Saitou Eijirou is a newly established intern doctor, who is forced to take on a second night job at another, much smaller hospital because of the extremely low pay he receives. As he bounces between the two different hospitals, he is forced to dig deeper and deeper into Japan's largely corrupted medical society and starts to question even his own initial beliefs, as he asks himself just what being a doctor means.
Intensity. It can swirl over all different kinds of situations, in a heated derby between two rival teams, in a large open room covered in sweat and anxiety caused by the start of entrance exams and, most importantly, in interpersonal conflicts with your closest of friends, family and possibly their inevitable diagnosis, floating above them like the sword of Damocles. It’s almost unbearable to be part of the latter situation, being confronted with the defencelessness one must face when the bodies of our loved ones and its seemingly attached lifetime seems to flow out because of one fatal diagnosis, almost like a storm front quickly
approaching the once amicable and warm shelter.
When reading ‘Black Jack ni Yoroshiku’, the realization that there couldn’t be any better way to describe the deciding majority of its depicted situations than ‘the lull before the storm’ won’t take long and through its lengthy run of 13 volumes, there is no break in intensity. Interns may change their medical department, people and faces swap but in essence, the problems and conflicts stay the same but never fail to touch and impress at the same time. And while stating this, I want to highlight that it is indeed a big shame that a Manga, covering modern problems on both the medical field/ organizations and interpersonal interactions in its spotlight, way better than any western TV-show ever could, has failed to strike any notable readership whatsoever outside of Japan. However, BJnY (which I’ll use as an abbreviation from now on) didn’t go past the eyes of the more critical audience in Japan, as it has been nominated for the ‘Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize’ in 2003 and eventually winning it in 2004, only for the author, Sato Shuho, to refuse the award because of the evident similarity and reference (even in the series’ title) to Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Black Jack’ himself. While that is of course not an automatic equivalent to quality in any degree, it’s always welcome to get more exposure thanks to a nomination and technical win like this, even if it only marginally spreads the word outside of Japan and motivates me, even more, to share the goods of this Manga as marginally as I am able to with this write-up.
Getting into BJnY during the first few chapters is not the easiest of tasks. While I was incredibly interested in the subject and possible introspection it might end up offering on its way to the conclusion, I can see many people finding ‘doctor’s introspection’ to sound boring on the first and, in fact, also on the second thought. The series starts off as a mixed bag in contrast to what it evolves later on, Dr. Saitou a freshly graduated intern from one of Japan’s considered to be elite universities in medicine gets to see the harsh and cold reality of internships in the country, working 24h shifts on the regular, with little to no help of his superiors. Having to face grave decisions unacceptably harsh for a freshman, he eventually breaks and has to face a seemingly impenetrable wall in front of him, full of corruption and antipathy in form of the organization of the hospital and insurance company he has to work in/with.
Keeping in mind, that everything I’ve described before and the majority of the first big conflict is introduced in the first volume alone, fast-pacing with little room to breathe right at the beginning but as a drawback, the conflict in itself comes off as rather simplistic and seems to be stuck out for a more complex take on the topic for later. Favorably, the author himself seemed to test out waters in the first volumes and while displaying multiple points of his talent in the shading, paneling and pushing dialogues to an emotional high-level, it just keeps on getting better the more the story progresses.
Utilizing the situation of a moving intern perfectly, from surgical department to neonatology, Shuho puts good use to cover different situations where ethic, moral and medical compatibility is of core importance and goes hand-in-hand with another dominating factor of BJnY: Drama. Good Drama. Incredibly intense Drama. Something everybody could and should appreciate. Inducing mere nail-biting might be an understatement in several scenes, avant-garde, suffocating seem to hit the nail more often and sometimes even that can’t compare. But what makes the drama so effective and interesting to read? Despite the rocky start in that aspect, all the characters happening to be in those ethical dilemmas tend to develop a specific sense of moral ambiguity, abandoning the concept of a clear or even insinuated ‘black and white’ in its entirety. The more the conflict builds up, the more you get to know about the characters involved in it. The protagonist, Dr. Saitou, acts more of a medium for the readership to explore the conflict for themselves, a kind-hearted graduate, new to this kind of situation who tries to draw on unlimited resources but gets thrown into a much more complex and intricate situation as he tries to enter it. Of course, he has some kind of influence to his superiors, trying to penetrate the often very rough shells coming with experience and with the job itself, but those don’t act as much more than mere impulses, resonating with or bouncing off their own ideals. The author even pushes the envelope so much concerning ethical questions, that the father of a premature infant, refusing to sign necessary surgery for his kid to survive shares a huge bit of empathy in its own twisted way and understandability to why he acts the way he acts, almost overshadowing the life-saving actions the team of doctors plans to transpose. Every single relevant individual seems to have a set codex of morals and a reason to why they tend to make the decisions they make and react the way they do when the said codex is challenged and makes it all the more interesting, heart-breaking and oddly addicting to read through all of it.
Names of Saitou’s superiors and patients in treatment might fail to stick with you over time, as the whole Manga seems to flow in its own weird kind of exhilarating ‘semi-episodic’ pacing, but their characteristics, actions, and morals will for sure succeed to, carving it in stone that there is excellent writing all across the character board. Nevertheless, that in itself isn’t what glues you to the pages entirely, since there’s an even more prominent factor Shuho perfected in the long run of his manga: the paneling. What might seem as a clichéd or even ‘generic’ art style on first glance, can get dark, morbid and incredibly striking in the blink of an eye and once it has bitten, it won’t let go. In virtually every other Manga it might come off as overplayed in several situations, but in BJnY it only supports the IMMENSE emotional weight and subtext put in every one of the characters' words with its dark imagery and once it's arriving the climax, it sticks along for about 100 pages each. Whole pages can be pitch-black for half of its space, the panelling is absolutely furious, the shading in several situations is out of control and represents both the importance of this situation and the emotional state of mind of the people involved so well, that even Shounen-esque ‘rage power-up panelling’ seems like a joke afterwards, while still playing in the same territory of displaying once feelings. Polishing up the experience even more, during (personal) climaxes of several situations, the author decided to implement creative colouring, covering a whole scene in one specific colour and dark shading one after another, making it a sight to behold and nothing less.
Black Jack ni Yoroshiku is a true diamond in the rough, a work that will stick with me probably forever, maybe even earning itself the title ‘most underrated/underread Manga’ I’ve come to witness thus far. For people interested in the subject it’s nothing less than a must-read and people looking for a good, yet sometimes very, very depressing Drama nothing less. It has its fair share of bumps along the way, the implementation of grey morality at the beginning is amateurish compared to what’s going to follow, but for everyone who is willing to look past its initial flaws, masterclass storytelling is about to await. It’s vicious and yet it’s probably the most important work to ever come out in the ‘medical’-genre, while simultaneously being one of the strongest Dramas I have ever experienced and won't be replicated anytime soon.
SIDE NOTE: To counter-act readings on websites like mangafox, which have the chapters mixed up and therefore display them in the wrong order, the author himself has uploaded all the official English scans of his volumes of Black Jack ni Yoroshiku completely for free on his website. Just search for 'mangaonweb enbj01' on google, while replacing the '01' for every volume you want to read of it.
Say hello to Black Jack is one of the most overlooked manga on MAL due to its lack of English scans and publications (I read it in French). However, it is one of the few manga that left a strong impression on me.
The story focuses on a young intern in Eiroku (University famous for medicine) and the chronicles of his experience as an intern in different departments of the hospital. Each story arc is a 3-4 months internship in one of the major departments of medicine and Saito (protagonist) is always left in charge of one particular case/patient. However, his naive ideals and stubbornness
makes him rebellious and doubtful about the ethics of medicine in Japan. From, neonatal care to cancer/chemotherapy to psychiatry, each department provides an unique view on the difficulties and challenges of society. Wonderful storyline, dealing with an extremely mature critical and hard subject with a very strong emotional and psychological impact on the readers.
Some characters' face are exaggerated in a serious and realistic fashion. The artwork can be categorized as realistic seinen, sometimes bordering on the same category as Vagabond in terms of details.
The characters are truly multi-dimensional. Many of the "antagonists", i.e. the senior doctors in each department first appears to be insensible and corrupted. However, as the story progresses, we discover that there is no right or wrong between Saito's ideology and that of his seniors. At the end of each arc, not only Saito grows by understanding that his initial thoughts about patient-doctor relationship is too naive, some of the senior doctors also get influenced by Saito. Some regain things from their youth that they have lost after spending too many years in the corrupted system.
Enjoyement and Overall: 10/10
This manga is a SHOCK manga, revealing some of the most obscure aspects of the medical system in Japan. While being pessimistic and dark, it still portrays with confidence the presence of hope both for the patient and the doctor...even when there are none....Some of the story arcs, especially the last two ones, very really emotional. I personally shed tears on the cancer story arc and found it to be one of the most deep and well developed emotional and psychological episode of all the manga I have read. I truly recommend this to anyone who is willing to read a realistic manga that criticizes the social system (of Japan) but also add a "human" side to all things. One of the masterpieces.
This manga is not for typical otaku, who are looking for a manga that lets them escape the harsh reality.
This manga is all about reality.
It's hard to read this manga, but it's hard to stop.
This is one of few mangas that will make you feel like you don't want to live in this world anymore, and the main reason is the reality of this manga. 100% realistic situations, backed-up with real-life problems and issues that you can find info about in any media.
It's no wonder some people rate it so low. Many people read manga to escape into the world of magic, superpowers and main
characters who always achieve their goals and where the dreams come true.
Black Jack ni Yoroshiku is the very opposite. No magic, no superpowers, no miracles. The main character is as real-life human as possible, and dreams are what they are in reality - just dreams, while goals are distant and unclear.
Like most people, Saito Eijirou doesn't know what his goals are or why he's doing what he's doing.
Like most people, Saito Eijirou has dreams that are ruined by reality.
Like most people, Saito Eijirou hopes for miracles that never happen.
And like in real life, things never go as planned.
All 13 volumes present to you the reality of human life and illustrate how weak and hopeless all the people are in this world.
If you've already accepted the reality; if you already realized how powerless you are, then you will find a masterpiece in this manga.
But if you're still fooling yourself with "dreams come true" and "believe in yourself" crap, then go and read something more optimistic and fictitious, and come back here years later, after the life will teach you the definition of "reality".
Just to clarify, Say Hello to Black Jack is NOT some kind of pre/sequel of Black Jack, it’s another type of creature altogether…
Saito, Eijirou is a fresh medical graduate that’s just starting his internship in his university’s hospital and simultaneously, working a part-time job (now we know why doctors don’t sleep). He finds trouble living on his monthly wage of… A jar of pickles (no actually, it’s something ridiculous like $380) and while politics run wild in the hospital’s background, we (as readers) get to see what’s really happening behind the scenes: let the crazy kowtowing and enraged fits begin!
The Manga’s plot explores the
ethics and methods within the medical field, including the shady deals that happen, which many people aren’t aware of. It’s less of a ha-ha-girls-just-want-to-have-fun kind of Manga, and more of an eye-opening shocker of a story. The main character (aka the good guy) gets made fun of, becomes isolated, has his family threatened to repay a huge scholarship and loses his friends and part-time job. Why? Because the man wants to know how it feels like to be a real doctor whose main concern is the patient. I like the fact that the author keeps reiterating this idea, that if it was to save a human life then the benefits must and will outweigh the costs.
The art was at times super-detailed and at others, just okay; the illustrator uses this technique to emphasise emotions and the scenes in general (which can get a little overwhelming). However, it was above average overall due to the healthy dose of realistic proportioning in the illustrations and the fact that not every character was ‘pretty’ or ‘handsome’ or ‘beautiful’; the characters’ faces were rather normal. It seems to me that a lot of illustrators find non-sparkly faces hard to draw *cough*illustrators*cough*. I’d have liked it better if the author didn’t make the panels so dark (put some light element in there, why don’tcha?) but we’ll forgive you for that, won’t we readers?
The author created very realistic characters, some of which were heart wrenching and some of which were assholes. Their personalities were rather symbolic and solid, pretty much representing a major part of society. They move the plot on nicely while each having a definitive effect on where the story is going. Nice job, author.
In conclusion, in today’s world, it seems difficult to hold on to what is right and what is wrong. However, this Manga highlights the fact that this behaviour has trickled down to places where it shouldn’t have: medicine, where not only money (because the money argument is always there) but also HUMAN LIVES are in the balance. This Manga is for readers who’re ready to get down and dirty with the facts and prod sensitive topics, it’s for the people that enjoy DEPTH (an extremely rare attribute) in their plotlines. It’s very much the cup of tea of a person who’s brain had started to shrink due to too much shallow, glittery, predictable stories and who wants a change of pace.