PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka vol. 002 by Naoki Urasawa (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

April 19, 2009 by  

“Continuing the reimagining of the Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atom) series, the second volume continues with more action, suspense leading up to another major confrontation with the unknown, murdering assailant.  Another gripping and enjoyable volume in the ‘PLUTO’ series from Naoki Urasawa!”

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

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MANGA TITLE: PLUTO vol. 002: 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

An advocate for robot rights and a renowned European robot have been murdered.  Gesicht, the detective assigned to the case, has deduced that the killer is targeting the great robots of the world – which means that he too is one of the targets.  Gesicht takes it upon himself to warn the potential targets, and Atom, the famous boy robot from Japan, Is next on his list. Elsewhere, the Turkish robot hero Brando sets out on his own to take on a mysterious challenger.  As the robots traverse a labyrinthine path edging toward their own souls, the question remains: Who is the killer and what is his motive?

In the first volume of “PLUTO”, we learned about a world where robots and humans work together alongside with each other.   In this world, 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.

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 first volume showed us how the great Mont Blanc and the North No. 2, two of the seven powerful robots in the world were destroyed by an unknown force.  We also learned that several scientists were murdered.  All of them were found dead with antlers next or stuck to their heads.

In the second volume of “PLUTO”, one of the top 7 robots, Inspector Gesicht is responsible for handling the investigation but his goal is to warn the remaining five robots of the threat coming to them.  Bust most of all, it’s quite interesting to see how the robots have nearly a sense of emotion and a level of advancement that peaks the curiosity of other robots who are unable to function similarly.

The latest volume features more character development and where the last volume focused on Gesicht, this time around, we get to learn a little more about Atom.

Here is a brief summary of each chapter in vol. 2:

ACT 8 – ATOM – Professor Junichiro Tasaki, a professor of law who came up with the idea of the International Robot Laws has been found murdered.  Strung up on a tree with antlers on his head.  While investigators are working on that case, Gesicht has met with one of the seven powerful robots.  This time it’s the very advanced robot known as Atom.  A boy on the exterior, he is able to show characteristics of a human showing pleasure in things that young children would like.  Such as an interest in toys, sweets, bugs, etc.  This surprises Gesicht but the meeting is more about a warning and he needs the help of Atom.  By letting Atom download his memory chip, perhaps Atom can assist with the investigation.

ACT 9 – PROFESSOR OCHANOMIZU – With Atom now having Gesicht’s memories, he now does his own investigation and learns that the murdered Professor Tasaki was trying to contact Professor Ochanomizu and perhaps the murderer is now after him and the members of the Bora Survey Group.

ACT 10 – HERCULES – The fighter known as Hercules is introduced.  Gesicht tries to warn him about the unknown murderer.  Atom has a conversation with Professor Ochanomizu and they start to talk about Brau 1589, the first robot to commit murder.  Ochanomizu tells Atom that there were no problems with Brau 1589 and he is perfect but what could have caused it to commit crimes in the past.

ACT 11 – PATCHING IN – A flashback of a time not long time ago.  The time takes place during a major war against the robots, Hercules, Brando and Mont Blanc fought for the side of humankind while destroying other robots.  Meanwhile, Brando leaves to the Blue Mosque Coliseum to take his robot suit out for training but in reality, the fighting champion wants to take on the murderer head on.

ACT 12  – FAMILY PORTRAIT – Brando and the unknown mystery robot begin their fight.  Both Gesicht and Hercules try to get to Brando’s coordinates to help but will they make it in time.

ACT 13 – FALSE MEMORY – Gesicht continues to have these nightmares where an old man keeps telling him “500 Zeus a Body”.  What it means?  He doesn’t know.  A major funeral happens for one of the greatest robots on Earth.  As for Gesicht, he and his wife realized something is wrong with the photos they have during their many vacations.  But what makes them concerned is that there are too many photos of vacations, vacations that would be impossible for Gesicht to go on due to his work.  Is something wrong with his memory chip, has his memories been altered?

ACT 14 – DR. ROOSEVELT -We are introduced to Dr. Roosevelt, who exists in a form of an actual teddy bear.    With three of the seven great robots eliminated, their are four more left. Meanwhile, Gesicht starts to look into his memory and if it may have been altered.  Gesicht decides to visit Brau 1589 and switch memory chips temporarily and see if Brau 1589 can help him find out who the murder may be.

ACT 15 – ENEMY PARTS – Hercules is still mourning a friend but when the search party for his friend continues, a search team discover an unusual setting with Brando’s arms in the sign of a horn.  Hercules also finds Brando’s memory chip.  Also, we are introduced to the seventh great robot.

The final chapter is a postscript by Makoto Tezuka who gives us insight of how Urasawa came to officially write about the reimagining of the Atom Boy (Tetsuwan Atom) storyline and what words of advice he gave to Urasawa and that was to create a new storyline and to challenge his father’s story head on.

“PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka” vol. 02 continues to be a satisfying series.  Much has been included in terms of story and character development and the whole entire premise of humans and robots interacting with each other and then all of a sudden, someone going after and destroying a few of the seven great robots is just surprising.

The strength of volume 2 leans more towards the mystery and suspense side as both Gesicht and Atom conduct their investigation.  But we get to see how different the main surviving robots are from each other, especially with Atom who happens to have childlike abilities and emotions and this ability to becoming like a human, almost in a Pinocchio style of fashion which a robot like Gesicht is just amazed at.

What I enjoy about this second volume is pretty much what I enjoyed from the first, the gradual build up of the storyline in each chapter, its overall pacing makes “PLUTO” quite entertaining.  You just enjoy how well-written the series is thus far.

I’ve found the storyline to be quite addictive  thus far and as each chapter progresses, there is some sort of major reveal.

All in all, I really enjoyed where this second volume is heading as it dealt with us knowing more about Atom and of course, being introduced to a new super robot who is a fighter named Hercules, how everything culminates to a battle between Brando and the unknown and of course, the aftermath.

“PLUTO” is an enjoyable and addictive manga and when it comes to Urasawa-driven storylines, you know that you are getting a quality series with cool art and just overall, a well-balanced and intriguing manga series.  Overall, I enjoyed the two volumes thus far and I’m definitely look forward to the release of the third volume.

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