Essentially Japans equivalent to Americas Mickey Mouse, Astro Boy is considered a national institution in his country. Having its beginnings in the famous manga series drawn by “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka, it went on to become the first major successful anime series in the 1960’s, not only in Japan but also in America. The anime would mark Astro’s debut in the international market (the original manga would not be translated till 2003, though an American comic was produced based on the dub episodes)
The story is about a robot boy, built by Japans Minister of Science, Dr Tenma in the year 2003 to replace his beloved son Tobio, who died in a tragic car accident. Astro is eventually disowned after Dr Tenma realises Astro will never grow like a real boy. Astro is eventually rescued by the next Minister of Science, who believes in robots having equal rights and strives to give Astro a better life. Along with all this Astro had been built with some very high tech weaponry; including jet boosters, digit lasers, x-ray vision and supersonic hearing. So while living a relatively normal life, he’s also required to save the day as well.
Like all of Tezuka’s stories (and to some degree a majority of Japanese animation), the storyline holds a lot more weight than the average western animation show. This series deals with death, justice, human rights, love and other ponderous topics in an innocent manner; all while packing in some huge action sequences and fights in a episodic format.
Astro has featured in quite a few series, currently numbering at 3. They all tell the same story (all three series use the same plotlines from the original manga) though all still tell the story in fundamentally different ways. There’s about two decades between each of the productions;
- Astro Boy (1966) – Black and white first series, the most true to the original manga.
- Astro Boy (1980) – First colour series, rather more stark and more action based.
- Astro Boy (2003) – Produced to celebrate Astro’s “Birth year”. High animation production, based on action and Astro’s development as a character and his relationships. Much lighter than the other two