Astro Boy 21Posted: July 20, 2008
This volume is lots and lots of old stories. Some are only a few pages long. Some are longer. The first Astro Boy story isn’t here, but Tezuka mentions that these were mostly among the first, and it was the first appearance of a lot of characters, like Tawashi and several of Astro’s classmates.
Some of the art anomalies are more noticeable in this volume than usual. I think these chapters ran in color originally, but it’s also highly possible that the artwork is several generations removed from the original source, but it’s very fuzzy. It’s probably an issue of the originals being in color though, because occasionally there will be a few really sharp pages that appear randomly together, and Tezuka is sort of notorious for continuously redrawing and reworking his stories. There’s also a chapter which has weird formatting issues where it looks like he added a piece of paper under the original and drew the edges that way, or had to crop the edges of the original panels to make them smaller, something like that. It was something he mentioned in one of the very early volumes. There’s also a transition page consisting of a single orphaned panel that looks really weird.
This set of stories is actually better than normal just by virtue of being really old and bizarre. At one point, Astro is given some sort of “computer disease” that you have to smile at. Far removed from your standard computer virus, it just corrodes Astro’s insides. He fights some pretty awesome robot bombs, some aliens during a trip to Mars, and he even fights a Frankenstein’s monster robot alongside some sort of robot cult. Weird things happen, like Shibugaki constantly picking on Astro, and a really bizarre scene between Shibugaki and Astro’s dad. Kenichi appears a lot more frequently in the early stories, and he gets a chance to be a friend as well as lose heart in Astro… and Shunsaku Ban even gets to use his real name and occupation as PI.
He also has a chapter where he saves some underwater slaves stuck digging a uranium mine in a gigantic mechanical serpent. This chapter is weird in several ways, and is probably the most bizarre Astro Boy story I’ve ever read. At one point, he slams his head and sort of misshapes it. He does his feats at night, causing him to do some weird stuff during the day. A couple times, Astro uses the help of a girl living on an island. We are mercifully spared a caricature, but it’s still sort of implied that the island’s inhabitants are cannibals. Stranger still, Astro only saves two of the slaves. As far as I remember, the rest are left underneath, unless he leaves it to the two who escaped to alert the authorities and free them. But they seem more concerned with tracking down Astro Boy.