Black Jack (character)
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|Osamu Tezuka character|
|First appearance||Black Jack, Chapter 1 (November 19, 1973)|
|Created by||Osamu Tezuka|
|Voiced by||Akio Ōtsuka (Japanese)
Tomokazu Seki (young)
Nachi Nozawa (Marine Express, Astro Boy episode)
Masatō Ibu (Million-Year Trip Bander Book, Phoenix 2772)
Kirk Thornton (English)
Black Jack is a medical mercenary, selling his skills to the highest bidder. He is a shadowy figure, with a black cape, eerie black-and-white hair, and stitched-up scars worming all over his body with the most prominent being across his face. Black Jack cures patients indiscriminately, from common folk, to presidents, to yakuza leaders, though he charges all of his patients absurdly high sums. This has given him a reputation for callousness and greed that he cultivates gleefully. In actuality, Black Jack possesses a complex personal code. He will cure a patient for free if they move him with the story of their suffering; however, he always establishes a patient's willingness to pay beforehand. If Black Jack cannot discover a redeeming story behind a patient, his charges stand. He will make exceptions in exigent circumstances, and may change his mind if proven incorrect in his assumptions. Black Jack gives much of the money he earns to charity, and considers it a favour when he takes the majority of a wealthy patient's money.
The doctor is usually in the company of his ward, Pinoko (also spelled Pinoco), a sentient mass of parasitic twin organs surgically removed from her normal sister. After giving the unwanted twin an artificial body in the shape of a female child, Black Jack took in the resulting toddler as his own on the basis that it was deserving a chance at life. Pinoko capably acts as housekeeper, cook and surgical assistant, but more importantly provides moral support and human warmth to the otherwise emotionally distant doctor. Although a fully functional human, Pinoko is incapable of growing; the loving girl has the personality of a first-grader and the knowledge of an 18 year old.
In addition to his medical skills, Black Jack is a skilled fighter. While not violent by nature, he will not hesitate to use force to defend himself or others. Though preferring to fight with his fists, he will use a gun, and can use a scalpel as a throwing weapon in the manner of a dart. One chapter of the manga depicts him training himself at dart-throwing as a young doctor.
Concept and creation
Other than a manga artist, Osamu Tezuka was a licensed physician and created many manga titles with medical themes and physician protagonists, and the character may be a personification of himself. Black Jack has been called Tezuka's alter ego, the kind of doctor he wished he could have been. The character was created for the 40th anniversary of Tezuka's professional manga career. It was originally intended as a five-part miniseries but, thanks to the audience reception, Tezuka's engagement with the character was extended to five years.
Black Jack's attitude and matter of dress are meant to remind readers of the archetypal pirate: rebellious and clever, a man who operates outside the restricting bureaucracy of modern life. His scar, however, embodies the principle of the flawed hero: his half-black, half-white face foregoes any claim to "purity"—be it cultural or ideological—and betrays the complexity of the character. In the end, Black Jack is capable of great kindness as well as brutal cruelty.
Fictional character biography
Black Jack's real name is Kurō Hazama (間 黒男 Hazama Kurō?). His odd appearance comes from an incident when he was eight years old, in which both he and his mother were terribly injured in an explosion. His mother lost all four limbs, later slipping into a coma and dying. Kurō's father left him and his mother after the incident. Kurō's own body was nearly torn to shreds, but he was rescued thanks to a miraculous operation by Dr. Jōtarō Honma. The skin covering the left side of his face is noticeably darker due to getting a skin-graft from his best friend, who is half African. Kurō refused to have plastic surgery to match the skin color as a sign of respect for his friend. Part of Kurō's hair also turned white due to shock. Marked by this experience, Kurō decided to become a surgeon himself, taking the name of Black Jack.
Despite his medical genius, Black Jack has chosen never to obtain a surgical license, choosing instead to operate from the shadows. He considers licenses to be meaningless symbols of social status, preferring instead to live in anonymity. Also, a license would mean he would have to follow certain rules, including not charging large fees for operations. The episodes "Missing Pinoko" and "The Day his Medical License Returns" show that Black Jack once had a medical license; having performed a procedure that his superior said would be hopeless, and despite saving the patient, his license was revoked. Ever since, he has been based in a private clinic on a sea cliff far from civilization, but frequently travels to hospitals around the world to covertly assist terminally ill patients.
In chapter 68, "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World" (published April 14, 1975), Black Jack explains the meaning behind both of his names: "Kurō" is written with the Japanese characters for "black" and "man;" as "Jack" is a common name for a man, he translates his name as "Black Jack."
As part of "Osamu Tezuka's Star System", Black Jack has appeared in several of the artist's works.
Black Jack starred as a side character in episode 27, "The Time Machine," of the 1980 animated adaptation of Tezuka's Astro Boy. Both he and Astro were recruited by a detective from the distant future, and taken back to a medieval castle to catch a man attempting to alter the timeline; where Black Jack was to heal a sick prince (actually Tezuka character Princess Knight) while Astro was to protect the castle from an evil sorcerer. While Astro attempts to fight the beasts sent by the sorcerer, Black Jack discovers that the prince is actually a princess, and, using clever deception, manages to heal her as Astro defeats the sorcerer. In true Black Jack fashion, he tells the town to learn to accept that they have a female ruler, and refuses payment, instead taking a commemorative coin before returning to the future, which Astro values the mint condition artifact to today be worth several million dollars.
Black Jack makes cameo appearances in 1979's Marine Express, in 1980's Phoenix 2772 as the foreman of the prison planet labor camp, and in the 2004 video games Astro Boy and Astro Boy: Omega Factor. He also appears in one panel in Tezuka's work Buddha as a hallucination as well as a cameo under a different name and somewhat different appearance in "Phoenix" in the volume titled "Nostalgia", where he apparently holds some degree of power over a group of thugs about to take advantage of the main character Romy.
Black Jack is also ambiguously referenced in the manga Pluto, a remake of Astro Boy created by Naoki Urasawa with approval from Osamu Tezuka before his death.
In 2010, a short was released showing Black Jack teaming up with Dr. House to promote the DVD release of the show's fourth season. In it, Black Jack was hired to replace Kutner. House immediately takes a dislike to him, and vice versa, but Black Jack quits on amicable terms with House after they cooperate on a difficult surgery.
He also made an appearance in Ray the Animation (aired in 2006) in Episode 1 and at the end of episode 13, both times during surgery giving Ray the extraordinarily eyes that give her X-ray vision.
Other manga artists have paid homage to Tezuka's surgeon. Shūhō Satō's Say Hello to Black Jack is named after Tezuka's character. A surgeon, identified only as B.J., appears in Akihito Yoshitomi's Ray. In the story, B.J. operates on the title character, giving her X-ray vision.
During the 2007 batsu game for Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!, which took place at a hospital, comedian Itsuji Itao repeatedly appeared during the game dressed up as Black Jack, with requisite black cape, hair and scar. Pinoko also appears by his side. He'd leave the scene after being spotted, with an announcer saying "Itsuji Itao presents: Black Jack!"
- "Black Jack : Characters directory". TezukaOsamu.net. Retrieved April 2012.
- Schodt, Frederik (1996). Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Stone Bridge Press. p. 360. ISBN 1-880656-23-X.
- Fey, Chris (May 18, 2004). "Black Jack DVD 1 - Review". Anime News Network.
- Kittelson, Mary (1998). The Soul of Popular Culture: Looking at Contemporary Heroes, Myths, and Monsters. Open Court Publishing. p. 338. ISBN 0-8126-9363-9.
- "Hugh Laurie's House, Tezuka's Black Jack Co-Star in Ad". Anime News Network. 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
- Hornyak, Timothy (2006). Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots. Kodansha International. p. 53. ISBN 4-7700-3012-6.