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Oct 01

Monthly Recommendations – October 2016

mr_oct_headIt’s October! The uni is springing back into life, the new season of anime is starting and Anicom is preparing for a bright new future as TV, Movies & Animation. But a new month also means a new monthly recommendations column!

Each month, one awesome person will be picking an anime, cartoon, webcomic, manga and comic they love and want to recommend. This month, Anicom regular Vince has stepped up to the plate with his vast knowledge on all things Japanese, so over to him!

Anime – Black Jack

Kuroo Hazama, also known as “Black Jack,” is a legend in the medical world. Famous for being one of the best, as well as not having a license, Hazama and his assistant Pinoko save countless lives that other doctors cannot… for a price; an exorbitant price, in fact, which causes many to view the genius as greedy and heartless. Despite these claims, however, none can deny his skill and the lengths that he will go to treat his patients. This dark medical drama tells the story of the ominous and mysterious world of underground medicine as Black Jack risks his life to cure some of the most bizarre diseases imaginable, even if it means breaking every law in the process.

I decided to start reading Black Jack after hearing about it for a while as being one of Tezuka’s (known as the Father of Manga) darker works. I have to admit it was not as dark as I expected it to be. Though it was definitely an enjoyable read, as very soon I found myself binge reading it all due to the amazing characters and different stories. Black Jack is structured in mostly 20 pages per chapter / story in the manga. Basically, a different story in each chapter most of the time. The anime Black Jack TV follows the same schedule, being loyal to the manga unlike most anime nowadays involving an episode a story. This is extremely convenient for someone like me who likes to sit down and watch something during my spare time every now and then instead of watching episodes one after another. But what I was most surprised at was the animation quality as I watched Black Jack the TV series in chronological order, with Young Black Jack first. Being made in 1993 and directed by Tezuka’s son, surprisingly the animation still holds up today. Black Jack’s voice actor Akio Ootsuka does a brilliant job portraying the character with a mature, charismatic and cool voice. Also the music of the TV series Black Jack is nice and lively, giving a nice classical taste of the 90s happiness of a Tezuka production. Surprisingly also there is not as much gore as I expected from a surgery show, as it is more about the characters circumstances and development than the surgeries themselves.

After the TV series there is Black Jack the OVA, bringing a more mature and darker style to the show for its audience compared to the light-hearted TV series. But though it showed more gore in the surgeries, it didn’t decrease the development of characters by any means. This is all good and enjoyable too, following the same format as the manga and TV series of an episode a story.

Finally the newest Black Jack, called Young Black Jack, as you would probably expect from my previous comments, is also very good. Although it doesn’t follow the an episode a story format since it’s about Black Jack’s past. It does build up Black Jack’s experiences when he was younger and a medical student learning to become a surgeon, and why he chose the path of being a black market unlicensed doctor, showing how he was not always like the way he was, as many experiences of humanities selfishness and corruption of the world building the man he is in the future. The music of Young Black Jack is also very good, being a kind of techno style which reminds me of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure when something epic is happening. Also, if you’re worrying about watching this first as there might be references to the shows before it chronologically by animation production, don’t be. There is one epic reference that I noticed throughout the whole show, but it’s not too important as it is a reference that will work even if you watch Young Black Jack first and then go to the other ones.

Overall I think Black Jack is a good show which you will learn a lot from, as it really shows the medical knowledge gained from Tezuka’s medical degree before he became a manga artist. Also, the show surprisingly gives more character development to Black Jack’s clients and the people around him, rather than Black Jack himself, making you thirst for knowledge of his mysterious background the more you watch, as they never fully explain his past, only bit by bit in sections in every series, even Young Black Jack. Whether you watch it in the series’ chronological order of Young Black Jack, TV Series then OVA first (which I did) or the animation production order, it doesn’t matter. As I said before, either way you will have a fun adventure and experience with Black Jack and his clients.

You can watch Black Jack and Young Black Jack online here and here, or buy one of the films here.

Manga – Imawa no Kuni no Alice

Ok. since I have read many mangas it was very hard to choose which one to recommend. Thus I chose the longest one which I thought was good that no one has heard of, and that is Imawa no Kuni no Alice, translated into Alice in Borderland.

Ryouhei Arisu is a high school student with no ambitions who just wants to escape from what he feels is a meaningless reality. One night when he is with his two friends Daikichi Karube and Chouta Segawa, they see an abnormally large firework shoot into the sky, an event which signals a permanent change in their lives.

Blinded by the incredibly bright explosion, the three find themselves transported to what is known as the Borderland. The only inhabitants of this world are participants of a deadly game where specific tasks must be accomplished if they wish to survive. As the three begin playing to determine how they can get back home, Ryouhei finds himself feeling alive for the very first time in his life.

Basically a dark horror survival manga, and me being a fan of these, there might be bias on this one. Where Imawa no Alice shines compared to other survival horror manga though, is the main character. Most of the other survival horror main characters I find is centric around their own survival and their friends. Ryouhei on the other hand is by no means this kind. Yes, he does get a lot of development, but he tends to be a more down to earth realistic type of guy who survives and does amazing things through many adrenaline rushes, but once that rush is over and his emotions return, we can relate to him as a person.

Besides the good main character, the story is good too. I still wonder to this day the secret behind Borderlands. It’s like a survival horror game like world mystery, as they have not explained anything but its interesting mechanics to us. The survival horror type games also work by having interesting mechanics. Following a more realistic formula, as opposed to, say, manga Kamisama no Iutoori, where you use your brain and trickery to survive. Another factor I like about this manga is it is not afraid to kill off characters, kinda like Gantz. It’s all cool having a cool epic party surviving throughout the whole manga, but I like the more realistic approach of not knowing who or when someone will die in the next page or so. There is a massive unexpected plot twist about a quarter of the way in, which I loved very much, again like Gantz. But even though characters in this manga may die suddenly and unexpectedly, that doesn’t mean you won’t care about them, as they do give these short-lived characters a likeable development, backstory, and moments which make you realise how much you miss them when they are gone. All in all, it is a good read for a survival horror manga, and if that’s what you enjoy, as well as having a good main character, you should go for it.

Alice in Borderland has never been officially released in English, so… wait a minute…

Interested in writing for this column? Then talk to Sean, or get in touch with Anicom via Facebook, Twitter, the forums or e-mail. All we need is a couple hundred words on one (or two, or all five!) of the comics / mangas / cartoons / animes / webcomics you love! Looking forward to it~

You can check out more of Vince’s stuff on his Twitter, here.