Black Jack (character)

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Black Jack
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)
Information
Aliases Kurō Hazama
Species Human
Gender Male
Occupation Doctor
Surgeon
Family Pinoko (adopted daughter)
Nationality Japanese

Black Jack (ブラック・ジャック Burakku Jakku?) is a fictional character created by Osamu Tezuka, introduced in Weekly Shōnen Champion on November 19, 1973.

Fictional Character Biography[edit]

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having performed a procedure that his superior said would be hopeless, and despite saving the patient, his license was revoked.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.

After he had graduated from med school, he bought the house he now lives in in the manga (Volume 10 Chapter 4: "Unfinished House"). Back then, he learned from the carpenter who built it, that it has stood there for 40 years. The hand print that Pinoko found in Volume 10 Chapter 4: "Unfinished House" was left by that very same carpenter. He says that he always leaves a hand print on the places he built; if the owner doesn't like it, he leaves it in the attic.

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." His name in the manga is spelt "Kuro'o". In Volume 10 Chapter 2: "The Mask Chosen," he explains to Pinoko that in Japanese, kuro means black and the second o means jack.

Appearance[edit]

Black Jack has a large patch of white hair on the right half of his head and black on the rest. His body is lining with stitches, the most obvious, his face. The left half of his face is a darker skin tone patch of skin from Takashi. He is possibly in his late 20's to early 30's.

He is often seen wearing a black overcoat. Hidden inside are a few scalpels he uses as weapons. Lining his coat are implements which serves as a bullet-proof vest against guns. During any seasons or occasions, hot or cold, he will be seen wearing his coat.

His Clinic/House[edit]

Black Jack's one floor house was designed and constructed by a proud and traditional carpenter Ushigoro. A dirt road leads from the town and up the hill to his house. It is a 30-years-old house with its inside cracked and old. It leaks water during rainstorms. On the outside is a small front porch and the entrance to the inside. It consists of a small kitchen, a bathroom (with a toilet, a shower, and a sink), a small operating room, a bedroom with two twin beds that Black Jack and Pinoko shares, a guest room, a living room with a TV. Situated in front of the fireplace is Black Jack's desk. On his desk are dip pens, some medical books, and a rotary dial telephone. From the back door, Pinoko can be seen putting the clothes on the laundry line to dry.

It collapsed during an earthquake in Volume 4 Chapter 14: "Thieving Dog" and was finally destroyed in a typhoon in Volume 17 Chapter 11: "After the Typhoon".

Character[edit]

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. When Black Jack walks around, some people will whisper how creepy his face scars are and the different tone in his skin. People will avoid him, thinking that he is suspicious, not knowing that he is a doctor. People who know him will not mind the difference. His age is not explicitly stated but may be of late 20's to early 30's. He performs some surgeries at house, but he mostly travel the world to meet his patients in hospitals or in houses. He is able to speak multiple languages, like Spanish and English. He is usually seen driving his black car but if need be, he will take a plane, a train, or a boat. Black Jack knows how to operate a motorboat and even knows Morse Code (Volume 17 Chapter 4: "Captain Park").

Black Jack cures patients indiscriminately, from common folk, to presidents, to yakuza leaders, to the supernatural — from the very poor to the very rich — though he charges all of his patients absurdly high sums (10 million yen to billions of yen) in cash. The people who hears the highly expensive amount usually jump up in surprise. Sometimes they even jump out of their clothes. 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. If a surgery goes well, he usually snores when he sleeps. Then he always sees that his patients recover completely.

Black Jack gives much of the money he earns to charity — buying up land and islands to protect nature, and building houses — and considers it a favour when he takes the majority of a wealthy patient's money. Sometimes thieves, burglars, and bandits come to his house and attack him for all the money he "hordes". Other times, he has a gun pointed at him or used as a punching bag.

He is a highly skilled doctor, able to handle scalpels and medical tools fast and precise. He could reattach limbs to their complete mobility, operate on the most difficult procedures that many doctors can't, and operate up to 40 people at once. He would spend the whole 24 hours on one surgery if he needs to. He could even do surgeries on himself: in Volume 3 Chapter 3: "Dingoes", in Volume 10 Chapter 8: "Fresh and Blood", and in Volume 14 Chapter 2: "The Third Call". He can't do it if one or both of his hand(s) is/are unavailable. Some doctors and surgeons praise him for his skills, while others disdain him for not having a license. In the manga (Volume 6 Chapter 5: "Lion-Face Disease"), the reader finds out why he couldn't get a medical license. He threatens patients into paying extremely expensive fees and the World Medical Association received many complaints about it.

Black Jack had to get stitches when he was very young when a bomb suddenly exploded. The place where they lives was once used by the military. The place was ridden with bombs which hadn't exploded yet. Most of the bombs were removed but some weren't. Black Jack and his mother were unlucky to have stepped on an unexploded bomb. His mother lost all of her limbs and her voice. Black Jack was at death's door, smashed into 18 different pieces, but survived with many surgeries with the help of Dr. Honma (During which Takashi donated some of his skin in Volume 2 Chapter 7: "Where Art Thou, Friend?"). Since he was very worried for his mother, a part of his hair turned white. Because of what happened, his father left them for his lover. Ever since that day, he stopped laughing. Wanting revenge, he sought the five people who ruined his mother's life. One of the culprit was Ichigahara, who was in Volume 7 Chapter 5: "Unexploded Bomb". The second culprit was Takuzo Ubamoto, who was in Volume 12 Chapter 7: "The Second One". In Volume 11 Chapter 1: "Spasm," the reader finds out that he had pneumothorax from the explosion. Since then, when there is a patient with it, he unconsciously feel the agony and thus creating the phobia. Dr. Yamadano helped cure Black Jack of his fear.

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 the artificial plastic body of a child, Black Jack took in the resulting toddler as his own, believing it deserves 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 outwardly 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. He usually gets help on surgeries by Pinoko or other medical assistants, but usually end up doing the surgeries alone.

With his medical skills, he can, if push comes to shove, he will operate on a large group of people at once. 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. In his coat, he carries lots of scalpels for emergencies, no medical reasons. His coat is lined with implements which serves as a bullet-proof vest against guns. He wears his coat even on sunny days. One chapter of the manga depicts him training himself at dart-throwing as a young boy (Volume 12 Chapter 13: "Prone to Laughter").

The only known operations he had done on animals are:

  • a killer whale in Volume 2 Chapter 3: "The Ballad of the Killer Whale" (Status: Dead)
  • a deer in Volume 6 Chapter 11: "Nadare" (Status: Dead)
  • a gorilla in Volume 7 Chapter 8: "Goribei of Senjogahara" (Status: Dead)
  • a bear in Volume 7 Chapter 11: "A Hill for One" (Status: Alive)
  • an Iriomote cat in Volume 9 Chapter 7: "A Question of Priorities" (Status: Alive)
  • a dolphin in Volume 10 Chapter 5: "Strangers at Sea" (Status: Dead)
  • a poodle in Volume 11 Chapter 5: "The Whispers of a Dog" (Status: Alive)
  • a horse in Volume 17 Chapter 5: "Avatar" (Brain Status: Alive) (Body Status: Dead)

He is usually seen eating tea on rice when he goes to a poor house and curry at a restaurant. He usually drinks coffee. He is sometimes seen smoking a cigarette or from a pipe. He always try to heal his patients but he will get very emotionally upset if: 1) someone takes his patients; 2) his patients commit suicide; 3) someone kills his patients; or 4) death was inevitable. There were times where people attacked him and was very near death. He even went to jail a few times. Volume 10 Chapter 7: "The Man who Threw up Capsules" was the only time Black Jack is seen with a beard.

Black Jack doesn't believe in weird phenomenons in people's bodies. The only times he treated the supernatural were: spirits of a plane crash (?) and a spirit hosting the boy (Volume 12 Chapter 11: "Operation of the Spirit"). He even operated on a dead mummy in Volume 13 Chapter 5: "The Cursed Operation". He operated on a female alien who came from outer space in Volume 13 Chapter 10: "A Challenge of the Third Kind". He operated in the dark before. He once turned a human into a bird in Volume 17 Chapter 2: "A Girl Who Became a Bird".

Apparently in Volume 13 Chapter 12: "Move, Solomon!", Black Jack watches oil painting shows.

He once did a fake marriage to a cancer patient in Volume 14 Chapter 3: "A Transient Love". He was once in a film (Volume 14 Chapter 10: "There were Two Films") but because the World Medical Association didn't want an unlicensed doctor film, his surgery part wasn't aired.

A disease in Volume 14 Chapter 13: "Black Jack Disease" was named after him by Dr. Mohammed Kooma because of how expensive the surgery is.

Some women, other than Megumi Kisaragi, fell in love with him, although he says he is not fit for marriage.

He will slap people if they get too annoying or stubborn.

Concept and Creation[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2][3]

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.[2][3] 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. A pirate carrying a similar scar, Captain Harlock, was introduced in 1953's "Adventures of a Honeybee" prior to Black Jack's creation, however Black Jack became the star of his own manga series years before Harlock did.

In the end, Black Jack is capable of great kindness as well as brutal cruelty.[2][3][4]

Other Appearances[edit]

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.[5]

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.[citation needed]

Cultural Impact[edit]

Black Jack is one of Tezuka's most beloved characters and his popularity is rivaled only by Astro Boy.[6]

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. The character of former police coroner and serial killer Shingo Zuhaku, whose design is based on Tezuka's Black Jack, appears in horror manga The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Ōtsuka and Housui Yamazaki.

Kamen Rider Den-O's Imagin Anime OVA parodized Black Jack by having Ryutaros cosplay as him in a doctor sketch.

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!"

IGN ranked him as the 24th greatest anime character of all time, saying he "did what few characters in anime have achieved: he made an everyday profession into something heroic."[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Black Jack : Characters directory". TezukaOsamu.net. Retrieved April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Schodt, Frederik (1996). Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Stone Bridge Press. p. 360. ISBN 1-880656-23-X. 
  3. ^ a b c Fey, Chris (May 18, 2004). "Black Jack DVD 1 - Review". Anime News Network. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Hugh Laurie's House, Tezuka's Black Jack Co-Star in Ad". Anime News Network. 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  6. ^ Hornyak, Timothy (2006). Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots. Kodansha International. p. 53. ISBN 4-7700-3012-6. 
  7. ^ Isler, Ramsey (February 4, 2014). "Top 25 Greatest Anime Characters". IGN. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 

External links[edit]

  • Black Jack in the Tezuka World database
  • in the Tezuka in English database