Black Jack (Series)
Black Jack Timeline
scroll down for more
Also known as ブラック・ジャック (Burakku Jakku)
Black Jack, the story of Tezuka's rogue doctor, is, along with Astro Boy and Jungle Emperor, one of his most well-known and popular creations. Originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Champion (週刊少年チャンピオン) from November, 1973 until September, 1978. This continuous run was followed by thirteen sporadic special issues, the last of which was published in October, 1983. The series has also spawned a number of animated television series, original animation videos (OAV), and several other associated works.
What it's about
One of Tezuka's three medical dramas, along with Ode to Kirihito (1970-71) and A Tree in the Sun (1981-86), Black Jack is about an unlicensed but extremely gifted surgeon. A charismatic but somewhat sinister surgical genius, Black Jack travels the world performing seemingly impossible feats of surgery - for a price. Although he is almost always able to miraculously save the most gravely ill of patients, even those on the verge of death, his outrageous fees are often more than those who hire him expect.
For the most part shunned by the medical community (despite their grudging respect for his unrivaled skill as a surgeon), Black Jack operates on the fringes of society. As such, he is a popular choice for gangsters and other ne'er-do-wells with nowhere else to turn. As such, though he and his pint-sized assistant Pinoko, try to live a quite life in his small clinic out in in the deserted country-side, there is a steady stream of patients that other doctors have given up on beating a path to his door. He is their very last hope.
His shadowy and disfigured exterior, disguises a heart of gold. So while he charges exorbitant prices to those that can afford it, sometimes literally charging an arm and a leg, he often saves the life of someone deserving for as little as a bowl of noodles. In this way Black Jack is a medical robin hood of sorts, delivering justice on the edge of a scalpel to the downtrodden and oppressed.
Brain transplants, fingerprint transplants, operating blind, and removing a parasitic worm from his own intestines while under assault by a pack of wild dingos are but a handful of Black Jack's many astonishing medical accomplishments.
What you should know
Tezuka Osamu himself was a licensed medical doctor, and in many ways Black Jack is Tezuka's fantasy of what it would have been like had he chosen to continue his career in medicine rather than manga. As such, many of the themes explored in Black Jack revolve around the deficiencies Tezuka perceived in the Japanese medical establishment, such as the level or corruption, hero-worship and adherence to hierarchy above all else.
As an adventure series in the "medical thriller genre" (a genre more or less established by Black Jack), the tone of the series is usually relatively serious and somewhat dark, however it does have its lighter moments (usually involving Black Jack's irascible "assistant", Pinoko). Black Jack himself is depicted as a shadowy figure, sometimes a savior, sometimes an extortionist, and even occasionally as a vicious avenger. Though he is frequently responsible for great acts of heroism, Black Jack prefers to maintain his image of being heartless and corrupt.
It is also interesting to that that, in writing Black Jack, Tezuka drew heavily on his experiences in medical school. This allowed him to create complex medical situations and base the somewhat unbelievable diagnoses and treatments on a foundation of truth. At the same time, it let him draw incredibly accurate medical illustrations.
Black Jack (Sections)