Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Manga Review: Astro Boy Volume 1 & 2 Blasts Past Preconceptions

Deb's Manga Blog

By Deb Aoki, Guide to Manga

Manga Review: Astro Boy Volume 1 & 2 Blasts Past Preconceptions

Wednesday October 15, 2008

Black Jack isn't the only Osamu Tezuka tale that's gotten a fresh chance to hook new readers. Anticipating the release of the new Astro Boy CGI feature film from Imagi in 2009, Dark Horse has re-released the Astro Boy manga as a 2-in-1 omnibus edition.

Tezuka is revered in Japan much as Walt Disney is in the States; and much like Mickey Mouse, Astro Boy is iconic cartoon character that is generally beloved, but is thought to be too innocent, too earnest, too darn goody-good to be relevant to the kids of today. But if you think Astro Boy is your typical kids comic, you're missing the point, and possibly missing out on one of manga's most influential series.

Astro Boy was created out of a grieving father's desire to replace his deceased son. But when his robot child doesn't grow, the father opts to throw his "son" away, like a broken TV or a VCR. The rejected robot boy ends up in a circus, only to be adopted by a kindly doctor. Sound familiar? It should -- Steven Spielberg borrowed part of this premise when he created A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001). But compared to Spielberg's tragic hero, Tezuka's mechanical boy has a happier fate in store, as he becomes a superhero who's more peace ambassador than a rock-em, sock-em robot warrior.

But look beyond its cutesy art and feel-good endings and you'll see glimpses of some sophisticated, thought-provoking ideas about prejudice, ecology, politics, man's uneasy relationship with technology and the value of life. Sure, it's drawn for kids, but there's lots here for readers of all ages to enjoy. Check out my review of Astro Boy Volumes 1 & 2, and see if it gives you a reason to reconsider the most famous manga by manga's most famous creator (that you've likely never read.) Plus check out an online preview of a sample chapter from this Astro Boy omnibus.

Image credit: © Tezuka Productions

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