- Astro Boy (2003 TV series)
(Astro Boy: Tetsuwan Atomu)
Genre Action, Adventure, Science fiction TV anime Directed by Kazuya Konaka Studio Tezuka Productions
Sony Pictures Television
Network Animax English network Kids' WB, Cartoon Network
Sci Fi Channel
Original run 6 April 2003 – 21 March 2004 Episodes 50 Related works Anime film Released 15 July 2005
Astro Boy (アストロボーイ・鉄腕アトム Asutoro Bōi Tetsuwan Atomu , lit. "Astro Boy: Mighty Atom") is a remake of the 1960s anime series of the same name created by Osamu Tezuka, which was produced by his company, Tezuka Productions, and the anime television network, Animax, who have broadcast the series across its respective networks worldwide, including Japan, Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and other regions. It was created to celebrate the birth date of Astro Boy (as well as the 40th anniversary of the 1963 series). Under the original English name (instead of Tetsuwan Atom), it kept the same classic art style as the original Astro Boy manga and anime, but was revisioned and modernized with more lush, high-quality, near-theatrical animation and visuals. It combined the playfulness of the early anime with the darker, more serious and dramatic Science Fiction themes of the manga and the '80s anime. The anime broadcast in Japan on the same date as Astro's birth in the manga (April 7, 2003) across Animax and Fuji Television. It was directed by Kazuya Konaka and written by Chiaki J. Konaka.
The series consisted of fifty episodes. Though many episodes of the series can be regarded as "free-standing" in as much as they do not have anything to do with the series major story arcs, the 2003 series can be regarded as having a well-defined beginning, middle and end. Although the series appears to initially have two main plotlines- Doctor Tenma's eventual plans for Astro to evolve and another plotline about robot rights -these two story arcs dovetail toward the end of the series.
The show is set in 2043, where robots are common part of humanity's lives. In Metro City, the renowned Doctor Tenma disappears after trying to construct an AI robot using a new technology called Kokoro (which is Japanese for "mind, heart and spirit"). Dr. O'Shay replaces Tenma as head of the Ministry of Science and discovers a boy-like robot and brings it to life and names him Astro. Astro soon discovers he can fly via rocket boosters in his hands and feet, and has superhuman strength and other such abilities, and must deal with robots and villainous robot-hating humans who threaten his friends, fellow robots and Metro City, becoming a hero in the process. Astro quickly learns he is a robotic duplicate of Dr. Tenma's dead son Tobio, and was shut down after seeing how discarded robots were dealt with by his father, something similar that Tobio experienced before dying.
A new arc occurs with the introduction of the Blue Knight, a gallant robot who starts a campaign to free all robots from mankind. Another recurring character, Mr. Drake, goes slowly paranoid about the destruction of all robots and becomes a major antagonist of the series. In the final episodes, the Blue Knight declares a new nation for robots, Robotonia, located on Antarctica. Drake deceives the public into believing a house robot pushed a young girl down a flight of stairs (when he did not), and the girl's father, General Red, declares war on Robotonia. Most of the core cast becomes involved in the goal to stop the war between man and machine, until Astro convinces the Blue Knight that humans and robots can be friends. The Blue Knight departs Earth on Robotonia, which is revealed to be a spacecraft. However, Drake, who is still paranoid (despite the fact the robots have stopped their crusade against humanity), tries to destroy the spacecraft with a missile, but Astro blocks the attack and is seemingly taken offline.
Dr. Tenma manages to restore him, but erases his memories as Astro (so that he can remain "Tobio" forever). Eventually, his memories are restored by his friends from school and his sister, Zoran. In one final attempt to reclaim his lost son, Dr. Tenma goes to a laboratory in the Ministry and tries to convince Astro to join him in ruling the world but the latter refuses. Dr. Tenma tries to kill himself to end his suffering, but Astro embraces and forgives him, causing Dr. Tenma to break down and embrace his son. Dr. O'Shay and the robotic police come to the rescue, and Dr. Tenma is willingly arrested and sent to prison. At the end of the series, Astro and Tenma and humans and robots start happily fresh and moving on. Humans and robots come closer together, and Astro appears to shed tears at the conclusion of the series.
A trailer from 2001 made for this series when it was in development presented several major differences from the final series: different designs for characters such as Atlas, the characters speaking in English (with voices completely different from the voices that would eventually end up in the US dub) and animation not found in the final series.
In 2005, an IMAX film was made titled Astro Boy/Tetsuwan Atomu Visits the person IGZA - 100,000 Light Years Away! that is based strongly on this series. It was distributed by Sarai Inc. and was never made into English. There was also a short film titled The Secret of Atom's Birth, shown only in Japan.
- Astro: A robot built with "Kokoro", an advanced form of artificial intelligence. Astro appears as a young boy who works as a superhero of sorts for Metro City. He continuously tries to stop the collapsing relationship between mankind and robots, despite numerous attempts to destroy him by various parties. He can fly using rocket boosters concealed in his limbs and possesses great strength. Astro was originally constructed by Doctor Tenma to recreate his deceased son Tobio, but Astro rebelled against Tenma when he saw how robots were brutally destroyed in an area of the Ministry of Science and was shut down by his "father". (Note: "Kokoro" is actually Japanese for "heart".)
- Dr. O'Shay: Head of the Ministry of Science, Dr. O'Shay is an elderly man with a distinguishable large nose. He led the project to revive Astro and is his guardian and protector. O'Shay, like Astro, is very defensive of the relationship between mankind and robots, often defending Astro when he is accused of being dangerous to Metro City. He is portrayed as being a bit clumsy and quick to anger, but is very intelligent and compassionate.
- Dr. Tenma: The main antagonist of the series and Astro's creator. Dr. Tenma was a former scientist working at the Ministry of Science, but lost his beloved son Tobio after showing him how discarded robots were scrapped. He built Astro to replace Tobio but found Astro was more powerful than he thought and shut him down. Dr. Tenma becomes somewhat insane and believes robots are superior to humans, and Astro should be their leader. In the final episodes, he tries to coax Astro to his side but fails, only to be forgiven by Astro and willingly surrenders himself to the authorities. In this series, at the start it didn't show him creating Astro.
- Zoran: Astro's younger sister, constructed by Dr. O'Shay with the same AI technology seen in Astro. She shows the ability to talk to animals and understand their languages, befriending a bird who she names Houdini. She has a rather excitable personality, but at times envies Astro for the amount of attention he receives and is overemotional at times too, but she also looks up to and protects her brother. She claims herself to be the largest fan of the rocket ball player robot Harley.
- Yuko: Doctor O'Shay's assistant. She often fuses over him and repeatedly reminds him of schedules he must keep to. She is assisted by a flamingo-like robot named Momo.
- Detective Tawashi: A police inspector who has a large nose resembling a shoe brush. While at first he shows a distrust towards robots in general, he grows to trust those closest to him, including his own robotic partner Delta, and Astro. He often banters with Dr. O'Shay in arguments.
- Epsilon: A female robot (hinted to be Australian) that protects Metro City's wildlife, most notable the marine animals. Also she can alter the weather however only uses her abilities for peaceful purposes.
- Delta: A robot policeman that serves as the leader of the "Anti-Robot Robot Squad", a division of the police force.
- Reno: A close human friend of Astro. He originally started off in a robot circus where he disguised himself as a robot to avoid being separated from the other robotic performers whom he saw as his family. He becomes a student of Dr. O'Shay's and becomes quite skilled around robotics, but still maintains his acrobatic skills from the circus.
- The Blue Knight: A gallant anti-hero of sorts who was badly treated by humans and was rebuilt by Dr. Tenma and Shadow to act as a catalyst to boost Astro's power. He instead decided to wage war against mankind to bring freedom to robots. He dresses in blue armour and rides a white horse, his main weapon being a laser-based lance of sorts. He ultimately builds a robotic empire towards the end of the series.
- Shadow: A highly intelligent robot created by Dr. Tenma to help him make Astro stronger. He wore a mask over his face for most of the season, eventually revealing his face after some reconstruction to be based on Dr. Tenma's.
- Mr. Drake: The secondary antagonist of the series. Drake is a politician who deeply hates robots, particularly robots with AI. He grows more paranoid over the course of the series, haunted by memories of a robot he knew in the past whom he considered his friend but drove him to his hatred for machines.
- Skunk: A recurring villain who uses robots to commit various crimes, showing no concern and care for the robots he uses. Before his final capture, the police told Astro that he was one of Metro City's most dangerous criminals. He acts as a secondary antagonist throughout the series.
- Atlas: A robot constructed by Dr. Tenma similarly to Astro, built for a man named Tokogawa. Atlas is a clone of Tokogawa's deceased son Daichi, and has his memories. Atlas is a very destructive robot but maintains Daichi's dream of seeing Earth from space, which he eventually achieves unintentionally with Tokogawa. He floats away into space and returns as a recurring character.
- Pluto: A powerful combat-based robot built by Shadow to challenge Astro and other robots including Epsilon, Hercules, Harley and Delta. He gains emotions and befriends Astro and Zoran, and commits suicide to save the two from a clone of him, plunging into a volcano. However, he is rebuilt later on in the series.
- Nora: A yellow, cylindrical robot which acts as Dr. O'Shay's housekeeper as well as a nanny, who takes care of Zoran. She appears in most of the episodes, although having a relatively minor role which has little impact on the storyline.
- Duke Red: The primary antagonist of the later episodes, Duke Red is a high-ranking officer who thinks of robots as mere tools. His hatred towards them later intensified after his domestic robot supposedly tripped his daughter. In the final war, he is the leader of the human troops.
- Kennedy, Abercrombie and Alejo: Astro's good friends and schoolmates. Kennedy plays soccer for his local team and has somewhat of a short temper. Alejo is portrayed as a science geek that is fascinated by Astro. Abercrombie is a bully that, at first, declines Astro, but soon becomes friends with him. Astro, along with Kennedy, Abercrombie, Alejo and a robot named Denkou, were also the founding members of a club called the "Skyriders".
- Makoto Tsumura: Atom
- Shinya Owada: Nagamiya Tenma
- Hisashi Katsuta: Professor Ochanomizu
- Banjou Ginga: Police Inspector Tawashi
- Akiko Kawase: Yuko Kisaragi
- Akio Ōtsuka: Pluto
- Kazuki Yao: Skunk Kusai
- Kiku Hiramatsu: Epsilon
- Miki Maruyama Uran
- Miyoko Shoji: Helen
- Motoko Kumai: Tamao
- Naoki Tatsuta: Robita
- Nobuyuki Hiyama: Atlas
- Rie Kugimiya: Nyanko
- Susumu Chiba: Shibugaki
- Yuu Urata: official/clerk
- Yuuko Satou: Kenichi
English Dub Cast
- Candi Milo: Astro, Kennedy
- Dorian Harewood: Dr. Tenma, Shadow
- Wally Wingert: Dr. O'Shay, Skunk, Blue Knight, Wally Kisagari, Katari, Harley, Kato, Additional Voices
- Bill Farmer: Detective Tawashi
- David Rasner: Pluto
- Faith Salie: Yuko
- Greg Cipes: Daichi/Atlas
- Jennifer Darling: Nora/Robita
- Jonathan Todd Ross: Mechanic #2 (eps.9)
- Lara Jill Miller: Alejo, Mimi
- Maile Flanagan: Matthew
- Sandy Martin: Abercrombie
- Susan Blu: Zoran
- Dave Wittenberg
- Gregg Berger
- "Boy's Heart" by Fujii Fumiya
- "Tetsuwan Atomu" (A remixed version of the 60s series' theme song.)
- "Astro Boy Theme" by William Anderson
- "True Blue" by Rainie Yang, cover version of the Japanese one
- "滿天飛" by Candy Lo, Cantonese cover version of "True Blue"
The entire series is currently available on DVD in one single boxset. This DVD set also has a short feature about the show's development that heavily hints at pressure put on the anime developers by Sony to make Astro more of a hero than a boy. This is reflected in the dub as scenes where Astro has emotional moments or where he is acting childlike are cut or the script is changed to Astro acting with a "cooler" or more heroic attitude. That said, the later episodes of the dub do follow along the same lines as the Japanese script. The series is also available on iTunes.
The series has been received with mix reviews by most of the large fan-base community of Tezuka. Despite the largely darker tones in the second arc and the overall changes made to the Western dub it has been criticized for not having the same optimistic tone of the color 80s version of the series and eliminating several or changing the personalities of several major characters.
The show did not meet with commercial success on ether KidsWB or CartoonNetwork's Toonami block, a fact that is hinted at during the review for the tie-in game Astro Boy: Omega Factor with comments such as "Astro Boy [didn't receive any] love here in the states". This has been largely attributed to the quality of the Dub and the constant moving of the show between the two stations. Its been suggested the show was done in by removing the original's comical co-stars, particularly Mr. Pompous and Astro Boy's robot parents. That, plus the general switch of the show's visuals from childish simplistic to near 3-D complexity, and the name changes for so many of the main characters (Uran=Zoran, Dr. Elefun=Dr. O'Shay) were deemed by the older fans to be unnecessary for a formerly plot-driven show.
The series, however, had more success in the UK where it was picked up by the BBC for its children's block and digital only Children's channel from 2003 to 2006. The show's first run lasted about as long as the US one (up to the 2-part episode featuring Pluto) after which the BBC stopped airing new episodes. This may be because (as one presenter commented after an episode) Astro was a darker show compared to the other cartoons CBBC aired (even in its edited state). The western dub has never been aired fully on TV in the US. Despite how well Astro may have fared in the UK airing and DVDs being advertised, the series has not been released on DVD in the UK. Interestingly enough, CBBC finished airing recently unaired episodes of Astro Boy, thus completing the entire series in the UK, making Astro Boy one of the rare anime that airs in the UK in its entirety while not doing so in the United States.
Episode titles, following the episode order in the American dvds (notes indicate where the Japanese broadcast order differed, indicated by bold):
- 01. Power Up!
- 02. Rocket Ball
- 03. Atlas * Destination Deimos
- 04. Astro vs. Atlas * Into Thin Air
- 05. Destination Deimos * Rainbow Canyon
- 06. Into Thin Air * Atlas
- 07. Rainbow Canyon * Astro vs. Atlas
- 08. Neon Express
- 09. Franken
- 10. Venus Robots
- 11. Reviving Jumbo * Robot Circus
- 12. Robot Hunters * Reviving Jumbo
- 13. The Rise of Pluto * Little Sister, Big Trouble
- 14. The Fall of Acheron * Micro Adventure
- 15. Dragon Lake * Only a Machine
- 16. Lost in Outland * Robot Hunters
- 17. Deep City * The Rise of Pluto
- 18. The Blue Knight * The Fall of Acheron
- 19. Hydra-Jacked * Robot Boy
- 20. Geo Raider * Eternal Boy
- 21. Secret of the Blue Knight * Dragon Lake
- 22. Robot Circus * The Legend of Tohron
- 23. Little Sister, Big Trouble * Lost in Outland
- 24. Micro Adventure * March of the Micro Bears
- 25. Only a Machine * Deep City
- 26. Robot Boy * The Blue Knight
- 27. Dawn of the Techno-Revolution * Old Dog, New Tricks
- 28. The Legend of Tohron * Hydra-Jacked
- 29. March of the Micro Bears * The Case of the Phantom Fowl
- 30. Old Dog, New Tricks * Geo Raider
- 31. The Case of the Phantom Fowl * Gideon
- 32. Gideon * Secret of the Blue Knight
- 33. Fairy Tale
- 34. Shape Shifter
- 35. Phoenix (or Firebird)
- 36. Space Academy
- 37. Atlas Strikes Back
- 38. Battle-Bot
- 39. Time Hunters
- 40. Escape from Volcano Island
- 41. Avalanche
- 42. Battle of Steel Island
- 43. Undercover
- 44. Into the Dragon's Lair
- 45. Night Before the Revolution
- 46. Robotonia
- 47. Showdown in Robotonia
- 48. Journey to Tomorrow
- 49. Astro Reborn
- 50. The Final Battle
The US set is not fully complete, with one episode in the set being omitted called "Eternal Boy" and replaced with a clip show episode. The order of episodes on the set is the syndication-released order, which is different from the Japanese order, evidenced by characters such as Astro's sister, Zoran, showing up in episodes before they were introduced.
- ^ "FOR YOUNG VIEWERS; An Icon of Animation and His Atomic-Powered Adventures Boy'". New York Times. 2004-02-08. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/08/tv/for-young-viewers-an-icon-of-animation-and-his-atomic-powered-adventures.html?scp=16&sq=astro%20boy&st=cse. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- ^ "Astro Boy: The Complete Series". DVD Talk. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/15067/astro-boy-the-complete-series-2003/. Retrieved 2010-10-22.
- ^ http://tezukaosamu.net/en/anime/theater.html
- ^ "RETURN OF THE RISING SON WB 'Astro Boy' based on first anime series". New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/entertainment/2004/01/06/2004-01-06_return_of_the_rising_son_wb_.html. Retrieved 2010-10-21.
- ^ Bertschy, Zac (2003-06-06). "Astro Boy (2003) review". Anime News Network. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/astro-boy-2003. Retrieved 2007-02-10.
- ^ Breznican, Anthony (2009-07-21). "Astro Boy will fly into theaters in a blast from cartoon pastUSA Today". http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2009-07-20-astro-boy_N.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- ^ http://tezukainenglish.com/?q=node/78
- Astro Boy (2003 TV series) at YouTube
- Astro Boy 2003 anime page at TezukaOsamu@World (Japanese)
- Animax's official website (Japanese)
- Astro Boy at the Internet Movie Database
- Astroboy at Tv.com
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