New Tezuka 'Black Jack' manga instalment created with the help of AI


A fresh instalment of "Black Jack", one of Osamu Tezuka's best-known works, was released in the Shukan Shonen Champion weekly magazine on Nov 22 to mark the 50th anniversary of the series. Photo: AFP

A brand new instalment of a hugely successful Japanese manga series created by the pioneering Osamu Tezuka hit bookstores on Wednesday, co-developed using artificial intelligence 34 years after his death.

Tezuka (1928-1989) was dubbed the "godfather" of modern Japanese manga and cartoons for elevating the art form to appeal to adults as well as children with complex plot lines and fresh design ideas.

The fresh instalment of Black Jack, one of his best-known works, was released in the Shukan Shonen Champion weekly magazine on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the series.

"For this work, AI and humans teamed up to make a humble challenge to Osamu Tezuka, the god of manga," Akita Publishing said in a press release.

"AI served as a good partner and assistant in the creation of this manga. But it cannot read and enjoy this manga itself. We hope that you will read this."

Tezuka's other famous works include Astro Boy, a series that began in the 1950s about a boy robot with full emotions who fights discrimination, bad humans and monster robots.

Black Jack features an unlicensed, genius surgeon who offers his services for enormous fees but also helps the poor and disadvantaged.

It ran in the Champion from 1973 through 1983.

The new episode, created with the help of AI, revolves around a patient who has developed troubles with her transplanted heart.

A team of university professors and artists used a large language model GPT-4 and AI image-generator Stable Diffusion to determine the story and character designs while humans did the illustrations.

"I know not everyone will be happy with the project, but I hope this stimulates further discussions on the creative applications of AI," the artist's son Makoto Tezuka told local media.

Japan's first fully AI-drawn manga, the dystopian Cyberpunk: Peach John, was released in March, raising concerns about job losses and copyright infringements in Japan's multi-billion-dollar comic book industry, as well as dismay from purists.

The author, who goes by the pen name Rootport, said it took him just six weeks to finish the full-colour, over-100-page work and that he had "absolutely zero" drawing talent. - AFP

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