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Anime / Astro Boy

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Brave and gentle and wise.

There you go, Astro Boy
On your flight into space
Rocket high, through the sky
What adventures soon you will make!
Astro Boy, bombs away
On your mission today
Here's the countdown, and a blast-off
Everything is GO, Astro Boy!
"Astro Boy" Theme Song

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 airing 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.

A fourth series, tentatively titled Astro Boy Reboot has begun production, with a teaser trailer revealing that the series will boast a completely new art style and and a unique combination of computer and hand drawn animation. The series is a collaborative effort between Japanese and French animation studios.

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.
  • Anti-Villain: Pluto.
  • Crossover: A 1969 TV special called Astro Boy vs. the Giants is a crossover between this and a baseball anime called Hoshi of the Giants.
  • Last Episode, New Character: Goku appears at the very end of the final episode, to introduce the new anime Goku's Great Adventures, another work by Tezuka which would be taking over Astro Boy's slot.
  • Lighter and Softer: The 1963 anime was this in comparison to the manga, with several characters Spared by the Adaptation (notably Cobalt).
    • 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.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: In episode 193, after Astro sacrifices himself to save the Earth one last time, Dr. Ochanomizu says that, even if our hero doesn't return, he'll build a second and third model of Astro, right where he was first activated back in episode 1.
  • Switch to Color: "Earth Defense Army" is the only episode to have been produced in color, while "The Last Day of Earth" is produced partially in color.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: A sentient race of dolphin people threaten war on humanity, if they keep developing on their land.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: In the English dub, Tobio's name is "Aster Boynton", rather than Toby like most adaptations that change the names.

The 1980 TV series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: One episode involved an astronaut discovering he was really a robot, and his father would rebuild him every few months to give him the appearance of aging like a human. When asked why, his father explained that he heard the story when Dr. Tenma made Astro to replace his deceased Tobio, but after discovering he couldn't grow, he rejected him and sold him to the circus. This was a call back to Astro's origin story from the manga and the 60's anime, but the 80's version of the story played out differently. Astro had unintentionally embarrassed Dr. Tenma on a cruise, he scolded him out of anger (and got separated from him due to the ship crashing into the iceberg), and the ringmaster of the Robot Circus found Astro and led him astray, rather than being sold to the circus by his dad. It's rather strange that the 80's adaptation made mention of this story when it didn't happen like that this time.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The German dub have this theme song.
  • The Artifact: Dr. Tenma's name is still Dr. Boynton in the English dub, despite his son being called Toby instead of Astor, losing the wordplay from the first show's dub.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Far too many episodes to name.
  • Captain Obvious: A cyborg called Inspector Holmes is shot in the only human part of him: his head. Astro's reaction? "You shot him! In the head! His head was the only part of him that was human! You shot him in his head!"
  • Composite Character: Atlas and the Blue Knight are combined into one character in this series. He also has elements of Astro's "brother" Cobalt.
  • Credits Running Sequence: The end credits shows a succession of pictures of Astro in a flipbook-style animation sequence in which he starts walking, then running, then takes to the air and flies off the page.
  • Crossover: One episode guest-starred several other famous Tezuka characters via Time Travel, including some from Black Jack and Princess Knight. It was called "Black Jack's Big Operation" in Japan, but "The Time Machine" in the English dub (which also renamed all the crossover characters; Black Jack himself became "Dr. Roget").
  • Decided by One Vote: In "Saving Our Classmate", a election for a class president has been called to replace the previous class president who had been transferred out prior. With the two contenders Kenichi and Shibugaki tied, the class realizes that Astro has yet to vote. Astro casts the deciding vote for Kenichi, causing Shibugaki to resent Astro for denying him a shot at the presidency.
  • Dramatic Unmask: In "The Time Machine", a detective pursuing an escaped criminal gets tangled in a situation involving a kingdom being threatened with invasion. With Astro's help, the invasion is defeated and the leader of the invading army is unmasked as the same criminal he was looking for in the first place.
  • False Reassurance: Heroic example; in order to avoid putting more stress on a young blind girl, Astro impersonates the destroyed robot True and states "I'm fine! I need to go rescue more people now!" This is all technically true — since robots can't normally lie — but it's not coming from the person she thinks it is.
  • Intangible Price: In "The Time Machine", a guest-starring Black Jack asks his usual high price for saving the life of a crown prince, and is given the key to the royal treasury and a promise that he may take anything he chooses. After the successful operation, he recalls the promise and says that what he chooses to take with him when he leaves the kingdom is an unjust law that he's learned has been causing the prince grief.
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: In "The Time Machine", the operator of the time machine travels back to the 15th century and the first person he encounters, entirely coincidentally, is the protagonist of Princess Knight.
  • Last Request: Whereas the other adaptations kill Tobio off on the spot, in this version Tobio gets to say his last words to Dr. Tenma, allowing the robot to replace him as his son and urging him to dote on him the same way he would on Tobio. Unfortunately, this does not came to pass.
  • Precision F-Strike: A minor example. In the original Japanese, once in awhile some adult characters would say minor swears, like "what the hell" or "dammit". The English dub dialogue would be rewritten without words like that to be a bit more child friendly, but one episode inexplicably had Dr. Elefun refer to the planet Venus as having "thousands of degrees of fiery hell", though Dr. Elefun's voice actor said it quick enough that it would be easy to miss.
  • Puppy Love: In the final episode Astro falls for a robot girl. She ends up dying.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Or, in the case of Dr. Tenma, a cruise. Dr. Tenma takes Tobio on a cruise to America to start a new life there after the whole runaway tank ordeal, because the fact that Tobio is a robot can no longer be hidden. However, Dr. Tenma appeared to ditch him after their dinner goes horribly wrong. In remorse, Dr. Tenma later searches for him during Tobio's first confrontation with Atlas, but Hamegg (who had earlier forced Tobio to sign a lifetime contract to work at a robot circus) abducts Tobio, leaving Dr. Tenma searching for him. The second episode was the final time Dr. Tenma appeared, and he is nowhere to be seen anywhere else.
    • Despite being established as one of the Big Bads, Skunk appeared up to "The Devil Balloon" (episode 19) and nowhere thereafter.
    • Averted with Tobio's pet dog Jump (brought back with the activation of Astro's new parents), and later Tenma's colleague Dr. Honda.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The scene where Atlas first appears after his upgrade and massacres a squad of policemen is set to a rather upbeat, almost triumphant piece of classical music, probably to symbolize Atlas' view of himself as a hero, defending robotkind from the evils of humanity.
  • Time Machine: "The Time Machine" features a visitor from the 23rd century with a machine that looks like a flying car but can travel to any place on Earth at any time in history.
  • Time Police: The time traveler in "The Time Machine" introduces himself as a member of the time police who has been attempting to track down a criminal who fled into the past.

The 2003 TV series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The 2003 series is notable in that it deviates the most from its original source material, even adding all new stories at times.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Anything can corrupt a robot, from hacking to resentment.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The English theme is a lot more energetic, electronic-sounding, and purely instrumental.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: There is a sharp contrast between the English dub intro and the Japanese intro. The Japanese intro has a pop song and focuses on the cute and happier part of the anime. The English intro is an instrumental-only rock song and there's much more of an emphasis on action and robotics.
  • Arm Cannon: Astro has one of these in this version instead of the traditional awkwardly-placed machine guns.
  • Big Bad: Doctor Tenma.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Acetylene Lamp, Skunk, Hamegg and Dr. Katō.
  • Big Brother Bully: Atlas was built as Astro was by Tenma, so they are technically siblings, as Atlas admits. When Tenma gives Atlas the means to go off-script and attack Astro, the robot is only happy to comply.
  • Bullying a Dragon: A group of teens goes after Astro, who could curbstomp them. He lampshades it, saying that it wouldn't be a fair fight when they challenge him to respond to their taunting. Then they try doing the same to Atlas. It doesn't go well.
  • Canon Foreigner: Shadow, who was created solely for this series. Though he does make an appearance of sorts in Omega Factor. Sort of. He's loosely based on Dr. Abullah/Goji from the original World's Strongest Robot arc, but his backstory and motives are completely different.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "With your heart, catch the future!" in the Japanese version.
    • "Leeeeeet's ROCKET!" in the American version.
  • Circus Episode: In "Robot Circus", one of the members of a robot circus, Reno is actually a human boy disguised as a robot. When this is discovered, the authorities try to take the boy away from his robot family.
  • Combining Mecha: In "Rocket Ball", the brainwashed Harley of Team Omega combines with his teammates to form a bigger version of himself.
  • 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.
  • Cool Train: Neon Express is a train with A.I.
  • Crossover:
    • "Higeoyaji, the Famous Detective" featured Chiyoko Wato from The Three-Eyed One as an adult version of herself, alongside Sharaku, this time as her son.
    • The two-part episodes "Shape Shifter" and "Phoenix" feature both Tamami, Saruta Okami, Rock, and Firebird from Phoenix.
  • 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.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Ochanomizu reactivates Astro by causing a citywide power outage and offering to take the blame. This leads to a police investigation, and Astro being revealed before he properly learns about the world.
  • 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.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Eventually, Astro tells Tenma that he's not Tobio in any form, and never will be. Tenma seems to accept this... at first.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Shadow was deliberately built to be this, shoring up Tenma's own shortcomings in robotics with his own incredible intelligence.
  • Driven to Suicide: Dr. Tenma in the finale.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Dr. Tenma, though for robots rather than humans. He built Astro with an Adaptive Ability that would enable him to "evolve" into the world's most powerful robot, and keeps throwing dangerous situations at him to help the evolution along.
  • Evil Plan:
    • The robot-hating Lamp would do anything to eliminate robots, including sparking a war, to the point of attempting to kill Astro and Tenma.
    • Skunk has them when he appears; usually either revenge on Astro or making money.
    • Tenma's larger scale plan is a world where robots rule the world and are ruled by Astro himself.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Dr. Tenma, who schemes to make robots rule over humans, and Lamp, who wants to get rid of robots completely.
  • Fallen Hero: Tenma used to be a respected scientist, the head of Ministry. Tobio's death broke him. Tawashi reveals he vanished and went underground, making illicit deals to pay the bills.
  • Heel Realization: Dr. Tenma has one in the finale.
  • 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.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The final arc is kicked off when General Red's daughter is injured and put into a coma, and his robot butler Jake (whom Red forbids from spending time with her) is accused of assault. In reality, his daughter had tripped, and Jake was trying to help her. At court, Ochanomizu argues that Jake should be allowed to speak, as he is capable of free will and honesty. The court agrees with the Professor — and decide that, if Jake can possess free will, then he must also possess the ability to lie, therefore the court cannot believe whatever he says. Ochanomizu is understandably upset by this.
  • Lies to Children: Child robot at least. Ochanomizu lets Astro believe that he built the latter as a means to bridge robots and humans, to let him know he wasn't a replacement for a dead boy. Atlas later reveals that their real father is Dr. Tenma, much to Astro's anguish, and Ochanomizu is forced to tell the truth.
  • 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.)
  • Lip Lock: Abercrombie's rather silly name is a consequence of having the same number of Mouth Flaps as the original Japanese "Shibugaki".
  • Mad Bomber: Kato combines this trope with Mad Artist. His character design is based on another Tezuka star called Rainbow Parakeet, but he is pure villain unlike the source material and the real face behind the mask is somewhat different.
  • Mirror Character: A corporate head Tokugawa had a child he called Daichi and started neglecting him, much like how Tenma neglected Tobio and late Astro. In the original, Daichi dies during an illicit trip to the space shuttle; in the dub, Daichi was always a robot and got busted for trespassing and attempted hijacking. Either way, his father was grieving and refretful. This is why Tenma takes pity on the man when he begs him to rebuild Daichi after the latter is ordered dismantled following his attempt to hijack a moon shuttle. Daichi later becomes Atlas. When Tokugawa says he treated the robot like his own son, Tenma snarkily says, "I see that."
  • Meaningful Echo: "And so we begin. Again."
  • Mechanical Evolution: Astro's intended function.
  • Meaningful Rename: The reason why Dr. Ochanomizu insists on renaming the robot Astro. He knows the boy isn't Tobio in any form, and is angry that Tenma doesn't understand that.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The story of Daichi for his father. It's not that different from neglecting your own child and taking them for granted. Daichi becomes resentful awhile playing the part of a model son and threatens to dismantle everything his father built. Tokugawa is more horrified than angry when he realizes.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Atlas lets Astro live despite curbstomping him, realizing Tenma both built them. He admits they're brothers.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Tenma when Astro seemingly dies.
  • Power Glows: Astro, supposedly as a result of incorporating a kind of surge-protector that somehow converts excess electricity into photons.
  • Precocious Crush: Astro develops one in an episode at a space camp.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Detective Tawashi is this. In one episode, he learns a robot is committing bank robberies, and sees said robot running away from Astro. The detective knows Astro isn't involved but hears their conversation about Astro trying to convince Denkou of the truth that her "friend" Skunk is a thief using her. Then he orders the police to nonviolently corner Denkou and ask her to surrender calmly. When Skunk says Denkou has an EMP strapped to her that will blow up the city's power, Tawashi orders Astro to find her and holds his fire when he safely gets her out of range. Then he returns Denkou to her creator, knowing she was manipulated into thinking stealing is a game.
  • Runaway Train: One episode features a robot-run train getting hijacked by a virus. Astro works to calm the passengers and find the virus.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune:
    • The opening theme for the first half of the series is "True Blue" performed by Zone; it was replaced by "Now or Never" performed by Chemistry and M-Flo during the Blue Knight arc before changing back to "True Blue" for the final two episodes.
    • The ending theme for the first half of the series is "Boy's Heart" by Fumiya Fujii; during the Blue Knight arc, most of the episodes alternate between either a solemn, slow-paced version or an energetic, fast-paced version of "Mighty Atom", performed by Zone.
  • Robot Athlete: The players in "Rocket Ball".
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Tenma is one to Astro, the robotic doppelganger of his son.
  • Stealth Mentor: Tenma built Astro with the ability to "evolve" and then sends increasingly deadly robots like Atlas and Pluto to try to kill him in order to make him stronger.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Atlas holds back from fighting Astro when the latter believes Ochanomizu is his creator and father. He then says with pity, "You don't know who your creator is, little brother" and tells him the truth. Of course, then Atlas proceeds to beat him to a pulp.
  • Token Black Friend: Kenichi/Kennedy acts as one to Astro.
  • Token White: Shibugaki/Abercrombie acts as one to Astro.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: A variant; in this version, Astro knows that he's a robot, but he's told that he was build to create a bridge between humans and robots. He doesn't react well when learning he was built to be a replacement for a dead child, and a potential world conqueror.
  • Too Long; Didn't Dub : "Kokoro", used in context for robots with Advanced AI, can translate into Heart, Soul, Emotions, etc.
  • Tragic Villain: Atlas for most of the series. He was originally Daichi, a robot child built for a business head named Tokugawa. (At least, in the dub; in the original, Daichi was a human child who died in a tragic accident, as Tobio did, and Atlas was his robotic doppelganger). Dub Tokugawa had to dismantle him after Daichi grew up and tried to hijack a space shuttle, but he asked Tenma to save him instead. The power upgrades fueled Atlas's trauma-induced rage, allowing him to attack his father's company as he maintains the identity of a model son. He eventually goes to the moon...but without the father who promised to take him there.
  • Translation Nod: Astro gets his name from a sign that's nearby when he's first activated. The sign is thoughtfully designed to include both "Atom" (his Japanese name) and "Astro" (his English name), one as the first word on the sign and the other as the acronym formed by the initial letters of all the words.
  • Ultimate Universe: To the classic anime series of Astro Boy.
  • Victory-Guided Amnesia: Astro manages to end the Battle of Robotonia and restore the trust between humans and robots, but is knocked unconscious after blocking Lamp's attack on the Blue Knight and the robots on his spaceship. Numerous attempts to revive Atom failed, and Dr. Ochanomizu entrusts Astro to Dr. Tenma (who knows all the details), who wipes Astro's memory, making Astro believe he is Tobio and forgetting about his time with Ochanomizu.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Dr. Tenma has one spanning the last two episodes.
  • Villain Has a Point: Atlas calls out his father figure Tokugawa for mistreating robots, including him. He also tells Astro that robots are feared, and they should fight back. Astro is forced to confront that the fear is a real thing.
  • Villainous Rescue: Dr. Tenma saves Astro from a mind-controlled Atlas.
  • We Can Rule Together: How Tenma tries to convince Astro to come with him in the end.
  • Where's the Kaboom?: Kato has planted bombs all over the robot revolutionary Blue Knight's sanctuary and is about to press the button on the detonator, taunting Astro that the only way to stop him is to kill him and prove he's just as ruthless as Blue Knight. Astro opens fire on him and apparently misses. Cue maniacal laughter as the villain presses the button. Click, click, click. Astro decided to Take a Third Option and was actually firing at the communications antenna that would relay the remote detonator's signal.
  • The Worf Effect: Atlas curbstomps Astro in their first battle; slightly justified by Astro trying to talk him down. It shows how strong Atlas is.
  • Xanatos Gambit:
    • Creating Pluto was this for Tenma. Either Astro loses 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.
  • Zee Rust: Some of the technology can now be considered this. In one episode Dr. O'Shay whips out a phone that looks for the most part like a normal phone with buttons from the early 2000's when this show was made, except for a small circular screen that can show live videos.

The Astro Boy Reboot series provides examples of: