Have you ever dreamed of being chosen to reinterpret an arc of your favorite manga or anime? To follow in your own style the story of a secondary character that you thought hadn’t been given the spotlight enough? That was the opportunity that Naoki Urasawa got when the family of Osamu Tezuka contacted him to make an adaptation of the World’s Strongest Robot arc of Astroboy, where a mysterious assassin attacks the strongest robots in the world. Thankfully, he took the chance and we readers got the amazing manga, Pluto.
Pluto, by Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka, is a modern masterpiece. And because of that, it is a really tough act to follow. Because after you read such a great mixture of science fiction, philosophy, and an human feelings, what can you read afterwards? Well, here we have a list of six titles that make a great follow up to Pluto, as they touch similar subjects and will also break your heart in all the right ways.
Similar Manga to Pluto
1. Houkago no Charisma (Afterschool Charisma)
- Authors: Suekane, Kumiko
- Genres: Mystery, School, Sci-Fi, Seinen
- Volumes: 12
- Published: 2008 - 2014
Shirou Kamiya is lucky he gets to attend St. Kleio, one of the most exclusive private schools in the country. In fact, the school is so exclusive that the only students allowed are actually clones of really famous people who are being groomed and prepared to continue their original’s work. Shiro, as the son of the school’s director, is the only non-clone student, which makes him both the target of some bullying from the likes of Mozart –who thinks all clones are superior because they have genius DNA-, and incites curiosity in others such as Sigmund Freud, Napoleon Bonaparte, Elizabeth the First, Florence Nightingale, and Marie Curie. It’s that friendship that makes him help Marie Curie to transfer out of the school to study music, but as he’s realizing he misses his friend, he and the other clones watch in horror as the clone of John F. Kennedy, one of the school’s first graduates, is killed on live tv, just as he is giving a rousing speech.
Houkago no Charisma is a very intriguing manga that pretty much dares to ask many questions about the differences between nurture and nature, and what it means to be human. Some of the clones are really afraid that they are only there to have the same fate as their originals, and some others at first seem to be completely different from their predecessor –such as, for instance, Hitler’s clone, who is probably the nicest towards Shiro; or Napoleon, who, among other things, is the tallest in the group. But there are many dark secrets in St. Kleio, and the main question here is if society will ever see clones as something more than mere copies of the original, and objects to be possessed.
2. Billy Bat
- Authors: Urasawa, Naoki (Story and Art), Nagasaki, Takashi (Story)
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, Historical, Supernatural, Police, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 20
- Published: 2008 - 2016
As World War II ended, Kevin Yamagata, a young Japanese-American comic book writer is starting to have some success in New York with a comic about a bat detective. However, when two detectives need to use his study to investigate a neighbor, one of them recognizes “Billy” as a manga he read back in Japan. Unable to live with himself if he plagiarized someone else, Kevin travels back to Japan in order to find the author of the Bat manga, and unknowingly ends up mixed up with an ancient conspiracy to control the world. Soon, he starts seeing the Bat that foretells a lot of tragedies, as he finds a mangaka who also used to see the Bat, and who asks only one question: “The bat you see, is it black or white?”
Billy Bat is one of Naoki Urasawa’s most complex and ambitious stories, as it deals with a plot that starts with the beginning of mankind and teases that, if those touched by the bat don’t do the right thing, humanity will end. Because of the premise that art does affect real life, the story also features a lot of historical events, like the JFK assassination and 9/11, tying them to the greater arc of the mystery of the Bats and the possible multiverse. If you loved Pluto for the mystery behind who was killing the robots and for what reason, Billy Bat will be precisely what you want to read next.
3. 20th Century Boys
- Authors: Urasawa, Naoki
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, Historical, Sci-Fi, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 22
- Published: 1999 - 2006
When he was a little kid, Kenji Endo had an amazing group of friends. They would play together in a field not far from their houses, a make-believe story in which they were the heroes saving the world from aliens and the frog empire. As the years passed and they all grew apart, Kenji forgot that game, as well as his dreams of becoming a big rockstar, to end up working in his family’s corner store. But after one of his old friends jumps to his death, Kenji gets a letter from the dead man asking him if he remembers their old game and their friendship symbol, because someone else does, and is using it to create a dangerous cult that has just one goal: the utter destruction of mankind.
20th Century Boys is one of Naoki Urasawa’s best-known works. Same as Billy Bat, it occurs in different eras, and Urasawa masterfully jumps from 1958 to 1999, and to the future, giving us glimpses of what the choices the character makes will mean to the story before fully showing us what is going to happen. Just like Pluto, it shows a large cast of characters, some of which only become important in the latter chapters, and at times it takes a long time following some secondary characters in their own stories, so that no one is left out of the spotlight. If you enjoyed Pluto, 20th Century Boys is definitely a must-read on your list.
Any Manga Like Pluto ?
4. Doumu (Domu: A Child’s Dream)
- Authors: Otomo, Katsuhiro
- Genres: Horror, Supernatural, Seinen
- Volumes: 1
- Published: 1980 - 1981
Life in an apartment complex can be somewhat complicated. With many different families living in the same place, conflicts can’t be avoided. But when there have been 32 suicides in just two years, the police have no choice but to investigate. There are rumors that the building is cursed, but neither Yamagawa nor his younger partner Tamura want to give credence to those rumors. Still, the door to the roof where the victims have jumped from is rusted shut so, how could any of the jumpers reach that spot? Inspector Yamagawa seems to have the answer, but before he can share his suspicions, he too jumps to his death, leaving Tamura as the sole investigator of a frustrating case with no clear answer.
Doumu is, at times, called a sort of prequel to Akira. It is not only done by the same author, Katsuhiro Otomo, but also deals with a lot of the same subjects: the clash between generations, how old people are very similar to children once senility sets in, and how isolation, coupled with overpopulation, can cause serious problems. Same as Pluto, it starts with a murder mystery, and thus, if that was what you loved from the Urasawa story, you are going to adore this Otomo short manga. Of course, both series have breathtaking art, which practically seems to move on the page.
5. Seiheikyuu EX (The Flat Earth/Exchange)
- Authors: Nigoshi, Toshimi
- Genres: Sci-Fi
- Volumes: 4
- Published: 1992
One of the problems that society faces once humans and androids start coexisting is that humans stop reproducing, and thus, human population starts to decline. Unfortunately for Kotaro Shiga, a High school student, one of the solutions to preserve mankind includes putting him and some others in suspended animation for a hundred years, just to make sure we still have human DNA in the future. Even worse for him; once he wakes up, he finds out that now androids rule the Earth and are somehow convinced that they created humans, not the other way around. So now it falls to him, an exiled human prince, and the rest of the “sleepers” to restore mankind’s place in history and rebuild society.
One of the most interesting points of Seiheikyuu EX is that androids are shown to have limited memory: it only goes 22 years in the past. What happened before that time, and why the androids can only remember up until then is one of the mysteries of the story, and it reminds us a bit of a small plot point in Pluto, regarding how androids could, and sometimes did, modify their memories to delete some painful moments. Both stories also deal with the problem that is the cohabitation of androids and humans, especially when androids don’t look different from humans. All in all, Seiheikyuu EX is a very good sample of 1990s fiction.
6. Tetsuwan Atom (Astroboy)
- Authors: Tezuka, Osamu
- Genres: Adventure, Mecha, Sci-Fi, Shounen
- Volumes: 21
- Published: 1951 - 1968
When Dr. Tenma’s son died, he went mad with grief. Trying to get over this loss, he built a small robot, Tobio, to be the replacement of his son. But when Tobio shows that he is not a perfect copy, Dr. Tenma decides to scrap him, forgetting all about the robot. However, as it’s 2003 and Japan has a huge robot population, Professor Ochanomizu, an associate of Dr. Tenma who happens to fight for civil robot rights, rescues Tobio from the scrapheap, renames him Astro, and tasks him to help defend Japan and the world.
Tetsuwan Atom, known around the world as Astroboy, is one of Japan’s most popular and important manga. However, a lot of people outside Japan haven’t read it, and instead know it by the anime adaptation. The manga shows an amazing optimism towards the future, and still considers that there would be people who’d try to take advantage of their technology for their own goals. Astroboy also doesn’t ignore that discrimination is not easily destroyed because people, unfortunately, will always find reasons to fear those who are different. It’s a wonderful manga that has aged very well, and that you should read if you have the chance.
There’s a saying about how everyone is a hero in their own story. And Pluto exemplifies this very well, showing us an alternate take on a story that had been told 40 years earlier, by simply following a different character. The rest of the stories in this list also take that saying to heart, as well as trying to show different answers to the question of what makes a human being, and how different the problems of a society where humans and artificial life forms cohabitate can be.
And we’d love to know what you think about the stories in this list and their answers to those questions. Also, did we miss any story similar to Pluto that you love? Or maybe you disagree with one of our choices? Please, let us know in the comments below.