[From January Issue 2014]
Dubbed the God of manga, TEZUKA Osamu continued working as a cutting edge author for over 40 years. More than 50 million copies of “Black Jack” were published and it is considered to be the masterpiece of his later years. The work was serialized in the weekly boy’s magazine Shukan Shonen Champion from 1973 through to 1983. Pioneering the new medical manga genre, it was adapted into an animated cartoon and live action movie.
Each episode contains a complete story. In general, patients who cannot be treated by standard medical care are operated on by Black Jack. Different variations on this theme are depicted in the entirety of its 242 episodes. Black Jack is the alias used by the protagonist whose real name is HAZAMA Kuroo. When he was young, he sustained serious injuries all over his body when an unexploded shell accidentally went off.
His life was saved by an operation, but he had scars all over his body and half of his hair went grey from the shock. His mother who had taken care of him, lost her life, and his father, who was away on a business trip to Macao at the time of the accident, choose to live with his lover, abandoning him. In order to overcome the after effects of the accident, young Kuroo tackled his tough rehabilitation all by himself. His chief physician, HONMA Joutaro supported him.
Loving Dr. Honma just as he would his own father, when he grows up, Kuroo set his sights on becoming a doctor. Though he was an excellent medical student, he becomes an unlicensed doctor who demands vast fees. Then, he applies his exceptional surgical skills to treating patients whom other doctors have given up on and to taking on illegal work that has ties to the criminal world.
As the story progresses, it is revealed that the reason he requests large fees is that he is gauging the determination of his patients. Black Jack’s first priority is to help the patient. Depending on the circumstances, he occasionally waives his fee. However, patients still lose their lives even if he does treat them. Faced by his inability to save lives, Black Jack is overwhelmed again and again by the limits of medicine and by his own powerlessness.
Pinoko offers him support when he is suffering. She was supposed to be born as a twin, but only possessing a brain, internal organs and other parts, was given human form by Black Jack. She says she is 18 years old as raised for 18 years in her twin sister’s body, but she still has the body of a child. Sympathetically watching over Black Jack, Pinoko says, “The doctor seems lonely.” When there’s an operation to be done, she helps out as an assistant.
Another side to the story comes out when Dr. Honma speaks his dying words, “Don’t you think it’s presumptuous of humans who are living creatures themselves to play with life and death?” When confronted by certain death, what can a doctor do? The work comes to no definite conclusions. He does his best for the patient in front of him, and never stops questioning even when in despair. By depicting a man who continues to waver, Tezuka points to an honest answer.
Text: HATTA Emiko