ASTROBOY VOLUME 11

1. THE LAST DAY ON EARTH

First serialized from March to June 1964 in Shonen magazine.

Astro meets another robot boy from outer space by the name of Bem. He tells Astro that he is part of a bomb that was developed by aliens on a far distant planet. He has run away from his creators to hide out on earth in peace and he is disguised as a young human working in a bakery. He explains to Astro he is the control mechanism for the actual bomb which he keeps safely with him in his new apartment. It is a box that resembles an ordinary looking refrigerator but Bem warns Astro that if it is ever opened it will explode with enough power to blast the entire earth into micro particles of dust. Astro promises to keep Bem’s secret but tells him that he will tell only one trustworthy human, Professor Ochanomizu. Bem is very worried about the thought of any humans knowing the truth about him but Astro assures Bem the Professor will help him.

So Astro goes to see Ochanomizu and when he hears about Bem he is very concerned about the possible danger to the world and goes with Astro in his car to meet Bem. But on the way they are attacked by three flying aliens with wings built into their heads. Astro begins to fight with them and Ochanomizu cries out to them to cease fighting so he can hear what they have to say. The aliens introduce themselves as Professors Pom, Pim and Pum from the planet Nicola. They claim their intentions are peaceful and they only wish to take Bem back to Nicola and redesign him as they fear he may be dangerous. They say their motives in developing the robot bomb are purely for peaceful reasons and even though Astro pleads that they can’t be trusted Ochanomizu believes them and promises to help them get Bem back. Astro is so upset that he flies away while Ochanomizu drives the aliens to the bakery.

Bem tries to fly away with his box but is captured and the Professor next takes the others to their flying saucer. As they prepare to blast off Ochanomizu casually asks why they are flying around with such a bomb and they tell him they are going to conduct an experiment to see how big a star Bem can destroy. When they explain that the target of their experiment is the sun Ochanomizu protests that earth cannot exist without the light and heat of the sun. The aliens couldn’t care less. Ochanomizu contacts Astro by remote control and sends him to retrieve Bem. Astro enters the saucer and overpowers the aliens, but when he rescues Bem, he takes his box and flies away on his own telling Astro he betrayed his trust. While Astro pleads in vain for forgiveness the outraged aliens plan a terrible revenge. They shoot a huge projectile into the earth where their saucer was parked and announce to the whole world that in thirty days they shall destroy the planet.

As time goes by it becomes apparent that the rod implanted into the ground is a beacon like magnetic device that is slowly drawing a huge red star towards the earth. It will impact at the end of the thirty day period and in the meantime the star’s gravity field is causing earthquakes and tidal waves in various places. Astro runs across Bem in some dark alley and tries to reason with him to give him the box to blow up the star and save earth. Bem refuses so Astro tries to take it by force. Bem fights back and actually destroys Astro with electro-mag waves but looking at his broken body he feels remorse and picks up Astro delivering him to the doorstep of the Ministry of Science where Ochanomizu discovers him and repairs him. Astro realizes Bem must have brought him to the Ministry.

with less than two weeks to go Astro resolves to find Bem again as the bomb is the only thing that can save earth. He and the aliens track him down at the same time and there is a final showdown inside the flying saucer that culminates in the spacecraft exploding as Astro and Bem escape destroying the aliens. Bem asks Astro for forgiveness and flies off with the box into the midst of the star. Astro cannot try to stop or follow him as he is almost out of energy and Bem sacrifices himself to save earth blasting the star to nothing.

Trivia

This story was adapted for episode 62 of the 1960’s anime series entitled “Attack from Space”.

One of Astro’s unique special abilities is sensing when people are lying or are bad at heart. Professor Ochanomizu has every reason to regret not listening to Astro’s senses in the case of the three aliens.

2. SUBTERRANEAN TANK

First serialized from October to November 1959 in Shonen magazine.

Astro’s teacher, Mr. Mustachio, is enjoying a plane ride on a passenger jet when suddenly a huge black military aircraft comes flying out of nowhere and clips off one of their wings as it passes by. Everybody is therefore forced to parachute while the other plane flies off. Mr. Mustachio is next seen wandering by himself in the barren desert. (The fate of all the other people is never explained) Just as Mustachio fears he is doomed to die a strange tank emerges from the sand and a man in a mask introduces himself as Joe and quickly escorts him into the tank as the plane appears and begins to drop bombs. The tank burrows underground just in time.

Joe tries to take Mustachio home to Japan underground when a hidden time bomb explodes damaging the tank. Joe cannot repair it so they are stranded. Mustachio tells Joe they have a chance if they can call Astro on a special radio device. Joe says fortunately he does have something he can try to tune in on Astro’s wavelengths and so they carry the apparatus outside the tank for better reception. Astro does hear them while he is at the Ministry of Science with Professor Ochanomizu. The Professor quickly fills Astro all the way up with energy before he burrows underground to find out who is summoning him.

But disaster has already struck in the form of a sudden rockfall in which Joe is so badly hurt that he dies. But not immediately. Mustachio drags Joe to safety and tends to his wounds and before dying Joe explains to Mustachio what is going on. Joe stole this unique tank from an evil madman bent on world conquest. General Sabolski built it in a secret factory and Joe was one of his workers. Joe stole the blueprints for the subterranean tank and hijacked it. Sabolski has been trying to recover them ever since and Mustachio promises to do all he can to overthrow his plans if he ever gets back to the surface. Joe is laid to rest underground and Astro appears to Mustachio’s joy.

With Astro’s help along with the local police and Professor Ochanomizu who flies his own plane when he receives the message that Astro needs more energy supply, Mustachio succeeds in keeping his promise to Joe. The blueprints are destroyed in the process of the feud with Sabolski’s men, though one of his men actually helps Sabolski recover his tank and they dive underground as Astro takes the General’s huge plane out of commission. Sabolski’s men who had been machine gunning the police from the air all perish in the crash. Astro chases Sabolski down into the earth and breaks through the entrance hatch. He warns the General that the tank was very badly damaged earlier in the battle when he dumped heaps of oil upon it from the air. It won’t turn. It’ll only continue in a straight direction leading all the way to the earth’s molten core. Astro tells him to stop the tank but crazy Sabolski refuses. If he can’t acheive his dreams for world domination he chooses to die rather than give himself up to the authorities. Astro has no choice but to jump out and fly back up to the surface while Sabolski and his tank go straight down towards a bitter end.

Trivia

In this story Mustachio contacts Astro by radiong in on his omega device. In the 1980’s anime series there is mention made of something called the omega factor. However in this context it is an illegal program which if built into robots will make them capable of committing heinous acts of crime and terrorism. Astro’s brother Atlas is one of the few known robots to be programmed with this omega factor.

3. THE MAN WHO RETURNED FROM MARS

First serialized from January to March 1968 in Shonen magazine.

Judas Pater is an extremely dangerous criminal. Eighteen years ago he stole two hundred million yen with the help of his mafia gang of three thousand mobsters and blew up a passenger jet to silence some people who could have testified against him. When he was secretly reported to the police he fled into outer space and lived in hiding out on Mars. There he meets Professor Uro, the last survivor of the Martian race. Uro tells Pater that fifty years ago Mars was invaded by people from earth and their civilization was wiped out. He teaches Pater special powers. For fifteen years he trains hard to learn how to harness the static electricity in his body and amplify it to tens of thousands of volts. He can discharge it to zap like invisible lightning.

When Pater returns to earth he is immune from arrest because the Statute of Limitations means that he can no longer be brought to trial for his crimes after fifteen years and eighteen years have now passed in total. But he uses his new secret powers to exact revenge upon his enemies killing them with electric shocks. When Astro investigates Pater he actually shares the source of his power on condition that he promise to keep the secret. Robots always keep promises and Pater offers Astro a partnership in taking over the world. Astro is honour bound to tell nobody how Pater received his powers but he refuses to become his partner.

Pater responds by later blowing up Astro’s house and Ochanomizu has to repair Astro and all his family. Pater announces that he will eliminate anybody he likes just as he did Astro and there will be no proof to incriminate him. As world leaders mysteriously die one by one Ochanomizu seals himself in his lab working hard to repair Astro. However Pater gets onto the roof of the Ministry of Science via helicopter and kills Ochanomizu through the skylight. The papers announce the death of Ochanomizu and the consequent prevention of Astro’s repairs. Soon Pater intends to declare himself absolute ruler of earth.

But he has a big surprise in store for him. It turns out that the Ochanomizu he destroyed was only a robot double and the false report in the newspaper gave the real professor enough time to repair Astro secretly in safety. Furthermore while Astro did keep his honour as a robot to not directly tell anybody about Pater’s special powers, he did have a miniature tape recorder hidden in him at the time and he never promised to not let anybody listen to it. When Pater tries to zap Astro he dodges and grabs him from behind flying off to the Arctic Circle while the police capture Pater’s gang.

Pater challenges Astro to a duel on the Arctic ice and Astro is blasted to a wreck once more but at the same time he fires off his machine guns in his backside breaking both Pater’s arms. Next thing the ice cracks marooning Pater on an iceberg with Astro’s body. Pater tells Astro’s body that he has really beaten him. He really wanted Astro to survive because he honestly admired him. Hearing a plane Pater desperately amplifies all the electrical impulses he can to make his body glow to alert the pilots. Then he explodes.

Astro is rescued and repaired by the professor once again. When Astro hears what happened he asks Ochanomizu if Pater could actually have done that to save him. The professor says it’s hard to tell. Pater was a wicked man but sometimes God gives even the wicked a spark of goodness within.

Trivia

4. THE BLAST FURNACE MYSTERY

First appeared in the 1961 summer holiday expanded edition of Shonen magazine.

In this very brief story a young police detective requests Astro to help him investigate a case regarding a series of murders of young men. The detective suspects his own father since he tailed him in the park the other night carrying what appeared to be a pair of young corpses to the local steel factory where he saw him dispose of them inside the blast furnace.

But when they confront his father red-handed there is quite a twist. He is not the murderer. The truth is that he is a robot and his son is too. The corpses were really former empty robot body shells. The father pretended to be a human and had built himself a robot baby son. Every month he transplanted his son electronic brain into a new body to make it look like he grew as a human. He explains to them that he wanted his son to believe they were humans because robots are despised by many people. He intended to reveal the truth when he turned twenty-five years old in human terms and then disappear leaving his own electronic brain behind to remember him by. He pulls his brain out, throws it on the floor, says good-bye and hurls himself into the blast furnace before Astro can stop him.The son mourns over his father’s brain asking forgiveness for accusing him wrongfully.

And as for the real murderer, when the detective calls police headquarters to report his big mistake in the case they tell him the case is solved. Astro had already caught the killer at the very beginning of the story. Even though Inspector Tawashi had expressed sarcastic scepticism when Astro insisted that he could sense that the man he brought in was bad, thorough investigations had revealed Astro to be in the right. The detective admiringly tells Astro he will strive to be as wonderful a robot as he in his duties for the law.

Trivia

The premise of this story loosely forms part of episode 45 of the 1980’s anime series entitled “Outer Spaceport R45” and episode 21 of the 1960’s anime series entitled “Satellite R-45”. In both of these versions the story takes place on some planetary station and the father dumps the used shells of his son into outer space, although unlike the manga he himself really is human.