ASTROBOY VOLUME 12

1. ROBOIDS

First serialized from January to May 1965 in Shonen magazine.

Once again earth is threatened by alien invasion. Professor Ochanomizu has discovered information from a secret source that the invaders are called roboids. They physically resemble robots but they’re not true robots. There are five of them involved and they are planning to annihilate the human race via infiltration of earth’s robot population. The professor has recruited four of the world’s major robot secret agents: Zair-A, Box, Dop OO and Cyrano to assist Astro in the mission to defeat the roboids. Five robots against five roboids. An even match.

During the course of their battles Astro learns that the roboids come from a far distant star where all the human being become extinct hundreds of years ago leaving behind only the robots they had built. The robots kept building new robots and slowly evolved into beings that were born and died just like humans and even developed male and female genders and could give birth to children. Then some roboid scientists wanted to claim earth’s resources so an invasion force travelled in a spaceship disguised as a meteor. They crashed into the sea, burrowed down into the earth and lay hidden to orchestrate their plans. Eventually Astro and his companions are able to destroy all five roboids, however the cost is very high. Cyrano, Box, Dop OO and Zair-A are also destroyed one by one. Astro is the only survivor of the robot team.

Furthermore there are actually more roboids on earth. There is a chief commander who the other roboids answered to and he also has his wife and their young son, Lolo, living safely underground while they fight the war above. Lolo actually tricks Astro into stepping onto the transporter device sending him to his playroom deep underground because he explains he’s lonely. When Lolo’s dad finds Astro he challenges him to duel up above, even though Lolo protests that he wants Astro to be his friend. As they prepare to fight Lolo’s mum suddenly appears and cries out that Lolo has run away. She shows her husband a note that says Lolo can’t stand it anymore. Dad promised to show him many interesting things when they came to earth but he’s never taken him to the surface so much as once. The last straw was just when he made friends with Astro dad drove him away. So he’s gone to the surface by himself.

The commander reluctantly agrees to send Astro to bring Lolo back when he swears that robots never lie and by his honour he can be trusted. He realizes that Lolo has broken into military grounds and rescues him from the automatically activated guns and bombs triggered off by intruders but he is broken in the process. When he lands on the ground outside the complex he is still and lifeless. Lolo’s dad appears and begs his son’s forgiveness for neglecting him. He tells him they’re going home and his mother is waiting for them. He assures Lolo that Astro can easily be repaired and sends Lolo back underground via the transporter. Then he repairs Astro himself. Shortly after Astro awakens the spaceship takes off on automatic pilot. He explains to Astro that he has sent his wife and son back to their own planet but he has stayed behind to finish their duel. It’s for the sake of honour. His troops have been destroyed and his conquest thwarted but he must fight to the end. Astro is compelled to attack but the commander deliberately blows himself up during the initial attack. He really was grateful to Astro for saving Lolo and had no desire to destroy him.

Astro realizes that this must have been his intention all along to send his family home and lay down his life in battle. He hopes with all his heart that if Lolo ever returns to earth when he grows up that they will be able to be true friends and have no reason at all to fight such a senseless battle.

Trivia

2. THE EYES OF CHRIST

First appeared in the January 1965 supplement of Shonen magazine.

A corrupt robotics company has developed an extremely dangerous robot capable of killing up to one thousand people in one second with a deadly laser beam power. There are six members of this conspiracy including the company’s President and his daughter. They have hidden pieces of their robot in remote places such as warehouses and churches and now they are trying to collect them and assemble them. They hope to illegally manufacture and sell these robots to the world’s armies when a war is started.

However when they go to one particular church the priest recognizes the President when the wind accidentally blows his mask off revealing his face. The priest tells them that if they plan bad things Jesus is watching pointing to a plaster statue of Him hanging on a cross. The boss tells him to blindfold the statue and then they lock him in a side room. The bell ringer Kashizo sneaks into the side room and the priest instructs him to make his way to the bell tower from back and sound the alarm. Kashizo rings the bells and the gang runs away but first the President shoots the priest.

Further complications arise for the gang when one of them turns traitor and steals one of the killer-robot’s arms. Astro sees his car zooming really fast and saves it from plunging over a cliff by the highway. However he is dying from a gunshot wound and gives the suitcase containing the arm to Astro imploring him to keep it safe and give it to nobody. Astro takes it home and his parents see the arm. Then the President’s daughter turns up and demands he give it to her. Astro refuses and she tries to threaten him with an electro-mag gun. He disarms her and she leaves telling his parents he’s an out of control thief and they should be ashamed of him. Dad demands that Astro give him the briefcase so he can return it. Astro is upset but Dad puts his foot down and says he must turn it in to the police. He won’t have his own son harbouring stolen property.

Astro makes up his mind to run away and sneaks out. Meanwhile his Dad is ambushed by the President’s daughter on the way to the police station. Mum discovers his broken body while searching for Astro and takes him to Professor Ochanomizu for repairs. Dad realizes he was a fool not to trust Astro when he said that woman was bad and is horrified to hear he ran away.

In the meantime Astro’s schoolteacher Mr. Mustachio, part time private investigator has been working on helping the police with the case. He jumps down from a tree onto the President’s car as he leaves his home. By misfortune his daughter observes him through the window and follows in her own car. But luckily Astro recognizes his teacher when the first car passes him. Mustachio realizes what’s going on when the President meets his accomplices at a deserted warehouse where the robot is put together. While he reports by phone to Inspector Tawashi the woman gets the drop on him and the criminals order the robot to kill him. Astro appears just in time to save Mustachio from being crushed by the robot’s bare hands. When Astro fights it makes the robot so angry it prepares to use its killer beam. However it suddenly dawns on the criminals that if that powerful beam is fired it will destroy all of them in addition to Astro. The robot refuses to listen to their pleas so in desperation they zap it and melt it with their electro-mag guns. Then Mustachio shoots their weapons out of their hands with a machine gun. He reveals to the President that he knew his company was the guilty party because when he had that priest he murdered blindfold the statue of Jesus he cleverly scratched the symbol of his company on the right eye. The eyes of Christ exposed them. He arrests them all and marches them off at gunpoint to the police thanking Astro.

Trivia

The priest is played by Duke Red from Metropolis and the bell ringer Kashizo is modelled upon The Hunchback of Notre Dame from the classic novel written by Victor Hugo.

3. YOUTH GAS

First serialized from February to September 1955 in Shonen magazine.

A meteorite has crashed in the southern alps of Japan near Mount Komagatake. When investigated by Astro it is discovered that it is emitting a strange gas. Experiments reveal that exposure to the gas rejuvenates plants and animals making them young again. They get an elderly man who used to be a famous dancer to volunteer for a human experiment and he is restored about fifty or sixty years off his age. so now he can go back to performing once more.

The new youth gas attracts the attention of a greedy man named Kurobe Ohno. He sends huge robot servants to steal the gas but Astro destroys them. Ohno is outraged and devises a plan to get rid of Astro. He overhears some bullies from one school picking on Astro’s friend Tamao who goes to a different school. They run away when Astro suddenly turns up. They lament that their school doesn’t have a robot student like Astro and one of them adds if only Astro’s brother Cobalt would enroll in their school.

Upon learning of this Ohno manipulates things with Professor Ochanomizu to put Cobalt into that school. Under the influence of the bullies Cobalt follows their example and they even arrange for Cobalt to fight against Astro in the interschool Robotting Tournament. In the combat Astro and Cobalt both destroy each other and Ochanomizu yells at all the schoolkids in the audience that because of their school rivalries the world has lost two of its greatest robots. He says they’ve both been damaged so badly they’ll never be able to be repaired.

While Japan goes into mourning the villain Ohno sends more of his robots to steal the youth gas. But they are attacked and destroyed by a mysterious robot about Astro’s size in a masked disguise. He realizes too late that the gas was stored inside the robot’s stomachs as it evaporates into the open air. However one of them did survive the battle and Ohno’s two henchmen are relieved that they still have some gas to deliver to their boss. Ohno has the gas transferred to a cylinder and takes it by himself into a private laboratory to make himself young again. The strange robot shows up and accosts the two frightened henchmen. Just as they plead for mercy promising to talk the cylinder accidentally blows up. The robot smashes into the laboratory only just in time to rescue the baby that Ohno has reverted to. If he had stayed exposed to the gas a moment longer he would have faded out of existence. The robot order the henchmen to take responsibility for raising their boss so that this time he grows up to be a good man.

Later Professor Ochanomizu orders the robot to unmask in front of the authorities. It’s none other than Astro himself. Ochanomizu apologizes for the deception saying that he was so angry with humans for making Astro and Cobalt fight that he announced that they couldn’t be repaired to teach them a lesson. He had them sent to his lab where he secretly repaired them. He planned to hide them for awhile but when the youth gas was stolen he knew they needed Astro, so he sent him to investigate in disguise. But everybody forgives and makes up with each other as the kids all promise to never coax robots into fighting anymore.

Astro confesses to the professor that the youth gas is all lost. Ochanomizu says it’s better this way. Before humans have the right to live as long as possible they need to learn to be really good humans.

Trivia

4. BROADCASTS FROM OUTER SPACE

First serialized in the December 1965 and January 1966 editions of Tetsuwan Atom Club.

This is a very unique short story with some dark humour elements. Robots are suddenly going crazy as a result of their brains picking up signals from extra-terrestrial television broadcasts. They see the programs in their robotic minds and it drives them dangerously mad. Two hundred of them suddenly start killing humans in the streets as a result of seeing themselves as part of a murder mystery crime movie. The police had to destroy them to stop the violence and Professor Ochanomizu questions a robot survivor taken into custody. Ochanomizu had learned about the broadcasts before and this confirms his worst fears.

Astro, Cobalt and Uran are currently out at sea enjoying a pleasure cruise and have been having different hallucinations thinking they’ve seen monsters. They’ve heard about what’s happened back home through the ship’s personal telephone service to the professor. Suddenly other robots begin dancing in the streets and so do Astro and his siblings. They knock everything over and even smash through walls on the ship. Regretfully Ochanomizu agrees to issue an order that all robots without exceptions be deactivated by 9pm.

When Astro, Cobalt and Uran come to their senses and see the devastation they caused the captain informs them of the decree and gives them a telegram from the professor. Ochanomizu tells them to flee and hide on some faraway desert island. There’s only 10 minutes before 9. The captain and his crew tell them they really don’t want to terminate them. They understand it was the broadcasts that made them go wild, so they urge them to escape before their time runs out. Astro flies away with Cobalt and Uran holding on to him.

As they zoom over the sea they are all sucked into an egg-shaped UFO and meet an alien who declares to them that he’s come to collect payment due for the television broadcasts from his planet. He won’t listen when Astro tries to explain that no humans have been watching the programs. Only robot brains have seen them. He is convinced that it’s all a trick to try to avoid payment. Unless the money owing is paid he will take half of earth’s oxygen instead.

Just as it seems Astro is helpless to stop him sucking up the atmosphere he picks up the signal of a show that makes him and Uran run havoc around the spaceship smashing things and bashing the alien. He desperately contacts the broadcast station and tells them to quickly stop sending any programs towards earth. As soon as they cease transmission the alien assures them that they will never broadcast to their planet again and the money they owed has been completely cancelled. Astro and the others fly home to announce the good news while the alien departs in his spaceship.

Trivia

The alien introduces himself by the name of Vegge and he looks just like a walking vegetable with a head shaped like a stick of celery and hands like lettuce leaves. At one point while Astro is out of control he splashes Vegge with a bucket of salt water making him wilt just like a real vegetable.

There is an in-joke reference on the ship before Astro and the others fly away. The captain tells them they were acting like lions and wrecked the place. Astro says it’s weird, but he felt like he was Kimba. Kimba is the little white lion cub prince also known as Leo from Tezuka’s Jungle Emperor adventure manga.