Only the second post and I’m already late by a whole day, this is turning out to be a great start! Hahahahah… OTL Sorry, I’ll be turning back the clock on this one. It was so hard to write and the writer’s block was relentless. I didn’t do the series justice.
Last year I got to start NaBloPoMo with my favourite manga of all time 🙂 This year, I’d like to post about another series that’s close to my heart on my birthday.
Manga: Black Jack 「ブラック・ジャック」
Black Jack is a Shounen, adventure, medical, drama series written by Osamu Tezuka. It was serialised from 1973 to 1983 and is comprised of 243 chapters published into 17 tankobon volumes. It won the 1st Kodansha Manga Award for Shounen in 1977 (in a tie) and — according to Wikipedia — is Tezuka’s third most famous manga, after Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. The series has been animated into an OVA, two TV series and two films. The prequel, written and drawn by 2 other mangaka, titled Young Black Jack, is currently publishing.
Black Jack consists of short, self-contained stories that are typically about 20 pages long. The stories revolve around genius surgeon Black Jack, who never acquired his medical license and is free of the constraints of the modern rules. He is hired by those who can pay his exorbitant rates and is perceived by many as a heartless rogue because of his enigmatic nature and antisocial manner. But there is much more to Black Jack than meets the eye.
Warning: This is a medical manga, so blood, body parts, surgeries, injuries, needles, scalpels etc. and other stuff along those lines. Unless you’re very bad with any of the above or related, there isn’t much else to be wary about.
I know I’ve already mentioned it previously, but the series about the surgeon with the scars and two-toned skin and hair has always been my favourite work from Osamu Tezuka. The 2004 Black Jack anime was something that really stuck in my mind when I caught a few episodes on TV all those many years ago. At that time I couldn’t understand why it left such a strong impression on me. I think I’m finally figuring it out.
Besides the fact that Black Jack’s face is pretty unforgettable and he looks super cool — you can’t deny it — his multi-layered personality portrayed throughout the whole series also makes him an attractive character. Even as an impossibly genius surgeon, he has his ups and downs, expressive emotions, important values, relationships he holds dear, situations that are beyond him — he’s a very flawed character that a reader can admire, respect, pity, sympathise, be happy for, frown at — all in all feel and connect with. This is pretty much the same for many of the other characters, whether recurring or not. Definitely the interesting stories that portray these characters that catch my attention.
The series is also choke full of (often moving) life lessons like kindness, arrogance, humility, perseverance etc. as well as controversial topics on morality concerning money, life and death. I’m a sucker for manga that cover themes like this. Plus point for some comical undertone in the mix of seriousness too 🙂
For how much I like the Black Jack series, it took me a really long time to remember to read the manga. Finally remembered to continue it about 2 weeks ago and am only halfway through, but I don’t think my thoughts on the series will change much by the end of it.
I’d love to recommend Black Jack to anyone and everyone looking for more manga to read, but unfortunately, I understand that not everyone can enjoy a series like this. One reason for this is, no doubt, because of the art style.
Black Jack was drawn in the 1970s. You’ve got to expect that it isn’t going to look beautiful and polished like what is published nowadays. Tezuka’s art is comical, caricatured and can’t be considered ‘pretty’, but it’s simple, clean, extremely expressive and utterly distinctive. With so many characters throughout his manga, it’s pretty awesome how many different designs he has to come up with, even with repeating character features. It’s really easy to follow his stories as well. This is a little bit hard to explain, but I feel like the way each panel is framed and drawn seamlessly portrays the story without much need for dialogue or narration. It’s a very smooth read, even when the fourth wall is broken sometimes.
Probably another reason why some might not enjoy Black Jack would be because of the manga structure. This series is extremely episodic in that each and every chapter can be read as a standalone. You don’t need need to have read the previous chapters of the series to enjoy a Black Jack chapter because they’re not in chronological order (at least not in the reprints). But having that background knowledge on the main and recurring characters definitely adds to the enjoyment of it. I have to mention though, with the recurring tropes in Black Jack, many of its stories are similar; There’re a good number of chapters with somewhat predictable endings, but the twists and surprises from others totally make up for it.
I’m coming up blank on how else I can wax lyrical about the this manga (I’ve blabbed too much already), so this is as good a time as any to stop. My love for Black Jack doesn’t burn bright like my love for Berserk, but this series has always had a place in my heart for as long as I can remember. I knew I wanted to post about it, but it was really hard to. I’m just glad I managed to put some of my heart into words.