ASTROBOY VOLUME 14

1. THE WHITE-HOT BEING

First serialized from January to March 1961 in Shonen magazine.

Astro and his brother Cobalt visit the Ministry of Science where Professor Ochanomizu is building a huge robot known as Bron-X for a man named Gaston. They are working on the head still and the Professor explains that the head is so much smaller because no matter how large the robot’s body all they need for the head is a bunch of little transistors. Furthermore they even made the head extra small in order to test it out on a miniature proportion sized version of the body. Ochanomizu forbids them to put the head on themselves but when he leaves the room Cobalt insists on doing so even though Astro is very worried and tries to dissuade him. Cobalt won’t be deterred from his intentions and attaches the head saying that if anything goes wrong he will take all the blame.

Bron-X comes to life and attacks them both boasting that he shall conquer the world after Astro is out of the way. He can read Astro’s mind and knows what moves he’s going to make. Bron-X seizes Astro’s head in his arms and is about to melt him into scrap generating intense boiling heat in his own body when Cobalt calls for help. The professor comes running and quickly shuts off Bron-X’s power.

He is very angry with the two robot boys but explains to them that Gaston discovered a UFO buried in a clearing in Africa while performing archaeological exploration and he found the blueprints for an alien robot inside the wreckage. He brought the blueprints to Japan because only the Ministry of Science’s robotocists have the advanced expertise to build the robot for him. Astro begs Ochanomizu to call off the project saying that Bron-X intends to conquer the Earth. But the professor won’t believe him.

In desperation Astro breaks into the Ministry Headquarters that night and is seen and recognized by security as he steals the head. He knows he can never go home now and flies away to hide out with the head. Meanwhile Gaston is furious and orders the police to track down Astro. When they fail to locate him he demands that Ochanomizu send the huge body of Bron-X to seek out his own head. Ochanomizu is very upset but he has no choice but to comply.

Meanwhile Astro becomes an outcast from society on a tiny island in Southern Japan where he buries the head. Bron-X turns up and they fight. Astro is the victor as Bron-X explodes in the ocean however he realizes that somebody has dug up the head. He follows the footprints in the sand to a tiny village where he discovers a young boy named Shoichi had watched him bury the head and took it home with him. When Astro explains to Shoichi and his mother about the head he donates it to their village as a source of light and electricity. The villagers are all grateful for they’ve petitioned the government countless times to bring power to their island in vain.

In the meantime Gaston is demanding that Ochanomizu send out the test body of Bron-X to search one more time. Ochanomizu is very upset and protests that Astro is really a good kid but Gaston gets snappy. Just then a mysterious tall man with dark glasses and a beard appears. He introduces himself as Lanky Noppo of the C. P. Club and he has taken the liberty of sending Bron-X after his head. Gaston is horrified when Lanky suddenly shrinks down flat and vanishes.

However Bron-X shows up at the island, retrieves his head and begins to fight Astro just as the police turn up in helicopters. Inspectors Tawashi and Nakamura arrest Astro but are aghast when Gaston insists that Astro be scrapped for punishment. Suddenly a UFO appears and Lanky Noppo reveals himself to be an alien. He orders Bron-X to come to him explaining that the C. P. Club on his home planet sent him to retrieve Bron-X when the blueprints for their robot fell into Gaston’s hands. Bron-X’s powers are very dangerous if controlled by humans and therefore Astro must not be punished for he acted so for the good of Earth. Astro requests Lanky to leave the head behind for the benefit of the village. Lanky agrees and commands Bron-X to give Astro his head.

Bron-X implores to be permitted to duel with Astro. If Astro wins he will give up his head. Astro agrees and after a challenging battle he lures Bron-X into the cold ocean where his white hot body begins to split apart. Then Astro is able to knock his head off and his body explodes. Lanky Noppo congratulates Astro and departs in his spaceship. Astro sends Gaston flying into a tree when he tries to snatch the head and declares to the police that he senses that Gaston was scheming to use Bron-X to commit terrible crimes. Inspector Tawashi arrests him and as for the head, it stays on the island as a source of light for the happy villagers.

Trivia

2. URAN

First serialized from August to September 1960 in Shonen magazine.

This story is set shortly after the time when Astro’s brother Cobalt and sister Uran were first created for him.

Astro takes the pair of them to watch the annual Robotting Championships. This is a combative contest between robot fighters from all over the world. This year it is taking place in Tokyo Japan. But things take an unexpected turn for Astro when Uran secretly leaves her seat and enters the ring. She is attacked by one of the robots and fights back, flipping him over onto his back and defeating him to the amazement of the audience.

Even though both Astro and their teacher, Mr. Mustachio, find this an awkward situation the rules of the Robotting Contest says clearly that once any robot formally appears in a match they are obligated to see it through to the end. But Uran doesn’t care. In fact she thinks it’s plenty of fun. Uran goes on to win match after match. However she’s told that she still needs to take time out for school but she’d rather devote all her time to robotting.

Against Astro’s approval she pays a visit to a crazy scientist named Dr. Xcess who adjusts her body so that it splits into two and forms a new identical other half each. So one of her goes to school while the other goes to her final big match. But Dr. Xcess calls Mr. Mustachio to desperately warn her that the operation was a failure. Unbeknownst to Uran when she split in two her energy level was halved between both her bodies. Mustachio thinks that Uran is resting in the school sick ward not feeling well and promises to let her know when she wakes up.

Fortunately Astro sees Uran being smashed to pieces on television and tells his sister the awful truth. Together they fly to the Robotting stadium arriving just in time to prevent Gameron the challenger completely destroying her. Gameron attacks Astro when he intervenes and Astro smashes him. Astro comforts Uran as they leave the stadium assuring her that Professor Ochanomizu will be able to restore her to normal when suddenly Gameron’s manager leads all his other robots into a showdown against Astro. The greedy spiteful man is furious at losing the Championship Cup but Astro smashes all his robots humiliating him.

Trivia

Gameron’s manager is played by Lamp in another unique appearance. Usually he has short slicked-back hair but in this story he is bald. This story was loosely adapted for episode 29 of the 1980’s animated series entitled “Uran’s Twin”.

3. DEMON BEES

First serialized from March to June 1963 in Shonen magazine.

A very strange robot flies Astro back to a country hidden underground known as Ultra-Genghis Khan. There Astro meets a second robot and the pair of them explain that they have asked him to come because the ruling Emperor is making life miserable for all the humans in Ultra-Genghis Khan.

In the course of his battles against the Emperor Astro discovers that the armed forces are guarding a giant bee-hive and that bees are stinging humans in the neck to turn them into docile obedient slaves and that the Emperor is designing robotic bees whose stings are loaded with deadly fast acting poison to bring the whole world to submission. Astro succeeds in overcoming the Emperor’s army and giant robot guards in order to smash up the hive. But the Emperor still has one more trap for him. A giant robotic bee fitted with a very dangerous mag-ray. It is a very close call but Astro manages to destroy the robot with his machine guns. The resultant explosion causes a fire.

The soldiers all flee but Astro discovers the Emperor knocked out. He flies him to safety and when the Emperor wakes up there is a surprise for Astro. The Emperor has been a slave of the bees himself. He had originally collected those bees for the purpose of innocent experimentation but they turned out to be hostile, intelligent mutations. They stung the Emperor and all his army to make slaves of them and create a fortress underground to prepare to take over earth. The Emperor issues urgent orders to evacuate all his subjects to the surface while Astro plants a bomb inside the palace. All the evil bees are either immediately killed or trapped for good when the bomb explodes collapsing the open crater completely and all the people can rebuild their country in peace now.

Trivia

Episode 34 of the 1980’s animated series, “The Secret of Bee City”, is based very loosely upon this story.

4. FORTRESS OF THE CENTAURS

First serialized from May to July 1958 in Shonen magazine.

A new boy arrives at Astro’s school. His real name is Kuritaro Don but his nickname is Acorn. He is extraordinarily strong, can jump at least nine feet high and seems to like eating strange things such as pencils and chalk.

Furthermore there are rumours of sightings of a weird white luminous horse galloping around at night started by Professor Ochanomizu. This gets the attention of the chief editor of the Red Star Weekly newspaper Mr. Akaboshi. He puts all his employees to work trying to capture this horse and even enlists the assistance of the mafia. The Crescent Moon Gang led by Mikazuki have a share in Akaboshi’s newspaper profits since they provide the necessary protection for him to do his work when he violates principles of what the law allows legally sometimes.

In course of time Astro meets this horse. He can talk and his name is Nuu. He is an alien from the constellation Pegasus. Many centuries ago his race came to earth and taught the primitive ancestors of humans how to read, write and use the calendar among other things.However as time went by humans started persecuting their former friends. Many of the horses returned to their own planet though some chose to stay in a mountain fortress armed with guns that spray a knock-out gas which puts humans to sleep and makes them forget having seen any of them. Very occasionally do they go down to where humans live and play with children and teach them how to be strong and intelligent. Nuu said he met Acorn while he was working on a ranch. They became friends and eating wild vegetables helped Acorn gain super-abilities. Then when Acorn moved to Tokyo Nuu made up his mind to fly in a small UFO to search for him. Astro helps them re-unite and all his other class-mates promise to also be friends with Nuu and keep his secret.

Unfortunately one of the kids happens to be the son of Mr. Akaboshi. While he genuinely loves Nuu just as much as all the other children Akaboshi blackmails him by threatening to kick him out of home. Upon hearing that the horse he seeks is hiding out at Astro’s home Akaboshi contacts Mikazuki who sends his men to capture him. Astro takes one of them hostage but Mikazuki has Akaboshi announce the truth in his newspaper and a mob of people show up demanding to see the horse. Akaboshi’s son has rejoined the other kids and begs his dad to call them off over the phone. He stubbornly refuses and as the crowd breaks in Nuu sprays them all with his gas gun and escapes.

Akaboshi is furious that nobody remembers a thing but Mikazuki reports that he has inside information that Nuu flew away somewhere nearby Mt. Tokachi. Akaboshi is determined to capture Nuu to save his paper from humiliation.Mikazuki takes him to the plateau by helicopter. When they locate the hidden fortress Mikazuki calls in his personal army to surround them. The horses realize they’re surrounded and fight back. Their policy is never to kill and so they shoot guns that splatter the humans with sticky goop like bubble-gum. Mikazuki is outraged at being made a fool of and orders his army to kill all the horses ignoring Akaboshi’s protests that he needs to capture one alive so he can feature it in his newspaper.

Fortunately Astro arrives at the mountain fortress and stops the attack, though Nuu and all the others have made up their mind to go back home in their big spaceship. Mikazuki suddenly shoots Nuu and Astro subdues him. Nuu has Astro blast him with the gas to knock him out and says good-bye as two of his friends carry him onto the spaceship on a stretcher. Astro is sad to see Nuu leave and even sadder that Acorn and all the other kids have forgotten about him since they all breathed the gas earlier at his house. But he will never forget Nuu.

Trivia

There appears to be a slight contradiction in continuity at the end. When Nuu is shot at first he tells Astro he was hit in his weak spot and is finished, seeming to imply that he is going to die. Yet the next minute before he is taken aboard the spaceship he says that if the human adults ever change their ways and become pure as human children he may one day return to earth.

5. GERNICA

First appeared in the special expanded New Year’s edition of Shonen magazine.

Japan is being threatened by an army of giant mutant snails known as the Gernica. They were being developed and bred by a scientist in the snowy mountains as a potential source of food for the Japanese country since resources are so limited. But they escaped and killed the scientist draining all the water out of his body.

The Gernica have wiped out several cities and are approaching Tokyo. The army try to destroy them guns, poison gas and other weapons but there are too many monster snails. Astro however finds the perfect solution. He flies back and forth over the Gernica with a large bag of salt which he slowly sprinkles from the sky. The Gernica are all slowly dissolved to sludge and Japan has been saved by Astro once again.

Trivia

General Trivia

At the end of this volume there is a three page manga story documenting how Tezuka came to be inspired to create his Astroboy character. This follows directly on from the three page story at the end of the previous volume.