January 6, 2010
Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2009 – 8 volumes
There was a major event at the end of this volume. I had thought I saw it coming, but on the other hand, it’s such a major event that it completely changes the nature of the story. I… kind of wonder how things will proceed from here. You can tell the plot is starting to wind down, because everything is coming together. In fact, most questions are answered as of this volume. There’s a very clear conclusion. And yet, I have no idea how the ending will play out. I mean… there’s only a bunch of old men running around. Powerful old men, don’t get me wrong, but, I mean… Ochanomizu? He’s not real heroic. Tenma certainly isn’t. And yet… I suspect they will both have a part to play later.
But yes, everything is pretty clear at the end of this volume. The mystery surrounding Abulla’s nature is revealed, as is the nature of Pluto. Most of the volume is spent with Gesicht following leads surrounding Abulla and trying to find out who and what Pluto is. He succeeds after visiting many countries and digging very deeply into the past. During this, Gesicht recieves several comments about how un-robot-like he’s acting. Robots don’t have hunches, as Gesicht has towards Abullah, and robots certainly don’t disobey direct orders or ask for retirement. He also gets angry when he suddenly realizes what happens in his past and realizes his supervisors had wiped his memory. Gesicht does seem very tired by the end of the volume, and I think that’s a big part of what happens at the end.
My favorite parts were probably both instances of Gesicht running into the little boy robots. There’s something especially heartbreaking about the thought of a little robot that had been blown to pieces in a war wandering around selling flowers like an orphan, with his exact twin happily doing the same in a different country. Gesicht’s conversations with both were the real highlight of the volume for me. Very subtle, and they conveyed a lot of emotion without being over-long.
I also liked the use of color when Gesicht was traking down Pluto’s identity. A similar technique is used earlier in the series when Pluto paints, but having “Pluto” being the only element of color in the book (aside from the color pages that open the volume) is pretty amazing.
As for the ending… in addition to being shocking and somewhat disruptive (not in a bad way), I was a little disappointed that… a bigger deal wasn’t made of it. It seems like as more and more of these happen throughout the series, their importance is lessened each time it happens. I couldn’t believe more wasn’t made of it. But perhaps that’s just the nature of that event and this person. The scene at the end with Tenma instructing the robot on how to cry was quite touching, but especially since it was Dr. Tenma, usually depicted as quite heartless.
Again, between the two works, I think I prefer 20th Century Boys, but both are favorites. There’s more of an insane charm and amazing storytelling techniques at work in 20th Century Boys that are more to my taste, but Pluto is still telling an amazing story, using the older framework of robot stories and Tezuka themes to tell a rather modern stories. There are many themes at work here (mostly the same themes that Tezuka used in Astro Boy), but it does a good job of weaving them subtley into the story. And it’s an amazingly powerful story, emotionally, for being mostly about the lives of robots solving crime and fighting bad guys. There’s definitely a lot at work here, and all of it’s good stuff.