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A manga series about an unlicensed physician who charges immense fees to use his miraculous healing skills.Created by Osamu Tezuka, the original manga series ran from 1973 to 1983. Since Tezuka was himself a qualified medical doctor, the series often had a strong sense of verisimilitude, but the creator was not above exaggeration for Rule of Cool and Mundane Made Awesome moments, or even just making new diseases and medical conditions up. The series has had several animated adaptations.Black Jack himself is a mysterious but distinctive figure, with a scarred, discolored face and a white shock in his black hair. He lives alone in an isolated beach house at the beginning of the series, before taking in Pinoko. Black Jack is a brilliant surgeon, but has no license (the reasons for this vary a bit between adaptations.) He charges enormous fees to wealthy clients, but often helps the needy for just as much as they can pay, or even for free, and if his operations fail generally refunds the money paid. His behavior is often abrupt to the point of rudeness, and he has a rather dark sense of humor. Often, he will arrange circumstances to teach An Aesop to the guest character of the story.Other manga series have featured an Captain Ersatz or Lawyer-Friendly Cameo of Black Jack when the script calls for a doctor. Dr. Black Jack is one of Tezuka's most popular characters, often named second only to Astro Boy in that regard.The 2004 anime adaptation is legally available to watch onAnime Sols, where you can also pledge money to keep the series afloat in the United States and Canada in exchange for physical goods such as stickers, posters and DVD box sets.Not to be confused with comedian Jack Black. Or the card game. Or Say Hello To Black Jack, which is also a manga about doctors who must work within the Japanese medical system, unlike their childhood hero.
Author Avatar: Tezuka appears as a character, but really toes the line between this and Creator Cameo. He is a doctor even in the manga, and he's not just in the background. However he's not an omniscent/omnipotent figure like most avatars are.
Author Tract: Mostly against abuses in the medical establishment, but usually saved by good characterization & Blackjack's sheer awesome. One example that really sticks out, though is Dingoes, a Green Aesop about the dangers of pesticides & introduced species that erroneously attributes the arrival of the titular beasts in Australia & subsequent damage they caused to the ecosystem to European colonists, when they actually predate Europe's colonial age & are believed to have been brought by an earlier wave of humans in prehistoric times. Whether this was intentional on Tezuka's part in order to shoehorn in an anti-colonialist message, or if it was a simple mistake is unclear. At any rate, considering this episode also features Blackjack extracting a parasite from his own intestines while the Dingoes are trying to eat him, it's hard to bear a grudge.
Incidentally, though dingoes predate European colonists, many of the other placental mammals currently living there do not.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: Averted in the chapter of the manga detailing Black Jack constructing Pinoko's artificial body. A panel depicting the unfinished body clearly depicts it with a vagina.
Batman Gambit: Black Jack often pulls these to teach his Aesops or favor his patients.
Belated Backstory: It's not until much later in the manga (and several episodes in the anime) that we learn Black Jack's birth name, why he became a physician, why he's estranged from the medical establishment, or how he got those scars.
The story "Two Shujis" has the owner of a company force his daughter to pretend to be her deceased brother, to prevent a rival corporation from taking over. The not-so-dead brother lampshades it by noting that his sister always was flat-chested.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: from people complaining it's too late and there's not enough panels left, to guys jumping and bonking their head on the panel border.
Broken Pedestal: An elementary class reunion prompts Black Jack to find his old teacher, whom everyone thought was fired for trying to expose corruption within the school. Black Jack eventually finds him, but is horrified to discover the man was a drug addict who was just pretending to be a teacher but discovered it was a lot of fun anyway and really was trying to rob the school (the money was corrupt, but that didn't matter). Ashamed at the man who had been such an inspiration for his classmates was a fraud, he puts him through an extremedetox regimen and succeeds in getting him sober. If I recall correctly, Black Jack not only doesn't charge him for his trouble but keeps the "teacher"'s secret from the other students.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Black Jack again; anyone who wants his services has to put up with his many eccentricities. However, a special mention goes to the man's prices! Now, in many cases, those prices are just walls to make sure the patient is willing to do anything for recovery. But if you have the money, he will make sure you pay...
Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: At the end of the chapter where Doctor Kiriko is introduced, after Jack saves the patient he was set on euthanizing. At mild provocation from Jack, he illustrates that his philosophy hasn't changed one bit; picking up a wounded butterfly from the steps they were conversing on... and crushing it. He then starts to leave, insinuating Jack is a fool for spending time saving lives.
Canon Discontinuity: The "Sealed Chapters", which Tezuka chose to withdraw from the official collections for various reasons (too controversial, overreliance on shock images, plot recycled into a better story, just plain not very good.) Most of them have been reprinted in special collections, but at least one has never been.
Canon Immigrant: Sharaku and Watou, who had appeared in other Tezuka works (originally in The Three Eyed One) before they became regulars (sorta) in the new series. Sharaku was even a more or less recurrent villain in some Astro Boy continuities, with Watou as his ward and Morality Pet.
Sharaku and Wato are frequent Canon Immigrants, so much that many don't seem to realize (or remember) that Sharaku was the villain (and the hero) in his own series.
Catch Phrase: Pinoko's trademark cry of shock and/or frustration, "Acchon burike!" It doesn't actually mean anything, even in Japanese.
It's Anglicanized in the fan-dubs of the TV series as "Omigewdness!" The manga translations by Vertical leave it as it is.
The episode "A Teacher and a Pupil" begins with a bored Pinoko idly watching kiddy TV — starring two goofballs who introduce themselves as Acchon and Burike. "Together, we're ACCHON-BURIKE!!" And then she turns the TV off. In the manga there was never any attempt at explaining this or any of her other nonsense exclamations.
Celibate Hero: Black Jack is usually of the "Love is a Distraction" variety, but sometimes brings up the "I'm a Danger Magnet" argument. However, see Jerkass Façade.
Chick Magnet: Kuwata, Megumi, Yuri...Black Jack gets around, 'kay?
Compulsory School Age: Pinoko tried to go to high school, but the entrance exam alone was too stressful for her to handle (it didn't help that she didn't study). Black Jack then enrolled her in a class with other kids her apparent age, but due to her headstrong nature, that didn't work out either.
Contrived Coincidence: The number of times that Black Jack is where he needs to be to operate on a patient that only he is skilled enough to cure is incredible.
Crazy-Prepared: When held at gunpoint and told to reach for the sky, Black Jack raises a pair of dummy arms concealed in his coat so his hands will be free to sling scalpels at the enemy. In fairness, it's not like he just wears those - he'd expected he would be attacked.
Deadly Upgrade: The first movie features a drug called Endorph-A which enhances a person's physical, mental, or artistic abilities to superhuman levels. However, it causes physical and mental deterioration in its subjects. One man's heart frickin' explodes.
Doorstop Baby: In the 2004 TV series's episode "Rock's cradle", a gangster schoolgirl finds a baby boy in a locket whose key she stole. Said baby is weak and malnourished, so she takes him to BJ's...
Dr. Jerk: Black Jack tends to the Jerk with a Heart of Gold version of this, but other doctors in the series do show a much stronger interest in their stock portfolio, reputation or advancement opportunities than the patients' wellbeing.
Driven to Suicide: A number of Black Jack's patients end up under his care out of suicidal tendencies. One of the sadder cases is Yoshie Momota in "Yet False the Days".
Eagle Land: The OVA series realistically portrayed the United States, but also created a fictional Eagleland country for an Author Tract episode.
Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Pinoko has a bad case of this in pretty much every version of the series (yes, including the original Japanese manga).
Expy: Not in-series (but see Only Six Faces), but most surgeons in modern anime can trace their origins to the good doctor.
While Dr. Kiriko has no issues with ending a patient's life, seeing the U.S. government condemn men to death when they have a chance of recovery in "Terror Virus" sends him into a Tranquil Fury.
In the chapter "One Hour To Death", Kiriko visits New York City to acquire cardiotoxin, a painless, quick-acting poison invented by the Nazis. A young boy steals his bag and gives the toxin to his mother, who he can't stand to watch die slowly of heart disease. Kiriko freaks out and does everything he can to help Black Jack save her. He's willing to end people's lives, but he will not let someone else make the choice for the patient.
The Faceless: Pinoko's sister, who wears a mask at all times when she appears. Apparently, she's quite famous and recognizable. Pinoko's face is no clue to hers, as that part of Pinoko was artificially created by Blackjack. We do see her face in a later story, where we also find out that she is the daughter of a wealthy Buddhist family.
The Family for the Whole Family: The Reveal of "Revenge" — The Japanese Medical Association cracks down on Black Jack just as a billionaire Italian philanthropist asks BJ to cure his son of a condition that only BJ could possibly treat. He tries to pressure the Japanese government, only for the JMA chairman to declare that they will strike if BJ is permitted to operate. He finally caves in and lets them operate in desperation... And they botch it, killing the patient. Turns out that the "philanthropist" is actually the Mafia Godfather Boccherini — who has the chairman's son shot in a manner only BJ could treat. The surgeon general offers to give BJ a blank check in exchange for treating his son. BJ tells the chairman exactly where he can stick it.
Gentle Giant: A huge schoolboy who actually is a giant (he has gigantism) was a champion sumo wrestler in school and now wants to be a professional koi breeder and dote on his fish, much to his parents' chagrin. Black Jack tries to tell them that the condition that made him great in school could overtax his heart and kill him, to no avail. A well-timed car crash permanently ends any sumo prospects and Black Jack takes his prize fish as compensation. The boy resumes his koi breeding in peace, although he's eventually going to have to tell his parents that he didn't really lose his legs...
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Black Jack has a distinctive scar and a discolored patch of skin running across his face, not to mention countless other ones all over his body. These were the result of stepping on an undetonated landmine when he was a child, and the only kid willing to donate skin for a graft being black. He could easily fix it himself, but...
Half Truth: Most of Black Jack's diagnosis as told to his patients and their families, to protect them or because he's certain they couldn't handle their therapy otherwise:
For example, in one of the earliest stories a mafioso has a good kid framed for a crime he didn't commit, to use him as "spare parts" for his own spoiled rotten son. Black Jack gives the good kid plastic surgery and tells him to claim to be the mafioso's son and use his money to escape, bringing along his own poor mother.
Black Jack tells one of his patients the story of a young paraplegic who regained full mobility by exercising strenuously, then downtoning the story as a fib. As the patient starts a long marathon, as in the story he was just told about, Black Jack quietly follows him, interested. It's revealed that Black Jack wasn't telling all the truth: the young paraplegic in the story was Black Jack as a little kid.
Black Jack fits a former kid athlete with a crude, low-tech prostetic arm, claiming it's "Special". It's later discovered that the arm had actually a useful feature: a two-way radio connected with a receiver, given to the kid's secret crush, who then was able to comfort him and push him to a new career as a shogi champion.
Black Jack has surgery on a young singer, telling her that if she doesn't observe a short vocal rest she'll go mute. The singer is so stressed that she disobeys to perform in a School Festival, screwing over her voice. Black Jack then puts her on an unusual three months long total voice rest, claiming that, if she obeys, he'll install a costly artificial voice box in her throat. The artificial voice box was just a broken stethoscope, and Black Jack just wanted to scare her into observing proper therapy. After she did, she healed just nice.
Black Jack claims he had surgery on a girl to let her take the place of her dead brother as the heir of an important firm. Later, he reveals he just hypnotized the girl to believe his lie, thus making her able and comfortable to perform the given role.
He Is Not My Boyfriend: Inverted. Everyone assumes Pinoko is Black Jack's daughter (and he usually presents her as his assistant), but she always insists she's his wife. No one seems to take her seriously on that, so the trope plays inverted till the end.
Jerkass Façade: Black Jack actively strives to look like a bad guy, especially when it's for the patient's own good.
In a episode Black Jack is called in to perform the operation at the behest of a seemingly inhuman mother who was forcing the boy to get up and walk every night, further injuring him. Black Jack discovers later that the mother had been acting so because she realized the house was under surveillance by the military of the country, which had already executed her husband for speaking against the war.
Landmine Goes Click: The incident where Black Jack was scarred and injured and then lost his mother.
In most versions, anyway, though in the original manga his house had been built on top of an unexploded bomb from WWII.
Lighter and Softer: While the original manga was a dark story with intense, intricately-detailed medical procedures, the Black Jack TV anime is a fairly light-hearted piece with nary a drop of blood to be seen. Fans of the manga are extremely split on exactly how this impacts the stories, some of which are adapted from Tezuka's own manga.
List of Transgressions: In one story, Black Jack's school friend, Makube, is a criminal. He gets detained by the ICPO.
Inspector: So you won't confess your crimes of murder, smuggling, drug-dealing, gambling fraud, forgery, battery, bribery, human trafficking, pimping, and public urination?
Murder the Hypotenuse: An odd and very tragic case involving a friend of Black Jack's, the friend's wife... and a super intelligent deer who tried to kill the poor woman when he learnt his only friend was married.
My Greatest Failure: Dr. Hounma confesses to Black Jack on his death bed that when first operating on him, he accidentally left a scalpel in his body, but adamantly refused to believe he could be so careless and therefore ignored it. When he discovered the calcium-sheathed tool in a follow-up operation, he was so disgusted with himself for putting a patient's life in jeopardy for the sake of pride that he immediately retired from practice.
Not So Stoic: The mere sight of Dr. Kiriko will lead Black Jack to drop whatever he's doing just to bitch at him. Dr. Kiriko seems to find this amusing.
The Obi-Wan: Dr. Joutarou Hounma, also the man that saved Black Jack's life and pretty much raised him.
Oedipus Complex: Dr. Black Jack has some daddy issues. Serious daddy issues.
This trope was directly addressed in one story, where Black Jack was hired to operate on a pregnant woman. Because of an untreated condition, not only was the baby dead, but the woman would be left unable to have any more children. This does not sit well at all with her young son, who is completely devoted to his mother and is convinced that Black Jack is a monster who is trying to kill her. The son goes so far as to drug Black Jack to prevent the operation, but Black Jack is revived when Pinoko shoves a jar of mustard under his nose. At the end of the story, Black Jack explains the complex to Pinoko as "Little boys love their mothers and little girls love their fathers." Pinoko, who has her own issues with that matter, gets embarrassed.
Ojou: Michiru the manga artist, Souno the Ikebana expert, Rei the Idol Singer.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Black Jack can operate on anything. People, animals, plants, aliens, robots, computers, ghosts, himself...
Amusingly, he once shouts at a man pestering him, "Doctors are not omnipotent!" Admittedly, he was asking him to treat injured grade-school students while they were trapped, with no supplies, in a collapsed tunnel...
Interestingly, he's probably yelling this at himself as much as anyone else. A number of the stories show him failing miserably despite his MADSKILZ - and one or two of those have his patient surviving anyway!
Only Six Faces: It's rather strange to see the same "actor" playing a degenerate gangster who's been sentenced to death one week and a heroic scientist a couple weeks later.
Patient of the Week: Justified in that Black Jack's patients hire him illegally, rather than seeing him in a hospital.
Parental Abandonment: Black Jack's mother was killed from wounds she sustained from a landmine blast while his father left both of them while she was still holding on. Also, when Black Jack got the crazy idea to turn a patient's removed teratoma into a cute little girl and introduce her as her sister, the first thing said cute girl did was violently call her older sister out since she wanted the teratoma to be killed; the woman naturally freaked out and refused to accept her as family, leaving the girl in Black Jack's custody.
Several of Black Jack's patients have also been abandoned or neglected by their parents.
Reused Character Design: A signature style of Tezuka. Black Jack is special for his work in that Black Jack and Pinoko are only reused when he specifically is trying to cameo them in other works. Dr. Hounma, who's also a rather unique design, is used again in nearly every major Tezuka work, and prominently in Phoenix, showing Hounma's continued Reincarnations all end up as The Woobie. And of course, Black Jack features Tezuka's good old standard cast, including Astro Boy, Acytelene Lamp, Ham Egg, and pretty much every recurring Tezuka character ever.
Ripped from the Headlines: A few of the chapters reflect various major stories in Japan at the time. The delinquent girl adopting a baby abandoned in a coin locker? Japan really was experiencing a bizarre rash of infants abandoned in coin lockers around the time the story was written.
Rule of Cool: Tezuka definitely did do the research (he was a doctor, after all), but he also knew that you didn't have to let pesky little things like "reality" and "medical facts" get in the way of psychic teratomas and the like.
Sadist Teacher: Subverted in the manga and last TV series, where the local sadist teacher is actually a good person who willingly puts on the "sadist" mask to toughen up his students... but ends up terrorizing one of them and almost causes a tragedy.
Black Jack actually had three shadows, though Kiriko was the only one who stuck. An acupuncturist who disdained traditional medicine appeared a few times, and an idealistic doctor who worked within the system appeared exactly once.
Split Personality: The ninth OAV deals with a patient who suffers from this - the personalities border on Superpowered Evil Side levels of competence. An early manga chapter has BJ dealing with a man who has a "face sore" - a swelling with its own personality, based on an old Japanese tale, which happens to be on his face. The man's a serial killer, and tries to kill Black Jack once the operation's done... but the sore takes over, throws him off a cliff, and asks that they be allowed to die. BJ complies, wondering if the sore was actually the man's conscience.
Steven Ulysses Perhero: Black Jack's real name is Kuroo Hazama. As he explains himself once, "Kuro" means "black" while the second "o" can be short for "otoko", meaning "man". Thus "Black Jack" is a loose English translation of his actual name.
Tragic Keepsake: The half of Black Jack's face that's darker is his last memory of a close friend who was killed during an environmental protest.
Additionally, the TV series has a necklace that Black Jack's mother was wearing during the landmine incident. In the second season, this becomes an Orphan's Plot Trinket when it's revealed that Black Jack's father hid a microchip in it detailing the purpose and methods of the Phoenix Project.
Tsundere: Sharaku's older sister Watou is a Type A (tsuntsun). She's a rather rough and impulsive girl in almost every single interaction with others and an episode of the TV series has her in a borderline Slap-Slap-Kiss dynamic with Jou, the local Bad Boy of her school.
Additionally, Megumi claims that Black Jack was a type A tsundere towards her throughout medical school.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Inverted with Black Jack. Whenever there's whispers of conversation and Black Jack's on the scene, the only thing they talk about more than his heavy, black cape-jacket on a hot day is his patchwork face.
Wham Episode: The story that reveals the complete backstory behind Black Jack's injury & his mother's death also reveals that ever since then Black Jack has been orchestrating an elaborate revenge plot to murder all the people responsible, actually goes through with it on one of them & the story ends with him planning to take care of the rest. Also contains a lot of Fridge Brilliance regarding a lot of his quirks. He charges his wealthy clients exorbitant fees yet lives in a run-down cottage because he's been using the money to finance his scheme & he refuses to get a license because it would involve him taking an oath to do no harm, incompatible with the vendetta he already swore.
Wholesome Crossdresser: Dr. Megumi Kisaragi, aka "Kei". She chose to present a male appearance after her cancerous ovaries were removed. A person skimming the story might easily be misled into believing that she'd spontaneously turned into a man.