Black Jack consists of hundreds of short, self-contained episodes that are typically about 20 pages long. Black Jack has also been animated into an OVA, two television series (directed by Tezuka's son Makoto Tezuka) and two movies. Black Jack is Tezuka's third most famous manga, after Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. In 1977, it won the 1st Kodansha Manga Award for shōnen. About.com's Deb Aoki lists Black Jack as the best "re-issue of previously released material" of 2008.
Most of the episodes involve Black Jack doing some good deed, for which he rarely gets recognition — often curing the poor and destitute for free, or teaching the arrogant a lesson in humility. They sometimes end with a good, humane person enduring hardship, often unavoidable death, to save others.
Osamu Tezuka drew on his knowledge as a physician in writing Black Jack, and the manga contains frequent medical details. However, Tezuka chose to generally eschew medical plausibility in his manga: Black Jack is superhuman, regularly performing spectacular and impossible feats of surgical virtuosity, such as operating in absolute darkness completely from memory, operating on himself in the middle of the Australian outback surrounded by hungry dingoes, and transplanting body parts without any risk of rejection. (However, rejection is accounted for in some anime episodes.) The Black Jack stories also frequently include pseudoscience and science fiction elements. The manga also breaks the fourth wall from time to time; characters will comment that they only have a few pages to work in, or that a problem will be dealt with quickly 'because these stories are only about twenty pages long'. In at least one situation, characters literally run through and shatter several panel borders, and then complain that 'the small panels make it hard to run away'.
- Black Jack
- Pinoko (ピノコ?) is Black Jack's sidekick, a little girl who was actually a Teratogenous Cystoma (a growth more commonly known as a teratoma). As seen in "Teratogenous Cystoma", she was a rare type of parasitic twin, living in one of Black Jack's patients' bodies for eighteen years until Black Jack extracted her and gave her a real body. He constructed her from the mass of organs included in the growth and provided her a plastic exoskeleton that gives her the appearance of a human child. However, this exoskeleton limits some of her abilities, most notably halting her physical growth and not being able to swim for long durations. She speaks with a strong lisp which may be due to her exoskeletal skull. After being rejected by her twin sister, she started to live with Black Jack as a sort of daughter to him. She always helps the doctor by doing household chores and by even being his assistant in some of his operations. She often acts as comic relief in Black Jack, claiming to be a girl of eighteen and married with Black Jack, despite her child's appearance and personality. Her main value is companionship and source of affection for the ordinarily cold natured doctor.
- Pinoko's main form of comic relief in the TV anime is yelling アッチョンブリケ(Acchonburike) — a phrase that has no real meaning but taken as a rough equivalent to "Oh my goodness!" or "I don't believe it!", in English — whilst pressing her cheeks together with her hands when something surprising happens.
- Voiced by: Yuko Mizutani
- Chiyoko Wato (和登千代子 Wato Chiyoko?)
- An character adapted from The Three-Eyed One, Wato is the captain of kendou club in Ooana Senior High School, and is notorious for her tardiness. With a strong sense of justice, she is an outspoken tomboy, a contrast to her best friend Kumiko. Owing to healing Sharaku's illness in "The Missing Needle", she becomes a positive supporter and friend of Black Jack. Her father, Dr. Kenmochi, is an archeologist who works around Southern Asia.
- Voiced by: Ryōko Ono
- Kumiko Honma
- An character from the original manga to the TV series, she is an immigrant from China who transferred to Ooana Senior High School. She is Jotaro Honma’s only daughter and is the waitress at Tom's. Contrary to her best friend Wato, Kumiko holds an introversive and attentive personality. For trying to save her father, healing Tetsu's fingers, and restoring her eyesight, she becomes another close friend of Black Jack.
- Voiced by: Akiko Kawase
- Sharaku (写楽保介 Sharaku Hosuke?)
- A character adapted from The Three-Eyed One, Sharaku is a schoolboy attending Shiokou Junior High School. He is a gentle boy who takes interest in the supernatural, as seen in "Invaders from Space". Since "The Missing Needle", wherein Black Jack healed him, he has been Pinoko's best friend and her partner-in-crime when it comes to comic relief. He is known to have a limitless memory of random information, yet comically does horrible when it comes to school work.
- Voiced by: Yuuko Satou
- Largo (ラルゴ Rarugo?)
- Largo was a stray dog found by Pinoko, Wato, and Sharaku during a car accident, in "Thieving Dog". Contrary to the manga, she is saved after an earthquake caused Black Jack's house to collapse on top of her, and she becomes his pet dog. She is named Largo for her lethargic nature, but she compensates with her sharp senses in detecting danger.
- Voiced by: Makoto Ishii
- Master (Tetsu) (哲（てつ） Tetsu?)
- A character who plays several roles in the manga, he has a steady role as the owner of Tom's, a coffee shop that Black Jack frequents. Owing his gratitude to Jotaro Honma, he fosters Kumiko and treats her as his daughter. In the past, he was a nameless magician and changed into a pickpocket.
- Tetsu is "played" by Shunsaku Ban, a member of Tezuka's "star system" who appears in several manga stories by Tezuka.
- Voiced by: Kōsei Tomita
- Biwamaru (琵琶丸?) is a wandering doctor who specializes in acupuncture. He made his first appearance in episode 51. He is blind, but he can walk on his own to many places, and goes wandering everywhere where his sensitive nose takes him, since he is able to smell out the whereabouts of people who are sick. He cures his patients without accepting any money in return, making him homeless. Biwamaru carries a walking stick and a huge purse-like bag with his medical equipment. He dislikes operations, saying that humans are not supposed to be operated too many times.
- Biwamaru believes that his needle techniques are the perfect solution to any medical problem. He often cures Black Jack's patients, causing Black Jack to feel unhappy and annoyed. One day he found a small kid (who was also Black Jack's patient), but he made a terrible mistake. He had thought that his needle techniques were perfect, but what he didn't know was that the small child had a fear of needles. Her condition became worse. Black Jack was furious and intended to show the proud Biwamaru about his mistake. Biwamaru was grateful when Black Jack saved the child's life. Later on that night, Biwamaru cured Black Jack's large intestine, which Black Jack has attempted to treat through surgery, by piercing a needle into his foot to return his kindness.
- Voiced by: Nachi Nozawa
- Black Queen
- First making her appearance in "Black Queen", Kuwata Konomi was a doctor specializing in amputations, thought to be heartless by many, earning her the nickname 'Black Queen' in the medical world. She is engaged to Rock (referred to as Makube Rokuro in the TV series, probably to make up for the lack of "Carved Seal" episode), but her being infamous sends troubles for the couple. She met Black Jack, drunk, in a bar, addressing herself as the Black Queen. The former is impressed by their similarities and falls in love. The end was bittersweet as he later discovered that Rock was actually her fiancé.
- Megumi Kisaragi (如月めぐみ Kisaragi Megumi?)
- Black Jack's tragic love, they met during their internship. She stayed up late at work and cared more about the patients than everyone else. She discovers that Kuroo Hazama has been the one looking after her whenever she walks alone at night. Later, she reveals to have ovarian cancer, and is afraid to tell Black Jack because of her fear that having these parts removed will interfere with their relationship. Nevertheless, the couple confess their love before the operation while Megumi is "still a woman" (In reality, a hysterectomy or oophorectomy can affect sexual function, but the side effects associated with these procedures are not as extreme as those depicted in this story).
- Afterwards, Megumi changed her name to Kei, a male name, and started living her life as a man, treating sick patients as a ship's doctor.
- Dr. Jotaro Honma (本間丈太郎 Honma Jōtarō?)
- The reason why Black Jack pursued the career in medicine, mentor and life-saver, he played as the young boy's father-figure after the tragedy struck. Kagemitsu Hazama, Black Jack's father, flew to Macau, China with his new wife Renka, abandoning his son Kuro and his first wife (the reasons for Kagemitsu's behavior are later explained in the Black Jack 21 series). The boy suffered from paralysis in all four limbs and spent many lonely years in a wheelchair until he regained the use of them. Dr. Honma wrote a book about the miracle, as seen in "The Leg of an Ant".
- Dr. Honma dies because of old age in the episode four of Black Jack 4 Miracles of Life "Just like a Pearl" after a failed surgical attempt by the man he inspired to revive him. However, he plays an important role in Black Jack 21, since he has once worked at the "Noir Project".
- Dr. Honma is "played" by Saruta, a member of Tezuka's "star system" who appears in multiple volumes of Tezuka's Phoenix and other manga stories by Tezuka.
- Voiced by: Osamu Saka
- Dr. Kiriko
- Dr. Kiriko (ドクター・キリコ?), the "death doctor", is another shadowy doctor, traveling the world like Black Jack. When Kiriko was a war doctor, he saw many patients in great pain, and got into the habit of using euthanasia. He often appears in the manga, attempting to kill terminally ill patients which Black Jack wants to save. He is so dedicated to euthanasia that he once attempted to kill himself when he got a rare infectious disease. Though arch-rivals, they have been in situations where they had to cooperate in order to survive or to accomplish a task, and manage to do so with good results. Whenever he is confronted by Black Jack after a successful operation which avoided the death alternative, Kiriko simply replies with something along the lines of "I'm a doctor as well, you know".
- In the Clinical Chart OVA series, Dr. Kiriko is introduced only as Mozart, in homage to his affinity for classical music. In this OVA, it is also shown that Kiriko is not greedy for money like Black Jack nor did he consider his style of Euthanasia as a 'Solution to all sicknesses' as demonstrated by his act of charity as he provided basic nutrients and some food to a patient suffering from what appeared to be severe anorexia at one point.
- In the same series of OVA, it is shown that he travels by Motorcycle and shows a proficiency in mechanics and music.
- Voiced by: Kazuhiro Yamaji
The manga series was first serialized from 1973 to 1983. The first episode was called "I Need a Doctor!", and the last episode was called "A Question of Priority". Most of the manga series had never been directly adapted into anime form until a Black Jack Special was aired in 2003, thus initiating the Black Jack anime series in 2004, and the Black Jack 21 series in 2006.
Vertical Inc. has released translated volumes of the series in the United States, starting with Vol. 1 in September 2008. These collected volumes include a dozen or so stories each in the original unflipped format, and the stories will be published in the same order as the Japanese Black Jack collections. Vertical has also released limited editions of the first three volumes that include bonus stories not printed in any other edition. At the current rate of publication, Vertical is expected to finish the series in 2011.
Two translated volumes had been previously published by Viz Communications, but those editions are now out of print.
Perhaps the first televised appearance of Black Jack was in the 1980 remake of Tetsuwan Atom. Episode 26 of Astro Boy brought together three separate Tezuka creations, as Astro, Uran, Doctor Roget (Black Jack) and Penny (Pinoko) travel back through time to 15th Century Molavia (Silverland). In this storyline, Black Jack performs a life-saving operation on a critically injured Princess Sapphire (from Ribbon no Kishi), while Astro and Uran fend off Gor, a malevolent magician bent on usurping the throne. Characteristically, Roget/Black Jack refuses to operate until he is offered the key to the treasury vault, but later takes only one commemorative coin from the grateful court (which turns out to be worth $200,000,000 when he returns to Astro's time). Presumably, the name changes were due to Western audiences being unfamiliar with the Black Jack franchise at the time.
Black Jack also made a cameo appearance in the theatrical film Phoenix 2772 as an interstellar prison warden, and is one of the main characters of the TV movie One Million-Year Trip: Bandar Book, in which he plays the role of a space pirate, somehow similar in concept to Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock.
In 1992, Tezuka's protege Osamu Dezaki did the direction for a theatrical movie and an OVA series. Ten OVAs were made (six of which, along with the movie, were originally only available in dub-only VHS form in North America, but all 10 OVAs are now available on bilingual Region 1 DVD).
There is also a four episode TV special from 2003 called Black Jack: The 4 Miracles of Life.
A new TV series was released in fall of 2004 in Japan, and a new film entitled Black Jack: The Two Doctors of Darkness was released in December 2005. While the television series is an adaptation of Tezuka's original manga, the film's storyline is wholly original. The film describes Black Jack's attempts to prevent a group known as the Ghost of Icarus from starting a widespread, biological war which could wipe out humanity, while working alongside the infamous Dr. Kiriko.
In late April 2006, a seventeen-episodes series titled Black Jack 21 premiered. Adapted from standalone manga chapters, Black Jack 21 features an all-new overarching storyline.
- Osamu Tezuka's Star System
- Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
- Joel Hahn. "Kodansha Manga Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
- Aoki, Deb. "2008 Best New Manga". About.com. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
- "BLACK JACK by Osamu Tezuka". Vertical Inc. official page. Vertical Inc. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
- One Million-Year Trip: Bandar Book on the Internet Movie Database
- (Japanese) Official Black Jack TV Site
- Official Black Jack Page at publisher Vertical, Inc.
- "Translated Manga Pick of the Month" -(J-pop.com)
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