February 2004
2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Saturday Mornings @ 8:30 am on the WB

Astro Boy (Warner Bros. / Sony)
Review by Ernest Lilley

Astro Boy Sites:
Sony Pictures Official Astro Boy Site

Astro Boy Home Page (Japan)
IMDB Astro Boy Page

Made in the image of a child killed in a car crash, abandoned by his creator when the image proved to painful to look at, and wiped of his memories, it's no wonder that Astro Boy (aka "The Mighty Atom" in his homeland of Japan) has issues. Like any child of the 60's he comes from a dysfunctional family. But like many, he's also imbued with the dream of how things ought to be, and he's struggling to find his part in making things turn out that way.

Though Warner Brothers has retooled the rocket booted robot, adding color and a bit of angst, the few episodes I've seen so far capture a lot of the original series, while adding enough awareness of the obsessing over good and evil in family and society to make it interesting to the kids (and the kids, kids) of the kids of the 60s. For one thing, it's in color, and for another, it's good stuff.

I'm a moonshot kid. For me, the 1960s wasn't so much full of sex, drugs and rock and roll, or student protest and escalating war, but the excitement of spaceshots leading up to the lunar landing. Oh, and there was that time when Ford won the 24 hour race at LeMans with the GT40, which Ford has brought back too, but that's another story (Return of the Ford GT).

Though Osamu Tezuka wrote many of the scripts for the 1980s Astro Boy, somehow it lacked the charm of the original series

This actually isn't the first time Astroboy has been resurected, nor seen in color. In 1980 he was brought back in The New Adventures of Astro Boy for which his creator, Osamu Tezuka wrote many of the scripts. Somehow, it lacked the charm of the original series, but then, that was the 80s. Domo Origato, Mr. Roboto.

Now the first anime hero to reach US audiences is back, and he's taking advantage of all the advances in technology and computer imaging that the intervening years have brought, but doing so with restraint, and keeping some of the retro flavor of the original. Much more developmental than the original series, there are a range of other viewpoints expressed in the show, from the hopeful, if naive viewpoint of the head of the Robotics Institute who rescued Astro, Dr. O'Shay to the skeptical Chief Detective that fears that a robot with free-will may turn on his creators. Not helping any is Dr. Tenma, who originally created Astro to fill the void left by his son's death, and who subsequently shut him down and destroyed the robotics institute in a fit of rage.

The boy robot's so darn plucky that we're pretty confidant that he'll ultimately make peace with his past and show us all how to get along, but the writers aren't taking the easy path to get there. While Astro spends a fair amount of time each episode saving Metro City from the traditional Japanese onslaught of supervillians and megarobots, he still gets to spend some of it trying to figure out the tough questions: Who am I? Why am I here? And the knottiest one of all, what does it mean to be a creation of humans, made, destroyed and remade?

The newest release of Astro Boy will bring back a lot of fond memories for kids who've (mostly) grown up, while planting new ones in the generation lucky enough to be seeing it for the first time. Good luck, Mighty Atom!

2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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