It sounds absolutely dumb to be ‘scared’ to start an anime. It’s anime, 2D or 3D motion pictures from Japan that happen to have a following and popularity behind some of them. To be frightened of them for any other reasons then them being a horror series, or terribly bad, sounds rather… odd. To say the least.
But the idea of being ‘scared’ is about the best word I have aside from hesitant. I’ve always associated hesitancy with being a short term thing, you might be hesitant to do something but it’s a yes/no situation that has a time limit for doing. When it comes to the two titles I have in mind for this post, it’s beyond hesitancy. into full blown aversion.
Which is also a strange thing to admit, since I do eventually want to watch these anime. I’ve actually wanted to watch these titles since I learned they existed back in late high school… but considering now I’m in my mid-twenties: I’ve really been putting them off, huh?
To actually give context, the two titles I am referring to are Whistle! and Black Jack, their anime adaptations that is. Additionally when referring to Black Jack, I am referring to all animated versions of Black Jack – films, ONA’s, TV series, etc with the exception of the 1996 film and 2015’s Young Black Jack spin-off.
Which for any long time reader of the blog, probably sounds really dumb because I adore both Whistle! and Black Jack as manga serializations. I dote on those two titles and their characters nearly any chance I get on the blog, and frequently recommend them when I can.
But my love goes way further back then ever being documented here on the blog. I religiously read, and re-read, these titles in high school. I found both on the shelves of my library, and pretty much never let them go. I can remember that up until they switched to digital only check outs and ins, that my initials with my check-out and return dates dominated their reference cards. I remember my utter displeasure when I wanted to re-read a particular volume of the series and it would be in another lender’s hands. I would be even more frustrated when these copies would be returned scribbled on, pages missing or otherwise damaged. Inevitable given their status at the library, but nonetheless frustrating as a reader.
It was because I loved these titles so much that I actually stopped collecting Naruto on a bi-monthly basis and started collecting Whistle! and Black Jack. I’d scrap together my allowance, and beg my mom to drive me to the local comic book store to pick up what volumes I could. Eventually becoming such a regular there I was offered the ability to pre-order the last 5 volumes of Whistle! while it was being published in America. When I had gaps in my collection due to the local shop, Borders and Barnes and Noble scaling back their manga selections, I turned to my Uncle (at the time the only person with any experience with online shopping and verified accounts) to help me hunt down missing volumes. Anything else would be procured for birthdays, Christmas, and any other gift-giving occasion, usually met by ‘okay, if that’s what she’s into’ by the giver.
It’s the capitalist in me, but the satisfaction of owning these series in full, having bought many volumes with my own money is irreplaceable. At certain points of my high school career, she and my twin would place bets down the volume of which series I was reading when they’d call me for dinner. I had that much dedication and was so willing to re-read the same story over and over. Even back in my last visit to the states, I managed to cram in one more re-read of Whistle! all 24 volumes in less than a week.
Which is safe to say, these two titles are my holy grails of manga. You can try all you like, but I won’t budge on this. Whistle! is in fact the best soccer manga of all time. Sorry Days, Captain Tsubasa and the rest of the riff-raff but you can’t recreate the magic of the Sakura Josei Junior High soccer team, and Kazamatsuri Sho’s ambition no matter how many more volumes you keep kicking out. As for Black Jack… untouchable. There is no peer. Try as you may, try as you might, tell yourself any lie you like to help you sleep at night but it’s Black Jack or nothing.
I do not take criticism on these opinions, and will in fact fight you on these statements. (I am in fact kidding, but seriously you can’t deter me on this.)
Which, is all well and good that I’m so passionate about these series, but it’s that same admiration that has crippled me for going on to see what the animated versions of the series have to offer. I’ve talked about how I use to endlessly read the manga, watch the anime, and THEN decide if a series was good or not. I got burned a million times over with the magic of the manga capturing my heart only to be devastated by a terrible anime adaptation.
I grew out of that sort of elitism, as a defense mechanism for not ruining a series. The first big one being NANA, since well, the manga still isn’t finished and I couldn’t subject my heart getting wrecked by the 2006 anime intentionally or not. With Whistle! I was 100% gung-ho about watching the anime as soon as I could find it. Considering it is somewhat obscure, and the manga never made a big enough impact to justify having the series dubbed or subbed in any official capacity, I would have to watch a fansub online.
I was also a bit of a block head and thought a single passion-drenched letter to the mighty Viz Media would be enough for them to buy the rights to the anime and at least sub it. Still waiting on that less then 0.01% chance of that happening, but it’s a sweet lie to numb the pain. I use to to numb my brain when I think about why I haven’t watched Whistle! after all these years. At this point, I could probably watch it in Japanese, ideally with close captioning, or with the fansubs I know are still circulating.
The thing is, I already know how the 39 episode series goes. In my passion once Whistle! finished publishing in America, I immediately re-looked up everything I could find out in English. Which against my better judgement were a fair amount of reviews, and comparisons. The most obvious being the manga was still running when it finished airing so the ending was altered a bit. Nothing completely out of character or so outlandish that it’s unacceptable as a conclusion but one that made enough sense for the timing. Needless to say, spoiling myself turned me off quite a bit from watching it.
But then came my internal comparisons. In my head, I already knew how Sho, Shigeki, Tatsuya, Daichi, and the whole rest of the crew sounded in my head. At least in English. I knew the story beat for beat, to the point where I could recite certain parts of the dialogue without looking at the page. I had internalized this story so much, that there was no way, at the time, I would be able to accept anything other than what I had made my head canon.
Which is stupid, and self-serving but I think most of us have a series or two, where this happen(s). This seems to be more common with novels then manga, but I digress.
As you can imagine, this was much the same for Black Jack. My passion was a bit more subdued since I had more of Tezuka’s works to pull from in terms of animation, plotting, and the Tezuka star system, but trust me I was still passionate. My dad was convinced due to my recitation of one particular chapter’s dialogue (I was weird), that I should go into medicine. Thankfully, I did not.
Nonetheless, I was at the time still in the same conundrum as Whistle!. I knew some parts of Black Jack‘s animated series were officially licensed but not widely available. I managed to see the 1996 by pure chance since the DVD was still playable and circulating in my library’s inter-library loan system cira-2013. As of 2019, it was pulled due to the DVD being corrupted, and never replaced. Yes, I was a nerd and actually called the library it use to be part of and asked what happened to it.
I figured that eventually I’d have to track down some obscure wiki to figure out where exactly the start of the animated adaptations started and what order they went in. Something as well known as an Osamu Tezuka title, by the mid 2010’s was going to get picked up somewhere (I believe Black Jack and Black Jack 21 were on Crunchyroll at some point but don’t quote me) for official subs at least. But it was a matter of principal, I already knew in my mind how Black Jack would move and act, I didn’t really need or want to ruin it with ‘canon’ interpretations.
It’s only in recent months that I’ve remembered I haven’t actually seen either title in animated form. Mostly thanks to Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews, discovering the title for himself, and me watching someone else fall in love with a series no one else really talks about at least in English. My co-workers in Japan, and even a few of my students, are pretty low-key fans of the doctor.
Whistle! was actually a moment of seeing Sho in one my student’s health handouts, as being the shortest Jr. high kid on the scale. My co-workers knew every single other character included in the chart but him, and I happily chirped in office “Sho-chan! I can’t believe I’m seeing you at school of all places!” (in Japanese). Which was a whole other moment, but ended with me babbling about high school memories of reading Whistle! cover to cover, multiple times, but admitting I had never seen the anime so I couldn’t give a recommendation.
My too long didn’t read tag line should be: I built these two manga up so much in my head that I feel like the anime would ruin the story for me. At least at this point, nearly a decade later, I can admit it’s okay to have a different head-canon in terms of voice and movement, and accept the canon version being different.
I think the fear of a different adaptation not stacking up to the original work is perfectly normal and healthy. I’ve watched my friend have more then one outburst about various interpretations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde over the past few years online, so if I have one or two qualms about my own that’s probably pretty for the course. I’m sure if I dug deep enough, I’d see more deep analysis about various manga’s that have been adapted and the faults of said adaptation even just here on WordPress.
While I probably will continue to put off Whistle! and Black Jack a bit longer, given I’m still doing my own drama challenges and currently airing anime is kicking my butt. I can at least have released why I’ve avoided them over the years online and have it fall on deaf ears as a cathartic exercise. Which is exactly why I have this section here. I’ll see you next time with a shorter post~