http://grazzt.insanejournal.com/ ([identity profile] grazzt.insanejournal.com) wrote in [community profile] scans_daily2009-06-21 13:18

Pluto: Of Astro Boy, ice cream, and megalomaniacal robot teddy bears.

So, in my very first post I mentioned that I fell in love with the works of Naoki Urasawa. To this point, however, I've only posted scans of one particular series, Monster. So how can I demonstrate this wasn't a fluke? Let's dive into another series.


Pluto is Urasawa's take on Osamu Tezuka's beloved Astro Boy, specifically the most popular Astro Boy story of all time: "The Greatest Robot In The World" (available in volume 3 of Dark Horse's Astro Boy translations). While the adaptation is relatively faithful (less deviation than, say, Marvel's Ultimate universe), Urasawa decided to shift the focus to a German detective robot, Gesicht. In doing so, the story moves away from the action which characterized the original, allowing Urasawa to develop characterization and truly explore Tezuka's future society, as well as giving him more room to develop the themes present in the original.

Pluto takes the concept of ridiculously human robot to new extremes. Most of the principal robot characters either look fully human or have alternate bodies that allow them to pass for fully human whenever they wish. This has created an odd, but strangely idealistic society, where artificial intelligences have rights and are treated as equals (or at least near-equals) by most of society. Anti-robot sentiment is present, but true bigotry towards them is a fringe phenomenon.

At the same time, the robots are still...well, robots. They don't quite get humans, and as much as they pretend to be human, they're still very aware of their otherness. This leads to some interesting scenes, like the following one where Gesicht and Atom (Tetsuwan Atom is Astro Boy's untranslated name) sit and talk in a restaurant. All scans read right to left.











Of course, this is just a character scene. The plot itself is a great page-turning murder mystery/conspiracy piece. Anti-war themes that were in the original are expanded, then hammered home with some Iraq War allegory (the "39th Central Asian Conflict" mentioned above). And of course, since this is Naoki Urasawa, wonderfully detestable villains abound. From Brau-1589, the only robot on record to have ever killed a human; to an anti-robot analogue to the KKK, replete with hoods and robes; to the titular Pluto himself, a robot destroying monstrosity; there are many challenges to Tezuka's idealistic society.

Here we see one such bad guy:





You know, if someone would have told me I would have been creeped out by a teddy bear with delusions of grandeur, I would have laughed at them. But this little spiel totally works for me. Is it the panel composition, perhaps? The slow closeup, followed by the immediate peel back for his last line. The juxtaposition of a childhood image with a disturbed intellect? Whatever the technique, it sure is effective.

All scans taken from Spectrum Nexus, and not the Viz translation. Pick that one up when you have the chance, though. They're only on volume 3 so far, unfortunately, but the others will be well worth the wait.

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