Which Black Jack anime is the best adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s hit manga?

Some stories are absolutely timeless and often revisited, with new generations of creators putting their own unique spin on the source material and using it to tell stories that fit their times and the global situation. One such story is Osamu Tezuka’s legendary manga, black jacket. Over the years, the character has had more than six animated adaptations. As well as several live-action and manga spin-offs.

Created by the father of manga, Osamu Tezuka, the man who brought fans legendary series like Astro Boy, Princess Knight, and New treasure island; black jacket first released in Weekly Shonen Champion in 1973. The series follows Kurō Hazama, a young man who is horribly injured in an explosion and saved thanks to a miraculous medical operation. Hazama decides he also wants to be a surgeon, and after college he becomes a medical mercenary and takes the name Black Jack. He sneaks from place to place, staying under the radar as he treats the poor and desperate without attacking them.

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The Many Adaptations of Black Jack

The first anime adaptation of black jacket premiered in 1993. Directed by Osamu Dezaki, Osamu Tezuka’s protégé, and animated by Tezuka Productions, it was a 10-episode OVA series. Two more OVAs were released in 2011, but since Osamu Dezaki passed, he did not direct them, but was awarded an honorary director credit, counting them as part of the original series.

In 1996, two black jacket movies were released; Black Jack: the movie and a short title Black Jack: Capital transfer to Heian. Like the 1993 OVAs, these films were animated by Tezuka Productions, and Osamu Dezaki directed them. Both tell a unique story, with the film focusing on Black Jack dealing with a slew of rapidly dying superhumans.

Then, in 2000, Black Jack: The Boy Who Came From the Sky ONA arrived on screens. Animated again by Tezuka Productions but with Shinji Seya in the director’s chair. Black Jack Flash released in 2001 as an online-only Flash animated version of black jacket. This series is specially coded so that viewers can change the camera angle and interact with the episodes.

A TV series arrived in 2003 called Black Jack Special: The 4 Wonders of Life. Created to celebrate the manga’s 30th anniversary, this series has animated four chapters from the manga. Then, in 2004, a 61-episode run titled simply: black jacket released and ran until 2006. Directed by Satoshi Kuwahara, this series retells the manga’s story, but the setting was updated, placing the story in the early 2000s. In 2005, another movie was produced called Black Jack: The Two Doctors of Darkness. Directed by Makoto Tezuka, saw Black Jack team up with Dr. Kiriko to save the world from an evil group that wanted to bring about a horrific event.

When black jacket ended in 2006, a sequel series released soon after, titled blackjack 21. This one series had 17 episodes, with Makoto Tezuka directing again. This series focused on Hazama investigating what caused the explosion that injured him and uncovering a secret conspiracy. Another 2015 black jacket spin-off was launched, a 12-episode anime called Young Blackjack. This was based on the prequel spin-off manga written by Yoshiaki Tabata and illustrated by Yugo Okuma. This series followed Kuro Hazama through medical school and was directed by Mitsuko Kase.

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Which version of Black Jack is the best?Blackjack 1

Choosing the best version of black jacket is difficult. For example, the 2004 anime comes closest to the manga, despite the updated time period and attempts to lighten the overall tone. While the early 1990s OVA series has fans for its crass designs and moody atmosphere, viewers who prefer modern anime may find the animation style a bit off-putting and pompous. And while the 2004 anime has fantastic animations and captures Osamu Tezuka’s signature style very well, it just lacks the atmosphere of the OVA series. While the movies and the various specials also have fans, their fragmented nature makes them a terrible place to start the franchise, as they often require knowledge of the lore to get the most out of it.

But all things considered, the 2004 anime is probably the best choice for any Osamu Tezuka fan interested in black jacket, because it has a better arc for the titular Black Jack and his supporting characters. This is because it is simply longer than the OVA series, giving it more time to work out the details. The edit also has a great soundtrack, provided by Akihiko Matsumoto. This soundtrack really takes the surgery sections to the next level, giving them a lot of suspense and capturing the inherent risks of what Black Jack does. However, for diehard fans of the 90s retro anime style, the OVAs are worth checking out.

Black Jack’s longevity is a testament to Osamu Tezuka’s writing. He was able to create interesting characters that were flexible enough to take on different adventures without ever feeling out of place. while all Black Jack’s adaptations deal with the source material in a unique way, all of them perfectly showing why the character has endured so well as Black Jack himself is always intriguing and subverts various hero tropes in a logical yet engaging way. This comes together to make a franchise that every anime and manga fan should experience at least once.

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