July 13, 2009
Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2009 – 8 volumes
I love it. Professor Tenma appears on the cover of the volume, but isn’t mentioned until almost the end, and his face isn’t shown until the very last page. Even better, it seems he has a massive role to play in the overall plot. At least some of Atom’s origin story is intact in Pluto, we see brief flashes here of Tenma’s memory (his son Tobio’s death, Atom being activated). One wonders if the whole “I got disgusted, so I sold him to the circus” element will come up. Or can we just… you know, ignore that odd bit of continuity? It would probably be for the best. On the other hand (feel free to skip this geek moment), Hamegg makes for a delightful evil ringmaster, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Urasawa draw him.
At the beginning of the volume, we meet up with Ochanomizu again in a rather nice story where we see compassion for older, less important robots. But nice things don’t last in this story, even little Aibo-looking bots, and the main plot sneaks in when we (presumably) meet the assassin that’s been taking out the Bora group of scientists. Dirty tricks are used, and Ochanomizu’s grandson and robot dog Bobby are threatened. Uran and Atom go to his rescue.
And then something… rather unexpected happens. Something that you just can’t believe in this type of story, because it breaks things. In the original Astro Boy… this never would have happened, and didn’t (well, not like this, anyway). I’m left speechless after this particular plot twist, because not only can I not imagine the end of the story now, it’s just horrible and sad. I can’t say much more than that.
Elsewhere, Gesicht is sent to guard that anti-robot radical that has been trying to kill him. This is kind of an uncomfortable twist, but we learn that the former king of Persia, Darius XIV, is literally insane. This is also very uncomfortable and somehow frightening, and it remains to be seen how it will tie into the plot.
We also learn of the three great robot master scientists, one of which kicks the bucket here, introducing Epsilon, the last of the Seven Great Robots. One of the three is, if you hadn’t guessed already, Professor Tenma, a rather evil dude who perfected robot AI, yet insists in order for the AI to be perfect, failsafes regarding the inability to kill humans have to be removed and negative emotions like hate, despair, and anger have to be put in their place.
It’s also suggested that he may be behind everything, which is strange because… Professor Tenma isn’t really evil, just moody and depressed. I suspect allegations against him here will either later be proven false or explained further.
In any case, this is still one epic ride, and I was shocked and disappointed when I tore through the volume so fast. Some of the pieces aren’t fitting together quite right for me (like the finer details about the history of the war, and the identities of people like Goji and the guy he pals around with, and the teddy bear, if anything has been said about that). A few things clicked into place during this volume, but I’m actually very much looking forward to re-reading the entire series just to digest finer points of story I may be missing between volumes or just passing over as I tear through for maximum enjoyment. There’s a lot to digest here, and it’s one of the few series I don’t begrudge the necessity of a second reading. Everything about Pluto is just worth it.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.