Monday, April 11, 2005

Astro Boy 2003

Genre: Mecha / Action
General Audience
2003 Osamu Tezuka, Kazuya Konaka, Dentsu Inc., Sony Pictures Entertainment, Tezuka Productions.

Astro Boy Artbooks and Manga
Asto Boy DVDs
Toys and Accessories
Music CDs
Posters Etc.
Everything Astro Boy
Shunichi Sakurai's Description:
It is the age of robots, where human existence has been greatly eased by the robotization of everyday life. In this world there is a clear delineation: humans are the masters and robots are subservient to them, following the Third Law of Robotics that a robot should never harm a human being. But what happens if the gift of free will and a heart is bestowed upon a robot? Will it be a threat or an ally to humans? This is the story of a robot's fate, Mighty Atom...

(50 Episodes)

Tezuka's masterpiece masterfully reborn. >>> by Shunichi Sakurai
I have patchy memories of watching the older Astro Boy TV series on local TV that originally aired in Japan in 1980. While I was entranced by it when I was a toddler, I had dismissed it when I grew older, thinking that it was too much of a kid's show and it was too fanciful to take seriously.

Apparently Animax and SPE Japan had read my mind. One note: Try getting the subtitled version as much as possible. (I'll be basing my review on the Japanese version.)

Forget the sketchy animation of the 1980 series - Astro Boy has now become very very slick. Metro City has been rendered in amazing detail, and many of Atom's processes, such as his trademark red boots transforming into rocket engines and his forearm into a plasma cannon, were undreamt of when I was watching this all those years ago. The music and sound is amazingly catchy too - my favorite has to be Chemistry and M-FLO's J-hip-hop ditty "Now or Never," the second opening theme, while the ending theme "Boy's Heart" is a fitting message to the central theme of Astro Boy.

Yet all these pale in comparison to the greatest improvement of this new series: the STORY. The series follows Dr. Ochanomizu's re-activation of the abandoned robot Atom, and his efforts to raise Atom as his own son and as a responsible, loving robot. Despite his free will, his heart and his amazing power, Atom grows as an obedient kid, winning new friends, human and mechanical, and winning the favor of Metro City's denizens.

However there are factions that exist that detest all AI robots and humans' overdependence on them, such as Mr. Lamp and his followers, and have targeted Atom as their ultimate victim. We are also witness to Atom's not-so-honorable origins, as disgraced ex-Ministry of Science head Dr. Tenma created him in the image of his son to become king of all robots and aid him to rule the world. A robot revolt also happens in the middle of the series, one which can elect to disregard the Third Law of Robotics altogether. Needless to say, the darker story has more of a universal appeal now, with the human drama element appropriately played to the maximum. I dare say, THIS kind of satisfying storytelling is what more anime should be made of. There are also episodic respites and mini-adventures from the main story that are just as satisfying.

The best thing I can say about Astro Boy/Tetsuwan Atom is that Atom shows us what it is to be as innocent as a child. Despite the corruption of the world, faithfully represented in the microcosm of this anime, he stands out by simply doing what is right, never compromising his beliefs and always having hope. Watch the Japanese subbed version and you will not be disappointed.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 10; Story 10; Characters 10; Sounds 9

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