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Mumbling Kitsune: Pluto - For the Giant Robot in You
Naoki Urasawa's robot-based murder mystery is coming to America and you need to read it.
By Nadia Oxford
October 20, 2008
© Viz Media
As we grow up, we lose our passion for certain childish exploits, like playing with dolls and throwing dead fish at cars. But there's one childhood love that deserves to live on in our hearts forever, and that's our love for robots.
Luckily, anime and manga caters to our young passions through the timeless works of Osamu Tezuka—and through works inspired by the original manga master. Adults who may feel a bit too old for the bubbly robot hero Astro Boy (or at least don't want to be caught reading his exploits on the subway) will find intrigue, murder and mystery in Naoki Urasawa's Pluto—and, comfortingly, they'll also find some awesome robot action.
The official “Tezuka in English” website discusses Pluto at length
, summing it up as “Astro Boy for adults.” Though Osamu Tezuka's life lessons apply to all ages, works like Astro Boy were in fact written and drawn with children in mind, since Tezuka strove to reach the citizens of the future above his other audiences. Pluto explores some of the rawer violence and philosophical questions Astro Boy had to leave behind.
Fortunately it doesn't stray far from what makes Tezuka's work so strong. Indeed, Urasawa's work is based on one of Astro Boy's most famous story arcs: “The World's Strongest Robot,” in which seven of the world's most powerful robots are pitted against each other for human amusement. One Europol robot, Gesicht, must get to the bottom of a string of murders committed against the world's strongest robots and humans close to them. Mounting evidence marks the executioner as a shadowy robot, a very unorthodox killer.
One of Pluto's most noteworthy traits is Urasawa's preference for a realistic, seinen art style versus Tezuka's Disney-inspired cartoons. Astro and his sister, Uran, both play prominent roles in the manga and it's initially jarring to see them portrayed as robots who are literally indistinguishable from humans.
The role of robots in human society is always a fascinating topic to stroke beards and nod over, and Pluto takes an especially in-depth look at the conflicts between robots and their fleshy creators. Gesicht, much like Astro and his sister, is an extremely advanced robot who's indistinguishable from humans; he has a home, a job and even a wife. Urasawa's robots all “mimic” human life in a manner that unnerves social critics, including marrying and adopting specially-made robot children.
But Pluto is far from being a stuffy social commentary powered by slow investigation scenes. Urasawa has included some majestic robot designs in his stable, such as the massive battle-bodies inhabited by crowd favourites like Heracles. The story of Pluto is rooted in a bloody robot war that shaped current society and haunts Gesicht; Urasawa isn't shy about letting robots rip into each other for the sake of human survival as well as their own.
Quality seinen manga sometimes gets overlooked in America for the shonen genre, but Pluto needs to be picked up by anyone who considers themselves a fan of the medium. Viz Media has picked up the license and will start publishing the official translation at the beginning of February 2009. For the love of your inner robot, don't miss out on it.