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Graphic Literature

Tetsu of the Yamanote Line

By Osamu Tezuka
Translated from Japanese by Camellia Nieh
This story is an excerpt from one of the most most popular manga series of all time, Black Jack.
Tetsu (singing): The hills of Suruga smell of tea… Inspector: Well, if it isn’t Yamanote’s Tetsu…
Tetsu: Whoa… ‘morning, inspector!
Inspector: I see you’re off to work.
Tetsu: You’re wrong there, sir! Not now, not me! Inspector: But you’re about to start, eh?
Note: The notoriously crowded Yamanote Line runs in a circle clockwise and counterclockwise through many of Tokyo's major districts.
Inspector: Listen here, Tetsu. Don’t expect me to go easy just ‘cause you’re getting old and might not rake it in like before.
Tetsu: Oh, please, sir…
Inspector: Those fingers of yours were…the lightest the Yamanote Line ever saw. Or have you lost your touch?
People in crowd: Yeesh! … That fellow’s wicked! Tetsu: Just 2000 yen?
Tetsu: Sir! You dropped your wallet.
Man: Uh, thanks!
Tetsu: (in crowd): with the recession, it’s hard to read people.
Announcer: Platform 8, departing for Shinjuku, Ikebukuro….No pushing, please. no pushing.
Announcer: Everyone, please move inside! Everyone press in!
Announcer: Kanda Station
Person: Let me off!
Tetsu: Darn, just three thou… fifty in this one! Tetsu: One more pass!
Inspector: Tetsu! What are you up to? Just got off and already getting back on?
Tetsu: Oops. Er, haha…what’re you doing here, Inspector?
Inspector: Wiseguy. I found these wallets in the trash can in the bathroom.
Tetsu: So what, sir?
Inspector: They haven’t been totally emptied. There’s about 1000 yen left in each one.
Tetsu: What’re you talking about?
Inspector: That’s your M.O.!
Inspector: Come with me.
Tetsu: You can’t arrest me without any paperwork! Inspector: Wait! You won’t get away!
Tetsu: But you don’t even have a warrant!
Inspector: $#@%!
Tetsu: So long, sir!
Tetsu: Now then…
Tetsu: ‘Scuse me!
Tetsu: Hmm…At least 500,000! That fellow’s got a bundle. That nervous look in his eye…he’s carrying money…The perfect challenge!... Judging by his looks, he’s either a bookie or a gangster.
Tetsu: By hook or by crook, the money’s mine…This is a job for Yamanote’s Tetsu!... If I nail him I’ll call it a day.
Tetsu: A tough customer! He’s got his guard up.
Tetsu: Gotta nail him before he reaches the ticket gate. Hmph. didn’t get a chance on the train.
Inspector: That’s right, Yamanote’s Tetsu in back in action…Today’s the day I finally catch him red-handed. He’s somewhere on the Yamanote Line. Inspector: The gig’s up, Tetsu!
Inspector: You take me lightly, do you?...Fine. You’ll never use your fingers again.
Tetsu: I did it!
Man: Heya, pops!
Tetsu: Yes…?
Man: What’s in your pocket?
Man 2: Let’s have a look.
Tetsu: Uh, it’s none of your business…
Tetsu: Ung!
Man: Bro!
Man: Yo, Sanko!...Didn’t even notice your pocket was picked, didja? Nitwit!
Man: Got somethin’ to say for yourself, pops?
Man: Thought you could rip off the blue whips, pops? Big mistake!
Man: Right this way.
Tetsu: P-please, have mercy! I don’t know what came over me…
Man: Really? I saw your moves, you’re a brazen old fox.
Inspector: No need to take him back to HQ.
Tetsu: M-m…mercy!
Man: We can take care of this right here….See that nobody disturbs us, Sanko!
Man: Hold still!
Man: Don’t worry, we won’t kill ya.
Tetsu: Gaah!
Security guard: Uhh…an awful lot of folks pass through here…
Inspector: A short old guy with a mustache!
Inspector: This is the station. I can smell it!
(Tetsu): AAAARGH!
(Tetsu): HRGFF!
(Man): Okay…now the other hand!
Tetsu: “Moan”
Man: That’ll teach ya!
Tetsu: Urr…ach
Tetsu: Urr…
Inspector: Hm?
Inspector: Tetsu! What happened?
Inspector: Your thumbs and index fingers?! Who did it?
Tetsu: Ahh…
Tetsu: Inspector, I…I just couldn’t resist…!
Inspector: Wait there, I’ll call an ambulance.
Inspector: Over here!
(Man): Good old Tetsu…
Man: His pickpocketing career’s over for good.
Inspector: Can’t they save his fingers? They were just sliced off.
Man: Even if they could
Man: That doesn’t mean he’d have full use of them…. As for anything that requires extra nimble finger work, forget it! …I suppose it’s for the best, don’t you?
Inspector: You’re right…
Inspector: But I promised I’d catch him red-handed one day.
Man: You sorta did!
Inspector: Well, yes… It sticks, in my craw, just the same.
Man: You’re not feeling sorry for ol’ Tetsu, are you? You, the famous ogre of section three?
Inspector: Sorry? No way!
Inspector: I was just thinking about his surgery.
Inspector: Mind if I call in a doctor I know?
Inspector: Hello, Dr. Black Jack?... It’s Inspector Tomobiki of the Metropolitan Police Force. You operated on my son once.
Inspector: Still working on the sly?...I got a request.
Inspector: Oh? well, if you don’t come,…I’ll file a report on you with public security..
Dr. Black Jack: Just the sight of your face makes me want to puke, Inspector.
Inspector: Please, go right ahead.
Dr. Black Jack: You want me to operate on some deadbeat and you’ll have me arrested if I refuse?
Inspector: Right. And I mean it. So get to work, or else.
Dr. Black Jack: A dirty cop, aren’t ya.
Inspector: Thanks for the news flash.
Black Jack: What’s the problem?
Inspector: Four severed digits!
Inspector: I want you to reattach them.
Black Jack: The doctors here can handle that.
Inspector: Not just sew them on…I want them perfectly restored to their former level.
Inspector: He’s a pickpocket. I want his fingers to be agile enough he’ll be able to ‘work’ again.
Black Jack: You think I’m some magician?...You I toss a handkerchief over them and chant hocus pocus?
Inspector: I know it won’t be easy. But if anyone can do it, you can.
Black Jack: And I bet…there’s no fee?
Inspector: No! No fee!...But I’ll ignore the fact that you have no license.
Black Jack: How many more times must I engage in philanthropy?
Inspector: With a scalpel in your hands you’re a genius. If you lost your fingers, what’d you live for?...The old man is a thief, but he lives by his fingers like you. You can sympathize, can’t ya?
Black Jack: Show me.
Doctor: They were severed three hours ago.
Black Jack: Ah…no fear of necrosis then.
Inspector: Well?
Black Jack: Normally I’d charge one million per finger. A 4 million yen loss!
Black Jack: Loupe!
Inspector: Tetsu…I hope it works.
Inspector: How did it go? Will they be as good as new?
Black Jack: Don’t be ridiculous, Inspector.
Black Jack: You’re talking about fingers that were cut off. I don’t have a time machine.
Tetsu: Heh heh! All healed up.
Tetsu: I don’t know how to thank you, Doctor.
Inspector: Can you move them like before?
Tetsu: Sure! See?
Inspector: Hmph. Are you sure there’s no damage?
Tetsu: They work just fine! … I can use chopsticks and I can wipe my bum, too!
Inspector: Listen here…I want your fingers to be nimble enough to pick pockets the way you used to!
Inspector: If all your fingers can do now is wipe your own damn butt, I don’t want to see them.
Inspector: Get lost!!
Tetsu: Yessir. Thanks for everything!
Inspector: I thought we had an agreement, Doctor.
Inspector: I had faith in your abilities! I entrusted Tetsu to your care cuz
Inspector: Now I find out you’ve done a half-assed job. You leave me no choice!
Inspector: Huh?!
Inspector: Where’s my badge?
Inspector: That dirty scum!
Inspector: Tetsu! You filthy…!
Tetsu: Voila! Your badge! Your pen! And your wallet!
Inspector: Y-you’re under arrest!
Tetsu: Aw, I was just showin’ ya!
Tetsu: See? My fingers are good as new!
Inspector: Oh…
Inspector: Well, that’s just… great!
Tetsu: Whaddya say we tip a few back and toast the great Doctor Black Jack, Inspector?
Inspector: One of these days, I’ll nab you.
Tetsu: Eh, none of that tonight, sir.

Japanese books, including manga like this one, are meant to be read from right to left. So the front cover is actually the back cover, and vice-versa. To read this excerpt, start in the top right-hand corner. Read the panels, and the bubbles in the panels, from right to left, then drop down to the next row and repeat. It may make you dizzy at first, but forcing your brain to do things backwards makes you smarter in the long run. We swear.—Editors

© 2009 by Tezuka Productions and Vertical, Inc.

Read Context About Explore Teaching Ideas

Japanese books, including manga like this one, are meant to be read from right to left. So the front cover is actually the back cover, and vice-versa. To read this excerpt, start in the top right-hand corner. Read the panels, and the bubbles in the panels, from right to left, then drop down to the next row and repeat. It may make you dizzy at first, but forcing your brain to do things backwards makes you smarter in the long run. We swear.—Editors

© 2009 by Tezuka Productions and Vertical, Inc.

More about Osamu Tezuka

Known as the “God of Manga,” Osamu Tezuka is the “most revered artist in the medium’s history.” Find out more in Yani Mentzas’ post “Is Tezuka God?” on WWB. (Read more of Mentzas’ posts on manga translation.)

Learn about the life and influence of Osamu Tezuka in “Godfather of Anime, Osamu Tezuka” from the tofugu blog. Scroll down to see video clips of his works.Then, take a virtual visit to the Osamu Tezuka Museum via Google’s Cultural Institute. 

Read sample pages from The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime, a graphic biography.

Thanks to Osamu Tezuka’s medical degree, his graphic depictions of surgeries are anatomically accurate, or, at the very least, convincing. Find out the real-life influence of Dr. Black Jack in “Osamu Tezuka: Father of manga and scourge of the medical establishment” from The Guardian.

Hear the Names

Listen to pronunciations of the Japanese names and places from this story, read aloud by the translator Allison Markin Powell.

For more tips on pronouncing Japanese names and words, use this illustrated guide from and this explanation of sounds, syllables, and stress from

More on "Black Jack"

Read an in-depth description of Black Jack from the site Tezuka in English, which calls the manga the first of the “medical thriller genre,” for which Tezuka drew from his own medical degree.

Then, read about Black Jack, Osama Tezuka’s manga magazine where “Tetsu of the Yamanote Line” was originally published as the 219th episode on June 19, 1978. (Scroll down to Episode 219 to see a synopsis of this story, “Light Fingers.”)

While Osamu Tezuka began his work with manga (comic books and graphic novels), he also played an important role in the development of anime (animated comics) in Japan. Learn about Tezuka’s anime, including Black Jack, in the second half of the article.

On the Map: Yamanote Line

Take a look at the circular map of the Yamanote Line and learn a bit about its “storied history.”

Then, watch a video of the Tokyo subways and streets in the 1970s, when this story takes place.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Yakuza: Organized Crime in Japan

Learn more about the lives of Japanese gangsters like the ones that menaced Tetsu: “Yakuza,” from

Background on Japan

Pedestrians underneath umbrellas, their backs to us, walking on a Tokyo street on a rainy night.
Read the BBC’s short country profile of Japan, or visit for the latest news. 


M.O.: Modus operandi or “mode of operation,” a term used to describe criminals’ methods.

necrosis: The death of body tissue from disease, injury, or lack of blood supply.

loupe: A small magnifying glass.

More from Osamu Tezuka

Read other stories from the Black Jack series, also translated by Camellia Nieh.

Then, browse through the extensive collection of Osamu Tezuka’s works on the site Tezuka in English

Tezuka's Styles and Techniques

Find out some of the artistic and technical reasons Osamu Tezuka was such an influential artist in this blog post from The Comics Cube.

Then, read about “masking,” a technique Tezuka used in his manga.

Tezuka's "Stars"

Osamu Tezuka used a “star system” in which “actors” rotated around, playing several characters. Learn more about Acetylene Lamp, who plays the Inspector.

The pickpocket Tetsu also appeared in the Black Jack television series. Read the Tetsu character profile to find out how he started pickpocketing, at least according to the series (which has plot differences from the manga).

Idolizing Disney

How much was Tezuka influenced by Disney? Read “Tezuka Osamu and American Comics” for an exploration of this question through Tezuka’s personal writing and comics.

Taking the Subway in Tokyo

Take a tour of the Yamanote line—which is the largest and most important subway line in Tokyo—today in the video “Exploring the Yamanote Line.” 

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Look at a photo of a full subway car in Tokyo from the 1970s or ‘80s.

Also look at a 1972 photo of the “Tokyo Push”—attendants helping passengers squeeze onto a very, very full subway car. (Click to enlarge.)

Look through subway etiquette posters that were on subway walls in 1970s Tokyo, and even include illustrations from manga artists like Osama Tezuka (with Astro Boy reminding passengers to take their umbrellas) and Tetsuya Chiba (with Uesugi Teppei giving up his seat).

Listen to the jingle that plays at the Takadanobaba stop of the Yamanote line—the theme song from Osama Tezuka’s “Astro Boy” anime show. A futuristic version of this stop is the setting of the show and the “Astro Boy” manga.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

How might Tetsu fare in today’s Tokyo subways, which employ “nudge theory” to discourage bad behavior? Find out more in “The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations,” from citylab. 

Look through photographer Michael Wolf’s photographs of contemporary trains: Tokyo Compression.

Tokyo in the ‘70s

Watch a 30-second video of a drive through Tokyo in the 1970s.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

. . . And of people on the busy Tokyo streets.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Look at photographs from an exhibit on experimental Japanese photography from the time period of this story in “Radical Japanese Photography from the 1960s and ‘70s” from Flavorwire.

Photographer Issei Suda’s Tokyokei includes “dreamlike” photos of 1970s and 80s Tokyo.

Then, look through “Intimate Portraits from 1970s Tokyo,” from the exhibit Tokyo 1970s, which showcases the complexity of Tokyo through photos of people there (some nudity).

Literary Companions

Read the “fictional memoir” A Drifting Life, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, a manga artist who was influenced by Osama Tezuka. In the excerpt on WWB, Tezuka makes an appearance.

A Trip to the Takarazuka Revue

Osamu Tezuka’s manga works were influenced by his childhood visits to the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female musical theater group in his hometown. Learn about the “Disney-like” Tarazuka Revue and see pictures of the costumes that influenced Tezuka’s drawings.

Watch a brief video of a performance below:

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Then, watch a trailer for a documentary about the Revue.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

After the Bomb: Manga Artists of the Postwar Era

Find out how the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki influenced manga artists like Osamu Tezuka, whose works featured a futuristic Japan and themes of death and rebirth. 

Then, find out about other postwar manga influenced by Osamu Tezuka’s futuristic works in “Manga and the Bomb” from Al Jazeera.

Osamu Tezuka: Setting the Standard

The influence of Osamu Tezuka’s work on manga and anime has been so strong that some artists found themselves imitating Tezuka’s work until they deliberately “started from scratch”. Read about Tezuka’s influence on Yoshihiro Tatsumi, creator of A Drifting Life, also published on WWB, and Hayao Miyazaki (halfway down).

Note: There are some graphic images of nudity in the Comics Journal reproductions of Tatsumi’s work.

Metropolis: A Tezuka-Inspired Anime

Watch the trailer for the anime film Metropolis, which was based on Osamu Tezuka’s early illustrations.

A Selection of Haiku Poetry

Read some haiku poetry from Basho, who wrote the lines Tetsu sings on the first page—“The Suruga road smells like tea.”

A Readers' Digest for Manga Lovers

Want to read more manga? Read new manga in English published weekly in Shonen Jump online.

More Sympathetic Criminals in Literature*

Meet other charming criminals, or Lovable Rogues, from television, literature, other manga, and many other mediums.

Then, meet the character that often comes alongside a Lovable Rogue: The Sympathetic Inspector

* For Teaching Idea 1

More Stories about Rivalry and Friendship*

* For Teaching Idea 2

To access these Teaching Ideas, please register or login to WWB-Campus.

Japanese books, including manga like this one, are meant to be read from right to left. So the front cover is actually the back cover, and vice-versa. To read this excerpt, start in the top right-hand corner. Read the panels, and the bubbles in the panels, from right to left, then drop down to the next row and repeat. It may make you dizzy at first, but forcing your brain to do things backwards makes you smarter in the long run. We swear.—Editors

© 2009 by Tezuka Productions and Vertical, Inc.

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