PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka vol. 001 by Naoki Urasawa (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

April 6, 2009 by  

“A stunning and thrilling reimagination of Osamu Tezuka’s “ASTRO BOY – THE GREATEST ROBOT ON EARTH”, well-known mangaka Naoki Urasawa (’20th Century Boys’, “Monster’, ‘Yawara’) and Takashi Nagasaki  brings his unique and suspenseful style to Tezuka’s Atom Boy universe.”

(C) Image courtesy of 2004 Naoki URASAWA/Studio Nuts, Takashi NAGASAKI and Tezuka Productions   All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka

STORY AND ART BY: Naoki Urasawa, Takashi Nagasaki and supervised by Makoto Tezuka with the cooperation of Tezuka Productions.



RATED: T for Older Teen

In an ideal world where man and robots coexist, someone or something has destroyed the powerful Swiss robot Mont Blanc.  Elsewhere a key figure in robot rights group is murdered.  The two incidents appear to be unrelated…Except for one very conspicuous clue – The bodies of both victims have been fashioned into some sort of bizarre collage complete with makeshift horns placed by the victim’s heads.  Interpol assigns robot detective Gesicht to this most strange and complex case – and he eventually discovers that he too, as one of the seven great robots of the world, is one of their targets.

In a world where robots and humans work together and robots are treated (by most) like sentient beings comes a world where the planet has robotic heroes and even police squadrons of human and robot partners.  Of course, it’s not an all perfect world as there are humans who rather not co-exist with the robots.  And someone makes their agenda known when someone has decided to disrupt that peaceful coexistence by destroying the great robots and possibly murdering those who protect the rights for robots.  With only several of the great robots left, one of the great robots from Interpol must protect the other living great robots from destruction from a mysterious murderer.

This is the basis of the story “PLUTO”, a reimagining of “Astro Boy – The Greatest Robot on Earth” written by manga great Naoki Urasawa (“Yawara”, “Monster”, “20th Century Boys” and many more titles) and co-authored by Takashi Nagasaki.  The Astro Boy or Tetsuwan Atom stories are based on the popular works of Osamu Tezuka and with cooperation from Tezuka Productions, this manga project is managed by Makoto Tezuka.

The ongoing award winning manga series debuted in Japan back in 2003 and has captivated readers but now the popular manga arrives in the US courtesy of VIZ Media.

The first volume of “PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka” features the first seven acts.

ACT 1 – MONT BLANC – Someone has destroyed the great robot Mont Blanc, the beloved robot of the Swiss Forestry Service and known for befriending thousands of people who would visit Switzerland and protecting his region from forest fires.  His body has been smashed and dismembered.  Also, found murdered was Bernard Lanke, a key member in the movement to preserve the robot laws.  Found murdered with horns stuck on his head.

For Interpol robot Gesicht, things start to get more interesting during the day as someone has broken into a checkpoint where a police officer and his robot partner Robby has been destroyed.

During the investigation, a link is found between the murder of Lanke and the destruction of Mont Blanc.  Both were found with horns near their head.    Immediately the police think it has to be a robot that could have done this, especially destroying  a huge robot like Mont Blanc but Gesicht defends robots that they are programmed not to attack due to Article 13 of the Robot Laws.  Gesicht makes it his duty to find the killer.

ACT 2 – GESICHT – As the world mourns for the death of great job Mont Blanc, Gesicht continues his explanation and gets the destroyed police robot Robby’s memory chip to give to his robotic wife.  When his wife inserts it, both Gesicht and the robot see Robby’s final memories of a human jumping from building to building.  It’s not possible for robot and human to do such thing but looking at the footage, it appears to be a human making the huge leaps between buildings.  Is the killer a robot?  Or is the killer human?

ACT 3 – BRAU 1589 – Eight years ago, a robot known as Brau 1589 killed a human.  Because of the strict laws imposed on robots, no robot has dared hurt a human but Brau 1589 had.  And with the current crimes going on in the world, Gesicht goes to visit the robot trying to get information on why a robot would kill a human.  But through their conversation, Brau 1589 warns Gesicht that the most advanced robots that science has produced are in danger.  Robots who have the potential to become weapons of mass destruction.  Six are now remaining in the world and Gesicht is one of them.

ACT 4 – NORTH NO. 2 (PART 1) – For this chapter, we are introduced to the great robot North No. 2, a former servant to General Andrew Douglas of British High Command.  Now, a servant to the blind musical genius.  His boss is a talented musician but has a hatred towards robots and doesn’t think one can grasp music but North No. 2 does.  He wants to learn to play the piano and seems to care about the music that his boss plays.

ACT 5  – NORTH NO. 2 (PART 2) – This chapter features the backstory of the blind musician and how he had a difficult childhood.  But also continuing his hatred towards North No. 2.

ACT 6 – NORTH NO. 2 (PART 3) – North No. 2 confronts the blind musician regarding his past and a song that he hums unconsciously that North No. 2 has taken a liking too.  While things start to look great between the blind musician and North No. 2, he senses something or someone is about to attack and thus prepares himself for the battle.

ACT – BRANDO –  Two great robots have been destroyed.  Gesicht knows he must warn the other four.   A legend in the fighting ring, Brando’s ability to control robots for battle is exceptional.  So, great is his control that he is known as the “Robo-Fight King”.  As Gesicht visits his good friend, he warns him about the danger against the great robots.   But Brando being head strong is always up for battle.  So, Gesicht goes to warn another great robot in regards to the pending danger.  The next robot warned is the young Atom.

The first volume ends with a several-page discussion between Naoki Urasawa and Makoto Tezuka plus a postscript by Takayuki Matsutani, Presiden of Tezuka Productions, Inc.

“PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka” vol. 01 was definitely an enjoyable first volume.  One of the biggest differences from Osamu Tezuka’s artwork and Urasawa’s is the fact that Urasawa tends to go for a more realistic approach and also adding quite a bit of detail from surrounding objects or shadows.

There is a side of darkness that Urasawa has with his work.  From “Monster” to “20th Century Boys”, you get a good balance of innocence and purity but also a  side of darkness which makes his works so appealing.

In this case, for “PLUTO”, the storyline is so unique.  Sure, we have seen robots become problems for humanity in anime and manga series such as “AD Police” but to find a storyline where robots are revered for helping humanity and living lives like humans and almost be treated like equals was quite intriguing.

So, far the pacing of the series in the first seven acts were well done and captivating.

With great storytelling by Urasawa and Nagasaki, it makes you wonder what will happen with the remaining five great robots.  I’m definitely hooked and I know you will be hooked once you finish the first volume.  “PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka” is highly recommended!

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