Not too far in the future, but just before a certain robot was made, Japan was nearly decimated in a gigantic catastrophe of unknown origin. However, five years later, the country is well on its way to recovery - thanks to huge leaps in robotics technology. Indeed, robots are now a part of everyday life and the populace has been caught in a literal robo-craze. But despite the advancements, robots are not humanity's partners, nor even servants - by the end, they're just heartless tools.
However, two young postgrad students at the Nerima University advanced robotics department plan to reach yet unheard of achievements in robotics. The result of their research is the "Bewußtsein System" - a new take on the concept of AI, where rather than developing an artificial "intelligence", but rather an artificial "awareness". They believe that this will allow robots to form actual feelings and thoughts on their own accord without further human input. In short, the system would give robots "hearts". To this end, they created the A10 series of robots in order to test the system, with the newest one in the series being the android A106, often simply called "Six". But the two young researchers don't exactly see eye to eye on what they're trying to accomplish with the Bewußtsein System.
The first one wants the system to allow robots to evolve to the point that they'll be able to stand together with humanity. Not as helpers, but as equals. Long story short, he aims to create a "friend".
The second one, on other hand, dreams on creating a robot that would surpass not only anything modern robotics can throw at it, but also humanity itself. Maybe as a take that to all nay-sayers, or just because he believes he can. Either way, his aim is clear and the hand steady - he wants to create a man-made "god".
Those two researchers and best friends are Hiroshi Ochanomizu and Umatarou Tenma. At this point, in their rundown lab near a junkyard, they could've never foreseen what their research would lead to. After all, who would've thought that from such meager beginnings would come the world's greatest champion and protector, one that would become the bridge between humanity and robots - the Mighty Atom, Astro Boy.
Atom: The Beginning is an Science Fiction Manga series, and a prequel to Osamu Tezuka's classic Astro Boy series, written by Makoto Tezuka and illustrated by Tetsuro Kasahara. It began serialization in Shogakukan's Monthly HERO'S magazine on December 1, 2014 but moved to the digital Comiplex service with the rest of HERO'S manga in 2020. It received an Animated Adaptation that premiered as part of the Spring 2017 Anime broadcasting season by Signal.MD (Recovery of an MMO Junkie). It is available for streaming via Amazon's Anime Strike service.
Atom: The Beginning includes the examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: A lot of things are moved around in the anime. Ran's meeting with Motoko combines their first and second encounters in the manga, Six's introduction takes from scenes later in Chapter 1, and in general certain encounters are redone or refitted.
- Adaptational Early Appearance: Several characters that appear during the Mecha City parade in episode 1 do so much earlier than in the manga. This includes Six's opponents from the Robot Gladiators games, Dr. Lolo, Ran, and both Bans.
- After the End: An unexplained disaster laid waste to Japan's cities, leaving a metaphorical dead forest of concrete and steel that still stands even five years later. However, it didn't take long for mankind to pick up afterwards. Later revelations will imply that it was caused by Japan's "Project T" in an attempt to replicate the advanced technology from a recovered Astro Boy.
- All Part of the Show: The public at the Mecha City Parade thought that the giant robot's malfunction and Six's efforts to stop it from exploding where all part of the program.
- Alternate Timeline: What the truth of the story winds up being many volumes into the story: after the time travel arc in the original Astro Boy, there was a Point of Divergence as the original Ochanomizu ceased his efforts in robotics to search for Astro/Tobio, causing the evolution of robotics technology to slow to crawl compared to the original timeline. Because of this shift in history, people would wind up being born much later in the timeline than they originally were, including this version of Hiroshi & Umatarou (as well as Umatarou's future wife and Tobio's mother, Hoshie), as well as the advent of advanced robotics (including sentience & personality) happening in a much earlier state of robotics than it should have been.
- As You Know: The first chapter and episode has Tenma and Ochanomizu explain their current situation to the audience and to each other.
- Creator Cameo: The members of After the Rain, who perform the anime's opening theme, appear as minor characters in episode 4.
- Do Androids Dream?: Explores the concept a bit. And in the more literal sense, we actually do get to see a robot dream; Six has several of them across the series.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: In volume 3, after he shuts himself down to preserve power, Six has a dream of the day that Atom/Astro wakes up for the first time.
- Eye Catch: In the animated adaptation, the eyecatches are done from Six's perspective from wherever he is at that point in the episode.
- Gag Nose: Indeed, even in his younger years, Ochanomizu's nose is pretty dang huge, though not as much as in his golden years. Tenma, too, exhibits an above-average schnoz, though not nearly as much as his lab partner.
- Generation Xerox: Shunsaku's father Kensaku looks exactly like what he would grow up to be when he later becomes Astro's teacher.
- Gladiator Games: Six participates in a robot fighter circuit in order to gain more funds for Lab 7.
- Gratuitous German: "Bewußtsein" means "Consciousness" in German.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: This trope is the entire idea behind the Bewußtsein System.
- I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Motoko's growing infatuation with Ochanomizu stems from this. She was able to wrap men around her finger in the past, but the kindhearted, big-nosed student remains elusive to her (which is either because he can't take a hint or outside circumstances).
- I Was Quite a Looker: Like Young Black Jack before it, all of the characters from Astro Boy that appear here are quite handsome in their youth. Special notice goes to Ochanomizu and Shunsaku.
- My Eyes Are Leaking: The anime's opening song, "Indecipherable", talks about a being slowly gaining the capacity for emotions and describing a large amount of incomprehensible data flowing out of them. It makes it clearer near the end of the chorus, where the "indecipherable flows out of their cheeks".
- The Nicknamer: Hiroshi, in contrast to Tenma's repetitive naming conventions, gives all of their robots nicknames or things resembling actual names. It's one of many things that shows where their priorities on robotics lie.
- Retraux: The anime's end cards, courtesy of #Konna Black Jack wa Iya Da's Tsunogai.
- The Reveal: It turns out that Dr. Lolo is Moriya.
- Rule of Cool: The only possible reason as to why Tenma decided that a robot designed primarily for AI testing needs Super Strength.
- Running Gag: Tenma and Hiroshi like to honk each other's noses a lot. Whenever they fight, when they bond, even just for fun. It's an awfully common occurrence due to how large their schnozes are.
- Punny Name: Two puns in one: the cat's name is F14, like the Grumman F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft. Hiroshi noticed the pun first and nicknamed him "Tom" because of it, but Ran however named him that way because that's the date she and Hiroshi adopted him (February 14th).
- Wham Episode: The end of volume 7. Ochanomizu is revealed to be a Decomposite Character, with the older "Granpa Ochanomizu" being the father of modern robotics, and possibly the one in Astro Boy and Hiroshi Ochanomizu being the creator of A106. Furthermore, the Scara Time Travel arc is shown to have been already happened, with both Ochanomizus' obsession for robotics stemming from the brief period Prime!Astroboy spent with the elder one.