Black Jack Volume 1 by Osamu Tezuka (amazon)
It is very nice that we’re having so many Tezuka works translated into English. But while I appreciate works like Ode To Kirihito I don’t see myself wanting to reread it anytime soon. It was missing a certain element of fun that I usually expect from the creator of Astro Boy. I’ve been looking forward to reading Black Jack. I think this is a series that I’ll be collecting and rereading. It combines explorations of medical philosophy with crazily awesome surgery in short stories that made me want to read more.
Black Jack is a mysterious unlicensed physician with a jagged scar across his face and a penchant for wearing billowing cloaks. He sells his surgical services to whoever is willing to pay his high prices but he doesn’t hesitate to work against his clients’ wishes when the situation demands it. As the first volume of Black Jack progresses the reader begins to learn more about his past.
Black Jack opens with the story of a rich man who thinks his money will be able to preserve his irresponsible son’s life after he is injured by a reckless car accident. Black Jack agrees to perform the surgery but when the rich man decides to secure an unwilling donor by prosecuting a poor boy in order to get spare parts for his son, Black Jack draws on his knowledge of cosmetic surgery. A couple stories deal with the issues of women working as doctors, and an episode showing Black Jack’s lost love has a surprisingly fluid take on gender.
Black Jack always seems willing to scrub in and cut away at anyone or anything. He can handle brain transplants, conjoined twin separation, eye surgery, artificial intelligence computer repair, and he can even build artificial bodies. While he charges high fees for some of his clients, he’s also willing to work for free drinks from a man who can’t afford his price. Tezuka studied medicine, and I think part of the reason why Black Jack is so fun to read is that it showcases Tezuka’s enthusiasm for the subject. There are some occasional poop jokes, and Tezuka himself makes an appearance as a patient suffering from deadlinitis. I’m definitely going to pick up Volume 2.