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Astro Boy

Page history last edited by Matthew Schroeder 8 years, 3 months ago

 

Creators: Osamu Tezuka

Original Date(s) of Publication: Spring 1951 to Spring 1968

Publisher: Shonen

 

 

Astro Boy was originally a manga created by Osamu Tezuka and published between 1951 in 1968 in Shonen. The manga is often seen as very important because it has been around for over 50 years and has experienced wide spread popularity.  The character Astro Boy was originally a minor character in another manga the creator was working on at the time. The character was so popular that it was decided that a manga would be made about him. The manga is set sometime in the future and follows a robot named Astro Boy who is created by a man named Dr. Tenma, who is a high-ranking scientist. Astro Boy is created after Tenma loses his son in an accident. Tenma refuses to move on after his son's death, and creates Astro Boy in an effort to replace his son. Tenma creates a robot that has the ability to behave like a human. Initially Tenma tries to live with Astro Boy, acting as if he is truly Tenma's son. Tenma soon realizes however that no matter how human the robot may be, there is no way that his son's life can truly be replaced.

This realization causes Tenma to become angry which eventually leads him to begin to hate his creation and to eventually abandon Astro Boy, forcing him to survive on his own with other robots. Astro Boy eventually finds work at a circus. He is abused by the head of the circus while working there. Astro Boy is taken in and repaired by Dr. Ochanomizu, who has taken over Dr. Tenma's previous position. This doctor is the opposite of Dr. Tenma in almost every way. He is kind and compassionate and teaches Astro to be  as well.  This eventually leads to Astro becoming a superhero, as he had been equipped with state of the art technology. Dr. Tenma becomes one of the more frequent villains in the series, as he is convinced that Astro will betray humanity eventually since he is a robot.

The themes that Astro Boy explores range from standard superhero fare such as traveling to other planets and fighting villains, to more political issues such as voting and the role of robots, and by extension technology. These themes also include philosophical issues such as what it means to be human, as evidenced by the difference between the way both doctors treat Astro. Dealing with death is also an issue that is present in this comic, as evidenced by the fact that Tenma ends up going somewhat insane over the death of his son, going so far as to sacrifice his career and his reputation in the process. In some ways, Astro represents both humans and robots. This could be seen as an ethnic or cultural theme, similar to X-men and the use of mutants as a metaphor to explore various contemporary political and societal issues.

Astro Boy  has involved more than just the original manga over the years. Since the popularity of the manga has increased over the years, the series has involved multiple feature length animated films, multiple anime series, and even a video game in 2009, 40 years after the end of the manga's run. This shows how popular the franchise still is today. There was even an American 3D animated  movie about the tiny superhero made recently, which closely follows the events regarding Astro's creation and Tenma's subsequent downward spiral leading to his insanity.

The series could be seen as a science fiction superhero comic. Considering that the series was made with children in mind, it is entirely possible that this series was the first exposure some children ever had to science fiction, thus potentially contributing to the fan base and introducing a whole new generation to the genre.  Astro has the exceptionally large eyes that would come to be known as a staple of many modern anime and manga titles. This may seem commonplace now, but one cannot underestimate the importance of such a detail in a work published so many years ago.

While it is true that  many of the themes and situations present in the series are not new concepts and that there are many other series that have dealt with similar issues since then, one cannot underestimate the impact Tezuka had on his fans with this series.  He had such an impact on his fans, that they have created a website for English speaking fans of his work, including Astro Boy, over 20 years after his death and 40 years after the end of the series itself. Much of the information regarding this series and others by Tezuka is on Japanese websites, so the fan initiative shown in the creation of the English site shows that the series still resonates with people today.  The series may be old, but it is not obsolete yet.

References

1. http://tezukainenglish.com/bm/series/astro_boy/index.shtml

2. http://tezukainenglish.com/bm/characters/stars_q-z/tenma-dr.shtml

3. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375568/

4. http://tezukainenglish.com/index.shtml

 

 

Further Reading

 

 

 

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