Anime of the Past: Astro Boy

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

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Astro Boy

Astro Boy 2003 TV series

With Oprainfall adding anime into our coverage, it seems only fit to give our readers a bit of a trip back to one of the founding anime series that gave birth to the multi-million dollar industry that is Anime and Manga: Tetsuwan Atom, known as Astro Boy in the English.

Osamu Tezuka, commonly referred as the Godfather of Manga/Anime or the God of Manga, is the mangaka* of Astro Boy. He is also the mangaka of Kimba the White Lion, Pheonix and Black Jack amoung other titles. Tezuka was born on the 3rd of November 1928 in Osaka and passed away on the 9th of February 1989. Other than being a Mangaka he was also an activist and medical doctor whom never practiced medicine.

Astro Boy Creator Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka, Godfather of Manga.

In making Astro Boy, Tezuka often felt trapped by the need to satisfy the young male audience’s desire to see battling robots. To keep the story from getting too serious, he would also add in random characters in random moments to lighten up the story, as the story was focused on young boys usually of elementary school level.

Astro Boy is of a science fiction genre where robots co-exist with humans set in a futuristic world. The protagonist, Astro Boy, is a robot created by the head of the Ministry of Science, Dr. Tenma, to replace his son Tobio, who died in a devastating car accident. In his grief, Dr. Tenma created Astro Boy in the image of his son and as such loved him like a son. This happiness did not last forever as Tenma realised that Astro Boy could not fill the void in his heart left by the death of his son Tobio, due to Astro being unable to grow older or express human aesthetics. Astro was sold to a cruel circus owner by the name of Hamegg and after some time was rescued by Professor Ochanomizu, the new head of the Ministry of Science after Dr. Tenma. The Professor became his legal guardian and, upon realising that Astro had been gifted with superior powers and skills and the ability to express human emotions, he helped him in fighting evil by supporting him and repairing him. From then on, the legend of Astro Boy was created: fighting evil that included robot-hating humans, robots gone berserk or alien invaders. Astro even took on the U.S. Air Force to stop them bombing some peaceful innocent Vietnamese villagers.

With plot aside, Astro Boy is an anime based on the morals of good and bad between those with super powers being robots like Astro or people with superior intelligence as such. It constantly plays on the idea of human emotions and the theories of robot and human interaction and order. Sci-fi fans will be well orientated with this scenario, but for newcomers it is a softer kind of mecha. It is based in a world where robots have been invented and do all the work, from running the electric station to cleaning windows. A world were people rely heavily on robots to do everything. And thus, the world that Astro Boy is the hero who keeps the peace between robots and humans in the fight against what is humane and good.

Astro Boy began as a manga April 1952 and continued until 1968. It was made into an anime in 1963 but has been re-made twice from its black and white original version to a colour version in 1980 and then to a more cell shaded style in 2003. For those who have parents in the 45-50 years old range, their parents most likely watched the black and white version of Astro Boy as children. It was one of the biggest hitting anime series to hit Western society. For most of us though, we grew up with colourful anime the likes of Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z, so watching a black and white version might seem strange. In light of this, Tezuka Productions produced the remake of the original series in 2003 with the modern day style of animation and also with a slight change in the series, adding more darker and serious dramatic Sci-fi into the series. Astro Boy was also made into a movie in 2009 produced by Imagi Animation Studios.

Astro Boy is a fun loving anime filled with a great story line and unique characters and artwork. For anime fans out there, it is highly recommended that you give Astro Boy (2003) a go and have a taste of what the Godfather of Manga started, in what has become a successful industry over the years in both Asian and Western culture alike. Astro Boy brings to life your humanity and your mind

Astro Boy

Astro Boy in the 1960’s

*Mangaka – The official name given to Manga authors.

**Kokoro – is the Japanese word for Heart. If you watch the series you are likely to encounter this word often. It is a deep meaning in Japanese but probably best interpreted as ‘a soul’.

About Jodie Langford

Jodie joined the Oprainfall Staff as a translator during the winter of 2012. If you see an article on the website with an entirely Japanese source, odds are she’s had a hand in bringing the information to you! She enjoys most RPGs, especially Monster Hunter and Pokemon.