Astro Boy

Astro Boy (commonly shortened to Astro), known in the Japanese version as Atom and Tetsuwan Atomu (which translates to Mighty Atom), is the main character and protagonist in Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy franchise. In all of the series to date, Astro has been built after the death of Tobio as a replacement son for Dr. Tenma. The character is one of the most well-known Japanese fictional characters, appearing in various series, video games and even a feature film.

Appearances

Original Manga

FIXME

1960s series

Astro Boy appeared in the 1960s series as the main character. After Tobio dies in a car crash, Dr. Tenma creates a robot in Tobio’s image and proceeds to teach him all there is to know. However, due to Tobio’s inability to grow as a normal human child, Dr. Tenma sells him to Hamegg as part of the Robot Circus; Hamegg renames him Mighty Atom (Astro Boy in the English version).

During his first performance, he demonstrates flight and great strength while fighting a giant robot named Zog. However, while Dr. Ochanomizu (a scientist in the crowd) disapproves of making him fight, Hamegg points out he has all the necessary paperwork and proceeds to punish Atom for his incompetent performance for not destroying Zog by not giving him energy. Upon exiting the room, Hamegg is greeted once more by Dr. Ochanomizu, who states that Dr. Tenma has resigned from head of the Science Ministry and that Dr. Ochanomizu will be taking his place.

Meanwhile, while Atom looks around the circus, he finds some robots that have no energy. They proceed to explain that they’re being sold, and when a robot is no longer popular, they are sold to a scrap dealer. Atom proceeds to give everyone some of his energy. Meanwhile, Hamegg and Dr. Ochanomizu are still bickering over whether Hamegg should hand Atom over or not, an argument which Hamegg wins.

The scene cuts to a performance by the robot circus. When a robot jumps through an electric hoop, it accidentally catches fire and explodes. The robots help the humans escape when they realize Hamegg is missing. Atom goes in to help him escape, but his energy is low from helping all the humans and the other robots, causing him to pass out. The scene cuts to Hamegg in a hospital where Dr. Ochanomizu informs him that robots are free, taking away his ownership of Atom. The episode ends with Hamegg crying, and Atom and Dr. Ochanomizu leaving the hospital.

1980s series

1980s appearance

Backstory

Astro appeared in the show of the same name as its major protagonist. He was originally built by Dr. Tenma after his original son, Tobio, died in a tragic car accident. Built in Tobio’s image, Tenma is nearing the completion of a child robot with jets and terrific weapons that he sees as his son. His coworkers are afraid of the danger that such a robot may bring. While the robot is almost finished, Skunk manages to steal copies of its plans and give them to Walpur Guiss, who plans to build a robot equipped with the Omega Factor (which gives his robot the ability to lie and other negative qualities) to “rule the world”.

Doctor Tenma raises the robot as if he were his dead son, teaching him to speak and eat (which the robot can do). While he is alone, the robot learns to fly but accidentally touches a power line. His destroyed clothes appear to be the only consequences, but not very long afterward, the robot has a malfunction and his eyes flash red. Tenma calls Honda, who tells him that the robot might have a short-circuit (although the real reason is the activation of Atlas, Skunk’s robot). Soon, the news that the robot is alive gets out, and Tenma, fearing that the secret is out, decides that he and the robot shall go to America.

On a cruise ship going to America, the robot fails to master his powers and causes a lot of damage, such as breaking a tap and ripping away his father’s suit. As a result, Tenma forbids the robot to go to dinner with him, but changes his mind at the request of a passenger who wants to meet his son. However, when it is mentioned by Tenma that his son is a robot, people all around the dining room become upset. Following another goof up by the robot, Tenma expels him, refusing to acknowledge him as his son anymore and calls him a robot. While outside, the robot is approached by a man called Hamegg who comforts him. A cruel, unforgiving ringmaster for a robot circus, he wants to use the robot for basic backstage work and asks the robot to sign a contract. The robot, not knowing what the contract means, signs the contract and becomes a possession of Hamegg.

Meanwhile, Skunk brings Atlas with him for his next plot, which is to cause icebergs to sink a ship and have Atlas recover the gold transported by the ship. The robot foils the plan by attacking the icebergs. He meets Atlas and they both realize that they feel they already met each other in the past without knowing how, then fight. The robot becomes drained of energy and falls unconscious at Atlas’ feet. As he is about to destroy him, Atlas forgives him. Hamegg soon finds the robot and locks him in his trunk. Tenma, now feeling remorse, calls for his robot son, but no one answers.

The robot wakes up at the circus surrounded by Hamegg, Cassy, who is his employee, and Tornado, the robot star of the circus. The robot is given daily chores and performs a clown act in the show. Misunderstanding the instructions he is given and not yet in control of his amazing power, he commits one mistake after another, drawing Hamegg’s fury. By then, Hamegg is already doubting his decision to bring the robot to his circus.

Dr. Ochanomizu (known as Dr. Elefun in the English version) is in town and watches the circus, where the robot catches his eye. Suffering from bad maintenance, Tornado misses his circus act and is destroyed. Losing the owner’s confidence, Hamegg is in danger of losing the circus. Confident in the robot’s abilities, Cassy convinces Hamegg that she can teach him Tornado’s dangerous act, which involves him jumping through two spinning rings filled with electricity, which would save the circus. The robot trains while the circus moves to another city, leaving Ochanomizu, who has finally recognized him as Dr. Tenma’s missing robot. Ochanomizu finds him right as the robot is about to perform the trapeze act. The robot makes it, and then saves the crowd from the elephant robots that have become mad after Hamegg overpowered them.

Ochanomizu attempts to convince Hamegg to let the robot go with him, but Hamegg will not hear of it. Meanwhile, Cassy plots to make it look like the robot was destroyed in an explosion. Hamegg is convinced after watching what seems like the robot’s parts scattered around, and rips up the contract. Cassy then secretly brings the robot to Dr. Ochanomizu, who is going to bring him back to his native country. Ochanomizu explains that the robot is an atomic robot, and Cassy decides he needs to bear a special name: “Atom” (Astro Boy in the English version). And thus, back in Japan, the adventures of Astro Boy begin.

In Later Episodes

Astro meets his parents

The later episodes could be described as “free-standing” and they all involve Astro saving the day, and he would eventually make himself one of the world’s strongest robots and also hero of Japan. His adventures are diverse and legendary, from saving a spaceship in Save the Carolina 3 to stopping mass flooding in The Great Meltdown to fighting the legendary robot Pluto in The Greatest Robot in the World. The first free-standing episode, Save the Classmate, sees Astro going to school and instantly causing an uproar. Some students at the school take a liking to him while others (such as school bully Shibugaki) dislike him, mainly for being a robot. Astro also faces other encounters with Atlas and even, at one point, an entire alien race. Dr. Ochanomizu also continues to expand Astro’s robot family, eventually giving him a set of parents and also a younger sister, Uran.

Now! Comics

The series begins with Dr. Boynton putting together Astro, and immediately adopting him under the name “Astor.” After only a few days, Boynton becomes fed up with Astro’s cold, unchildlike behavior, and plans to shut down and discard him. However, Astro begins to discover that he has powers and was based on Boynton's dead son. Dr. Elefun is also trying to find Astro, as well as keep the Institute of Science under control. Astro is sold to the circus with an implanted robot named Bruno (a sentient bomb looking like a spider), where he discovers his fellow robots are constantly in anguish. From there, Astro is pulled into the middle of the robot rights revolution.

2003 series

2003 appearance

Astro re-appears as the major protagonist in the 2003 series. He is an android with the capability to display emotion and has the ability to think and reason (‘Kokoro’ as defined by Dr Ochanomizu). Hidden in his body are seven secret powers which can be used anytime.

Astro was created by Dr. Tenma as a ‘replacement’ for Tobio, his deceased son. Tenma, overcome with grief, decided to make an identical robot copy of his son, which he will raise just like his own. Tenma, however, lost the trust of his fellow scientists during the project, who had thought that he has been overcome with grief and longing for his son as as a result went insane. Tenma, who was indeed displaying signs of insanity at that point, finished his project and named the robot after his son. Unfortunately, things got out of hand as soon as Astro was led into the basement full of broken robots (including Nora) and Astro (doing the same thing Tobio did) asks for Tenma to fix it. After Tenma refuses, Astro rebels against him (the same thing Tobio did) and as a result Tenma shuts Astro down.

Before long, Tenma truly went insane, and burnt down the lab of the Ministry of Science and resigned his position as minister. The robot, though, was found by Tenma’s successor (Dr. Ochanomizu) who attempted to bring it back to life and succeeded. The robot was renamed Astro, and Ochanomizu brought him up as a child and he eventually became the hero of Metro City.

Ochanomizu then made him as human-like as possible by allowing him to go to school, interact with friends, and even giving him a robotic sister (Uran) who he is very protective of. Ochanomizu also acts like a father to him alongside the nanny-bot Robita. Despite at times acting and behaving like a normal human boy, he often fights and defeats evil robots, humans, and on occasion aliens when duty calls.

Astro is shown to be friendly, fun-loving, and approachable. He is one of the sole believers that humans and robots may become friends and is not a supporter of both sides (Duke Red and the humans; The Blue Knight and the robots) when they begin fighting each other.

2009 feature film

Astro re-appeared in the feature film made by Imagi in 2009. He is shown to be older (13 instead of 9) and meets a host of entirely new characters, such as Cora, Zog and Orrin, but also those that he has previously met, such as Dr. Elefun. In the movie, Astro was, once again, made as a replacement for Toby after he died, although this time it is because he got vaporized by the Peacekeeper. Dr. Tenma, overcome with grief, makes a robot which reminds him of his son, and yet this plan backfires because, due to the difference in personality between Toby and Astro (even though Tenma uploaded all of Toby’s memories into Astro), Astro only reminds him that Toby is gone. Tenma does not want him any more, but Elefun comforts him, saying that he will find his purpose in life. After staying with Cora’s clan for a while, he is returned to Metro City. As Tenma removes Astro’s energy, he says that he is sorry. Astro replies that he is sorry too, as he could have been a “better Toby”.

Astro’s weapons in the movie have been changed or altered from the preceding TV series. Astro has machine guns on his backside like in the 1980s series, however this time they fire actual bullets, instead of lasers. His finger lasers “digibeam” is absent. Instead of the arm cannon in the 2003 series, it is changed to full arm blasters in both arms. Also, his arm rockets are absent, although his arm cannons can also serve as a means of propulsion. In the 1980s series, Astro’s eyes act as lights, while in the 2003 series they allow him to analyze things. However, in the film, they are also lights, although they can see through skin or tissue intimating skin, much like a X-ray. Also, Astro retains his super hearing and strength, as well as rockets in his feet.

Another difference is Astro’s source of power. In the original series, he is powered by atoms (hence his Japanese name), but yet in the film he is powered by the Blue Core Energy, made out of pure positive energy. It is unknown as to why the writers of the movie changed his power source.

The film marks the first time that Uran is absent. It also marks the first time that the characters Atlas and the criminal, Skunk, are absent.

Little Astro Boy (2014 series)

In the first Astro Boy series geared towards preschoolers, Astro has a younger appearance than usual and has a more hyperactive personality. His creation story is never explained in this version. Astro’s parents reappear in this series, but without Uran, Cobalt, and Chi-tan. Astro also has many friends in this series, many of who are brand new characters: Tac, Reggie, Pikko, Ken, Mitchy, and Kinako. Paul, also known as Tamao, also returns as a friend of Astro’s - the only friend of Astro’s to return from a previous Astro Boy series.

Astro and friends often confront Hamegg and his two cronies, Gora and Dr. Flau, as they try to thwart Astro and friends in various cartoon-like ways, which often results in Hamegg and company failing in cartoon-like ways as well.

A couple of Astro’s superpowers return in Little Astro Boy: his rocket boots, which give him flight, and superstrength.

Astro Boy Reboot

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In video games

Astro fighting in a game

Tetsuwan Atom (1988)

Tetsuwan Atom (1994)

Astro Boy: The Omega Factor * Astro is the protagonist of this game. Many characters from Tezuka’s other works are also featured in this game.

Astro Boy (game) * For Playstation 2.

Astro Boy: The Video Game * For the Wii and other home consoles.

Astro Boy: Tap Tap Rush * For the iOS.

In other media

Astro has also appeared in other Tezuka works, such as the character ‘Adam’ in Marine Express.

Powers

power_eyes.jpg
EyesAstro’s eyes also double as powerful search lights, allowing him to see in any situation.
power_ears.jpg
EarsAstro’s ears are able to magnify his hearing by 1000 times, allowing him to hear great distances.
power_fingers.jpg
FingersAstro’s index fingers house powerful lazers capable of cutting through almost any surface.
power_legs.jpg
Arms & LegsAstro’s arms and legs are both able to transform into rocket jets allowing him to fly.
power_hips.jpg
HipsAstro’s hips house a powerful machine gun. Although technically in his hips, the way Astro is animated makes it appear as though the guns are coming from his backside.
Astro’s powersmanga1963198020032009 movie
eyeslightslights (polarised in Zero, the Invisible Robot), source of water for fire fighting in The Mad Beltwaylightssensors and lightslights or some sort of X-Ray
jetshands and feetfeet onlyhands and feetfeet only
finger lasernot seen until the later ones made for the 1980s animen/ablue beamthin yellow beamn/a
arm cannononly in the 2003 series and the 2009 movie
rear machine gunsall except the 2003 anime
ears1000X increase in hearing power

Trivia

While the name “Atom” comes from the fact that Astro is an atomic-powered robot in Japanese, this makes no sense in English (“Astro Boy”).

In the Japanese version of the 1960s and 1980s series, as well as the Japan-only short films “Astro Boy: Hero of Space” and “Astro Boy: Shinsen-gumi”, he is voiced by Mari Shimizu. However, in episodes 97 through 106 of the 1960s series, he is voiced by Kazue Tagami.

In the English version of the 1960s series, he is voiced by Billie Lou Watt.

In the 1980s series, he is voiced by Patricia Kugler Whitely in the English version and by Steven Bednarski in the Canadian version.

In the 2003 series, he is voiced by Makoto Tsumura in the Japanese version and by Candi Milo in the English version.

In the 2009 feature film, he is voiced by Freddie Highmore.

In Little Astro Boy, he is voiced by Jen Cameron in the English version and by Rie Murakawa in the Japanese version.

Reception

Astro is a popular character and has been well-received by critics. He is consistently ranked high on top anime character lists.