Astro Boy (2003 TV series)

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Astro Boy
Astro boy.jpg
Screenshot of the titular character, Astro Boy
アストロボーイ・鉄腕アトム
(Asutoro Bōi: Tetsuwan Atomu)
Genre Action, Adventure, Science fiction
Anime television series
Directed by Kazuya Konaka
Music by Yutaka Minobe
Studio Tezuka Productions
Sony Pictures Television
Network Fuji TV (2003-2004)
Animax
English network
ABC (2004–2005)
ABC3
Kids' WB (2004)
Cartoon Network (2004)
Jetix (2007)
Original run April 6, 2003March 28, 2004
Episodes 50[1] (List of episodes)
Anime film
Released July 15, 2005
Related works
Portal icon Anime and Manga portal

Astro Boy (アストロボーイ・鉄腕アトム Asutoro Bōi: Tetsuwan Atomu?, lit. "Astro Boy: Mighty Atom") is a remake of the 1960s anime series of the same name created by Osamu Tezuka, which was produced by his company, Tezuka Productions, Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan and Fuji Television network. It was also shown on Animax, who have broadcast the series across its respective networks worldwide, including Japan, Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and other regions. It was created to celebrate the birth date of Atom/Astro Boy (as well as the 40th anniversary of the original TV series). Under the original English name (instead of Mighty Atom), it kept the same classic art style as the original manga and anime, but was revisioned and modernized with more lush, high-quality, near-theatrical animation and visuals. It combined the playfulness of the early anime with the darker, more serious and dramatic Science fiction themes of the manga and the 1980 series. The anime broadcast in Japan on the same date as Atom's/Astro's birth in the manga (April 6, 2003) across Animax and Fuji Television. It was directed by Kazuya Konaka and written by Chiaki J. Konaka at the beginning of the series. Other writers included were Keiichi Hasegawa, Sadayuki Murai, Ai Ohta, Hirotoshi Kobayashi, Kenji Konuta, and Marc Handler, whom was also executive story editor.

Synopsis[edit]

The series consisted of fifty episodes. Though many episodes of the series can be regarded as "free-standing" in as much as they do not have anything to do with the series major story arcs, the 2003 series can be regarded as having a well-defined beginning, middle and end. Although the series appears to initially have two main plotlines - Dr. Tenma's eventual plans for Astro to evolve and another plotline about robot rights - these two story arcs dovetail toward the end of the series.

The show is set in 2043, where robots are common part of humanity's lives. In Metro City, the renowned Doctor Tenma disappears after trying to construct an AI robot using a new technology called Kokoro (which is Japanese for "heart"). Professor Ochanomizu replaces Tenma as head of the Ministry of Science and discovers a boy-like robot and brings it to life and names him Atom/Astro. He soon discovers he can fly via rocket boosters in his hands and feet, and has superhuman strength and other such abilities, and must deal with robots and villainous robot-hating humans who threaten his friends, fellow robots and Metro City, becoming a hero in the process. Astro quickly learns he is a robotic duplicate of Dr. Tenma's dead son Tobio, and was shut down after seeing how discarded robots were dealt with by his father, something similar that Tobio experienced before dying.

A new arc occurs with the introduction of the Blue Knight, a gallant robot who starts a campaign to free all robots from mankind. Another recurring character, Mr. Drake, goes slowly paranoid about the destruction of all robots and becomes a major antagonist of the series. In the final episodes, the Blue Knight declares a new nation for robots, Robotonia, located on Antarctica. Drake deceives the public into believing a house robot pushed a young girl down a flight of stairs (when he did not), and the girl's father, General Red, declares war on Robotonia. Most of the core cast becomes involved in the goal to stop the war between man and machine, until Astro convinces the Blue Knight that humans and robots can be friends. The Blue Knight departs Earth on Robotonia, which is revealed to be a spacecraft. However, Drake, who is still paranoid (despite the fact the robots have stopped their crusade against humanity), tries to destroy the spacecraft with a missile, but Astro blocks the attack and is seemingly taken offline.

Dr. Tenma manages to restore him, but erases his memories as Astro (so that he can remain "Tobio" forever). Eventually, his memories are restored by his friends from school and his sister, Zoran. In one final attempt to reclaim his lost son, Dr. Tenma goes to a laboratory in the Ministry and tries to convince Astro to join him in ruling the world but the latter refuses. Dr. Tenma tries to kill himself to end his suffering, but Astro embraces and forgives him, causing Dr. Tenma to break down and embrace his son. Professor Ochanomizu and the robotic police come to the rescue, and Dr. Tenma is willingly arrested and sent to prison. At the end of the series, Astro and Tenma and humans and robots start happily fresh and moving on. Humans and robots come closer together, and Astro appears to shed tears at the conclusion of the series.

Short films[edit]

A trailer from 2001 made for this series when it was in development presented several major differences from the final series: different designs for characters such as Atlas, the characters speaking in English (with voices completely different from the voices that would eventually end up in the US dub) and animation not found in the final series.

In 2005, an IMAX film was made titled Astro Boy/Tetsuwan Atomu Visits the person IGZA - 100,000 Light Years Away! that is based strongly on this series. It was distributed by Sarai Inc. and was never made into English. There was also a short film titled The Secret of Atom's Birth (アトム誕生の秘密?),[2] shown only in Japan.

Other short films made were:

  • Ivan's Planet - Robots and Humans' Friendship (イワンの惑星〜ロボットと人間の友情〜?)
  • Lunar Base - Mystery of the Robot Disappearance (月面基地・消えたロボットの謎〜?)
  • Shining Earth (Star) - You Are Blue, Beautiful... (輝ける地球(ほし)〜あなたは青く、美しい…〜?)

Characters[edit]

  • Atom/Astro: A robot built with "Kokoro", an advanced form of artificial intelligence. Astro appears as a young boy who works as a superhero of sorts for Metro City. He continuously tries to stop the collapsing relationship between mankind and robots, despite numerous attempts to destroy him by various parties. He can fly using rocket boosters concealed in his limbs and possesses great strength. Astro was originally constructed by Doctor Tenma to recreate his deceased son Tobio, but Astro rebelled against Tenma when he saw how robots were brutally destroyed in an area of the Ministry of Science and was shut down by his "father".
  • Professor Ochanomizu/Dr. O'Shay: Head of the Ministry of Science, Dr. O'Shay is an elderly man with a distinguishable large nose. He led the project to revive Astro and is his guardian and protector. O'Shay, like Astro, is very defensive of the relationship between mankind and robots, often defending Astro when he is accused of being dangerous to Metro City. He is portrayed as being a bit clumsy and quick to anger, but is very intelligent and compassionate.
  • Dr. Tenma: Astro's creator. Dr. Tenma was a former scientist working at the Ministry of Science, but lost his beloved son Tobio after showing him how discarded robots were scrapped. He built Astro to replace Tobio but found Astro was more powerful than he thought and shut him down. Dr. Tenma becomes somewhat insane and believes robots are superior to humans, and Astro should be their leader. In the final episodes, he tries to coax Astro to his side but fails, only to be forgiven by Astro and willingly surrenders himself to the authorities. In this series, at the start it did not show him creating Astro.[3]
  • Uran/Zoran: Astro's younger sister, constructed by Dr. O'Shay with the same AI technology seen in Astro. She shows the ability to talk to animals and understand their languages, befriending a bird who she names Houdini. She has a rather excitable personality, but at times envies Astro for the amount of attention he receives and is overemotional at times too, but she also looks up to and protects her brother. She claims herself to be the biggest fan of the rocket ball player robot Harley.
  • Yuko: Doctor O'Shay's assistant. She often fusses over him and repeatedly reminds him of schedules he must keep to. She is assisted by a flamingo-like robot named Momo.
  • Detective Tawashi: A police inspector who has a large nose resembling a shoe brush. While at first he shows a distrust towards robots in general, he grows to trust those closest to him, including his own robotic partner Delta, and Astro. He often banters with Dr. O'Shay in arguments.
  • Epsilon: A female robot that protects Metro City's wildlife, most notably the marine animals. Also she can alter the weather however only uses her abilities for peaceful purposes.
  • Delta: A robot policeman that serves as the leader of the "Anti-Robot Robot Squad", a division of the police force.
  • Reno: A close human friend of Astro. He originally started off in a robot circus where he disguised himself as a robot to avoid being separated from the other robotic performers whom he saw as his family. He becomes a student of Dr. O'Shay's and becomes quite skilled around robotics, but still maintains his acrobatic skills from the circus.
  • The Blue Knight: A gallant anti-hero of sorts who was badly treated by humans and was rebuilt by Dr. Tenma and Shadow to act as a catalyst to boost Astro's power. He instead decided to wage war against mankind to bring freedom to robots. He dresses in blue armour and rides a white horse, his main weapon being a laser-based lance. He ultimately builds a robotic empire towards the end of the series, which is disguised as a palace built in the Arctic. When touched by Astro's speech for peace between men and machines, the Blue Knight reveals the palace is in fact a spacecraft and uses it to take his fellow robots who still fear mankind into space to find a barren planet to live on.
  • Shadow: A highly intelligent robot created by Dr. Tenma to help him make Astro stronger. He wore a mask over his face for most of the season, eventually revealing his face after some reconstruction to be based on Dr. Tenma's.
  • Mr. Drake: Drake is a politician who deeply hates robots, particularly robots with AI. He grows more paranoid over the course of the series, haunted by memories of a robot he knew in the past whom he considered his friend but drove him to his hatred for machines.
  • Skunk: A recurring villain who uses robots to commit various crimes, showing no concern and care for the robots he uses. Before his final capture, the police told Astro that he was one of Metro City's most dangerous criminals.
  • Atlas: A robot constructed by Dr. Tenma similarly to Astro, built for a man named Tokogawa. Atlas is a clone of Tokogawa's deceased son Daichi, and has his memories. Atlas is a very destructive robot but maintains Daichi's dream of seeing Earth from space, which he eventually achieves unintentionally with Tokogawa. He floats away into space and returns as a recurring character.
  • Pluto: A powerful combat-based robot built by Shadow to challenge Astro and other robots including Epsilon, Hercules, Harley and Delta. He gains emotions and befriends Astro and Zoran, and commits suicide to save the two from a clone of him, plunging into a volcano. However, he is rebuilt later on in the series.
  • Nora: A yellow, cylindrical robot which acts as Dr. O'Shay's housekeeper as well as a nanny, who takes care of Zoran. She appears in most of the episodes, although having a relatively minor role which has little impact on the storyline.
  • Duke Red: The primary antagonist of the series' final arc, Duke Red is a high-ranking officer who thinks of robots as mere tools. His hatred towards them later intensified after his domestic robot supposedly tripped his daughter. When rebellious robots form their own nation, Red is asked to lead military forces to battle the robots, but when his daughter, Reno and eventually Astro convince him of the truth, Red has a change of heart.
  • Kennedy, Alejo and Abercrombie: Astro's good friends and schoolmates. Kenedy plays soccer for his local team and has somewhat of a short temper. Alejo is portrayed as a science geek that is fascinated by Astro. Abercrombie is a bully that, at first, declines Astro, but soon becomes friends with him. Astro, along with the trio and a robot named Denkou, were also the founding members of a club called the "Skyriders", and were later joined by Reno and Zoran.
  • Denkou: A small robot who has the power to turn herself invisible. Her debut is in the episode Into Thin Air. Although this episode is her first major appearance, she is a minor character in the series.

Cast[edit]

Japanese Dub Cast[edit]

English Dub Cast[edit]

Manga[edit]

Astro Boy is a 2005 3-chapter manga that roughly corresponds with the 2003 TV series of the same name. It was written by Japanese comic book artists Akira Himekawa. It was released in English in Singapore by Chuang Yi. This version uses the Japanese names for all characters, including Astro Boy (called "Atom" in this story).

Video games[edit]

Two video games based on the 2003 TV series were released by Sega. Astro Boy: Omega Factor is a beat 'em up video game developed by Treasure Co. Ltd for the Game Boy Advance receiving release worldwide between 2003 and 2005. An action video game, simply titled Astro Boy, was developed by Sonic Team and released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004 in Japan and North America and in 2005 in Europe.

Reception[edit]

The 2003 version of Astro Boy was extremely well reviewed by Zac Bertschy of Anime News Network, receiving a grade of A+ in every category and comments of "It's perfect."[4]

The entire series is currently available on DVD in one single boxset. This DVD set also has a short feature about the show's development that heavily hints at pressure put on the anime developers by Sony to make Astro more of a hero than a boy. This is reflected in the dub as scenes where Astro has emotional moments or where he is acting childlike are cut or the script is changed to Astro acting with a "cooler" or more heroic attitude. That said, the later episodes of the dub do follow along the same lines as the Japanese script. The series is also available on iTunes.

ON REGION 4 Australian DVD - You can get all 50 episodes in complete storyline production order, including the missing episode from the USA Syndicated Order Box Set - on 12 separate DVD Volumes by Sony DVD Australia.

The series has been received with mix reviews by most of the large fan-base community of Tezuka. Despite the largely darker tones in the second arc and the overall changes made to the Western dub it has been criticized for not having the same optimistic tone of the color 1980s version of the series and eliminating several or changing the personalities of several major characters.[5]

The show did not meet with commercial success the TV seris is on Kids WB! and on Cartoon Network's Toonami[6] block, a fact that is hinted at during the review for the tie-in game Astro Boy: Omega Factor with comments such as "Astro Boy [didn't receive any] love here in the states". This has been largely attributed to the quality of the Dub and the constant moving of the show between the two stations. Its been suggested the show was done in by removing the original's comical co-stars, particularly Mr. Pompous and Astro Boy's robot parents. That, plus the general switch of the show's visuals from childish simplistic to near 3-D complexity, and the name changes for so many of the main characters (Uran=Zoran, Dr. Elefun=Dr. O'Shay) were deemed by the older fans to be unnecessary for a formerly plot-driven show.

The series, however, had more success in the UK where it was picked up by the BBC for its children's block and digital only Children's channel from 2003 to 2006. The show's first run lasted about as long as the US one (up to the 2-part episode featuring Pluto) after which the BBC stopped airing new episodes. This may be because (as one presenter commented after an episode) Astro was a darker show compared to the other cartoons CBBC aired (even in its edited state). The western dub has never been aired fully on TV in the US. Despite how well Astro may have fared in the UK airing and DVDs being advertised, the series has not been released on DVD in the UK. Interestingly enough, CBBC finished airing recently unaired episodes of Astro Boy, thus completing the entire series in the UK, making Astro Boy one of the rare anime that airs in the UK in its entirety while not doing so in the United States.

The series was also a success with Arabic speaking viewers when it aired on MBC 3 several times along another anime remake that faced the same fate in America, Cyborg 009.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Astro Boy: The Complete Series". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on 4 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  2. ^ http://tezukaosamu.net/en/anime/theater.html
  3. ^ "RETURN OF THE RISING SON WB 'Astro Boy' based on first anime series". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2010-10-21. [dead link]
  4. ^ Bertschy, Zac (2003-06-06). "Astro Boy (2003) review". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  5. ^ Breznican, Anthony (2009-07-21). "Astro Boy will fly into theaters in a blast from cartoon past". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  6. ^ "FOR YOUNG VIEWERS; An Icon of Animation and His Atomic-Powered Adventures Boy'". New York Times. 2004-02-08. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 

External links[edit]