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REVIEW: Astro Boy 1&2 GN




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Wyvern



Joined: 01 Sep 2004
Posts: 657

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 3:27 am Reply with quote
I can't say I agree with the idea that Tezuka's whole message is ruined by the slap scene in White Planet. Can one page (in a story which is nowhere near the author's best work) really undermine the overall theme of a series that ran for 17 years? I have a hard time buying that.

I think it's easy for us to judge the book by the standards of today and forgot how progressive it was when it first came out. Imagine the way America was in the 50's. Now imagine someone making a comic book with themes such as civil rights, racial equality, the anti-war movement, and animal rights (none of which were movements which existed yet, except on the fringes) in that environment. It's pretty revolutionary, and that's exactly what Tezuka did, except he did it in an even MORE conservative country, one which was in many ways even more resistant to change following its loss in the war.

Astro Boy anticipated several major social movements, some of them by a decade or more. Tezuka, and his ideas, were truly ahead of their time, and they helped teach kids about tolerance years before that was the social norm.

But he was still a Japanese man (Japan being a famously sexist country even today) living in the 1950's, and you have to accept the realities of the time in which he lived. The scene in White Planet IS sexist, condescending and absurd; but it didn't seem that way half a century ago. Feminism was still nearly 20 years away, and Tezuka grew up in a culture where women were expected to submit as a matter of course; this sort of treatment of females in Japanese fiction wasn't just accepted, it was a common trope: the hero slaps the "hysterical female" to "calm her down." American fiction (especially the pulp novels of the 30's) did this regularly as well. It's sexist and insulting, but it's also part of the culture of the era.

Tezuka may have been ahead of his time, but that doesn't mean we should expect him to completely transcend the era in which he lived, to the point where every last page of his work conforms to 21st century mores. That's simply asking too much.

Rather than expecting a man who has been in his grave for 19 years to confirm to 2008 standards of decency in every little way, I think we should celebrate the countless ways he DID pioneer themes of tolerance and diversity, in a famously non-diverse culture at that. Tezuka's message is as solid as ever.


Rant done. I actually liked the review overall (why the heck CAN'T they publish the stories in order? I'm still not sure who Cobalt is either!) but I felt this needed to be addressed.
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Moomintroll



Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 1600
Location: Nottingham (UK)

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 5:59 am Reply with quote
Wyvern wrote:
why the heck CAN'T they publish the stories in order? I'm still not sure who Cobalt is either!


The Dark Horse releases follow the same order as the definitive Japanese Sunday Comics releases that they're adapted from.
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ewsizemore



Joined: 28 Jul 2003
Posts: 29
Location: Richmond, VA

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 6:35 am Reply with quote
Wyvern, you can find the publication order for the stories here:

http://tezukainenglish.com/​?​q=​node/​208

I agree that footnotes would have helped, given the stories are not in publication order.
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ewsizemore



Joined: 28 Jul 2003
Posts: 29
Location: Richmond, VA

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 6:56 am Reply with quote
Casey,

"In Astro Boy's future, robots fight bravely for equal rights for other robots. Women, conversely, must have surrendered the battlefield unconditionally ages ago. Tezuka unintentionally undermines his own humanist message. "

I have to say, you’re extrapolating a lot from that one scene. I don't think Koichi's behavior toward his sister is every portrayed as acceptable. I wouldn’t say that Tezuka is presenting Mitsuko as a typical woman or that her response is typical for women. Her reaction to Koichi may not be your own, but there are both women and men who have responded to anger with love and sacrifice. We see Mitsuko being an exemplar of Buddhist (and even Christian) virtues here. Koichi’s redemption as a person at the end of the story is only possible given the sacrifice of Mitsuko. I would argue that part of the message of the story is how a robot shows a human how to act humanely. You see this a lot in the Astro Boy series, ‘soulless’ beings being the spiritual teachers to humans. (This is similar to Asimov’s stories where robots are often the most moral being in the story and the one who has to teach their creators how to be ethical.)
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here-and-faraway



Joined: 21 Jun 2007
Posts: 1211
Location: Sunny California

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 7:06 am Reply with quote
One thing that bummed me out when I got this in the mail was the actual presentation of the book itself. I guess I got spoiled with how Vertical prints their classic manga - nice big books on quality paper. The Astro Boy manga is normal "book" size and looks so small next to my other Tezuka manga on the shelf. I know beggers can't be chosers. I should just be grateful that it's released at all. But still...
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Flaed



Joined: 21 Sep 2008
Posts: 54

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 10:07 am Reply with quote
The Review wrote:
And the last chapter of the book, titled “White Planet,” comes mighty close to ruining the entire affair. About a race car driver's robot sister who sacrifices herself to become his…wait for it…race car, it reeks of unenlightened gender relations that modern readers are likely to find intolerable. Since when was it okay for a man to backhand his sister so hard she gets knocked to the ground (and not bother to apologize)? And since when would she, instead of telling him to shove it and shove off, sacrifice her life to become his car? Seems beyond the realm of believability, even in the 1960s. In Astro Boy's future, robots fight bravely for equal rights for other robots. Women, conversely, must have surrendered the battlefield unconditionally ages ago. Tezuka unintentionally undermines his own humanist message. Therefore, read Astro Boy for fun or for history—not for philosophical enlightenment packaged as classic manga.


That depends on a lot, though - is the story happy, or sad? Is the relationship between the brother and the sister depicted as totally normal and healthy, or as less than ideal? Is the feeling more "look at this sibling devotion" or "look at this sibling unworthy of devotion!" All of this makes a big difference.

I don't agree with the poster above who says we should keep in mind when the manga was written, however. A classic is a classic because it rises above the time when it was made and has something to say to everyone. Being old or influential may make something worthy of study, but not necessarily raise it to "classic" status. How many people have to read The Romance of the Rose in a Western Civ 101 class? Nobody, I'm guessing, because while The Romance of the Rose was enormously important and sparked a huge debate at its time, it's also pedantic, long-winded, and really not very good except for illustrating a certain idea in vogue when it was written.

An interesting review, anyway. My exposure to Astro Boy is only a little of the 1963 TV show, and they seem to be a lot alike - odd in style and uneven in quality, but weirdly charming nonetheless. I should add Astro Boy to the ever-growing list of manga I need to read. Smile
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bahamut623



Joined: 23 Jun 2005
Posts: 1396

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:58 am Reply with quote
I agree 100% with the first poster. The reviewer is reading a wee bit too much into the situation. The slap across the face is still prevalent in anime. People get angry at each other, yet still continue to love each other all the time. Also...she's a robot. Her becoming a race car isn't that strange...or sexist (yes she's becoming "an object," but she was already a machine). It would be more ridiculous for her to just completely turn on him or something.

I have the second volume, so I won't be getting this omnibus, but I'll definitely be getting the next one which I think contains the Pluto story.
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vashfanatic



Joined: 16 Jun 2005
Posts: 3369
Location: Back stateside

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 12:43 pm Reply with quote
bahamut623 wrote:
I have the second volume, so I won't be getting this omnibus, but I'll definitely be getting the next one which I think contains the Pluto story.


... which you should read so you can know what Urasawa Naoki's "Pluto" is based on...

I'm kind of amazed that you gave an "A" to the art. If there has ever been one thing about Tezuka that has been a complete turn-off to me, it's his artwork. It's cartoonish and all his character designs look like caricatures. Okay, I know, that's his style and that it's an old work, but the art in "Astro Boy" looks like that of Sunday-morning cartoon strip. In his later works, he rises above it while still maintaining his old style (I'm thinking particularly of "Buddha," as well as the other Verticle releases you mentioned), but honestly, here I'd give it a C+ at best.

(waits for the fans to rip her to shreds for saying this)
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atlanime



Joined: 22 May 2008
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Location: Atlanta, GA.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 4:34 pm Reply with quote
Definately check out the Metropolis manga too.
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classicalzawa
Space CowboySpace Cowboy


Joined: 19 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 7:57 pm Reply with quote
I've actually ordered this at a local comic book store and will pick it up next week (although I had rented Vol 2 from the library a while back), but since I knew it wasn't in chronological order, I've already picked up volumes 3-12 (all but 2 of them at only $3 a piece).

I defiantly agree that when I first saw Cobalt, then Astro entered a few panels later, I did a double take about 10 times (Cobalt's origin isn't explained until volume 9, for the curious).

But on the rest, I can't quite agree, sometimes I just find classic videogames, anime, manga, etc., and I play/watch/read them like they came out brand new last week. Astro is such a classic because its just so thoroughly entertaining, even if it is episodic in nature, while holding a theme/message that still resounds today. I've already seen a good bit of some of the stories from the 1980 remake, but the one that I havn't already seen (or forgot I saw), are thrilling, insightful, etc. My favorite fiction book is probably Animal Farm, and part of it is because you can still see its message everywhere even today. While the messages are clearly different, Astro has stood the test of time for a good reason. Code Geass might have been entertaining, but in another 20 years, we'll still remember Astro Boy, can't say the same thing about Code Geass. Astro's themes still find a place today and probably still will in 50 years, and unlike some series which I feel shove their themes down your throat whilst forgetting to entertain you, astro always entertains me too (win-win situation much?)

And everyone who hasn't played Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the GBA who likes Astro Boy should. It has its own unique story in a cameo infused world of Tezuka characters (and for once, not without reason), its made by Treasure, and its a very good game that you can get for less than $5 at most GameStops. I'd be lying if I didn't say that Omega Factor got me into the whole Astro Boy thing (and some other Tezuka series).

And I hope that Dark Horse keeps up this re-release thing on Astro (although I'll be set until the 13 & 14 re-release come out). Now i just need to wait for the next RightStuf Vertical or manga sale, the splurge all out on a copy of Ode to Kirihito, Dororo (played Blood Will Tell on PS2 already), and MW (already got Apollo's Song). And maybe Anime Works could pick up some more Tezuka series, Phoenix was amazing.
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belvadeer



Joined: 11 Jun 2006
Posts: 2127

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:54 pm Reply with quote
classicalzawa wrote:
And everyone who hasn't played Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the GBA who likes Astro Boy should. It has its own unique story in a cameo infused world of Tezuka characters (and for once, not without reason), its made by Treasure, and its a very good game that you can get for less than $5 at most GameStops. I'd be lying if I didn't say that Omega Factor got me into the whole Astro Boy thing (and some other Tezuka series).


I heard Omega Factor was pretty hard. Truth?
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Lupin the Third



Joined: 29 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:56 am Reply with quote
Really enjoyed this game, was my first "proper" exposure to the Astro Boy character. It's loosely based on the 2003 iteration (ex.: Atlas has the new design, not the 1980 TV one), but it has no direct tie-in, to my knowledge.

It's actually a big love-fest of Tezuka's universes. In order to max out all of Astro's abilities, you have to explore the various nooks of each stage and find any and all Tezuka characters hidden throughout. Each guest character has dialogue to contribute to the story and a reason for being present. A second playthrough even extends the story substantially (I'd say a second playthrough is required for maximum enjoyment, IMHO).

As for difficulty, outside of a couple one-tough-cookie boss fights (which do get much more challenging on the higher difficulties), it's not terribly hard. I don't usually play 2D shoot-em-ups/beat-em-ups of any sort and I managed to pull through all right (compare to my inability to progress in either Gunstar Heroes or Sin and Punishment on the Wii Virtual Console, both also by Treasure). On playthrough no. 2 I had to use a lot of continues on some of the later bosses (Pluto, for example).
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vashfanatic



Joined: 16 Jun 2005
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Location: Back stateside

PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:30 am Reply with quote
atlanime wrote:
Definately check out the Metropolis manga too.


If that was directed at me, I definitely will; my library has a pretty big Tezuka collection (including all of the original release of Astro Boy), and I know that's in it.

The movie was just amazing! I have one of my favorite anecdotes about idiot Americans that ties in with it: the college in my home town was showing it as well as two Miyazaki films (Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke) over the course of three weekends. I hadn't seen Metropolis, so I went, and at first everyone there basically looks like me, college students. And then in walks parents with two children, ages 3 and 7. As they sit down, I quietly ask the mother, "You do know this is PG-13, right?" To which she replies, "Yes, but it's animated." *facepalm* Well, it was also subtitled, so for the first 5 minutes I had to put up with hearing her translate everything to her toddler. Fortunately at the point the bullets started flying, her daughter started screaming, and they left the theater. And all I could think was, "I told you!"
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classicalzawa
Space CowboySpace Cowboy


Joined: 19 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 1:09 pm Reply with quote
vashfanatic wrote:
I hadn't seen Metropolis, so I went, and at first everyone there basically looks like me, college students. And then in walks parents with two children, ages 3 and 7. As they sit down, I quietly ask the mother, "You do know this is PG-13, right?" To which she replies, "Yes, but it's animated." *facepalm*

Wow, this just made me laugh because its such a common scenario. It reminds me of parents who let their kids watch South Park because its animated.
Sure, I'd let a 3 and 7-year-old watch something like Wall-E, because its ever so clearly PG rated, but letting a kid watch Akira because its animated too is poor parenting. I wish more Americans wouldn't hold the prejudice about cartoons that "if its animated, its for kids", but its a pretty common one.


As for Astro Boy: Omega Factor, assuming that you play any type of action game ever once in a while, Easy mode on Omega Factor is decently easy (no lives system, thank god). Compared to other Treasure developed games (like Ikaruga), Omega Factor is super easy (just youtube Ikaruga to see what I mean), but its defiantly worth playing in part for the storyline and a look see into other Tezukaverse series. The game actually uses powers from the 1980 and 2003 shows (like Astro's "hip" guns from 1980 or his arm blaster laser from 2003)
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