"I'm beginning to realize the only place I can use my skills is in a back room where the sun doesn't shine."
Is Black Jack in love? He's had other girls infatuated with him through his medical adventures, and he's most always rebuffed them. But when a crippled beauty suffering from a disease caused by biowaste meets our super surgeon in Biohazard, Black Jack may be interested in more than her ailment.
Black Jack has been called to a Japanese bayside town, where years of a company dumping toxic waste into the bay has taken its toll on the locals. Many people are sick, and the best medical minds in the world are stumped as to how to cure them. But Black Jack, our unlicensed medical miracle worker for hire, may be able to help. He's hired to come to the town and lead the medical team.
But despite being the best surgeon of the bunch – and saving a 12-year-old victim of the disease – one of the other doctors recognizes who he is. Being unlicensed, Black Jack is asked to leave. He agrees, and only takes payment for the one day's worth of work. Before he can make his way out of town, he finds the young woman Tsukiko in pain on the beach. She's been collecting fish from the ocean, despite the toxicity of the area. The fish she sells are poisonous, but people who feel sorry for her continue to buy them from her.
Black Jack decides to perform surgery on Tsukiko's legs, which have been deformed by the toxic waste. No charge, of course. He works her through her post-op recuperation. He even tries to get the city to help out with her medicine costs, and extorts the company to pay for her future medical costs. But Black Jack may have underestimated her condition, when one night she goes missing, and leaves Black Jack a disturbing note. Can he save her from herself?
Biohazard has more of that wonderful medical mayhem, with detailed surgeries and precise human anatomy displayed. Black Jack explains his procedures in each episode, giving us insight into his work. Every one of these OVA episodes looked great, especially during surgery. It's really better than most network medical dramas in this respect.
But Biohazard is lacking in many ways. A somewhat silly myth of mermaids is loosely tied into the plot, and it's not explained well at all. A half dozen side characters are introduced and none contributes much to the story. Worst of all, being the last episode of Black Jack OVA, Biohazard ends rather abruptly and with little fanfare.
I love most everything about Black Jack. He's one of my favorite non-violent anime characters, a mysterious doctor who solves mysterious diseases in mysterious settings. But Biohazard is missing a lot of the elements the previous nine episodes featured. The crime that's been committed has been solved before our doctor arrives, the medical problem presented here sees no end, and the series itself has little in the way of resolution for the characters or us. The wonderful and unique direction of this show is intact, yet Biohazard is the end of Black Jack OVA and it doesn't feel like the end. I want closure, damnit.
Sharp-looking anamorphic widescreen video with nothing poor to report. Solid black levels, good color tones, and nothing overtly upsetting in the transfer to DVD, other than a little shimmering of the image early on and a spot midway through. The direction of Black Jack OVA uses a lot of bright lights, reflections and swathes of sun and moonlight spread across scenes, and all of it comes through sharply on this DVD.
Basic 2.0 stereo English and Japanese audio options, with both sounding clear and free of improper noise or dropouts. I love the English voice of Black Jack, and hate the English voice of Pinoko. OK, so I don't like Pinoko's character to begin with, but still, she's a whiny little kid who gets on my nerve, more so on the English track. Good ambient noises on this volume –creaky steps, the tap of fingers counting on a palm – and the background music for this episode is excellent as well. All-in-all, a very good mix.
A nice, if simple, profile of creator Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Metropolis) is included, which scrolls up the screen with scenes and music from Black Jack set as the backdrop.
The best feature on this disc is Director Osamu Dezaki's commentary track for the OVA. He talks about how this episode has more social statements than other Black Jack episodes, how the girl Tsukiko is both pure and mentally unstable, and how this Black Jack episode is the first to actually be set in Japan. Dezaki is a very entertaining man, with humor, insight and Black Jack history present in his commentary. Definitely worth a spin, after you've watched the movie.
Trailers for all seven previous Black Jack OVAs are included, along with a moving art gallery, textless opening and closing animation, and previews for a dozen CPM DVDs and graphic novels. Central Park Media deserves credit for throwing lots of special features on most of its releases, even the fringe ones. Many companies stop at DVD credits and textless openings, while CPM goes the extra mile, regardless of the release.
While Mutation was my favorite OVA, Biohazard has to be toward the bottom. Nothing much exciting happens here, as Black Jack the character is explored amidst a social commentary about environmental destruction. He's most entertaining when he's solving crimes and fantastic medical mysteries. If you're collecting the series, you'll add Biohazard to the shelf, because it would be folly not to have the final OVA of this series. But if you want to really enjoy Black Jack, go after the complete collections. On its own, Biohazard gets a Rent It rating. And let's hope CPM hunts down the license for the TV series.