Manga Black Jack, Volume 1 by Osamu Tezuka: Review

Discussion in 'Manga and Anime' started by Cloud, Apr 20, 2015.

  1. Cloud

    Cloud Administrator
    Staff Member

    Feb 2, 2001
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    I've just finished reading Black Jack, Volume 1 by Osamu Tezuka (available from Amazon, but I got it courtesy of my local library - yay!). Here's my review.

    Black Jack focuses on an extremely skilled doctor/surgeon who carries out forbidden operations (usually extremely risky, involving some kind of full or partial body transplants) for large amounts of cash. The protagonist himself is an outsider, reviled by his fellow doctors, and he has an unusual bearing and appearance (usually dressed in a long black coat, his face features Frankenstein-like stitches and his hair is half black and white).

    Through a series of stories, we find out a little about Black Jack's background. He suffered some kind of unfortunate accident when he was young, which left him in pieces that had to be put back together again by his hero, Dr Honma (inspiring him to take up a similar career). He had difficulties walking but redeveloped his strength and undertook a trek across country to prove himself. He had a relationship with a fellow med student which ended when she developed cancer. He flies around the world regularly (Marseille?).

    But in Volume 1 we don't learn a lot else about Black Jack, such as what was the accident that crippled and scarred him, why the two-tone hair, and what does he do with all that cash?! I assume we learn more in future volumes.

    There are some fun characters in Black Jack, including Pinoko (there's a Pinnochio-naming thing going on), a girl that Black Jack 'extracts' and puts back together during one of his more crazy operations. We also have U-18, a malfunctioning AI that runs a hospital of the future, who requires Black Jack's ministrations. Black Jack's other patients include skilled painters, tailors and sushi chefs, but throughout Black Jack demonstrates his humanity in their treatment, despite his outer gruff persona and exorbitant fees.

    The book is broken up into chapters, corresponding to the serialised version. It doesn't feel too disjoint - recurring characters like Pinoko and Dr Honma help to add linkages between the chapters.

    Having just come out of reading Metropolis a few weeks ago, Black Jack felt a lot more developed in terms of the art work and story, but Metropolis was an early work (from about 15 years earlier, 1949) and it had been pieced together from some other bits he had done before that. I'd also read Tezuka's Buddha last year, which was from around the same time frame as Black Jack, and you wouldn't know it was from the seventies when reading it…

    To be honest, I didn't know what to expect from the person who brought us Kimba the White Lion (music by Tomita, inspiration for the Lion King) and Astro Boy - something a lot more harmless I think… Both Buddha and Black Jack will change your perceptions of Tezuka's work if you are a newbie like me (I found out recently that he created 150k pages of artwork during his career - phew!). This really isn't for kids, but it is for teens and adults who enjoy a good manga. I recommend it!


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