Urasawa’s Pluto

by John Holbo on December 19, 2010

I haven’t made a proper top 10 list, but – were I to do so – the project would be greatly simplified by the consideration that Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto [amazon] series – eight volumes – would leave me with only a few slots still to fill. This is translated manga, credited as Urasawa x Tezuka, because Urasawa is re-telling/re-envisioning a classic Astro Boy story arc, “The Greatest Robot On Earth”, from the 50’s. The original was typically silly and fun, yet earnest, in that early Tezuka way. You can get a nice reprint of that here [amazon] – but read the Urasawa first, because it is retold as a mystery, and reading the original will actually give away the surprising overall arc too soon.

The original version is a series of robot fights – some bad humans are making trouble for the robots, forcing them into this – and there is a great deal of goofy botheration about who has more ‘horse-power’. What Urasawa works wonders with are the original characters. Mont Blanc, the nature-attuned, Swiss mountaineering poet-robot. Epsilon, the effeminate, male, mothering, superstrong, solar-powered, pacifist Australian robot. North No. 2, the post-traumatically stressed, six-armed, piano lessons-wanting Scottish butler robot. Gesicht, the troubled, German Europol detective robot. Brando, the down-to-earth, life-loving Turkish family man/ fighter robot. Heracles, the Greek, honor-loving fighter robot. And Atom and Uran (Astro Boy and sister). And Pluto (I’ll let that one be a surprise). And the old Astro Boy cast. And – these weren’t in the original – ‘Dr. Roosevelt’, and his sinister Teddy avatar. And that other one, the Hannibal Lecterish robot stuck in his cell, behind all the barricades, impaled on that pole. It’s fantastically clever the way it is reworked, while keeping the basic plot and characters surprisingly true to the original – fun, thrilling, with wonderful moments of Ursprunglichkeit springing up amidst bells and whistles and evil humans and zeronium alloy. [click to continue…]