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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lighter and Softer: The 1963 anime was this in comparison to the manga, with several characters Spared by the Adaptation (notably Colbat).
- 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.
- 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.
The 1980 TV series provides examples of:
- 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").
- Downer Ending: Far too many episodes to name.
- 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.
- Insubstantial Ingredients: 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.
- Puppy Love: In the final episode Astro falls for a robot girl. She ends up dying.
- 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.
- 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.
- Black Best Friend: Kenichi/Kennedy acts as one to Astro.
- 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.
- Catch-Phrase: "Leeeeeet's ROCKET!"
- 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: 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Mad Bomber: Kato combines this trope with Mad Artist.
- Meaningful Echo: "And so we begin. Again."
- Mechanical Evolution: Astro's intended function.
- Non-Action Big Bad: Dr. Tenma
- Ominous Pipe Organ: Tenma plays one.
- 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.
- Robot Athlete: The players in "Rocket Ball".
- Stalker Without a Crush: Tenma is one to Astro.
- 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.
- Too Long; Didn't Dub : "Kokoro", used in context for robots with Advanced AI, can translate into Heart, Soul, Emotions, etc.
- Ultimate Universe: To the classic anime series of Astro Boy.
- We Can Rule Together: How Tenma tries to convince Astro to come with him in the end.
- Where's the Kaboom?: Rainbow Parakeet 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.
- Villainous Breakdown: Dr. Tenma has one spanning the last two episodes.
- Villainous Rescue: Dr. Tenma saves Astro from a mind-controlled Atlas.
- 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:
- Medium Blending: As shown in a pencil test of the teaser and the teaser itself, the show will combine CGI enviroments with traditionally animated characters.
- Shining City: The city seen in the trailer is certainly picturesque.