ASTROBOY VOLUME 13

1. ZOLOMON'S JEWELS

First serialized from May to December 1967 in Shonen magazine.

This very lengthy adventure focuses upon a strange gem known as the “Teardrop of Sirius” discovered fifty years ago by a man by the name of Mr. Yamamori Kaneyama. Kaneyama highly treasures this jewel and fears that somebody is using a very large robot with extraordinary powers known as Zolomon to attempt to steal it. So he enlists the protection of Inspector Tawashi’s police force and instructs his one and only son, Hikaru, to gather four of the world’s greatest robots for further security. Nova, L-44, Strobo and Astroboy.

Zolomon appears to be no ordinary robot. One moment he seems to be solid and the next he becomes transparent so that when Astro or anybody else attacks they pass right through him. He can also become invisible leaving only his giant round footprints in the ground. He can even change size. During one of their battles with him Strobo is blasted into small pieces.

But Kaneyama’s son steals the “Teardrop of Sirius” himself. Because his father refuses to give Hikaru the money he needs to pay for an operation to become a cyborg he comes up with a scheme to use the jewel to cover the costs. Hikaru sneaks up behind his father and briefly strangles him wearing metal gloves and places a rag dipped in chloroform over his face to knock him out. Then he steals the gem. Astro had agreed to come see Mr. Kaneyama shortly and hide the gem inside his chest as a precaution. Hikaru had overheard them make this plan so when Astro arrives and Kaneyama revives he thinks it was Astro who attacked him. Then Zolomon shows up and Kaneyama fearfully tells him that Astro has already stolen the “Teardrop of Sirius”.

Astro and Zolomon fly away and fight. Zolomon won’t listen to Astro’s protests that he doesn’t have the jewel and Astro knows he can’t match his strange powers. He does realize however that since Zolomon only ever appears at night there must be something about the day that weakens him. In order to try to stall him for just one hour till sunrise he promises to give the jewel back with no more fuss if Zolomon will tell him what it really is. Astro truthfully tells him that he knows there’s something strange about that gemstone. Earlier his powerful magnified hearing had picked up sounds coming from it resembling voices.

Zolomon is reluctant to tell the truth but he does. The “Teardrop of Sirius” is really an entire planet just like the earth and he has been commanded by his mistress Sheila to retrieve it for her. Just as he reveals this to Astro the dawn approaches. Horrified he disappears as Astro tries to follow. Astro notices pieces of crumbling clay falling from the sky and giant footprints leading to a huge riverbed where he sees Zolomon wade out to the middle and sink beneath as the sun rises. Diving underwater Astro is amazed to find an enormous muddy pile of clay in the shape of Zolomon. What can the secret of him be and who is Sheila?

Professor Ochanomizu is just about the only one who believes in Astro’s innocence. He warns Astro to be careful when he reports the mysterious events to him. Nova tries to arrest Astro when he approaches him for help and has his head twisted out of shape by an angry Astro however L-44 believes him and promises to give him any assistance possible in clearing his name. In the meantime Hikaru has given the “Teardrop” to a black market surgeon played by Hamegg. Hikaru is placed under anesthetic but while he’s asleep both Hamegg and his nurse are suddenly shrunk down very tiny and sucked into the “Teardrop” while closely examining it. When Hikaru wakes up he thinks he’s now a cyborg and tries to tear Astro apart when he and L-44 track him down and confront him with the special gloves he wore when he stole the gem, which L-44 finds in the next room. He surrenders and confesses when he realizes his plan has failed after Astro tosses him over his shoulder.

When Hikaru is arrested Astro and Ochanomizu shrink while examining the gem and they discover the full truth about the so-called gemstone. It is really a planet called Bellaroid and a race of aliens live on it ruled by a woman who is only a head with no body floating inside a small tank connected to a life-support system. She is called Sheila. Bellaroid’s scientists shrank their planet down to the size of a pea and transported it to another solar system to save it from destruction in their own galaxy when their sun was about to explode and wipe out their race. When they landed upon earth seeking a new home they fell into human hands by mistake and Zolomon was created by Sheila’s psychic mind control to seek and protect their planet. Sheila tells this to Ochanomizu and Astro when they are found by the high priest of Bellaroid Sward. However things are not as peaceful as they seem for Sward places them with hundreds of other inhabitants of earth who were also shrunk down at some point. They are kept as prisoners.

Meanwhile Sheila rises Zolomon from the river bed that night and directs him to where the planet is. He takes it and departs earth with it. Astro has slipped away from the other captives and confronts Sheila. He says he’s worked out that she’s really a robot because her powers rely on radio waves. She refuses to tell him where she’s taking earth and they fight. While Sheila can read even Astro’s robotic mind and send him flying and crashing into walls psychokinetically she doesn’t sense his machine guns in his rear end. He uses them to sever her wires cutting off her energy. As she collapses Zolomon’s body disappears in outer space leaving Bellaroid in orbit like a tiny new moon above the earth. Astro smashes the tank and takes Sheila’s inactive head for a hostage. He threatens to smash it to bits if Sward doesn’t tell him the truth of the matter. Sward confesses that they intend to settle down here and destroy earth so that Bellaroid can take its place. Astro is disgusted and refuses to return Sheila. Sward says that without Sheila’s control Bellaroid will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere in four days and three hours.

Astro has an idea to have Ochanomizu rebuild Sheila so she can keep her powers but be a friend of Earth and humans. But Ochanomizu is trying to encourage the other prisoners to remain calm and wait for a good opportunity for escape. But some people rebel and try to flee now. The professor tries to make them see reason but Hamegg goes crazy and stabs him in the chest. Astro is devastated to learn that his dear mentor has been killed. But he still refuses to give up Sheila to Sward. Sward retreats for now rather than risk Astro smashing her. Astro has heard Sward protest that Sheila can never be modified because her loyalties are bound to her own creators so he tells the people that he plans to build a duplicate Sheila that will be loyal to their cause. All the robotocists among the humans volunteer to help him and they succeed. Astro surrenders “Sheila” back to Sward who reactivates her. But he is shocked when Sheila refuses to punish Astro and much to Astro’s joy even commands Sward to resurrect Professor Ochanomizu using Bellaroid’s advanced alien technology.

Unfortunately while the professor is revived Sward and his helpers recover the original Sheila’s head and rebuild her. The evil Sheila appears with Sward by her side and tries to attack Astro and the professor. The good Sheila comes to their defence and for a moment the two Sheilas are locked in psychic combat neither one stronger than the other. Then Astro tells good Sheila to use her power to send him flying into evil Sheila. She does and before anybody can realize what is happening Astro smashes her tank, breaking her head apart and indirectly killing Sward in the crossfire. Good Sheila reawakens Zolomon and commands him to return Bellaroid to earth. She allows Astro and the professor to lead everybody back safely home where they all resume normal size and Zolomon bids Astro farewell as he takes Bellaroid to exist peacefully among the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.

Trivia

Hikaru Kaneyama wanted to become a cyborg in this story. This means that parts of his body would have been surgically replaced with robotic materials. He would have become a robot himself or at least a partial robot with some human bits and pieces still intact.

2. SHOOTOUT IN THE ALPS

First appeared in the January 1956 supplement of Shonen magazine

Astro insists that Professor Ochanomizu implants an artificial heart inside him so that he can be enabled to sense the beauty of things such as music and art just like humans can. Ochanomizu is very reluctant because he warns Astro that this will also mean he will feel fear and terror like humans. But he agrees to make the implantation for a little while and then take it out to satisfy Astro’s curiousity.

Astro senses how different everything is to him now. Flowers look beautiful. The music being played for Christmas this year sounds so sweet. However some masked criminals realize that Astro appears to be scared when he is almost hit by the car they’re driving. They come up with a scheme to use this to their advantage. They kidnap Astro’s robot parents and leave a note telling him to meet them at the entrance to Ueno Park on New Year’s Eve.

Astro is very upset and flies all over Japan to search for his parents while everybody else celebrates Christmas. His efforts are in vain so he waits outside Ueno Park as the bells ring in the new year. One of the gang members arrives in a car and declares that unless Astro agrees to assist them in their plans they will destroy his parents. By 9am tomorrow morning Astro must come to the top of Mt. Akaishi in the Japanese alps. Astro is terrified but he determines to go for the sake of his mother and father.

Meanwhile Professor Ochanomizu contacts Astro’s friend from school Ken to let him know that Astro’s in big trouble. Ken takes another of Astro’s friends Shibugaki with him and together the boys both fly to the alps on jet-propelled skis designed to travel through the sky to find Astro and help him. The criminal gang have Astro right where they want him. Realizing that he truly has become just as scared as humans are they tell him he must fight a big robot to get his parents back. Astro is terrified and is about to be destroyed when Ken suddenly bravely charges from out of nowhere with a pistol. Before anybody can shoot him he shoots at Astro’s throat knocking the artificial heart transplant out of commission. Once again Astro is a regular robot, with no knowledge of the meaning of fear and he smashes the large robot. While the villains run away Ken fires the pistol into the air as a signal to Shibugaki. He responds by throwing a rock over a nearby cliff starting an avalanche which rumbles down right on top of the bad guys apparently killing them all. They are nearly entirely buried with only small bits of their bodies sticking out of the snow.

Astro tells his friends and his parents that this adventure has helped him to understand that it really isn’t a good idea for robots to have the same feelings as humans.

Trivia

The gang member who contacts Astro in the park on New Year’s Eve is a cameo role played by Tezuka’s star character Nylon. Nylon is most well known for playing Baron Nylon, the henchman of the major villain Duke Duralamon in the Princess Knight manga and anime.

3. THE LYING ROBOT

First appeared in the September 1964 edition of Tetsuwan Atom Fan Club.

This is a very short story in which Astro meets another boy robot who is causing trouble by telling lies. He makes a false alarm announcement about an earthquake coming and when the police take him in for questioning he refuses to tell Inspector Tawashi the truth about anything including the identity of his creator. When Tawashi tries to have Astro take over questioning the robot flies away.

Astro chases him and sees him enter a house. Astro follows him inside and is confronted by a man who says he created this lying robot. He explains to Astro that he built him as a nurse to care for his elderly mother who is dying of cancer. He didn’t want her to know that she has only a short time to live so he modified him to always say the opposite of the truth. Now she feels contentment believing that she will get well soon. Astro understands and sympathizes though he still feels that lying is morally wrong.

The man realizes in his heart that this is absolutely true and so he makes up his mind to modify his robot. He tells the boy to get ready asking him if all the electrical machines he’s hooked him up to are ready for operation. He answers affirmatively but he is still lying and when the switches are pulled some of them explode causing a fire. However the man observes that the modification process has worked successfully all the same.

He commands him to fly off and bring back the fire department. But sadly he ends up getting lynched by an angry mob convinced he is still lying and they smash him to pieces. Astro appears and intervenes too late. The poor boy robot groans his last word fire and Astro notices it is the truth and quickly puts it out by lifting the entire house and dipping it in the nearby ocean. The man and his mother are saved. Later just before she dies she asks her son whatever happened to the dear little robot who was looking after her. Astro quickly speaks up and says that he is the boy. The son is astonished by what Astro has done but Astro quiets him saying that sometimes a little white lie is all right.

Trivia

The plot of this short story was loosely adapted for episode 21 of the 1980’s anime series, “The Liar Robot”, with the role of the mother with cancer replaced by a daughter who permanently loses her eyesight in a car accident.

General Trivia

At the end of this volume there is a three page manga story documenting a brief summary of the history of the early beginnings when Tezuka first began to conceive the idea for the creation of his Astroboy character.