Anime Vice News

Vice Interrogation: Astro Boy

Gia takes on the classics: Astro Boy!

 
 

Vital Stats:

Title: Astro Boy
Japanese Title:  鉄腕アトム
JP Publisher: Kobunsha/ Kodansha
Licensor: Dark Horse
Mangaka: Osamu Tezuka

The Story

A brilliant scientist creates a superb robot to replace his son, who died in a car crash. For some reason, he gifts his son with abilities like flying and shooting machine guns out his ass. Then he realizes that a robot can't grow up, and sells the robot off to a vendor. Exactly what happened to the robot during that time frame is unknown, but some time later a genius scientist who also happens to be the head of Japan's Ministry of Science. Professor Ochanomizu "adopts" Astro Boy, who attends school like a normal human, and saves the world from robots and vicious humans, like abormal robots.
 
The release I'm reviewing here is Dark Horse's copy of volumes 1 and 2 of a later release of the Astro Boy manga, I believe by Kodansha. This collection features Astro Boy in its entirety, 23 volumes (22 books in English, since the first two were released as one volume), and at least in this volume, each of the new stories (not each chapter, but each unique arc) also features a Tezuka-drawn "introduction," starring Tezuka himself. Some of these can be mildly disconcerting as it's hard to tell when they end and the story begins (since they sometimes actually take place theoretically right before the story starts), but it's charming and insightful enough to be well worth any tiny difficulty there.
 
As for the content itself...this is a manga that was last drawn over 40 years ago, and started 57 years ago, and it was aimed at kids even then. So these are primarily tales of good versus not-good, if not entirely evil-- I was impressed at how well Tezuka was able to incorporate motivations for a couple of those not-good characters, though others are somewhat more of the black-hat twirling-moustache type). They are truly "sophisticated," I think, only in the context of its era and its target demographic. 
 
This particular volume, however, is clearly aimed not at children but at manga afficionados, and anyone who is interested in the history of manga and a classic title should most assuredly pick up at least this book, if not the entirety of the series. If you're curious about the story entirely of its own merit, there's definitely plenty of enjoyment to be had: even a jaded reader like myself finds some joy in Tezuka's fourth-wall-breaking asides and notes (like a large robot with the words "too big to draw" on it), and it's particularly fascinating to read this volume after having read the first few of Naoki Urasawa's Pluto, a modern, darker take on the same themes of human and robot living amongst one another.
 
However, it is still a kids' series, so if you're looking for something darker or deeper, you'll probably feel mildly unsatisfied with Astro Boy on its surface. (Those with a more scholastic bent will have a lot of fun picking apart aspects of the manga that have influenced current artists, as well as deeper meanings behind Tezuka's stories, characters, and words. And I would love to read the resulting essays!)
 
I would actually like to see a release of Astro Boy that was more aimed at kids, though. I still think that it compares favorably to a lot of kids' stuff coming out these days.

IF, THEN

If you like these manga, you might like Astro Boy.
- Black Jack
- Pluto
- Speed Racer

Release Info:

Released: Sept. 17, 2008 
Length: 424 pages
Features:
- Foreword by Frederik L. Schodt
- Tezuka's own interspersed intros to the stories
- A Tezuka biography
Apathyladon Aug. 10, 2009 at 9:43 p.m.
I always loved Astro Boy, too bad he was never popular in the United States. I always felt that Megaman was modeled after Astro Boy, since they have some parallels.
giaon Aug. 10, 2009 at 10:30 p.m.
@Apathylad: The original anime of Astro Boy did reasonably well here, or at least according to Schodt in the foreword. At the time, most of the Americans watching it didn't even know it was Japanese. :)
damswedonon Aug. 11, 2009 at 2:16 a.m.
so its Pinocchio with guns? sounds good
Kou_Leifohon Aug. 11, 2009 at 2:53 a.m.
@Apathylad said:
" I always loved Astro Boy, too bad he was never popular in the United States. I always felt that Megaman was modeled after Astro Boy, since they have some parallels. "
Well if Mega Man is then it wouldn't be the first Capcom character to be model after a anime character. As a matter of fact, two characters from the Street Fighter series (Yun & Yang) are model after Trowa Barton & Dou Maxwell from Gundam Wing.
rpg42on Aug. 12, 2009 at 5:24 p.m.

heeeeeeeee
N15PCAon Aug. 13, 2009 at 12:34 p.m.
The original show aired on NBC back in 1963.   I watch some of the episodes when the aired it on Adult Swim.
 
I plan on going to see the new Astro Boy movie when it comes out this october.  I don't think their going to be even five other people in the movie theater when I go to see it.  That make's me very sad.
mange210on Aug. 15, 2009 at 10:11 a.m.
   
Arjunaon Aug. 31, 2009 at 11:49 a.m.
Am I wrong in thinking that Astro Boy is, largely, the inception of manga/anime's aesthetic; especially the stylized eyes we're all familiar with in manga/anime. 
 
Maybe I should read Astroboy simply because, all of its positives aside, it is the 'beginning' of this modern style of manga/anime we're familiar with.
 
Maybe Astroboy could be described as a 'wellspring'?

Dig Deeper into Osamu Tezuka

Known as the "godfather of manga," Osamu Tezuka is Japan's most prolific manga creator to date with over 700 original series to his name. Tezuka is widely credited for pushing the medium to its mainstream popularity after World War II.

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