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New 'Black Jack' manga episode to be released using AI

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A new episode of a famous Osamu Tezuka manga, "Black Jack," created with the help of artificial intelligence, will be released this fall, organizers of the project said Monday.

Under the project, the creators from Tezuka Productions Co. use AI that has studied the structure of past plots and relationships between characters of Black Jack, a medical drama consisting of over 200 episodes about a genius but unlicensed surgeon, the story's namesake character.

It will be released in the weekly comic magazine "Shukan Shonen Champion," which ran the Black Jack series from 1973 and 1983.

Organizers, including Makoto Tezuka, son of Osamu Tezuka and director at Tezuka Productions, said they hope to ascertain how far AI can assist humans in creating manga, noting that the project is not meant to replace creators.

"While I myself made the proposal, I am aware that it is an outrageous one and, even today, I am half doubting that it is going to work," Tezuka told a press conference to unveil the release of the new episode.

"Still, we are challenging ourselves. I know Osamu Tezuka would have definitely used AI if he were alive," he said, referring to the late creator's numerous works dealing with the development of technology, including "Astro Boy," another famous work illustrating an android boy with human emotions.

"We are interested in how creators and AI interactively make new plots and new expressions of the characters," said Satoshi Kurihara, professor at Keio University's Faculty of Science and Technology, expecting AI to create characters that fit the story plot.

The organizers showed a few illustrations created using AI that could never have been drawn by Osamu Tezuka, who died in 1989, including Black Jack holding a smartphone.

The initiative follows an earlier project in which "Paidon," a manga plotted and designed by AI in the artistic style of Tezuka, was released in the weekly comic magazine "Morning" in 2020.

The organizers said while Paidon still required the substantial involvement of creators, the emergence of generative AI could reduce the work of human creators this time and present a new way of creating manga content.

They will use Generative Pre-trained Transformer 4, or GPT-4, created by U.S. venture OpenAI.

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