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A Living Patchwork} ?> Sutures cross his torso like train tracks. A particularly nasty scar splits his face between his vibrant red eyes.
“They are living proof that I am a patchwork,” Hazama Kuroo says, tracing a gash in his shoulder.
It’s an effective opening for Young Black Jack. I’m instantly plagued with questions, but given no answers until later in the show.
At age eight, Hazama was caught in a bombing blast, but saved by a miraculously skilled doctor who Frankensteins him back together. Inspired by his saviour, Hazama (who later goes by the undercover name, Black Jack) pursues a career as a surgeon, eventually rejecting medical school in favour of becoming an unlicensed doctor. That’s because, in his experience, the law often does more harm than good when it comes to saving lives. Think Batman, but with more scalpels (and a stylish red bowtie).
Hazama’s early life is spent crawling on all fours like an animal, learning how to walk again. It’s spent without his mother, who was mortally wounded in the blast, and without his father, who abandoned them both on their death beds. But it’s through this painful time of rehabilitation that Hazama’s origin story shapes him into the legendary “Surgeon with the Hands of God.”
I love a good origin story, but I’m not sure I’d want to live through one by anime standards. I might end up making a deal that literally costs me an arm and a leg, getting injected with monstrous powers, or solely surviving the fiery aftermath of a Holy War.
But it’s the thought of being blown to pieces, Hazama-style, that makes my skin crawl most. I can’t imagine what it took to piece his life back together.
I’ve never literally been caught in a bombing blast, but I have experienced emotional trauma, which Hazama also goes through by the bucket loads. I know how it feels to have life blow up in my face and feel like I’m being pulled in ten directions at once. During these periods of tribulation, I find myself desperate for a metaphorical doctor—a miracle worker who can help me put the pieces back together.
Sometimes, I’m a little too desperate in my search. I find myself putting faith in distractions that slap a Band-Aid on the problem rather than address the real illness. I bury myself in gaming marathons, binge watching new anime series, reading books cover-to-cover, and seek entertainment that eventually, like a pain-killer, loses its beneficial but ultimately finite effects.
It’s no wonder that Hazama scorns his shell-shocked partner Yabu’s use of illegal drugs for escapism. Having recovered from severe trauma himself, Hazama understands the futility of anything besides a real, lasting cure, and embodies the love and passion instilled in him by the doctor who saved his life. Armed with this legacy, he’s able to breathe physical and emotional life into his patients.
I’m intrigued by Hazama’s Christ-like portrayal throughout his many anime and manga incarnations. In Young Black Jack, we see him wearing a symbolic crown of thorns and watch as he’s brutally tortured for his benevolence. His scarred back calls to mind images of Christ prior to his crucifixion. In later appearances, he is frequently likened to “God” for his ability to work medical miracles, and even battles against a virus called “Satan” in one OVA.
Coincidence or not, I can’t ignore the metaphor of divine healing I see enacted through Hazama. He has a way of fixing people’s lives—yes, even Yabu’s, eventually—when all other doctors and medicine fail, and I believe these abilities are inspired by his own miraculous recovery. Being a patchwork himself, Hazama knows beyond all doubt that anyone can be mended, given the right doctor.
I believe that the amount of faith vested in a “doctor” is secondary to the “doctor’s” effectiveness. Can they do a thorough job? Are they nothing more than a temporary pain-killer? If there’s one thing I’ve learned about recovery, it’s that you’re changed by, even indebted to, what heals you. What “doctor” can you truly trust with that kind of influence over your life?
Throughout the years, I’ve tried many “doctors.” I’ve found that family and friends are more effective than entertainment; they can give love and affirmation, look at me and see me, whereas a good book or game may only serve as an escapist’s rest for a few hours. Even so, mortal “doctors” can only do so much. What happens when friends move away, families separate, and—heaven forbid—I’m on my own?
Like a temporary stitch, mortal “doctors” can only hold me together for so long and with limited effectiveness. I need assurance that my stitches won’t come undone someday when I’m at my weakest, most vulnerable moment, and that kind of assurance begs an eternal guarantee.
As a Christian, I have felt God work in my life, assuaging my wounds and giving my suffering meaning. But rather than use detached supernatural power to appease me, I have seen Him show personal interest in my struggles by using the familiar people and things in my life to bring about healing, in much the same way that Hazama’s doctor uses skin grafts from multiple donors to repair his dismembered body.
Unlike Hazama, I don’t have a single moment I can pin down as the beginning of my “origin story.” I feel as though mine has grown with me over time—an ever-evolving compilation of trials and impressions that have made me who I am today. However, like Hazama, I am covered with metaphorical scars—marks indicating the many times I have been patched together by the Doctor of my life.
My multi-arc origin story helps guide me toward my ultimate purpose, and I stumble, fall, and bleed along the way. These experiences are living proof that I am a patchwork. And whenever life decides to throw another bomb at me, I have faith that the Great Physician can piece me back together again.