From the back cover:
Created by the late Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy was the first manga series to be adapted to animation and became a worldwide phenomenon, making Astro Boy the Mickey Mouse of anime—a jet-powered, super-strong, evil-robot-bashing, alien-invasion-smashing Mickey Mouse, that is! Exciting, whimsical, and touching, Astro Boy hearkens back to the classic era of comics and animation, featuring stories that readers young and old will enjoy.
I confess that I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in Astro Boy until Viz’s acquisition of Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto—based on a story in the third Astro Boy volume—was announced. In fact, I’m reading it now so I can fully appreciate Pluto, but I must say that it’s better than I’d expected.
There are three stories in this volume, two from 1961 and one (“The Birth of Astro Boy”) written in 1975 that explains Astro’s origins. This last, as well as some introductory bits to the other stories, features Tezuka talking about his stories and even admitting that there are some that he doesn’t care for much. It actually works pretty well.
The longer of the two stories from 1961, “The Hot Dog Corps,” is about a group of cyborg soldiers who used to be dogs. Their canine instincts keep returning, like the desire to chew on shoes or squirm around scratching their backs in doggy ectasy, and one cyborg in particular, who used to belong to Astro Boy’s teacher, feels the inexplicable urge to fly to Japan and see his former master. The concept is quite interesting, but I felt the story went on a bit too long. If it were shorter, it could’ve been more poignant. That said, I like how it ended.
The second story, “Plant People,” is far shorter and basically tells the tale of some robot invaders from a dying planet who were programmed to steal Earth’s water. There’s not much more to say about that one.
Astro Boy is a really quick read and generally enjoyable, though there are a few things that had me snerking. One is the villain who describes at length, while nobody is around, what throwing a certain switch will do. Giving one of the good guys time to come and foil his evil plans, of course. Another is Astro’s tendency to use the phrase “This must be _____.” Here’s a quiz:
Which of these sentences is not used in this volume?
This must be _________.
a. some sort of door.
b. the way it defends against intruders.
c. the power source for that giant robot we met earlier.
Okay, perhaps that was too easy.
Also, Astro’s propensity for walking into unfamiliar situations and rapidly deducing all sorts of things reminds me of Conan from Case Closed. And, in fact, the kindly scientist who takes Conan in after he is forcibly de-aged looks a lot like the kindly scientist who takes Astro in after his creator kicks him out for failing to be his son. I can only assume this is intentional.
I’ll at least be reading through volume three, and will probably give it a chance beyond that to see if Astro Boy is something I really want to continue with.