You know who James Bond is, right? Suave, debonair, cunning, with a perfect eye for both his targets and his ladies, Mr. Bond has been the star of 20 movies, making him one of the longest-running characters in film history. Though arguments about as to who played Bond best still linger (and I'm still a Timothy Dalton fan), the films don't live or die on his character. The films are determined good or bad by their plots, their villains, their twists and turns, and their explosions.
In much the same way, the OVA series BlackJack is rarely interesting because of its main character, the titular unlicensed doctor ready to travel the world and battle any disease for a hefty sum. Frankly, since we know virtually nothing about BlackJack personally, he's boring. So whether or not a BlackJack adventure is any good is largely upon the shoulders of its primary story and characters. BlackJack: Seizure has one OK episode and one lousy episode, so unfortunately its not an easy one to recommend.
The first episode (the lousy one) introduces us to the Federal Unites, a pseudonym for the United States made clear by patriotic pictures of a red-and-white striped flag and the Statue of Lib...er, Statue of Federalism, I guess. The nation has invaded the neighboring Ortega Republic and seized its leader, who the President of the Federal Unites claims is running drugs into the country. However, the republic's leader is heisted away by a crack team of commandoes who want to bring him back home. How does BlackJack fit in? He's called by the commandoes to treat their commander-in-chief, who is dying of cancer.
Meanwhile, the second episode (the decent one) involves an aspiring actress, Michelle Petit, who faints while shooting the final scene of her new movie. This is a make-or-break role for her, but she's afflicted with anorexia. It's not by choice, however; after a short diet, she finds herself growing less and less able to eat. BlackJack is summoned to try and find the root cause of her illness, but he needs to beat the clock: not only is she needed back on the set, but a mysterious rival doctor who specializes in euthanasia may want to relieve Ms. Petit of her sufferings permanently.
As with the previous volume, the artwork on BlackJack: Seizure is quite tasty. It's not an action title, and its action sequences often become still shots rendered in impressive paintings. However, it's a stylistic choice that works well. Throughout, the production values are top-notch.
As I said before, the show lives or dies on its storylines alone, and this volume comes dangerously close to needing life support. The first episode is the one with the most problems, and they come from the show's attempt to deal with political intrigue. It's difficult for a 50-minute program to effectively handle the workings of politics, and as we see here, it's easiest to paint the sides in broad black and white, good and evil strokes. Although one could take offense at the negative portrayal of the US, especially since this adventure is surprisingly timely in its topic (though animated many, many years ago), that's not what bothers me so much. What disturbed me was the lack of gray. Rebel forces good, President bad. It was so lopsided that it didn't work for me. The show also strays from its origins, being more about the female captain of this cadre of soldiers than about the medical problems facing the good doctor. It reminded me more of Golgo 13 than of BlackJack.
Meanwhile, the second episode gets more on track in its race for a cure to the actress's affliction. The pacing is better, and it held my attention well. It's in the details that this one get bogged down. Usually, the little details make a story more memorable, but here they sidetrack the episode. It turns out that Ms. Petit got her start in the "blue movie" business, and there's a tabloid reporter hounding the story from that angle. Although I appreciate a character with back-story, her years in the pornography business don't seem to have changed her as a person or even affect anything in her current life. It's unrealistic and unnecessary, and it makes her less of a character we can relate to. Also, the Dr. Kevorkian character we meet is a plot device, not a fully developed character. He doesn't need to be here, either. It's a good episode weighed down by superfluous distractions.
I still like the character of BlackJack, and I'll be interested in seeing more episodes. I still wish for some more development of the physician, but I doubt that will happen, so I will have to be content with what I get...though I think for all the talent on display, the show could be more than what it's shown to be so far.
Blackjack: Seizure -- brief nudity, adult situations, violence, graphic depictions of illness and surgery -- B-