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Astro Boy
(Tetsuwan Atomu)
Genre Action, Adventure, Science fiction
Written by Osamu Tezuka
Published by Kobunsha, Kodansha
English publisher
Demographic Shōnen
Magazine Shōnen Kobunsha[1]
Original run April 1952March 1968
Volumes 23 (List of volumes)
Related works
Wikipe-tan face.svg Anime and Manga portal

Astro Boy, known in Japan by its original name Tetsuwan Atom (鉄腕アトム, Tetsuwan Atomu, "Mighty Atom," lit. "Iron Arm Atom"), is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka[2] from 1952 to 1968. The story follows the adventures of a robot named Astro Boy and a selection of other characters along the way.[3]

The manga was adapted into the first popular animated Japanese television series that embodied the aesthetic which became familiar worldwide as anime.[4] After this manga was a huge success internationally, Astro Boy was remade in the 1980s as Shin Tetsuwan Atomu, known as Astroboy in other countries, and again in 2003. In November 2007, he was named Japan's envoy for overseas safety.[5] An American computer-animated 3-D film based on the original manga series by Tezuka was released on October 23, 2009.


Astro Boy is a science fiction series which is set in a futuristic world where Robots co-exist with humans. Its main focus is on the adventures of the character "Astro Boy" (sometimes called simply "Astro"): a powerful robot created by the head of the Ministry of Science, Doctor Tenma (aka Dr. Astor Boyton II in the 1960 English dub) to replace his son Tobio ('Astor' in the 1960s English dub; 'Toby' in the 1980s English dub and the 2009 film), who died in a car accident (ran away in the 2003 anime; vaporized in the 2009 film). Dr. Tenma built Astro in memories of Tobio. Dr.Tenma treated the robot Astro as lovingly as if he was the real Tobio. Unfortunately, Dr.Tenma came to realization that the little robot could not fill the void of his lost son, especially given that Astro could not grow older or express human aesthetics (in one set of panels in the manga, Astro is shown preferring the mechanical shapes of cubes over the organic shapes of flowers). In the original 1960 edition, Tenma rejected Astro and sold him to a cruel circus owner, Hamegg (the Great Cacciatore in the '60 English dub).

After some time, Professor Ochanomizu, the new head of the Ministry of Science, recognized Astro Boy performing in the circus and convinced Hamegg to turn Astro over to him. He then took Astro as his own and treated him gently and warmly, becoming his legal guardian. He then noticed that Astro was gifted with superior powers and skills, and also came to realize that Astro was also given the ability to experience human emotions.

Astro then is shown fighting crime, evil, and injustice. Most of his enemies were robot-hating humans, robots gone berserk, or alien invaders. Nearly all the plot lines included a battle involving Astro and other robots. In one story, Astro actually took on the US Air Force, stopping it from bombing some peaceful innocent Vietnamese villagers (this was a time-travel episode, in which Astro went back from the 21st century to 1969).[6]


The Astro Boy series consists of several story lines Frederik L. Schodt, who wrote the English adaptation of the series, said that as Tezuka's art style advanced Astro Boy "became more modern and cute" to appeal to the audience of boys in elementary school.[7] Schodt added that the page layouts used in Astro Boy episodes "became more creative."[7] When designing supporting characters, Tezuka sometimes created homages of Walt Disney, Max Fleischer, and other American animators. In several of the Astro Boy stories, the first few pages were in color.[7] Tezuka had a "Star System" of characters where different characters appeared. Several characters in Astro Boy appear in his other works. Tezuka developed "a type of dialog with his readers" since he developed so many stories during his lifetime.[8] Tezuka also had a habit of introducing nonsensical characters at random moments in order to lighten a scene which is becoming too serious; he sometimes felt trapped by the need to satisfy the young male audience's desire to see battling robots.[8]

"Astro Boy" was described by Schodt as an "analog" because it was a world where man and advanced technology coexist and the plots involve the issues stemming from this fact. In the, 1950's, Japan did not have the reputation for science and technology that had been gained until 2002.[8]

The novels were originally published by Akita Shoten; 23 volumes of paper backs were printed. However, these stories do not appear in order by publication date, but in the order that Tezuka and the collection editors considered most appropriate. The collection begins with "The Birth of Astro Boy", an episode which Tezuka wrote in 1975 to make the collection of stories easier to understand. The first "Astro Boy" story that was ever written was published in April 1951 which is Volume 15. In fact, Tezuka often re-drew chapters he had created earlier. Schodt explains that this is the reason behind this is to keep the pictures"more modern" than others. For many of his older stories, Tezuka added introductory pages where he himself was portrayed as the interlocutor. The color pages were re-printed in black and white for the inexpensive paperback versions.[7]

English-language version[edit]

The English-language version of "Astro Boy" is an adaptation of the Akita Shoten published works by Osamu Tezuka.[7] In Japan, people read from right to left, so when the English-language version of Astro Boy came out, the artwork was flipped so the books could be read from left to right.[9] Frederik L. Schodt wrote the English-language version of "Astro Boy" and for most of the characters, he used the original Japanese names. Since the story was set in Japan, Schodt believed that it was necessary to retain the Japanese names wherever possible. He translated the nickname "Higeoyaji" to "Mr. Mustachio," and decided to use Astro Boy's English name. He explained that "Astro" is close to the Japanese name, "Atom." In addition, Schodt believed that using "Atom" in an American edition of the story would be "going too much against the history." Occasionally, names of Japanese characters had double meanings that were impossible to convey in the English-language translation. Schodt decided that keeping the sound of the names was important, especially when the names were famous. In those cases, Schodt tried to use the double meaning elsewhere in the translation. When dealing with minor foreign characters with humorous-sounding names, Schodt used equivalent English puns wherever it was possible.[8]

The editors of the English-language "Astro Boy" book did not remove content that could be perceived to be racially insensitive. They explained that in some cases people may be portrayed differently than how they actually were in 2002 (the year of publication of the English version). The editors said that some readers may feel that the portrayals contribute to racial discrimination and, while that was not Tezuka's intent, the issue needed to be explained as some readers may feel offended or insulted by the depictions. They felt that it would be inappropriate to revise the works, because Tezuka had passed away and there was no way to reverse what he created, and revising his works would violate his right as a creator. They also expressed the belief that editing or stopping publication of the work would "do little" to end racial and ethnic discrimination throughout the world.[10]




The manga was originally published from 1951 to 1968, followed by a newspaper serialization (1967–1969) and two further series in 1972-1973 and 1980-1981.[11]

The original Tetsuwan Atomu manga stories were later published in English-language versions by Dark Horse Comics in a translation by Frederik L. Schodt. They followed the television series by keeping the character name as "Astro Boy", the name most familiar to English-speaking audiences. Names of the other characters, such as Doctor Tenma and Professor Ochanomizu, are those of the original Japanese.

Astro Boy (along with some of his supporting characters) appear in a series of "edu-manga" that tell biographies of famous personalities such as Helen Keller, Albert Einstein and Mother Teresa. Astro Boy and his "sister" appear in prologues and epilogues for each story and learn about the famous person from Dr. Ochanomizu. These manga were published by Kodansha, Ltd. from 2000 to 2002 with English-language versions published by Digital Manga Publishing and seeing print from 2003 to 2005.

From 2003 to 2009, Naoki Urasawa wrote the series Pluto, with help from Takashi Nagasaki. It adapts Astro Boy's "The Greatest Robot on Earth" (地上最大のロボット, Chijō saidai no robotto) arc into a murder mystery.[12] In a 2004 manga of Tetsuwan Atom written by Akira Himekawa, the plot, as well as the character designs, loosely followed that of the 2003 anime series. The artwork is quite different from Tezuka's original. This version of the manga was published in English by Chuang Yi and distributed in Australia by Madman Entertainment.[13]

Unlicensed comics[edit]

In 1965, Gold Key published a one-shot comic book, licensed by NBC Enterprises, based on the US version of the Astro Boy TV show. This was done without any input from Osamu Tezuka, who considered the book an unauthorized or "pirate" edition and denounced the publication as "horribly drawn".[14]

Astro Boy also appears in the premium giveaway series, "March of Comics" (# 285) also published by Gold Key in 1966.

In 1987, the Chicago-based comics publisher Now Comics issued their own version of Astro Boy, with art done by Canadian artist Ken Steacy, and again done without Osamu Tezuka giving input. The series was cancelled in mid-1988.

Anime series[edit]

The Astro Boy animated television series premiered on Fuji TV on New Year's Day, 1963, and is the first popular animated Japanese television series that embodied the aesthetic that later became familiar worldwide as anime.[4] It lasted for four seasons, with a total of 193 episodes, with the final episode being presented on New Year's Eve 1966. At its height it was watched by 40% of the Japanese population who had access to a TV.


In the 1960s, a live-action TV series of Astor Boy was made, which loosely followed the manga. Following the live-TV series, in 1962, MBS released a live-action movie which was made up of episodes from 1959-60.

Tezuka met Walt Disney at the 1964 World's Fair, at which time Disney said he hoped to "make something just like" Tezuka's Astro Boy.[15] A Japanese IMAX featurette was made in 2005, based on the 2003–2004 anime, titled "Astro Boy vs IGZA", but has only been shown in Japan.

A computer-animated feature film version was released in October 2009 from Imagi Animation Studios.[16][17][18] The English dub features the voices of Freddie Highmore as Astro Boy and Nicolas Cage as Dr. Tenma. IDW Publishing released a comic book adaptation of the movie to coincide with the film's release in Oct. 2009; both as a four-part mini-series and as a graphic novel.

Video games[edit]

In 1988, Konami developed and published their Mighty Atom video game for the Nintendo Family Computer System. The video game is known for its extreme difficulty level attributed to a one-hit death rule.

Banpresto published the Zamuse developed release of their Mighty Atom for the Super Famicom system in 1994. Like its Konami developed cousin, this title follows events in the Manga series.

Sega published a pair of games based on Astro Boy. Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the Game Boy Advance drew from various elements from the series, while Astro Boy for the PS2 was loosely based on the 2003 anime with a slightly darker plot.

Astro Boy: The Video Game is a video game based on the Astro Boy animated feature film from Imagi Animation Studios. Originally released on October 8, 2009 from D3Publisher[19][20] for Nintendo's Wii and DS, and Sony Computer Entertainment's PS2 and PSP (the only version released in Japan). It features the voices of Kristen Bell and Freddie Highmore.[19]


The manga has sold approximately 100 million of copies.[21]

Astro Boy became Tezuka's most famous work. Frederik L. Schodt, author of the English-language version of Astro Boy, said it had "extraordinary longevity and appeal across cultures."[8] Schodt said that many of the stories are "sometimes" of "uneven quality." Schodt said that as the time becomes closer to "a true age of robots," Astro Boy assumes more meaning.[8] Jeff Yang of the San Francisco Chronicle said "while kids came for Astro's atomic action -- just about every installment included Astro harrowing a fellow robot who'd fallen from digital grace with his fission-powered fists -- they stayed for the textured, surprisingly complex stories."[22]

Astro ranked 43rd on Empire magazine's list of The 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters.[23]

The 1960s anime was named the 86th best animated series by IGN.[24]

In the 1980s, this anime was extremely popular in Australia, Canada, and many parts of Asia, which had two different English dubs. The dub shown in Australia (and to a lesser extent in the USA) was coordinated by Tezuka Productions and NTV and produced in the USA. Another dub was produced in Canada solely for broadcast there.[25][26]

In 2003, unfortunately anime did poorly in North America because it was poorly distributed and it was heavily edited. It also involved having the removal of its orchestrated soundtrack and much of Astro's childlike innocence. It was better received in the UK on the BBC, where it ran in syndication for almost three years as well as other parts of the world such as Dubai based MBC 3.[citation needed]

On April 7, 2003, the city of Niiza, Saitama registered the Astro Boy character as a resident to coincide with his birthdate in the manga.[27][28]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Astroboy occasionally makes cameos in Tezuka's Black Jack manga, though as a different character.
  • An Astro Boy toy is featured in one of the episodes of the original Macross.
  • Astro, as well as many other characters created by Osamu Tezuka appeared as supporting characters in the Brazilian comic Monica Teen, issues 43 and 44, in the story arc entitled Green Treasure.[dubious ]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tetsuwan-Atomu website of Tezuka Production" (in Japanese). 
  2. ^ "Profile: Tezuka Osamu". Anime Academy. Archived from the original on 6 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-30.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ Solomon, Charles (2009-10-23). "Astro Boy was role model who revolutionized manga". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 11 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  4. ^ a b Lambert, David (2006-07-01). "Astroboy - Press Release for Astro Boy (1963) - Ultra Collector's Edition Set 1 DVDs!". Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  5. ^ McCurry, Justin (2008-03-20). "Japan enlists cartoon cat as ambassador". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 23 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  6. ^ Episode "The Angel of Vietnam."
  7. ^ a b c d e Schodt, Frederik L. "Introduction." Astro Boy Volume 1 (manga by Osamu Tezuka). Dark Horse Comics and Studio Proteus. Page 2 of 3 (The introduction section has 3 pages). ISBN 1-56971-676-5.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Schodt, Frederik L. "Introduction." Astro Boy Volume 1 (Manga by Osamu Tezuka). Dark Horse Comics and Studio Proteus. Page 3 of 3 (The introduction section has 3 pages). ISBN 1-56971-676-5.
  9. ^ Tezuka Productions and Dark Horse Comics. Copyright page. Astro Boy Volume 1 (Manga by Osamu Tezuka). Dark Horse Comics and Studio Proteus. ISBN 1-56971-676-5.
  10. ^ Tezuka Productions and Dark Horse Comics. "A Note to Readers." Astro Boy Volume 1 (Comic by Osamu Tezuka). Dark Horse Comics and Studio Proteus. ISBN 1-56971-676-5.
  11. ^ "Astro Boy Corpus from Tezuka in English. Accessed 16 August 2008.
  12. ^ "Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga - Pluto". Anime News Network. 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Schodt, Frederick, The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution Pages 88, 89 & 91, Stone Bridge Press, 2007 ISBN 978-1-933330-54-9
  15. ^ Kelts, Roland (2006). Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 44. ISBN 1-4039-7475-6. 
  16. ^ "Imagi International Holdings Limited official page". Imagi International Holdings Limited. Archived from the original on 1 January 2009. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  17. ^ "Astro Boy News and Headlines". Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  18. ^ "Imagi Studios Announces Astro Boy Licensing Deals". Coming Soon Media, L.P. 2008-11-10. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  19. ^ a b "D3P official website". D3Publisher of America, Inc. Retrieved 20 August 2009. 
  20. ^ "Astro Boy: the Video Game official website". Retrieved 20 August 2009. 
  21. ^ Fujishima, Sorasaku (1990). 戦後マンガ民俗史 (in Japanese). Kawai Publishing. p. 328, 360. ISBN 978-4879990242. 
  22. ^ Yang, Jeff. "ASIAN POP / Astro Boy Forever." San Francisco Chronicle. June 6, 2007. 5 of 7. Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
  23. ^ Empire Magazine's Top 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters
  24. ^ "86, Astro Boy". IGN. 2009-01-23. Archived from the original on 19 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  25. ^ Schodt, Frederik L.; The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution Page 161 Stone Bridge Press (2007) ISBN 978-1-933330-54-9 (pbk.)
  26. ^ Jonathan Clements & Helen McCarthy; The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917 (Revised & Expanded Edition) Page 37 Stone Bridge Press (2006) ISBN 1-93333-10-4 (pbk.)
  27. ^ Animenews
  28. ^ Animaxis

External links[edit]

Category:1952 manga Category:Action anime and manga Category:Adventure anime and manga Category:Manga adapted into films Category:Osamu Tezuka anime Category:Osamu Tezuka manga Category:Science fiction anime and manga Category:Shōnen manga Category:Superhero anime and manga Category:Toonami