March 7, 2010
Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2010 – 8 volumes
I’m still rather thrilled that I live in a time when I can read the last volume of my favorite manga series in English less than a year after it ends in Japan. That’s very exciting, and I’m happy that the popularity of manga has advanced so much over the years. There’s still lots of room to grow, but still, it’s great.
You know, I finally figured out wh that bear was. He’s pretty involved with the end here, but his identity isn’t really a secret. In fact, it’s a little confusing as to why we’d been left in the dark for so long. He takes an interesting view on the end of the world, though, and the last few pages are simply amaing because of him. Even more so since I’m reading this in America. It’s almost like it ended because my viewpoint ended. Or something.
The political commentary offered in this series is interesting to the end. Usually I have no interest in such things (with good reason, manga political commentary is most likely to be Japan-centric, and I know nothing about Japanese politics… conversely, there are probably few manga that deal in US political commentary), but I did like it here, and it was obvious enough that even I picked up on what was being said.
As is always the case in Astro Boy, the end of the world is imminent, and the climax is of course Atom fighting Pluto and trying to stop it from happening. Almost all the characters come back in some form or other. It is spectacular. I can’t offer much more commentary than that.
Well… You know that it’s a manga because in the middle of the final climactic battle, both characters stop and have a good cry. I swear, one of these days.
In the end, I feel all the themes came through quite well, something that a lot of manga series have problems with. I also loved some of the subtler storytelling techniques, something that can be lost on both me as a reader and manga in general. For instance, in this volume Tenma stands at the center of nearly everything. He is neither good nor bad, he just is. He also doesn’t offer his thoughts on any of the events, he simply keeps a poker face through everything. Similarly, his son Atom develops the same sort of reation to many things here. Not everything, but he does have quite the poker face.
Ultimately, I think I prefer 20th Century Boys for its ludicrous nature, but Pluto is still quite amazing and tells a very concise story. There were a few points where I was afraid it would mire itself in politics or the messages it was trying to convey, but in the end it pulled through and was very successful. I don’t really think it’s for everyone, and I think there are quite a few non-geeks this would be lost on, but all the same, it’s definitely worth reading.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.