way. But in Biohazard, we are not dealing with some strange new disease or an impossible phenomenon. Everything is downright normal considering the circumstances. The cases Blackjack treats seem realistic for heavy metal poisoning. The story with the girl is sad and sweet while being believable. Even the mythological tale connected therein is not overwhelming nor supernatural (as CPM's press release would have you believe); it merely gives more weight to the main story. Surprisingly enough, the most normal episode of BlackJack turns out to be its most compelling.

The minor issues I have with Biohazard are pretty much true of other episodes as well. I still don't like Pinoko, Blackjack's strange ward who follows him everywhere, though her part in this episode is pretty minimal. CPM decided to release this as a single-episode disc, which after several two-episode discs feels just a little sparse. (To be fair, though, they did include an enjoyable commentary track from Osamu Dezaki, the episode's writer/director.) And being an episodic show, there's little character growth. But if you've watched any of the other discs in the BlackJack series, you're aware of these faults already.

From what I read in Newtype USA, the BlackJack TV series is doing quite well. Although I'm not sure if there are plans to bring it to the US, I will admit that I'm sorry to see this series end and hope to see the TV show soon. Although BlackJack is not my favorite series, the characters have grown on me a great deal over time. If you've never seen any of his adventures, which you should, then this disc would make an excellent place to start.

Blackjack: Biohazard -- surgery (though not as graphic as in previous episodes), brief nudity -- A-