Thursday, May 1, 2014

The manga and fighting game connection, part 1...

Hello friends, today we are going to look at the relationship between manga characters and fighting game icons. While going through some classic stories by Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy and Simba the White Lion I found some similarities between his characters and several fighting games. The series that specifically spawned the inspiration for some titles was Black Jack. The manga revolved around a gifted Japanese surgeon named Kuro Hazama. When the character was a young man he and his mother were caught in a bomb blast. The island he lived on had been allegedly cleared by mines after WWII. People were allowed to move in by some crooked contractors and politicians. The explosion destroyed the limbs of his mother and left her brain damaged. The blast also tore through the young Kuro, left him paralyzed with half his face burned off. Half of the hair on his head also turned white from the shock. His father abandoned his family as he could not fathom having to take care of his wife and child if they managed to survive their operations. Kuro's mother died shortly after, leaving the young man an orphan.

In the origin story Dr. Jotaro Honma was trying to replace the half of Kuro's face that had been burned off. The skin graft that the hospital had was no good and they needed a transplant. The doctor pleaded with the children from Kuro's school and their parents for a donor. They all turned their back on Kuro and walked out of the hospital. Well, all except for one little boy. A half-black, half-Japanese student named Takashi Hazama. He was the only friend that Kuro had left and was willing to give up his skin. The two used to play together and help each other catch bugs or do homework. Dr. Honma wasted no time and used a small patch of skin to aid his patient. The other doctors were concerned about the donor because his skin color was dark and would mark a pronounced difference once healed. Honma proceeded because life was clearly more valuable than vanity.


Kuro had a long and painful road through therapy. He was actually pleased with the contrast of skin and felt that he would always be connected to his best friend through it. On top of the skin operations Dr. Honma helped restore the use of Kuro's limbs. It was at this stage in his life when the character set himself on being a doctor as well. It was during this stage that the psychology of the character had been developed. As he grew older Black Jack became a very secretive person with a strong sense of loyalty, honor and complex personal code. Black Jack was a gifted student and superior to every other surgeon that ever lived. He ditched the exam process and became an unlicensed practitioner. This meant his clients were sometimes connected to crime and were willing to pay Black Jack's extreme fees with cash up front. Many characters in the series wondered aloud why money was the only thing Black Jack was interested in. He had few friends and seemed to obsess over money like Scrooge McDuck. Osamu did not reveal the desire for money until many issues down the line. When Kuro was saved by Dr. Honma he promised two things, to become a doctor and to make lots of money to pay Takashi back.

Kuro was true to his word and became a brilliant doctor. Unfortunately Takashi had moved away by the time Kuro was able to return to school. After medical school he spent years searching for his friend but never managed to be in the same country at the same time. Eventually he discovered that Takashi had become a doctor of sorts as well. He had become an environmental activist and traveled the globe organizing protests against the gross polluters. He wanted to be an advocate for the Earth and try to help it recover from the wounds inflicted by man. Takashi, along with his friends, was gunned down by soldiers for his protests. Kuro never got a chance to thank his friend. That oath that he swore stuck and made the doctor obsessed with money. As if he amassed enough money it would somehow help fulfill his promise.

Black Jack never sought out further operations to replace his skin or mend the scars. His name actually had another connotation which was worked into his skin color. Kuro means black in Japanese, the kanji for the character could also be read as man. IE black / man. Jack was a common name that rhymed, when combined with the honorific "O" as in Kuro'o it became his nickname. The character was unique and is considered one of the greatest manga characters ever created. The obsessions, genius and design of the character had made him an icon in manga and animé. It would be decades before developers at Namco could unravel the elements that made Black Jack and his series unique. The studio would be the first to repurpose the Black Jack legacy into a fighting game. The next blog will look at this title.

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