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Kids, we have to start this article drawing attention to an ugly topic: war. The creator of Astro Boy was a teenager when he witnessed the Second World War’s effects in his country. This would mark permanently his work as a mangaka. Of course that we are talking about Osamu Tezuka, the God of Manga. Before being given such a great title, Tezuka was a medicine student with a love for drawing and a deep admiration for Walt Disney’s movies.
Tezuka published his first comic strip (The diary of Ma-chan) when he was 17 years old in 1946. While Japan fought against the expansion of communism in Asia, Tezuka published a manga called Ambassador Atom (Atomu Taishi) in the year 1952, where Astro was a secondary character. He was so popular that he soon got his own manga, Astro Boy (Tetsuwa Atomu or Mighty Atomu). This story’s message was clear: Tezuka was convinced that manga had the power to cross cultural and geographical boundaries to promote peace. This might sound strange from such an action oriented show that can be safely watched by the whole family, but we just have to observe the title character to understand how Tezuka’s message comes to play. So, want to travel to the future to visit Astro Boy and his awesomeness? Let’s go!
- Episodes : 50
- Genre : Action, Adventure, Kids, Mecha, Sci-Fi, Shounen, Super Power
- Airing Date : Apr 6, 2003 to Mar 28, 2004
- Producers : Sony Pictures Entertainment, Dentsu
Astro Boy Preview (No Spoilers)
Welcome to Metrocity! This is the year 2043, full of skyscrapers, flying cars… you know, technology. Humans interact with robots more than ever before, and Astro Boy revolves precisely around the adventures of a robot boy who fights against crime. Although Astro Boy has prodigious abilities and an artificial intelligence system that set him apart from other robots, he is most known as a kind hearted superhero.
Astro Boy Bio
Astro (or Atom, as he is known in the original Japanese version) is a robot boy built by Dr. Tenma, who was the head of the Institute of Science of Metrocity. Dr. Tenma was inspired to build Astro based on his son Tobio. Here we have to clarify that to review a character that has been revived in the TV screen mainly three times (in 1963, 1980 and 2003), is difficult without giving out spoilers. So, you can stop now if you want to watch any of the versions of the show, or proceed at your own risk.
Astro Boy Highlights
1. Human origin
So, we mentioned that Dr. Tenma created Astro. What we haven’t mentioned yet is that Tobio, Dr. Tenma’s son, died in a tragic traffic accident, therefore, Astro’s main role was to replace Dr. Tenma’s son. But, there was a little detail that Dr. Tenma apparently did not think about before creating Astro. If he was a robot, he could not age, right? In the 1980’s version of the anime, Dr. Tenma tried to pass Astro as his own son Tobio, but the robot struggled hard to fit in with humans, as he was new to the world and could not control his powers well. All in all, Dr. Tenma rejected his own creation.
So, in a plot twist that reminds us of Pinoccio (Disney influence alert here), Astro ends up in a robot circus, recruited by a cruel man called Ham Eggs. Here Astro learns to use his powers for entertainment and even saves the day at least once. Thus, we are reminded here of the premise of becoming a human not by your powers or abilities, but by what you do with them. And taking into account that Astro was based on a kind boy with high moral values, his human origin is one of his strong points as a character.
2. Astro is Basically a Child
So, who rescued Astro from the circus life? (or discovered him, as shown in the 2003 version of the anime). None other than Dr. Ochanomizu, the new head of the Institute of Science of Metrocity! Astro had the luck to meet this activist for the robots’ rights, who became the mentor and guide he needed. Dr. Ochanomizu taught him widely about the world, so Astro passed from being unfitting to being knowledgeable without losing his childish allure. We notice that he is a happy boy who likes to discover new things and respects living creatures.
Dr. Ochanomizu also created a family for him, composed by a father, a mother, young sister Uran, old brother Cobalt and in the latest version of the anime, a dog. On this way, Astro Boy was able to have the normal life of a child, surrounded by his family and good friends. There also are people who are apprehensive towards him at first, but once they give this kid a chance, they warm up to him.
A superhero needs superpowers, right? They come in handy when it is time to fight against criminals or simply to help the neighbors. In the case of Astro, his original superpowers were seven: a strength equivalent to 100K horsepower, flight speed similar to a jet, lights in his eyes, enhanced hearing, a machine gun in his hips (LOL), instant language translation, and the ability to distinguish if a person is good or evil.
Although latest versions of the anime put more emphases on his weapons (like the cannons on his arms or adding lasers to his eyes), we have to bring attention to the curious mix of abilities Astro has. He is both a battle robot and a… could we call him a diplomatic robot? Which superhero nowadays has such a capability to communicate and above all, to judge people beyond their looks? Astro takes the best part of being human to the extreme. He truly is a super-robot!
There is a constant pattern throughout Astro Boy’s adventures. Astro basically fights against humans who hate robots and against robots who try to destroy humans. He keeps the peace between humans and robots. Nevertheless, the education Astro received from Doctor Ochanomizu discourages him to join battles. That is why he tries to solve conflicts without resorting to force first. Astro is basically a peaceful guy!
Astro Boy is also constantly tested by his enemies on these regards. Atlas, the main village of the 80´s anime, encourages Astro to join him in his conquest of the world, but he refuses. On the 2003 version, it is Dr. Tenma who tries to convince Astro to rule the world with him. Of course, he also refuses. Also in the same version, Blue Knight creates a robot nation in Antarctica called Robotonia and plays dirty political tricks to declare the war between robots and humans… which Astro Boy has to stop. So, AStro spends most of his action time stopping wars and advocating for peace. Astro’s song should be: “Why can’t we be friends?” XD
5. Astro Boy is Practically Indestructible!
Astro has a powerful aid for his energy source, which originally was nuclear (thus his name Atom). In later versions, it is a combination of human technology (called Kokoro, Heart) or a mysterious resource from the stars. Anyway, the point is that his energy source is eternal. If we add Astro’s powers to the mix, we get a practically indestructible little guy.
Although in the 80’s version of Astro Boy, Astro sacrifices himself by carrying a shutter to normalize the sun… well, his popularity didn’t let him end up as a fried metallic sausage. It does not matter how many times Astro has been blown to pieces or deactivated. He always comes back. Astro has been fighting crime since the 50's and still goes on, so that should deserve recognition, right? :p
Although Astro Boy might look like innocent and fun entertainment at first, through reviewing the highlights of its protagonist, we can notice that there is a powerful underlying message here. Especially in an era where information and people around the world mingle together in more accessible ways, Astro’s abilities and personality become relevant. He has strong values that remain firm on the face of adversity, even when he was originally rejected by many. Astro also has empathy and kindness towards other creatures. His adventures show us how discrimination and miscommunication are the greatest evils we have to fight. Thus, Astro is a true superhero because, above all, he is the embodiment of the best human qualities. It is curious to think that the Kokoro, the most advanced form of Artificial Intelligence, makes of him a super-human. So, we have to remember what Tezuka wanted us to think when he created Astro, to always think about what means to be a human.
Do you think we missed any important characteristic of Astro Boy? Why do you think he has been such a perdurable character? Don’t forget that we are open to all your comments and suggestions. See you soon!