ASTROBOY VOLUME 16

1. RED CAT

First serialized from May to November 1953 in Shonen magazine.

Very weird things are happening. Mr. Mustachio and Astro discover a skeleton while exploring a cave inside Mt. Shaugi when they are briefly attacked by a red wild cat. A name sewn onto the skeleton’s clothes identifies it as the remains of Professor Ryotaro Felini. Professor Ochanomizu says that Felini was one of his old friends and a devoted conservationist of the forest. He shows Mustachio a photo of Felini holding his pet cat, Chiri and Mustachio recognizes it as the same red cat he and Astro encountered.

Things get really spooky for Mustachio when he is woken up that night by Chiri who appears to talk and tells him that unless the people planning to tear down the last decent area of forest in Tokyo cancel their plans all humans will be cursed as punishment. Mustachio knows that some human must have been using ventriloquism to make Chiri talk but in the meantime he goes to speak to Mr. Condo, the man in charge of the construction company. Condo explains that Felini had tried to persuade him that the Sasagaya forest be preserved, saying that all the trees, flowers and animals are as precious to him as grandchildren. Condo broke his promise to Felini claiming that he couldn’t stop it due to a majority decision by the building committee. Felini was furious and vowed revenge.

Mustachio warns his pupils to stay away from the Sasagaya area for their own safety since construction work is going ahead in full force there now. But young Shibugaki remembers that he has buried some secret prized possessions somewhere in the meadow and after school runs off to retrieve it. He passes Astro who asks him where he’s going and Shib says if anybody tries to stop him he’ll make them sorry. Astro follows him and when they arrive they are both attacked and taken prisoner by an army of animals led by what looks like a man with a red cat’s face. He calls himself Red Cat and leads Astro and Shib to an old house where they are to be held in custody for the rest of their lives. Three savage bulldogs are appointed to guard them closely. Astro outsmarts them by flying straight up through the ceiling with Shib holding onto him. Red Cat tries to recapture them but Astro blows him over with a blast of air from his arm jets. The cat mask is knocked off revealing him to be Professor Felini very much alive. Astro and Shib escape.

Ochanomizu goes to the house to talk to his old friend. Felini is delighted to see Ochanomizu but says that he faked his own death to plan revenge against the construction crew. Felini tells Ochanomizu that unless they cease destroying the forest by August 7th something horrible will happen. Mr. Condo refuses to listen to this threat and on the deadline all the animals in Tokyo go crazy. From domestic pets to all the creatures in the zoo they all rebel and break out of their cages and enclosures and join all the other animals, including frogs, mice and even birds in terrorizing people. Astro is attacked by the birds while attempting to fly some of the really young schoolchildren home in a make-shift passenger basket tied to him with strong ropes and crashes into a wall where he gets stuck. Shib bravely goes to his rescue with stilts and a fire torch tied to his back. He manages to reach Astro and pull him out of the wall just as the fire begins to burn him and he falls off his stilts.

Things look very bad until Professor Ochanomizu arrives in a small tank and rescues Shib and Astro from the animals. Once he takes them inside the tank Ochanomizu quickly repairs Astro and installs a powerful electric current in him to protect him from animal attack. Astro goes searching for Felini and is lured to an apartment building by the sound of kids crying. He confronts Felini and destroys the device he’s using to control the animals behaviour. Felini’s cat, Chiri, attacks Astro and is killed by the electric charge. Felini has gone over the edge of reason in his zest for the forest by this time and is about to kill the children he has kidnapped in revenge for Chiri. He lights a stick of dynamite and prepares to throw it into an open chamber. Astro having no choice places his foot upon the metallic structure Felini is standing upon shocking him until the dynamite in his hand explodes.

Felini is not killed straight away but Ochanomizu visits him while he is dying in hospital. He informs Felini that Condo was lying. He had made the decision to carry on with the development all by himself. Confronted with the consequences of his actions he ordered the project terminated and signed a written promise that no matter what future development takes place the Sasagaya forest will always be faithfully preserved for all time. Felini is delighted and makes his dear old friend Ochanomizu promise to lay him down to rest in the park he fought hard to protect. Ochanomizu keeps his word and Felini is buried in the middle of the forest under a huge gravestone with his name on it.

Trivia

Mr. Condo is played by Duke Red from Metropolis.

Episode 39 of the 1960’s anime series “The Mysterious Cat” is adapted from this story. The ending is rather more cheerful in that Felini survives his injuries and is freely pardoned since he doesn’t really actually hurt anybody in the end.

The storyline is also used in episode 7 of the 1980’s anime series “The Red Cat” with the original tragic ending.

2. THE MIDORO SWAMP

First serialized from August to November 1956 in Shonen magazine.

Astro is involved with investigating reports of a monster or monsters sighted around the area of the Midoro Swamp. Professor Ochanomizu obtains permission as part of the proceedings to drain all the water in the swamp. Several large tank trucks are slowly sucking all the contents up.

But in the meantime the humans are attacked. The monsters turn out to be a species of giant intelligent lizards. They are able to speak human language and apparently are the last living descendants of the predominant race of creatures that ruled the world before the evolution of human beings. They can squirt a liquid from their tongues that turns humans into docile slaves and they force the workers to return all the water to the swamp.

Astro and his brother Cobalt capture one of the lizards alive so that the Ministry of Science can examine it. They also discover that the lizards are eating herds of cows and even some of their human slaves when human bones are found in addition to cow bones.

Unfortunately a riot is caused at the ministry when a couple of foolish eager newspaper reporters sneak inside and slip the muzzle off the captive lizard in order to attempt to interview it. They get turned into slaves and free the lizard. In turn security guards are converted and start shooting other people. Astro starts a fire with his armjets to drive the lizard out of hiding. He captures it and forces it to call the other lizards by phone to gather for a showdown at the Ministry of Science. Astro intends to put the lizard into the ministry’s pool but it dies of extreme dehydration as soon as it finishes the call.

Astro waits for the lizards but when they arrive they bring a huge robot built by their human slaves. Since the liquid they shoot out of their mouths cannot work on Astro they intend to use this robot to destroy him. It has anti-proton rays built into its mouth. The armed forces hear about this attack and come to help Astro but they are slowly wiped out till only a quarter of them are left. Finally Astro has an idea to fly around behind the robot, climb up inside its mouth and swing the firing device around so that the anti-proton ray fires down its throat. The robot thus blasts itself to pieces and killing all the lizards in the explosive crossfire. Astro discovers one of them not killed immediately and while it is dying it tells Professor Ochanomizu, Mustachio and other nearby humans that the day will come when all humans will be destroyed by something more powerful that rises up to take their place on earth just like they wiped out all the lizards. Ochanomizu bows his head and admits that this is probably true. What has taken place it Midoro Swamp may have been a prelude of a future survival of the fittest battle.

Trivia

Tezuka drew inspiration for this story from alleged sightings of the fabled Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.

3. ROBIO AND ROBIETTE

First serialized from May to September 1965 in Shonen magazine.

Two robotic scientists, Ohno Yani and Ornery Ijio, bitterly hate each other and unfortunately because of their hostile attitudes they have both programmed the robots they build personally to also fued and fight violently. Professor Ochanomizu is not happy and warns the two men that he’ll complain to the police if this continues. He is especially furious when Yani’s robots mistake Uran for one of Ijio’s and kidnap her. Fortunately Astro saves her.

Robio from the Ijio clan apologizes to Astro and Uran. She had been invited to a party for Robio’s younger brother but Yani’s robots had kidnapped her while she was going to their house.Robio tells Astro their feud with the Yani clan makes him very distressed but there’s nothing he can do about it.

Mr. Yani is angry with his robots over the recent incident and rebukes them. To ease his strain he decides to build a racing car and gets Chibolt to help him. When Mr. Ijio hears about this he determines to better his rival of course and has Robio assist him. The two men call each other on the phone and have a heated argument. Both vow that their car shall be the winner in the next upcoming racing event. Chibolt is driving Yani’s car, the Red Light. Robio is supposed to be driving the Silver Arrow for Ijio but he asks Astro to stand in for him. He doesn’t want to become involved in any fight involving the cars and Astro consents. While Astro’s driving Robio comes face to face with Yani’s female robot, Robiette. She runs off but he is mesmerized by her beauty.

During the race Chibolt tries everything he can to stay ahead of Astro. Finally in the middle of a thunderstorm when his engine ices over Chibolt tries to resort to his flying power holding onto the steering wheel he carries his car on his built-in wings. Astro calls out that that is cheating just as a lightning bolt strikes the Silver Arrow, causing Astro to crash. Chibolt finishes the race but refuses to accept the cup confessing what he did. His conscience is pricked by Astro’s rebuke but Yani is furious with Chibolt for spoiling his triumph over Ijio. Likewise Ijio is furious with Robio for letting Astro take his place and threatens to scrap him when he says he wants no part in this stupid feud with Yani’s robots.

Later that night Robio goes to Robiette at Yani’s house. He hasn’t been able to stop thinking about her and she admits to feeling the same way about him. They examine their chest cavities and find by an extraordinary coincidence they have been built with identical construction patterns. This is why they are so deeply attracted to each other. Suddenly Chibolt and her other robot brothers appear and catch Robio. They start to attack him when Astro shows up to protect Robio. Robiette turns on an artificial rain-maker to distract her brothers so Astro and Robio can fly away but Chibolt chases them. Robio flees when Astro tells him to and he and Chibolt fight. The two robots end up knocking each other out and the police take them into custody.

Professor Ochanomizu is informed that Astro and Chibolt caused damage and injury to houses and people sleeping in their beds. Particularly from the huge spears Chibolt was throwing. Inspector Tawashi agrees to release them under Ochanomizu’s care but warns them that if there’s any more robot violence, whoever the robot is, they will be imprisoned. Astro returns Chibolt to his creator’s home for repairs when he blows a fuse and hands him to Robiette through her window.

But the next day Tawashi arrests Astro again at his home. Last night Robio’s two older robot brothers, Rod and Drill were blasted to pieces with a ray gun and a witness swears the culprit is Astro. Robio goes to see Astro in jail and is convinced by Astro’s sincere claim that he is being framed. Robio flies off to settle with Chibolt sure that he’s the culprit. He meets him in midair and angrily accuses him of killing his brothers and being a coward. Furious they fight and Robio badly injures Chibolt. But then Robio sees the mask Chibolt was carrying. It is Astro’s face but Chibolt could not have worn it over his head and it even has holes for a human to breathe through. Horrified Robio helps Chibolt stagger to the police station so he can testify that Ohno Yani had disguised himself and destroyed Rod and Drill before he collapses and explodes from his injuries. Tawashi humbly apologizes to Astro and asks for his help in capturing Yani.

When Astro tracks down Yani he is in his truck on his way to challenge Ijio to a robot duel. Another of his robots damages Astro but Robiette secretly slips out to help him. Robio appears and confesses that he killed Chibolt. But Robiette cannot hate Robio. They agree that their creators are the ones responsible for all the tragedy within their families. They vow to make Yani and Ijio see sense and call off their feud. Robiette takes Astro to be repaired while Robio goes on ahead. The two scientists have each built a huge robot and as they prepare to fight Robio tries to intervene and ends up destroying his own creator’s robot. Ijio is very angry and orders Robio to fight Yani’s robot in substitution.

Just as Robio is about to be crushed Astro reappears and saves him. While Astro takes over fighting the big robot Ijio and Yani become so fanatically crazy that they continue their duel personally by driving at each other really fast in their trucks. Robiette flies in between begging Yani to stop and Robio flies to her side to caress her just as the trucks smash together. Astro destroys his opponent and the police arrive with Ochanomizu. Yani and Ijio are both devastated to behold their favourite robots compacted into a twisted pole of metal and weep bitterly. They both beg each other’s forgiveness for the way they have spitefully acted.

Then everybody listens and can hear the sound of Robio and Robiette’s robotic hearts beating together. Even though their bodies have been destroyed their hearts are now eternally joined as one.

Trivia

Robio and Robiette are inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

This story appears in the 1980’s series, episode 14 of the same title. However all the action centers upon the racing event and it all leads up to the very same tragic ending with the race cars taking place of the trucks.

4. THE DEVIL'S BALLOONS

First serialized from December 1963 to February 1964 in the supplement editions of Shonen magazine.

Somebody is tarnishing Astro’s good name. People, especially children, have been seriously injured by giant floating balloons in the shape of Astro that are rigged up to explode. Astro swears he is innocent but everybody runs away from him in terror. Astro tries to investigate another sighted balloon but it shrinks down to an empty rubber shell when he touches it and the police who appear in their jet planes think he’s the bomb disguised. Astro is badly weakened by their ray gun blasts and he takes refuge in the government building. He begs the electoral candidate Mr. Beancake Daifuku to help him. But when the police arrive led by Inspector Tawashi, Daifuku proves to them that it is the real Astro by ordering him to open his chest. After which Daifuku shoots him four times demolishing his mechanical engine.

Ochanomizu tells Astro’s distraught parents and an infuriated Mustachio that Astro has been damaged so much that the repair process could take up to one entire year. Cobalt and Uran go to see the professor at the robotic lab and voluntarily donate their parts so that their brother can be repaired. Ochanomizu is deeply touched by such a huge sacrifice on their part and so Astro comes back to life. Ochanomizu tells him that he thinks the exploding balloons come in from the ocean and Astro flies away to investigate. He discovers a strange pipe where the balloons come out from and going through it he discovers a secret hideout where he meets the gangster Skunk Kusai. Skunk tricks Astro into falling down a trap door into a tiny chamber sixty feet deep which is immediately filled up to the brim with quick drying liquid rubber to seal him up.

Skunk has in fact been hired by Daifuku to get rid of Astro since he hates robots and with him out of the way Daifuku hopes to drive out all the other robots in Japan. However Daifuku has bitten off more than he can chew with Skunk’s services. Skunk proceeds to blackmail him once he wins the Governor election. Skunk phones him and tells him he and his men plan to rob some banks. Unless Daifuku ignores their criminal activity and pretends everything’s fine Skunk will blab about the deal they had made.

Ochanomizu is present at the time however protesting the Governor’s anti-robot stand and he answered the phone first. When Skunk asked to speak to Daifuku he slowly recognized his voice and determines to have the police trace the call. In desperation Daifuku alerts Skunk who sends two of his henchmen to kill Ochanomizu while he’s driving in his car. Ironically he is saved when a stray balloon explodes at random above the gangsters car. The professor forces one of the injured men to talk and finding out where Astro’s at he contacts him with a radio transmitter. Astro is trapped in the rubber but upon hearing about what his brother and sister did for him he is inspired to put all his best effort into breaking free and he succeeds. He intimidates the man Skunk has left to guard the fortress and learns what’s going on. He flies to the first bank of Japan and surprises the gangsters as they land on the roof in balloons pretending to be bombs. Skunk and all his men fight but they’re no match for Astro. They are all captured.

Later the police arrest the Governor for his corrupt involvement in Skunk’s activities and Ochanomizu has all the remaining balloons bombs removed so they can use them as delivery balloons to take food, medicine and other important things to poor people in need.

Trivia

This story was adapted for episode 18 of the 1980’s series. Even though the title given to it was The Death Balloon no characters are ever depicted as having been explicitly killed by the explosions.

This marks Skunk’s third appearance in the manga series.

On the second page of the manga there is an incidental piece of trivia. Tawashi is actually the word that means scrub brush, and indeed Inspector Tawashi’s nose and moustache look so remarkably like a scrubbing brush of some sort.