Astro Boy (鉄腕アトム Tetsuwan Atomu?, lit. "Mighty Atom", or more literally, "Iron Arm Atom") is a Japanese manga series first published in 1952 and television program first broadcast in Japan in 1963. The story follows the adventures of a robot named Astro Boy and a selection of other characters along the way.
Astro Boy is the first Japanese television series that embodied the aesthetic that later became familiar worldwide as anime. It originated as a manga in 1952 by Osamu Tezuka, revered in Japan as the "God of Manga." After enjoying success abroad, 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. An American computer-animated 3-D film based on the original manga series by Tezuka was released on October 23, 2009.
The Astro Boy series consists of several storylines, many of which are self-contained. Frederik L. Schodt, who wrote the English-language 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. Schodt added that the page layouts used in Astro Boy episodes "became more creative." When designing supporting characters, Tezuka sometimes placed homages of Walt Disney, Max Fleischer, and other American animators. In several of the Astro Boy stories, the first few pages of each one were in color. Tezuka had a "Star System" of characters where different characters appeared ; several characters in Astro Boy appear in other works written by Tezuka. Schodt explained that Tezuka developed "a type of dialog with his readers" since he developed so many stories during his lifetime. Tezuka often had a habit of introducing nonsensical characters at random moments in order to lighten a scene that he believed was becoming too serious. Tezuka sometimes felt trapped by the need to satisfy the young male audience's desire to see battling robots.
Tezuka used Astro Boy to imagine, in a 1950s perspective described by Schodt as "analog," a world where man and advanced technology coexist and the issues stemming from this fact. At the time Japan did not have a reputation for science and technology that it had gained by 2002.
The collection that was originally issued by Akita Shoten under its Sunday Comics imprint had 23 volumes of paperbacks. The stories do not appear in order by the date of creation. Instead they appear in the order that Tezuka and the collection editors believed was the 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 ever written, first published in April 1951, is in Volume 15. Osamu Tezuka often re-drew chapters he had created earlier. Schodt explains that therefore, when comparing two episodes written at the same time, one may appear "more modern" than another because Tezuka revised the art. For many of his older stories, Tezuka often added introductory pages in which he himself was portrayed as the interlocutor. The color pages of the Astro Boy stories were re-printed in monochrome for the inexpensive paperback versions.
The English-language version of Astro Boy is an adaptation of the Akita Shoten collection. The artwork was flipped so the books would read left to right, as how the English language reads. Frederik L. Schodt wrote the English-language version of Astro Boy. For most characters he used the original Japanese names. The story was set in Japan with Japanese characters and Schodt believed that it was necessary to retain the Japanese names whenever possible. Schodt translated the nickname "Higeoyaji" to "Mr. Mustachio," as it is a nickname. Schodt decided to use Astro Boy's English name. He explained that "Astro" is close to the Japanese name, "Atom," an English word. In addition Schodt believed that using "Atom" in an American edition of the story would be "going against too much 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 tried to find equivalent English puns wherever he felt it was possible.
The editors of the English-language Astro Boy comic did not remove content that could be perceived to be racially insensitive. Some content in the Astro Boy series depicts foreign people, such as people from Africa and Southeast Asia. The editors of the English volumes explained that in instances the people may be portrayed differently than how they actually were in the year 2002 in real life (the year of publication of the English version). The editors added that some portrayals may show them from an era from a long time in the past, or may show them to be from very undeveloped lands. The editors said that some readers may feel that the portrayals contribute to racial discrimination, especially against people of African descent. The editors explained that while this was not Tezuka's intent, the editors believed that the issue needed to be explained and addressed as some readers may feel demeaned or insulted by the depictions. The editors expressed the belief that it would be inappropriate to revise the works. The editors explained that because Tezuka was dead, there was no way to reverse what he created, and revising his works would violate his right as a creator. The editors expressed the belief that editing or stopping publication of the work would "do little" to end racial and ethnic discrimination throughout the world.
Astro Boy is a science fiction series set in a futuristic world where robots co-exist with humans. Its focus is on the adventures of the titular "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. Dr. Tenma built Astro in Tobio's image and treated him as lovingly as if he were the real Tobio, but soon realized 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 (Cacciatore the Great in the '60 English dub).
After some time, Professor Ochanomizu, the new head of the Ministry of Science, noticed 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 soon realized that Astro was gifted with superior powers and skills, as well as 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. Almost every story included a battle involving Astro and other robots. Once, 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 our hero went back from the 21st century to 1969).
Gold Key Comic
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".
[Astro Boy also appears in the premium giveaway series, "March of Comics" (# 285) also published by Gold Key in 1966.]
- Atom / Astro Boy / Astro
- Professor Ochanomizu / Dr. Packidermus J. Elefun, head of the Ministry of Science
- Astro's parents, created by Prof. Ochanomizu in order to make Astro more human-like
- Uran / Astro Girl, Astro's younger sister
- Cobalt / Jetto, Astro's younger brother (appears as older brother in the 1960s anime)
- Chi-Tan / Ti-Tan, Astro's baby brother
- Higeoyaji / Mustachio / Shunsaku Ban / Mr. Percival Pompous / Daddy Walrus / Albert Duncan, Astro's schoolteacher and/or neighbor in the original manga and color 1980 TV series; a private detective and surrogate uncle for Astro in the 1960s TV series
- Shibugaki and Tamao / Dinny and Specs, two of Astro's friends
- Chief Nakamura / Chief McLaw
- Inspector Tawashi / Inspector Gumshoe
- Tobio Tenma / Astor Boynton III/ Toby Boynton / Toby Tenma, the little boy Astro was modeled after, who dies in the first episode
- Atlas was one of many villains that Astro encountered in his adventures
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 follow the television series in calling the character "Astro Boy", the name most familiar to English-speaking audiences, instead of "Tetsuwan Atomu". 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 such subjects 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, who acts as narrator for each installment. 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.
In a 2004 manga of Tetsuwan Atom written by Akira Himekawa, the plot, as well as the character designs, loosely follow 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.
The beginning anime series was produced by Mushi Productions. It premiered on Fuji TV on New Year's Day 1963, but was eventually moved to the NHK network. It was the first anime to be broadcast outside Japan. It lasted for four seasons, with a total of 193 episodes, the final episode 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 1964, there was a feature-length animated movie called Hero of Space released in Japan. It was an anthology of three episodes; The Robot Spaceship, Last Day on Earth and Earth Defense Squadron. The latter two were filmed in color.
For the English version, the producers, NBC Enterprises settled on "Astro Boy" after discussions between producer Fred Ladd and representatives from NBC. (The title "Mighty Atom" for an atomic powered robot, as "Astro Boy" was thought of back then, was considered too generic and not "catchy enough" a title for a children's program for American TV.Empty citation (help)) Of the 193 episodes created in the series, 104 were adapted into the English version by Fred Ladd, and initially syndicated from September 1963 through August 1965, with repeats continuing until the series was withdrawn from syndication in the early 1970s.
The manga was not translated into English until Dark Horse Comics published it in the 2000s. In 1965 and 1966, Gold Key Comics, under license from NBC Enterprises, published a version of "Astro Boy" in the United States based on the English version of the TV series. [The single issue, "Astro Boy" (1965) and "March of Comics"# 285 (1966)].
- Billie Lou Watt — Astro Boy/Astro Girl/Mother
- Ray Owens — Dr. Elefun/Dr. Boynton/Dinny/McClaw/Narrator
- Gilbert Mack — Mr. Pompous/Father/Specs/Gumshoe/Jetto
The English adaptation included an opening theme song [by Tatsuo Takai, lyrics by Don Rockwell] with the words: "There you go, Astro Boy! On your mission today! Here's the countdown and the blastoff! Everything is go, Astro Boy!...." The English show's original producer Fred Ladd, claims that the Japanese producers were so impressed by the adding of lyrics to the (until then) instrumental song that they then added words to the Japanese version, starting the "anime music" trend.
In one Astro Boy manga story Tezuka expressed frustration towards the restrictions passed by American television networks on the adaptation of the first Astro Boy television series. The U.S. version did not air an episode showing a dog being operated on, as the producers believed it was too cruel and grotesque to show. Tezuka criticized this as hypocrisy, as non-Japanese eat and kill animals in manners he described as "grotesque." Tezuka added that many White people in Africa shot animals for sport, yet people in England spread false rumors about Japanese people eating dogs.
In 2007 and 2008, Cartoon Network began broadcasting and webcasting NBC's syndicated edition of the original 1960s episodes as a part of its late night Adult Swim line-up. Only the first 52 episodes were aired.
The Right Stuf International and Madman Entertainment have recently released the entire dubbed series on DVD in two box sets. The Right Stuf sets also include episodes 1, 20, 34, 56, and 193 in Japanese with English subtitles, a behind-the-scenes film, and an interview with Fred Ladd.
In 1962, MBS released a live-action movie, a compilation film made up of episodes from the 1959-60 live-action TV series that came before the 1960s animated television series and which loosely followed the manga. The opening sequence (approximately one minute) is animated, and the rest is live action. The movie runs 75 minutes.
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. A feature film was announced in 1999 by Columbia Pictures and Jim Henson production. However, nothing has come of this announcement since then. There were plans for a Japanese-Canadian IMAX coproduction, but it was shelved in 2000 while it was early in production. A Japanese IMAX featurette was made in 2005, based on the 2003–2004 anime, titled Astro Boy/TetsuWan Atomu—Visits the Person, IGZA—100,000 Light Years Away!, but has only been shown in Japan.
A computer-animated feature film version was released in October 2009 from Imagi Animation Studios. 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.
Konami developed and published Mighty Atom aka Tetsuwan Atom (Family Computer game) for the Nintendo Family Computer System in 1988. It is known for its extreme difficulty level attributed to a one-hit death rule.
Banpresto published the Zamuse developed release of Mighty Atom aka Tetsuwan Atom (Super Famicom game) 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 for the PS2 was based on the 2003 anime, while Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the Game Boy Advance drew from various elements from the series.
Astro Boy: The Video Game is a video game based on the Astro Boy animated feature film from Imagi Animation Studios. It was released in October, 2009 from D3Publisher of America, Inc. for Nintendo's Wii and DS, and Sony Computer Entertainment's PS2 and PSP. It features the voices of Kristen Bell and Freddie Highmore.
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." 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.
Astro ranked 43rd on Empire magazine's list of The 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters.
The 1980s anime was extremely popular in Australia, Canada, and many parts of Asia, with 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.
While the 2003 anime did poorly in North America, having received poor distribution and having been heavily edited, including 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.
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|last1=in Authors list (help)
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- Episode "The Angel of Vietnam."
- 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
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- Tezuka, Osamu. Astro Boy Volume 1 (Comic by Osamu Tezuka). Dark Horse Comics and Studio Proteus. 34-35. ISBN 1-56971-676-5.
- Kelts, Roland (2006). Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 44. ISBN 1-4039-7475-6.
- "Imagi International Holdings Limited official page". Imagi International Holdings Limited. Retrieved 3 January 2009.
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- "D3P official website". D3Publisher of America, Inc. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
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- 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.)
- 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.)
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- Interview with Fred Schodt
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