Friday, March 12, 2010

Astro Boy Vol. 1 & 2

Astro Boy is easily Osamu Tezuka’s most popular work. Why shouldn’t it be? It was the first anime to tell an overarching continuous story and it was the first anime brought over to America back in the 60s! It was recently made into an American CG feature film for crying out loud!

But the manga is where it all started. It was originally serialized from 1952 – 1968 and thanks to Dark Horse Manga it was brought to America in 2002. The first volume is actually volumes 1 & 2 combined into one book. It begins with a “new” origin story written by Tezuka in 1975. These collections do not follow the original serialization but rather what Tezuka wanted released when Kodansha collected the volumes. The other stories range from long arcs to quick one-offs, but none should be ignored.

I remember watching Astro Boy every once in awhile on TV and being thrown off by the primitive, yet ground-breaking, animation. It had the”classic” American dub that always sounded so weird, see Speed Racer, and not truly enjoying it. Well I am sure that is because I never did a marathon of the series! These stories are clearly made for children but not in the way American cartoons are made for children. These stories work extremely well with the manga medium and Tezuka shows that he fully understands how to progress a story without becoming long winded and boring.

Like all of Tezuka’s works there are underlying themes that seem to speak better than say…G.I. Joe’s PSAs, and never does he become preachy. By using the medium of manga and Disney styled characters, Tezuka is able to convey socially conscious themes in a manner that children can understand and learn from. Most of the stories in this volume also include “new” drawings of Tezuka himself introducing the story and talking a little bit about the theme or just some fun trivia. These pages seem very real as Tezuka is expressing his personal thoughts himself and not through a fictional story.

Don’t let all this talk about being made for children stop you adults out there from reading Astro Boy. It is not dumbed down nor is it boring and stupid. It is quite intelligent and involving. Some people, like Dan, might be put off by the cartoony style of the characters but that is what makes Astro Boy work. Tezuka has varied exaggerated expressions that make the comedy and emphasis so enjoyable, and honestly if it was “realistically” drawn it wouldn’t be enjoyable. Tezuka litters these stories with great comedic timing that don’t distract from the story but rather make it much more fun and really got me involved in the story. I couldn’t stop turning the pages not because I was hung on suspense or mystery but because I was having fun. Not only was I having fun but the allegories within made me think and realize how universal and timeless these themes are.

If you have any interest in anime or manga you owe it to yourself, not just for historical reasons, to read Tezuka and especially Astro Boy to see how fun and enchanting this medium can be.

Pick your copy today and enjoy Astro Boy!

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  1. What do you think of the movie they made of it, Chris? Did they screw it up? Or did they make better?

  2. I think that they did neither actually.
    I really enjoyed the movie but by no means is it a great movie. They lost a lot of the Astro Boy touch that Tezuka always had by downplaying themes that were always prevalent. The movie was definitely made for kids and I think they succeed at that. Astro Boy has always been for kids but with a little more thought behind it.
    They didn't ruin it, they just modified it for today's kids but it was still fun and true to the spirit of Astro Boy. They didn't make it better (for the same reasons as above) but there were a lot of little "easter eggs" in the film that made it really neat for a Tezuka fan such as myself.

  3. Is there an Manga that you'd prefer they stayed away from? On the other hand, Is there any Manga that you would like to see as a Movie?

  4. Dear Mr. Kirby,

    I am very concerned with the fact of you not responding to people. They time out of their day to correspond with you. What do you do?
    I'll tell you what you do! You brush them off like a fly on a horses ass.

  5. First, shut up Nolan.
    Second, any manga that I would prefer didn't get made into movies or anime?....
    Not really. I would find it very interesting to see all manga be adapted into some type of moving picture form. Should there be considerations as to what form? Yes. For example 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa. I love this manga series it is phenominal and probably one of, if not the, best series I have read (keeping in mind only vol 7 has been released in the US so far). I have seen the first live action movie that they made on it and boy was it not very good. The story was there but the execution and pacing (one of the best elements) was totally misfired! IF it was made into an anime series they could have done something really great (like Urasawa's other masterpiece Monster).
    Yes adapt the manga, but make the right decision.

  6. Awesome! Thats what I was looking for!