Astro Boy Volume 1: v. 1 (Astro Boy (Dark Horse)) Paperback – 9 Apr 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
Volume 1 of Astro Boy is not as you would expect, rather than publishing the series chronologically, the series is rumbled, mainly to make the series more accessible, especially first time Astro readers. What makes book one so worthwhile is that it's thicker than most editions, due to having a very interesting introduction, and even better, a short introduction from Tezuka himself re-capping Astro Boy's creation. Throughout the series readers will be treated to a great mixture of action, humour and genuine sentiment all presented with Tezuka's excellent ability to create coherent stories that anyone can enjoy.
I'm not a really big fan of manga so can't compare this to other Japanese comics but I really love Astro Boy. If you want a comic that is relatively easy to read buy this first book in the series.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Astro Boy Vol. 1 is the background story of how Astro Boy was created. However, when Tezuka-san put together these volumes, he mixed and matched different stories, created in different times, to best tell the story. For example, Tezuka-san created the series in 1951, but the first story in the volume was published in 1975. It also has Tezuka-san, interject some of his own personal insights into the book, so the reader better understands the story.
There are three stories about AstroBoy, who is the epitome of all that is good. The first, describes how Astro was created. The second, called Hot Dog Corps, is a strange story of how an army of robots, created from dogs, are ruled by a Princess who is ardent about keeping anyone from coming to the moon. The underlying story, is that good prevails.
The drawing, which is simple, yet interesting, is no too destracting.
I loved this Manga, and can't wait to read all of them. Like candy, they are little treats, that don't take a very long time to digest or consume.
Of good interest also are an introduction to the series, including notes on translation and selection. The translator attempted to preserve the Japanese names as much as possible, including nicknames, keeping only the Americanized Astro Boy instead of the direct translation Mighty Atom, as Astro Boy is the more familiar name.
Astro Boy is a lot like the Mickey Mouse of Japan, and his good-natured adventures are as much fun to read as the early Mickey Mouse comics. The difference comes in social issues, as Tezuka clearly uses his character to tackle ethical/political issues that interested him at the times, raising the comic up several notches.
This is an interesting story with a few surprising twists. The ending is classic Tezuka strangeness with Astro fighting Bron-X. If he wins Astro gets to give the head back to the villagers so they continue to use the light. There MUST be a better light source Astro could have offered than the incredibly dangerous head of Bron-X but such is the strange routes the mind of Osamu Tezuka travels.
Uran [Aug to Sept 1960] I take it this is the first appearance of Astro’s “Little Sister” Uran. It’s interesting that Astro’s siblings (who are simply robots with his same specs) were created as immature children. Both Cobalt and Uran act naïve, meanwhile Astro’s robot “parents” mention that they were created as adults. When Astro, Cobalt and Uran are at a robot fighting tournament Uran decides to jump into the ring and clobbers a robot with her 100,000 HP strength. Later, for reasons that are hard to explain, she is compelled to continue fighting in the tournament. She finds herself torn between school and robot fighting so a scientists offers to give her the ability to split in two. Uran goes ahead with the surgery behind Astro’s back and is able to give the impression that she’s resting in bed as her second half is fighting on the robot tournament. All in all a pretty good story and a nice introduction for Uran.
Demon Bees [March to June 1963] When a woman’s son is forced into service under the Ultra Genghis Khan Empire she sends her robot to find help and he searches out Astro. Astro refuses to come since he has a test at school the next day so the robot simply demolishes his school. He does, however, give enough cash to build a new, better school. Astro agrees to help and finds a very militaristic society beneath the Gobi desert. He’s captured and the emperor of Ultra Genghis Khan tells him his plan is to conquer the world using artificial poisonous bees. He’s taking children and making them identical looking and then his bees sting them to create obedient slaves. The story has an interesting and unexpected ending and overall was fairly good.
Fortress of the Centaurs [May to July 1958] A new boy named Kuritaro arrives at Astro’s school and seems to be capable of eating anything and will in fact eat pretty much anything offered to him. He’s also able to leap a freakish distance. Later, Professor Ochanomizu spots a strange glowing horse and the story takes a bizarre turn where people try to capture the odd horse. Unlike a normal horse this one has arms to go with its four legs, carries an amnesia inducing gas gun and talks. Turns out the horse is a friend of Kuritaro whom he refers to as Acorn. The horse, named Nuu, is an alien from the constellation Pegasus who taught Acorn to eat raw vegetables giving him strength far beyond normal humans.
Nuu begins to teach other boys at Kuritaro’s school the secrets of raw vegetables but when word of Nuu’s location gets out scores of criminals and other people try to capture the alien. It’s a classic ending showing the tragedy wrought by the greed and violence of man against an alien race who just wants to help children.
Gernica [New Year’s Edition of Shonen] A very short story of a scientist who inadvertently creates giant killer slugs and Astro’s amusing if a bit obvious solution to the problem.
One of Osamu Tezuka's big influences was Walt Disney. When I compare Tezuka to some of the legendary Disney artists like Floyd Gottfredson and Carl Barks I have to give the nod to Disney. In my opinion Gottfredson and Barks were better storytellers and had more consistent artwork. What sets Tezuka apart is the philosophical and emotional depths of his stories. Unlike Gottfredson and Barks, who were Disney employees and constrained by company standards, Tezuka had full reign to express his own views and his stories were entirely his own vision. He might, for instance, break into the story and explain how he felt it was wrong that American censers disapproved of many of his stories and then scold westerners for propagating the myth that Japanese eat dogs. Tezuka has the freedom to explore topics that a Disney artist would never touch like a Dr. Moreau type scientist creating killer cyborgs from the nervous system of dogs. The stories feel much more personal and unconstrained.
Where Mickey Mouse might race against bandits to find a lost gold mine, Astro Boy would be battling murderous robots on the moon. What may be jarring to U.S. audiences is seeing this very Disneyesque art style with very non Disney storylines. U.S. audiences are trained to have expectations that Japanese Manga does not adhere to. Just look at Astro. His black hair frames his face just like Mickey and in place of circular ears he has triangles that are eternally in profile regardless of how he turns. He is a 100 thousand horsepower Mickey except in his stories people die (as in the Hot Dog Patrol where a person is crushed to death) and Astro's writer deals with serious topics of morality and the dangers of unrestrained technology.
As collections go Dark Horse has done a bare bones job. This is pretty much the stories and nothing else and I would suspect they were reduced in size to accommodate the very small dimensions of the book. Also, we're clearly not getting the stories from the beginning but only from 1961. If you want to see comprehensive collections done right check out the fantastic job Fantagraphics has done with Popeye and Mickey Mouse. On the other hand I don't want to hit this collection too hard in stars since its pretty much this or nothing and I'd hate to push people away.
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