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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 for decades to follow. It began life as a manga in 1952, and has been brought to television as an anime three times, in 1963, 1980, and 2003. The first anime in particular is historically significant.
In the unimaginably distant future year of 2001, Dr. Tenma of the Institute of Science loses his son in a fatal traffic accident. Half-mad with grief, the scientist/roboticist creates "Tetsuwan Atom"—a rocket-powered android in the boy's image, and programs him to be a "good little boy." After a series of tragedies and misadventures, including his abandonment by his "father," Atom is rescued and adopted by Dr. Ochanomizu, also of the Institute. A kindly, altruistic man, Ochanomizu's positive traits combine with his original programming to inspire Atom to take up crime fighting. This decision soon leads him into all manner of danger and excitement, as he battles mad scientists, evil aliens and giant robots.
Tetsuwan Atom/Astro Boy is something of a cultural phenomenon in Japan; the character is virtually a folk hero. For example, on April 7, 2003—the date of Astro Boy's "birth" within the show—the third TV series debuted and celebrations were held all over the world; the largest of course were in Japan, but even across America and Europe Japanese neighborhoods threw parties to commemorate the event. A commemorative plaque stands in the Tokyo district that the manga identifies as Atom's birthplace.
The third TV series inspired a video game, Astro Boy Omega Factor, that is generally held to have avoided The Problem with Licensed Games; later a second game was released for the Play Station 2 that unfortunately did not avoid The Problem with Licensed Games. A CGI movie produced by Imagi Animation Studios was released in October 2009, also bringing to the table a mediocre movie-based game that spanned several consoles. In early 2011, an iPhone/iPod game called Astro Boy: Tap Tap Rush was released, first in Japan and then later in the US.
The manga provides examples of
- Abusive Parents: Dr. Tenma is an early Manga example. After he lost his son in a traffic accident, he built Astroboy like a Replacement Goldfish. Shortly after he realized a Replacement Goldfish is not a substitute for the original thing, and he began to berate and scorn Astroboy constantly, yelling him for such a nefarious crimes like being unable to grow up. Finally he got fed up with Astroboy and sold him in slavery. Thank God Astroboy was programmed to be a "good boy" and he was taken in by Dr. Ochanomizu, who was an altruistic, kind man instilled and nurtured those traits in Astroboy, or maybe he could have become a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
- Anime Hair: Trope Codifier
- Blue Knight
- Ass Kicks You: He has dual machine guns in his butt. Which, coupled by the fact he's half naked all the time is the main reason Western audiences find Astro Boy strange. Or hilarious. Or strangely hilarious.
- This has been debated constantly. Some think the machine guns are in his hips, and with Tezuka's simplistic drawing style at the time, you could probably see why.
- Author Avatar: The collected editions have introductions in comic-strip form, showing Tezuka in his studio talking "to camera" about the stories (and sometimes being visited by the characters, who
complain aboutsuggest things for him to explain to the audience).
- Badass Adorable: Whatever else he may be, Astro is always this. May be the earliest example, and certainly the earliest in anime. (Of course, Astro is the earliest for a lot of things in anime.)
- Blue and Orange Morality: One story had Astro encounter an alien who had assisted in humanity's evolution. Said alien, having seen what has become of the human race, decides to destroy if in order to put Earth out of its misery. When Astro counters that there are good humans, the alien simply retorts that "Good" and "Evil" are strictly human concepts; as far as the rest of the universe is concerned, "All humans are worthless!"
- Combining Mecha
- Completely Different Title
- Compulsory School Age
- Continuity Snarl: Dear lord, so very many of them. Try to put the stories into a continuous timeline and the only thing you'll end up with is a headache.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Averted. In one story, a terrorist organization steals dogs and grafts their brains in mechanical, humanoid bodies in order to create loyal and utterly obedient soldiers. However, in the prologue of the story, Osamu Tezuka argued as far as he was concerned, the soul or spirit of the being always endures, even it if is mechanized.
- Deal with the Devil: Subverted in the retelling of Astro's origin in the Scara time travel arc. A suspicious-looking Japanese-American businessman offers to fund Dr. Tenma's project to create a robot boy, if Tenma will let the man borrow the robot for one day. The man turns out to be a civil rights activist who only shows Astro how badly robots need rights themselves.
- Detect Evil: Astro's incorruptible heart is advanced enough to tell if someone is evil or a complete jerk.
- Drowning My Sorrows
- Everybody Hates Hades
- Evil Counterpart
- Evilutionary Biologist
- Fantastic Drug: In one issue, there was a drug called Yellow Horse which made the people who took it dance crazily.
- Fantastic Racism: A major recurring theme. Humans in this future choose robots as scapegoats to society's problems.
- Fluffy Tamer: Uran
- Four-Fingered Hands
- The Hero Dies - In the Scara arc, we see Astro's demise - which is directly linked to his birth.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The closest thing Uran ever got to a love interest was Pluto, who's at least two stories tall.
- Humongous Mecha: While not a piloted mecha, Pluto comes close to being one.
- Just a Machine
- McNinja: A gag panel from the "World's Strongest Robot" arc.
- Motherly Scientist: Dr. Ochanomizu takes the parental role, as well as The Professor.
- Never Say "Die": variation: Tezuka and co. had faith that kids could handle such heavy concepts as death, but Executive Meddling on both sides of the Pacific forced them to tone it down. He does kill humans a few times in the manga, though, including an eco-terrorist about to throw a bomb into a room full of hostages & scads of American soldiers about to bomb a village full of innocent civilians during a time travel incident that put him smack-dab in the middle of The Vietnam War.
- No New Fashions in the Future: The series is set in the early 2000s, but clothing hasn't changed much since the 50s (or, later on, the 80s).
- Nothing Can Stop Us Now: Hercules' last words are "I am the greatest robot in the world!"
- Not So Different: You have human-hating robots and robot-hating humans.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist
- Our Hero Is Dead
- Parental Abandonment: Seeing that Astro was not physically growing, Tenma cruelly tells him he's not his son and sells him to the Robot Circus. But of course, Tenma was mentally unstable to begin with.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: Astro constantly questions the humanity he protects to the point of being completely bewildered by their hostile actions to one another.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Next to Pluto, Astro's quite possibly the most powerful robot on Earth.
- The Professor: Astro's mentor, Ochanomizu.
- Power Levels: Astro's power is measured in horsepower, possessing in essence a 100,000 limit.
- Rage Against the Author
- Recycled in Space: It's Pinocchio WITH ROBOTS!
- Replacement Goldfish: Deconstructed.
- Reused Character Design: As usual for Tezuka, many of the supporting characters are drawn from his "Star System" of recurring character designs. Played with in one story where Astro is approached by a sinister-seeming businessman who turns out to have altruistic motives; for Tezuka fans, the initial distrust is enhanced by the businessman's character design, which Tezuka had previously only used for villains.
- Ridiculously-Human Robots: Astro and Uran fit this to a T. Other machine characters look less human, even other androids like Astro and his sister are't that perfect.
- Robo-Family: One of the first examples (if not the first), Astro has his sister Uran, a couple of brothers (who don't appear in most adaptations for reasons of Adaptation Distillation), and his robot parents, all created after him to remedy his lack of a real family; as well as his other 'sibling' Atlas.
- Robot Buddy
- Robot Girl: Uran.
- Robot Kid
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids
- Tech Marches On
- Those Two Guys
- Time Travel - The Scara arc has the explosion of an alien spaceship send Astro back to 1969. Several other stories contain time travel as well.
- Never the Selves Shall Meet: Astro's lifeless body still exists by the time Dr. Tenma originally constructs him, and the newborn Astro can't be activated until the older Astro is destroyed.
- The Slow Path: After he's sent to the past, Astro has to live through the time until his present.
- Timey-Wimey Ball
- Transforming Mecha
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The original manga was written in the 50s and set in the early 2000s.
- Unbuilt Trope
- Underwear of Power
- Utopia: Astro's world is a more hopeful vision of the future, with all the cliches seen today: high-rise buildings stretching into the sky, robots everywhere, flying cars, and world peace. In the manga, the only country that wages war is Pekoku (Peacock). Tezuka lived in a time where nuclear war seemed a great possibility and as such the manga was a positive look on the use of atomic power.
- Warring Natures
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Deconstructed.
- Zeerust: For one thing, robots in the future still run on vacuum tubes. And atomic power is still considered a viable energy source. Later incarnations rectify this, though.
- Fountain of Expies: Astro inspired the creation of another robot Kid Hero: Mega Man.
- There's been lots of imitations and variations of Astro Boy around the world over the years, in various media. Just in the United States in recent years, there were the Robotboy and My Life as a Teenage Robot animated series.
- Don't forget Rusty the Boy Robot. Hypersonic!
- Jetter Mars was an interesting self-ripoff case where Tezuka recycled Astroboy's concept in a hurry to create a new TV series. Despite the obvious similitudes, Jetter Mars had some interesting details, Like Jetter's ability to grow like a normal kid and ever having dreams while sleeping. He also appeared in the GBA game and his conversation with Astro Boy only can be described as a funny, epic lampshade.
- Ultimate Universe: Pluto.