ASTROBOY VOLUME 15

1. ELECTRO

First appeared in the supplement to the January 1955 edition of Shonen magazine.

The gangster Skunk Kusai has stolen a newly designed robot called Electro. He is built out of PH Glass and is invisible to the naked eye except when highlighted by special polarizing beams of light and Skunk uses him to commit robberies and blackmails the police saying he will return Electro if and only if they give up interfering with his crimes from now on. Mr. Mustachio agrees to help the police and gets them to agree to pretend to accept Skunk’s conditions and they sit back while Skunk uses Electro in his work for a month. The citizen’s all think they’re being incompetent but Skunk agrees to meet the police in the park to negotiate returning Electro.

But Astro has taken it upon himself to track down Skunk and he suddenly attacks while Mustachio is trying to set Skunk up into false confidence. Skunk vows to use Electro to strike terror all over Japan and escapes while Electro overpowers everybody, even Astro. Astro is severely rebuked by Mustachio and Inspectors Tawashi and Nakamura and forbidden to go after Skunk again.

Later that night Electro goes to Astro’s house to ask him why he felt different from all the other humans when he grabbed him earlier that day. Astro explains that he’s a robot just like him and is amazed that Skunk never bothered even telling Electro that he was a robot. Astro begins to teach Electro the difference between right and wrong and persuades him to take him to Skunk’s hideout. Astro captures the villain but the judge sets Skunk free on a bail of fifty million yen. Everybody is mad and the police realize there must be somebody protecting Skunk. Mustachio tries some undercover work but is ambushed by Skunk’s gang and shot dead by Skunk himself.

Electro still retains some sense of loyalty to Skunk though he is confused and when Astro next meets him he tries to paint him visible so Skunk won’t be able to keep using him. However Electro hates it and runs away with only his legs and lower torso painted. Skunk is furious but gives Electro a bomb telling him to plant it in Ochanomizu’s laboratory so it will kill the professor. Astro meets Electro once again and pleads with him to hand over the bomb before it blows up in another two hours. He decides instead to keep the bomb for himself and runs off with it. Astro, Ochanomizu and the police search for him but by the time they find him there is only two seconds to spare. They have no choice but to destroy Electro with mag-guns to neutralize the bomb. Astro is devastated and flies off to capture Skunk. In the meantime Inspector Tawashi receives a tip off by phone that a corrupt politician named Kurobe is the one who had Skunk bailed out. Skunk catches the spy who turns out to be Mustachio when unmasked. It turns out that the Mustachio Skunk had murdered was a robot actor in disguise. Before Skunk can shoot the real Mustachio Astro bursts in and knocks him out. Astro is overjoyed to learn his teacher is alive and Skunk faces trial and prison alongside Kurobe.

Trivia

This story was adapted for episode 12 of the 1980’s animated series, “The Light Ray Robot” and for episode 7 of the 1960’s series, “Zero, the Invisible Robot”. This is only the second time Astro’s most infamous enemy Skunk appears in the manga story collection.

2. BLACK LUX

First appeared in the supplement to the September 1957 edition of Shonen magazine.

Astro gets involved in a very unusual case when a mysterious parcel is delivered to his house containing heaps of severed robot parts. Professor Ochanomizu manages to put them together to make a robot but he cannot find a head to fit the body. when activated the headless robot keeps saying things like Aurora and Lux over and over. They contact the police and find out that Lux refers to a dangerous gang of human terrorists who murder robots ruthlessly. Their leader is known as Black Lux and they all wear black masks to avoid identification. Aurora probably refers to Mount Aurora in Antarctica.

The police request Mr. Mustachio go to Antarctica with Astro and his parents to investigate Black Lux. When they arrive Mustachio gets himself into trouble when a bus driver refuses to allow the robots to ride on his vehicle because it’s only for humans. Mustachio has a fight with him and beats him up resulting in him being arrested.

Astro and his parents have to go on without him and meet a robot who owns his own whale ranch near Mount Aurora. Astro shows the headless robot to all the robots on the ranch but nobody can recognize her. The missing head makes it difficult also. When Black Lux suddenly appears Astro urges them all to fight and they all jump up and down upstairs causing pieces of the roof to fall down on Black Lux and his men. The boss is badly hurt but two of his men manage to escape with him in a stolen getaway car since Astro has smashed all their planes.

Meanwhile Mustachio manages to trick the police when they attempt to quietly murder him in jail. He realizes that the local police are in the pay of Black Lux and overpowers them and escape. He discovers a letter from Lux among the police chief’s papers saying he was heading to Mount Aurora and grabs a taxi to take him there. But on the way a plane a bomb upon the car and Mustachio only just escapes in time though he now faces death in a freezing blizzard.

Fortunately he is saved by robot staff at a hospital run by a human doctor. The doctor asks Mustachio if he has ever seen a female robot showing him a photo. Mustachio realizes it must be the robot they brought with them. Suddenly Black Lux’s men arrive and get the doctor to operate to save the life of their boss. Naturally Black Lux repays their kindness by killing all the robots and even the doctor because he hates humans who treat robots nicely. Mustachio puts up a fight and briefly comforts the dying doctor. He tells Mustachio that he built that female robot and that she adopted an abandoned human baby and was banished from the country by the heartless government. She took the child and vanished. He breathes his last and Mustachio is knocked out and taken prisoner.

Meanwhile back at the whale ranch all the robots are giving emergency first aid to all Black Lux’s other men. Then are all ashamed of themselves and in return for such undeserved kindness one of them informs Astro that their secret headquarters is found in Capetown, South Africa. Astro and his parents go there and Astro saves the town from a herd of stampeding elephants. All the townspeople thank him including the town doctor who recognizes the headless robot saying he found it in the trash and sent it to Japan to be repaired. They discover the missing head at the dump and finally she is completely rebuilt. Later Astro rescues Mustachio only to find Black Lux has captured his parents next. Black Lux orders his men to destroy Astro and his family but they unmask revealing themselves to be robots. All his men had reformed and sent robots in disguise to trap Lux. Lux tries to escape. Astro captures him and unmasks him. He is amazed that Black Lux is barely seventeen or eighteen years old.

Finally the photo of the robot slips out of Mustachio’s pocket by Lux’s feet. He says it’s his mother and pulls out a photo he has too. The truth comes out. The robot is Lux’s mother. When she adopted him he was too young to realize and when she broke down he assumed she was dead. And because there were other robots around he grew up believing that robots had murdered his mother so he declared war on all robots worldwide. Lux cannot believe it at first but as he looks at her and touches her he realizes she is indeed his mother and buries his face in her lap crying joyfully as she cuddles him.

Trivia

This story appears to have been adapted for animation at least three times. In the 1980’s series it formed episode 39 “Blackie Young”. While in the 1960’s series it was first used in episode 13 “The Deep Freeze” and actually reappeared as a remake in episode 68 “The Hooligan Whodunnit”. All three adaptations present the same basic story though they tell some bits and pieces in different ways.

3. AMBASSADOR ATOM

First serialized from April 1951 to March 1952 in Shonen magazine.

Some men pick up a boy off the streets of Tokyo and rope him into participating in their new stage show at the Space Theater. He is to physically fight with a robot (Astroboy) as part of the entertainment. However just before the match begins the boy cries out that his father is in the audience and runs to him. The men are furious about their show being ruined and send one of their big robots to capture him. But when they take him backstage to tell him off he bursts into tears and says he only came to watch the show with his father. Astro suddenly vouches that he is a different boy and one of the men remembers noticing a kid in the audience who was identical in appearance. They are very embarrassed and apologize to the kid and give him something to eat and a car to send him near to his home.

In the meantime the other boy has gone home with his twin’s dad but the man and his wife are amazed when their “son” starts asking why they aren’t going home to the Japanese ship and even more amazed when their real son turns up on their doorstep the following morning just after the impostor has been sent to school. His mother takes him to his school and confront the other boy to the amazement of Mr. Mustachio and all the other kids. Professor Ochanomizu is called over to examine the boys and when he arrives he shows Mustachio a photo of a flying saucer and another photo of the first one blown up, in which Ochanomizu himself is mysteriously seen through one of the windows. One of the identical boys cries out that that is the Japanese ship he came from and so the mother identifies her real son.

The twin explains in tears that he comes from the mountains and rode to Tokyo in a train looking for some adventure. The other boy speaks kindly to him and they promise to escort him home. So a team comprising the two boys, the father, Ochanomizu, Mustachio and one of the other boys are escorted by a mountain guide and they discover the spaceship. Everybody meets a clone of himself when the ship opens and the duplicate professor explains that they originally came from an exact replica of planet Earth. Their earth exploded but they all escaped in rockets just in time. In addition to their Japanese ship an American and a French ship have also arrived and landed on their counterpart areas of earth. All three countries promise to welcome the immigrants with open arms.

Unfortunately trouble brews between the pair of Dr. Tenma’s. They both lost their only son named Tobio, but unlike the earth version the space version never built him as a robot. He requests his counterpart to introduce him to Astro at the robot show and when they go earth Tenma becomes infuriatingly jealous of the attention space Tenma gives to Astro. He arranges with the secret police to have his space counterpart arrested on charges of planning to take over earth and Tenma kills him with a dangerous liquid formula that shrinks living creatures down to the size of dust particles leaving only their empty clothing behind. When Astro learns about Tenma’s scheme to exterminate all the space people in this way he rebukes his creator who destroys him in rage with a mag-gun. The secret police begin their cold-blooded mission armed with special guns that squirt the liquid like water pistols, and many space people are wiped out including the counterpart of Ochanomizu.

When Ochanomizu and Mustachio protest to Tenma he has them thrown into jail. In the meantime the surviving space people are outraged and declare war. Their combat ships drop atomic bombs and Ochanomizu and Mustachio are blasted in their cell. They both survive and discover Astro’s body among the wreckage of the building they were imprisoned in. Ochanomizu repairs Astro and sends him as an emissary of peace to the space people’s ship.

Astro proposes terms of peace that half of each of the earth and space people move to a neighbouring planet like Mars or Venus while the rest stay on earth and live happily together. It sounds fair to the space people and Astro leaves his head with them as a token of his promise to try his best to persuade the earth people to agree.

However when he returns to earth initially the secret police all listen to Tenma’s insistence that they must never make any treaties with the space people. They say the only way to save earth is the space people’s destruction. Headless Astro declares that he has no choice but to fight against them because their logic is twisted and evil. He runs amuck, smashes the building and chases after themas they run for it. when Tenma’s men say that maybe their reasoning was indeed wrong and they should reconsider terms of peace Tenma tries to shoot them with the shrinking liquid gun calling them weak, despicable traitors. Realizing the danger they all quickly shoot Tenma first and he turns into dust himself.

Afterwards plans are made for all those who are to leave earth and before the rocket takes off the leader of the space people gives Astro’s head back to him. All is well thanks to Astro.

Trivia

This is the very first Astroboy story Tezuka ever drew although it really had no continuity whatsoever with the regular series he created after.

In the story the most distinguishing thing between the people of earth and their twins is that the space people all have very big ears resembling rodent ears. Curiously though you cannot make out any ears whatsoever on the space version of Ochanomizu. In fact both professors look exactly identical.

4. GAS PEOPLE

First serialized from April to October 1952 in Shonen magazine.

Weird things are happening when Astro’s friend Tamao starts going crazy stealing things from shop windows and passersby. Another friend Ken has noticed Tamao’s behaviour when Tamao grabs him and pulls him into an alleyway to show him what he’s stolen. Then he suddenly starts screaming in pain holding his head. Ken takes him to Professor Ochanomizu who examines Tamao with a brain wave machine. A strange vaporous mist comes out of Tamao’s head and the professor quickly sucks it up into a vacuum cleaner. Tamao wakes up in a panic and says that mist told him to do those bad things and if he’d resisted he would have been killed. Ochanomizu calls Astro and asks him to let the mist enter him so that they can safely analyze it.

Astro releases the gas in an isolated room and it enters his head. It tells him to go to a room in a huge building and he obeys smashing through the wall to the professor’s distress. Then he walks all the way to the building and takes the elevator to the 44th floor and enters the room where eight people are gathered. One of them speaks explaining that they have all been taken possession of by alien lifeforms composed entirely of gas particles. The leader announces that they intend to conquer and enslave the people on earth. One of the host bodies rebels saying he will never obey orders and is immediately killed as a warning to the others.

The leader sends Astro and one other person to the reservoir with instructions to contaminate Tokyo’s water supply with poisonous chemicals to make all the people very sick. The only people at the reservoir are the man in charge and his very young daughter. Astro initially assists in capturing them but he as a robot could never possibly be really possessed and has been pretending to find out what was going on. He takes off his head and throws it at the possessed man knocking him out. He uses the telephone to alert Professor Ochanomizu and gets the man and his little girl to seal the possessed victim in a glass case along with his head to trap the gas entities. Then Astro goes outside and meets Mr. Mustachio and his robot parents. They give him another head and Mustachio goes to the alien headquarters while Astro stays behind.

Meanwhile the man trapped in the glass persuades the reservoir overseer to open the lid a crack to let in some fresh air and the mist inside Astro’s previous head escapes and enters him instead. Astro tries to stop him but he throws the poison into the water. In desperation Astro breaks through the main pipe and plugs it up with a boulder. A crowd of people arrive protesting against the obstruction of water and won’t believe Astro. Egged on by the overseer they threaten to smash Astro while he stands resolute keeping the boulder in place and is about to be blasted with dynamite. Just in time Professor Ochanomizu arrives with Astro’s friends Tamao and Ken. They tell the horrified crowd that there really is poison in the water. Mustachio was able to succeed in infiltrating the gas people’s room and escape with a sample phial of the chemicals. He captures the overseer just as he is about to pull the plunger on the explosives and Ochanomizu puts a poison antidote into the water so it can flow freely and harmlessly once more.

Then Ochanomizu uses the same brain wave equipment he used on young Tamao to safely drive the mist out of the poor man and trap it in the vacuum cleaner restoring him to his distressed daughter. All the other gas people fled when the police raided their headquarters leaving their host bodies killing some of them even. They vow however to return with massive reinforcements in twenty-four hours and possess everybody.

Ochanomizu comes up with a solution when he freezes the mist from the vacuum solid using a dry ice shatt to kill it. He devises a bomb version of it and has Astro fly with it up into the stratosphere at sunrise. Astro explodes it just as the gas people try to descend to earth within a storm via the rainfall. The gas people are exterminated and fall to earth as harmless snow.

Trivia

Before the actual beginning of this story there is another version of how Astro’s parents came to be created when Ken suggests to Ochanomizu that Astro should have a set of robot parents to alleviate his loneliness.