Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Manga Review: Pluto

These are the covers for the American translation of Pluto

If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you know that I love the Protomen, who sing a rock opera about a robot boy who fights to save mankind, and you know that I love Naoki Urasawa, the genius manga artist who created 20th Century Boys. So it should not come as a surprise that I was blown away by Urasawa's Pluto, a manga series about a robot boy who saves the world.

Urasawa took Tezuka's somewhat goofy designs and updated them to fit his style. Image from

Pluto is a re-imagining of one of Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy stories, "The Greatest Robot on Earth." The plot is about someone--either a robot or a human--going after all of the world's most powerful robots and destroying them one by one. Urasawa chooses to make Astro Boy, or rather Atom, a supporting character in the story, instead focusing the plot on Inspector Gesicht of Europol. Gesicht is tasked with investigating the recent attacks on famous robots and robot experts, but as the investigation goes on he realizes that is more connected to events than it seemed at first.

I don't want to give too many details for fear of spoilers, because the story is really worth discovering from the beginning. To be honest you shouldn't even look at that image above too closely, even though I already decided to remove the picture of the story's primary antagonist, whose shape is obscured for most of the series. One thing I can say is that Pluto showcases the same talent for character development, interconnected storylines, gorgeous artwork, and compelling mysteries that Urasawa displays in 20th Century Boys.

I should include a warning: prepare for a story that is tragic and melancholy. There were several times I had to stop reading because I was so overcome with emotion. I'm a sucker for robots, and I found myself truly caring about the ones in Pluto.

While 20th Century Boys is 22 volumes long, with an additional 2-volume epilogue called 21st Century Boys, Pluto is only 8 volumes long. This means it is easier to get into, and it tells a more self-contained story that makes it clear how Urasawa masterfully weaves together the various plot threads. It also means that Urasawa fans can own the full run of Pluto for less than it costs to buy the full run of 20th Century Boys!

If you are a fan of manga, robots, or just a well-crafted tale, I could not recommend Pluto more highly. And if you're in the Berkeley area, the Berkeley Public Library has all eight volumes, so you now have no excuse not to read the whole series!

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