Originally entitled Tetsuwan Atom ("Mighty Atom" or literally "Iron Arm Atom"), it was created by Osamu Tezuka, the artist whose style defined the look of anime and manga. It began life as a manga in 1952 and has been brought to television as an anime three times:First in 1963. 193 episodes were created, although only 104 were exported and dubbed for viewing outside of Japan. It's historically significant, as the first full-length anime series to be broadcast in Japan, and the first to be distributed in the USA. Along with 8th Man, Kimba the White Lion, Gigantor and Speed Racer, it introduced anime to American audiences and paved the way for more sophisticated works on both sides of the Pacific.A second series was created in 1980. It followed the 1963 series closely, with many episodes being direct remakes. It also introduced a unique sub-plot running thoughout the series, dealing with the creation of Atlas from Astro's blueprints (making them virtually "brothers" in the robot sense) - and his own development as a character, after having the Omega Factor installed. The 2003 series would also touch upon Atlas's and Astro's similarities, but not quite to the same extreme.A third Astro Boy series debuted on April 7, 2003, the date of Astro Boy's "birth" in the original manga. This version (the first not to be overseen by Osamu Tezuka, who had died in 1989) differs significantly in some aspects of the setting and Astro Boy's origins.
The 1963 TV series provides examples of:
Anime Theme Song: Possibly the Ur Example. Originally, the 1963 version had an instrumental theme. The dub was actually the first to give it lyrics, with the original Japanese version following suit later.
Ironically, the anime ends with Astro Boy sacrificing himself to prevent the sun from exploding. This also happens in the manga, but he's revived by aliens afterwards.
Missing Episode: The Midoro Swamp episode is usually cut from re-releases because it was poorly animated, even by the standards of the time.
And the English version cuts out even more episodes; only 104 out of the original 193 beast were ever dubbed.
This is because the American dubbers had become increasingly worried about the violence in the show, America and Japan having taken Astro Boy in rather different directions, and a combination of fatigue over this and cultural differences in approach to animated stories (Japan wanted to resolve the story, America decided that 104 episodes was plenty to allow for reruns) resulted in the American studio cancelling its contract. Osamu Tezuka himself had grown tired of working on Astro Boy and wanted to pursue other stories, hence why even the Japanese version ended at episode 193.
Sapient Cetaceans: A sentient race of dolphin people threaten war on humanity, if they keep developing on their land.
Bad Export for You: Sort of. On the dub's DVD release, the episodes are for the most part wildly out of order. And there isn't a Japanese language track or subtitles. The dub is pretty good all things considered, but it's hard to ignore this stuff.
Furthermore, in a crossover with Macekre while the episode count is the same as the Japanese version, one of them was replaced by a Clip Show episode
Composite Character: Atlas has elements of Cobalt, in that he's Astro's "brother" (though in a completely different way from the 80s version). The 2003 version of Franken is actually a composite of two completely different robots from the manga (a robot chauffeur from the 1960s Sankei Newspaper serial and a magnetic robot panhandler (It Makes Sense in Context. Sort of) from a short tie-in manga for the 80s series) and has almost nothing to do with the original series' Franken, apart from becoming a flashpoint for anti-robot sentiment, which the Sankei version already did anyway.
Cross Over: The two-part episodes "Shape Shifter" and "Phoenix" feature both Tamami, Saruta Okami, Rock, and Firebird from Phoenix.
Dragon-in-Chief: Shadow was deliberately built to be this, shoring up Tenma's own shortcomings in robotics with his own incredible intelligence.
Deal with the Devil: When Astro Boy is killed during the Battle of Robotonia, the Ministry of Science is unable to reverse it. Dr. Tenma claims to know how and Dr. Ochanomizu turns to him as a last resort. Dr. Tenma succeeds, but at the cost of wiping Astro's memory clean, which he had intended to do all along.
Demoted to Extra: Brando, Montblanc & North #2 still appear in this version of the World's Strongest Robot arc, but only as random goons sent to stop Pluto's path of destruction and are almost immediately ripped to shreds by him.
Die or Fly: Instead of being built with his various gadgets from the start, Astro "evolves" them in response to life-threatening situations, such as his iconic rocket boots after falling out the window of an office building.
History Repeats: Tenma gets what he thinks he wants, but it ends up the same way every time The original Tobio rebels and takes the car for the fateful drive that claims his life, then he shuts down Astro at the first sign of rebellion and independent thought, attempting to do the same when Astro regains his memory
Lighter and Softer: Both this and Darker and Edgier. Astro's angsty past is retconned away, but the series in general took on a much more serious tone than the two previous anime.
While the outcome for Astro is maybe less tragic than the manga or previous versions, it's potentially even darker. Instead of simply selling off Astro, Tenma actually effectively shuts down Astro after he expresses his horror at seeing old Ministry of Science robots being scrapped, and shows signs of rebellion
Line-of-Sight Name: Our hero gets his name from a sign that's nearby when he's first activated. (The sign is thoughtfully designed to include both "Atom" and "Astro", one as the first word on the sign and the other as the acronym formed by the initial letters of all the words.)
Missing Episode: Dub only - the 20th episode "Eternal Boy" has been omitted from release with the rest of the series in Digital and DVD form, mainly because the plot revolves around the Peter Pan story, which is still under copyright by Great Ormand Street Hospital in the US and UK. It was replaced with a clip show episode, with Tenma and Shadow discussing Astro's progress up to that point in the series.
Creating Pluto was this for Tenma. Either Astro losses or evolves and becomes stronger. He's perfectly happy either way. When Pluto instead has a Heel-Face Turn, Shadow reveals he has a stronger robot in the wing, Archeron, who has no emotions.
Skunk has one early on. He uses robots to hunt other robots and sell their parts on the black market. He hid his home base in a abandoned ice cream factory and here's where the gambit comes in. If no one finds him, he can continue unbothered but hopes Astro does find him because he has a trap set up.