Astro Boy 22
October 12, 2008
Much like GetBackers, I was really shocked with how much I enjoyed this volume of Astro Boy. This and the next volume are supplementary stories, published after Astro Boy’s initial run. I had thought there was only one volume of these stories, which is why I was so surprised.
The supplementary stories are WEIRD. There’s an essay in the beginning of the volume by Tezuka explaining the context for all the stories, what magazine they appeared in and what theme he had been asked to write with. Sometimes this is important (for instance, one of the stories he was asked to write on the subject of standardized tests, which he didn’t know anything about), sometimes it’s not important (one of the stories is a one-page gag where Astro and a girl robot explode when they kiss). Some of the stories don’t actually have all that much Astro Boy in them, and he may appear for only a few pages or even one panel, as a gag. One of the stories is a Black Jack story, with Astro as the client.
My favorite story in the volume was actually one that resembled the old Astro Boy stories more than any of the others. It was long, and had a pretty deep and very human message. Astro appears at the very beginning and the very end. The story is set in the future, and a young couple being persued breaks into a Robot Museum and starts Astro up, asking for his help. They relate their story to him, where they live in a society where humans are now raised by robots so that they may fight in a Running Man-like game against one another for the robot’s pleasure. This particular couple has escaped and they want Astro’s help evading authorities. Astro grants their request, and then disappears while the moral of the story plays out. It is not entirely unexpected, but is kind of disturbing. I liked this story A LOT, and it makes me want to read a volume of Tezuka’s non-series-related short stories, if such a thing exists.
There’s a couple different stories that play off the anime ending of Astro, where Astro apparently is flying some device into the sun and doesn’t return. Both stories do vastly different things with this idea. I’m kind of disappointed the one where Astro Boy travels through time didn’t pan out into a few more chapters.
The Black Jack story… yeah. It was weird seeing Astro Boy so obsessed with revenge and cast in a more negative light. I also liked that Tezuka took advantage of the fact he was appearing as a regular boy, and had him in the classroom with Shibugaki, Kenichi, and his other friends in a regular little boy role. The ending… er. I was expecting Black Jack to double-cross Astro and then come through in the end anyway, because I know that’s what he does. The way he “comes through” at the end was really cheap and nonsensical though, and I hope that’s not something that happens often in Black Jack stories. I’m a little disappointed with myself that I didn’t spot Black Jack when I bought this volume months ago.
A lot of the stories are also crossovers with other stories, and a lot of Tezuka’s other characters appear throughout. For my own reference, Hamegg and Lamp both appear in at least two stories each, but neither has a very major role.
I’m a little sad that the volumes I liked the best were all things that didn’t actually appear in the regular run of the series (the three that have the excellent origin story that I liked so much are also from after the series concluded). I’m happy that these stories are collected like this though, and I’m also glad they appear at the end of the series.