Blackjack: Trauma

The stories of the legendary surgeon BlackJack just keep on coming. This makes the fifth BlackJack disc I've reviewed, and it certainly has been a unique ride. I've complained in the past about the lack of information about our hero's background, and I've argued that the capable series, while enjoyable and well animated, doesn't have much of a heart. As we head into the last few discs of the series, we get in BlackJack: Trauma one of the most straightforward stories in the whole set. It has some problems, most notably in its insertion of goofy humor, as well as in the CPM Region 1 release only containing one episode (the OVA discs up to this point have each included two). However, those who've watched up to this point will find another fine adventure of our renegade.

A mobster has put up BlackJack's million-dollar fee to have him operate on his granddaughter, who has a rare heart condition that no one else knows how to treat. The only problem is that said granddaughter happens to be in the middle of a war zone. Braving the elements after his car can't handle a sandstorm, he makes it to the refugee camp just in time. As he operates on the girl, the makeshift village gets word of BlackJack and begs BlackJack's help.

Meanwhile, an international community of doctors has come to the conclusion that refusing BlackJack a medical license makes no sense; they have only to gain from BlackJack being accepted as part of the medical community. There's only one problem: a young surgeon whose fiance has left him for a year to do medical "mission" work. And who does his fiance wind up working alongside? Not a hard guess, I'll tell you.

BlackJack: Trauma continues with the strong animation work of the previous episodes. Although it's not a show of fast motion, what there is looks great. Although the show's habit of using stills to illustrate a situation continues, they are a little more spread out in this episode, which is nice. No complaints here.

The biggest problem I have with this episode is the use of Pinoko for comic relief. She's already an annoying and frankly unnecessary character most of the time, and here it plays out. She has several dialogues with the mob boss that aim to amuse the audience, but those who have made it this far into BlackJack aren't expecting serious doses of humor. These sequences feel oddly out of place, even more so than previous Pinoko appearances. Although it makes for a lighter BlackJack episode, which is nice considering the gravity of the series as a whole, I would prefer the levity be a bit less dumb.

This episode doesn't have major plot twists like some do, but for once, there is character development. We learn BlackJack's real name. We see him in a situation even more difficult for him than the supernatural events he's seen in the past: he's faced with a crowd of needy folks who cannot afford to pay anything, let alone his standard fee. We finally start rounding off some of the character's rough edges. Now these are no huge revelations, but for a show whose main character is an enigma, they are a big deal.

BlackJack: Trauma is not going to really impress anyone who's not already watching and enjoying the series. However, for those who've come this far, if the annoying fact that we've gone to only one episode per DVD doesn't stop you from seeing the rest, you'll enjoy it.

BlackJack: Trauma -- brief surgical gore, violence and realistic suffering -- B