January 22, 2009
This and Otomen were the two series I was looking forward to most this year. I thought all day about other things that might be equally as awesome as Pluto, and there just isn’t anything else I’d rather be reading. Otomen was slightly disappointing as of the first volume, but Pluto was everything I was hoping for and more.
In fact, it was based on my expected enjoyment of Pluto that I read all 23 volumes of Astro Boy. It built character, if nothing else. You don’t really need to know anything at all about Astro Boy in order to enjoy Pluto, as “The Greatest Robot on Earth,” the story that Pluto is based on, is almost nothing like what I’ve read so far. If I recall, the great robots mostly just have bit parts in the original story, and Gesicht’s character and appearance have changed a lot. There was no mystery really, no politics, and no war in the original. None of the regular characters from Astro Boy put in an appearance in Pluto save for the last page, but to be fair, the story doesn’t take place in Japan. What is Dr. Tenma going to be doing in Germany? Saving some little kid that he shouldn’t have?
You know, one regular Tezuka character does appear. Black Jack, who exists in all times and places and isn’t bound by any sort of logic.
Actually, this volume bore more of a resemblance to Silence of the Lambs than Astro Boy. When Gesicht links the destruction of Mont Blanc to the murder of a human, he goes to speak to a robot named Brau 1589. Brau is really just robot Hannibal Lecter, imprisoned for being the only robot who’s ever killed a human, and does things like offer to exchange memories, suggest that the humans ought to kill him rather than just keep him confined, imply he knows exactly what’s going on, relates asides related to mythology and ancient history, and he offers no answers.
The series is so far just Gesicht investigating the murder of a robot law advocate and the destruction of one of the great robots, Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc’s destruction could only have been committed by an insanely powerful robot, whereas the human’s murder was committed by a person who left absolutely no trace of themselves in the room, something that shouldn’t be possible for a human, and yet robots cannot kill humans under robot law (hence the visit to Brau, to find out why he did it). The two murders are linked by the peculiar way both bodies were found.
There’s a little bit in the first part of the book about Mont Blanc and how hard his loss is taken by nearly everybody, a little about Gesicht and his job, a section about North No. 2, another one of the great robots, and a short section near the end of the book introducing Brando and Atom, two of the other great robots. I assume Epsilon and… er, the other robot will come later. As will Pluto.
I was really impressed by how much I was affected by the Mont Blanc story at the beginning of the volume. The book starts immediately after his fight, and the first few chapters talk a lot about all the good things he’s done. It was quite touching, and he was never even in the story. My favorite part of the book was easily North No. 2’s story, which nearly had me in tears at the end for no real reason. North No. 2 was originally a weapons robot made for the war, but he’s since retired and become the butler of a cranky old blind man who hates him for being a robot. The two get over some rough times and the old man teaches him to play the piano. It was a really, really nice story. Plus, well… Black Jack.
By the end of the volume, we learn that something huge is targeting all the most powerful robots in the world. Gesicht begins warning the remaining robots individually about the threat, but not much else has been revealed.
There was a lot of setup in this volume, and I assume the story will get going next volume. I think it will involve the destruction of at least one or two more of the robots that have been introduced before all is said and done, and I assume it will also look very closely at the robot-killing-humans robot law. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the insane intricate setup here, and I am really, really looking forward to seeing where it goes.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.