As Mickey Mouse is to American animation, so to anime and manga is Astro Boy, the quintessential creation of Osama Tezuka, one of the world’s revered giants of comics and animation. In this volume, Astro Boy comes to the aid of Gravia’s robot president to prevent his overthrow at the hands of a secret anti-robot society; a robot magician is cloned as a setup to start a movement against intelligent robots, and only Astro Boy can expose the conspiracy; and Astro Boy defends a powerful robot racecar from an evil gang in the globe-spanning Equator Race! Astro Boy is an all-ages delight, as fresh, exciting, and innovative today as when it was created forty years ago. Everything is Go, Astro Boy!
The three stories in this volume, “His Highness Deadcross,” “The Third Magician,” and “White Planet,” were originally published in 1960, 1961, and 1963. I should mention here that the stories in the 23-volume collection upon which Dark Horse modeled their release are not presented in chonological order. Rather, Tezuka and the Japanese publisher decided on the best order, and then Tezuka wrote little introductory bits to put each story in context. These sometimes also include digs at Americans and how they reacted adversely to violence in the Astro Boy cartoon but were totally fine with “going over to southeast Asia and killing people.”
The premise of “His Highness Deadcross” sounds good: a robot has been elected president, thanks to a large turnout from robot voters, and some humans aren’t too happy about this. In reality, though, it’s kind of boring. I like the ideas it raises, like robots with voting rights and the ability to create more robots without human assistance, but most of the focus is on the campy villain and his attempts to force the president to resign. Seriously, this guy wears a cape, a plumed helmet, and has dialogue like, “It’s curtains for you.”
The other two stories are pretty good, though. In “The Third Magician,” a famous robot magician is cloned and then the clone is used as an art thief. He makes a public announcement about how at such and such a time, he will arrive and steal his target. I’ve certainly seen that done in other series, so now I wonder if Tezuka is responsible for the phantom thief genre, too! In “White Planet,” a boy’s beloved robocar is saved by the electronic brain of the robot who he thought was his sister. The boy spends no time mourning her loss or freaking out that she was a robot, but then again, he evidently enjoyed smacking her around, so he’s kind of a git anyway.
Astro Boy continues to be a quick read, and I like it well enough that at the present moment I’m inclined to keep going with it past the point that’ll prepare me to understand Pluto.