ASTROBOY VOLUME 18

1. THE ROBOT SPACESHIP

First serialized from July to December 1963 in Shonen magazine.

Astro has been assisting the Ministry of Science with a top secret project. A large number of special unique robots that resemble pieces of randomly shaped metal have been developed and Astro has been teaching them how to assemble themselves into a spaceship to help make exploring space much easier and safer for humans to manage.

At the official test all the robots blast off into space and merge themselves. But the engines won’t work and everybody is distraught, especially Professor Ochanomizu. Astro investigates and finds the last most vital piece has stubbornly refused to co-operate with the others. Then on top of that two spies show up in a flying car and succeed in subduing Astro with an electrified coil of rope just long enough to steal the part and escape.

Later the same pair of spies accost Astro while he’s walking the streets at night and tell him if he wants the part back he must come with them to their secret base. So he goes in their flying car to an artificial island in the middle of the ocean. He meets Captain Vascom of the Bronze Republic Army and Professor Popo. However when he demands the return of the part Popo tells him he has been deceived. Professor Popo has redesigned the part into a little boy robot. The very beautiful but cold-hearted leading officer of the Army, Colonel Vega, instructed Popo to make it look just like the face of a boy in a photograph she showed him. This is actually what her very own son Tommy looked like at the moment when he was killed along with his father in war during a bomb explosion, though neither Popo nor anybody else on the base knows about this. They just obey her orders without question.

Astro is furious and tries to leave but is knocked out in a fight with one of their own robots. He is taken apart and analyzed by Popo and his assistants. They make a replica of Astro and put the original back together storing him in a closet compartment. The replica is designed to obey and serve the Bronze Republic loyally.

Colonel Vega prepares to lead an attack on the United Nations monitoring outpost on Gangara Island to commence their take-over plans for Japan, the United States and the Soviet Union. Meanwhile the rebellious robot part modified by Popo has feelings of remorse having realized what has happened to Astro. It sneaks away from the Colonel’s room, steals Astro’s body and jumps overboard swimming to Gangara’s shores carrying him. Vega is worried about “Tommy’s” disappearance but soon has other things on her mind when the theft of Astro is discovered. They send the replica to search for Astro. When the part notices they’re being pursued it gives what little bit of energy it has left to Astro. Astro is astonished to be confronted with himself and they fight. He knows he hasn’t much energy and manages to hide among the seaweed on the ocean bed. The replica returns to base and Astro uses the last of his energy to recover the part where it sank to the bottom and makes it to Gangara Island where they collapse side by side.

Finally the Bronze Republic’s robot forces begin bombarding the island. However when Colonel Vega notices her “Tommy” on the shore through her binoculars about to be crushed by an approaching tank she demands they shoot a rocket and blow up the tank. Astro regains consciousness as the tank’s energy tube lands nearby him. He fuels up and begins subduing the enemy’s robot brigade. Professor Popo sends the Astro replica after him but Astro is fully charged and destroys the double. Colonel Vega is outraged and shoots Popo dead. Then she commands an all out missile attack on Astro. He manages to fly away with the part and hide in the clouds. He slips down undercover to a telephone center and calls Ochanomizu in Japan.

Ochanomizu connects Astro’s call to the hangar where all the robot parts are gathered. Astro commands them to all fly to where he is at Gangara and to bring Ochanomizu also. The professor is incensed at being scooped up and flown off against his will but understands when Astro explains he needs him to restore the part to its original form. He does and just as the artificial island rises into the air to directly attack the part is able to take its place with all the others and form a robot spaceship to fight. The Bronze Republic stands no chance. They are crushed badly and a fire breaks out. Astro confronts Colonel Vega on the ship offering peace but she humbly admits defeat to him and insists that she will stay to die on her island when it explodes. Astro sadly leaves her to her fate along with all the rest of the enemy. The island blows itself to bits and the robot spaceship heads back home to Japan.

Trivia

This story was used for episode 46 of the 1960’s anime series entitled Phantom Space Ship.

The robot part in the form of Tommy looks slightly like Tink from Tezuka’s Princess Knight manga and anime.

When Professor Popo first shows Colonel Vega their Astro replica he reckons you’d never be able to tell the difference in spite of the fact that there are springs strangely protruding from the replica’s head.

2. COUNT BAT

First serialized from September 1958 to January 1959 in Shonen magazine.

Young Tamao is out camping with two of his friends, Haruta and Kinoshita when they discover a mound which they explore. Suddenly a strange cloaked man confronts them nearby a shiny, plastic coffin filled with bats, Tamao gets away while the other two are taken prisoner.

Later Mr. Mustachio and the police investigate but the mound has strangely vanished. A Geiger counter detects high levels of radiation in the area and then giant robot bats suddenly attack with machine guns. everybody takes shelter in the helicopter but the blades are shot off and a fire starts in the field. They call Astro for help and he carries the damaged copter to safety. One extra large bat pursues but flies away when the sun breaks through the clouds.

Some time later Astro and Tamao go to visit Dr. Foola. Dr. Foola was the villain Astro defeated in the Story Mad Machine back in Volume 3. Tamao sees a painting on Foola’s wall and recognizes the creepy man who kidnapped Haruta and Kinoshita. Foola says that man was a friend of his, Dr. Pedan, and he died ten years ago. Pedan had invented a weapon called an anti-proton bomb and he travelled to outer space to test it on an asteroid. Foola had loaned him fifty billion yen to help finance his experiment but tragically Pedan’s rocket stalled before he could move out of range of the test asteroid. He was discovered dead in the wreckage of his rocket and he was given a space burial in a plastic coffin. Foola says he can’t be the same man Tamao saw. If it was he’d need to claim his lost money back off him.

But Tamao is captured by the man when he goes to Foola’s bathroom. He shows himself to Astro and Foola and it is Pedan to Foola’s amazement. He explains that his body was recovered and resurrected by aliens known as the Buzubuzu race. Astro demands Tamao be released but Pedan ducks into the sewer with him. Foola calls the police while Astro chases Pedan. Pedan has a ring that can emit a highly dangerous ray that melts anything it comes in contact with. Astro fights but his legs get melted to nothing. The police appear led by Inspector Nakamura. Astro warns them to duck and the ray melts Nakamura’s helmet. They throw tear gas cannisters. One officer manages to shoot Pedan but the bullets have no effect. When the gas clears they find that the officer is unconscious with his clothes missing and Pedan has taken Tamao away disguised as a policeman.

While poor Astro is awaiting new legs at the Ministry of Science Foola visits him. He shows Astro a miniature doll version of himself and attaches a device to Astro’s electronic brain enabling Astro to control the little doll. Ochanomizu and Mustachio enter and tell Foola he is forbidden to come unauthorized. Ochanomizu strongly suspects that Foola wants to gain control over Astro and unbeknown to him the mini Astro is secretly intended to eventually control the original. Astro fears for Ochanomizu’s safety and instructs the doll to slip into his pocket as he goes back out.

Ochanomizu is accosted by a huge flying robot bat that tries to shoot him with a gun sticking out of its eye. The mini Astro flies out of the professor’s pocket, disables the gun and discovers that the bat is in reality a UFO piloted by the Buzubuzu. He overcomes the aliens and forces the driver to take him to where Tamao and the other boys are held.

In the meantime Mustachio has been trailing Dr. Foola since he has been acting suspicious. He follows Foola to a cafe where he meets up with Pedan. Disguised as a waitress Mustachio reports to Inspector Nakamura on the telephone. Pedan gives Foola one hundred million yen in appreciation for his co-operation. Pedan says he needs to kidnap two more kids and Foola is not really happy about this deal. Pedan schemes to use the kids to lure Astro into a trap and hand him over to the Buzubuzu. In return the Buzubuzu will help him develop more anti-proton bombs. But Foola wants Astro for himself. Mustachio tries to steal Pedan’s ring disguised as a palm reader. Foola recognizes him and a fight breaks out. Mustachio avoids the ring’s blast and shouts a warning to the police. Pedan and Foola make it to the roof where the spaceship is supposed to pick them up but of course the mini Astro has hijacked it. While Pedan throttles Foola when he cries out surrender to the police Mustachio tells them he heard Pedan say that his body is now built with the Buzubuzu’s DNA. Bullets cannot harm him but sunlight will destroy him. So they wait a few moments for the sunrise and Pedan falls off the roof screaming in agony. When he hits the ground he crumbles into dust while Foola gets his breath back after fighting against his stranglehold. He sobs when he takes a closer look at the money Pedan gave him to find it was all fake. He doesn’t get Astro or one hundred million yen. Only a lifetime prison sentence awaits him.

Finally the mini Astro attempts to rescue the three boys when he arrives at a much larger ship in space where the Buzubuzu headquarters is located. He fights when Tamao is about to be modified like Pedan was to make him an ally to the aliens. Unfortunately he is smashed and the real Astro sensing this implores Ochanomizu to get his new legs ready so he can save Tamao. Even though it should take one more day to perfect them fully Ochanomizu pushes and Astro takes a chance. But his legs work okay. He defeats the Buzubuzu by smashing the window blinds on the side facing the sun and they all disintegrate. Tamao is saved just in time and rescue rockets arrive to take all of them back to earth.

Trivia

3. ATLAS

First serialized from March to July 1956 in Shonen magazine.

A black-skinned Latin American man named Dr. Ram has sworn revenge upon the white people and also the Asian people who have treated his people just like slaves. Especially he vows to gain revenge for his own mother, who was brutally beaten to death by her cruel masters.

At the Robotting Championships Dr. Ram enters his creation Atlas as a competitor. Atlas defeats all five of his opponents but then goes crazy knocking one of the robot medic-engineers into the front row of the audience and finally hitting one of the human judges. Astro, who has been ordered not to take part in the fighting by his teacher, Mustachio, nevertheless has been watching the competition with his friends. He tries to intervene imploring Ram to control his robot. Instead Ram insists that Astro take on Atlas. Reluctantly Astro fights and succeeds in smashing Atlas. Dr. Ram gathers up the pieces and furiously tells Astro he will pay for this humiliation.

Later Astro meets a man whose face and body is completely covered by a cloak and mask. He tells him he shall lose to Atlas in the end because he is an imperfect, inferior robot. He offers to make Astro more advanced and improved. Astro refuses.

Later Astro hears a news report about a volcanic eruption and his parents allow him to bravely go and assist the rescue mission teams. He meets a newly-repaired Atlas, who is actually trying to wipe out all the poor villagers by directing the lava flow towards their underground shelter. Astro on the other hand endeavours to counteract what Atlas has done using three mini A-bombs. There are no fuses but he intends to sacrifice himself using his own circuits. When Atlas tries to stop him Astro rips off his head and decides to use Atlas for a fuse instead. It works and the lava’s redirected away from the village.

While the rescue teams arrive Astro is captured by Dr. Ram who reveals himself to be the mysterious man he met earlier. Ram declares to Astro that he built Atlas installed with a device called the Omega Factor. This makes him capable of violent and wicked behaviour and he intends to install it inside Astro too. Astro can’t escape while Dr. Ram sends Atlas to rob the robot bank wearing a replacement head identical to Astro. But Astro is able to contact Ochanomizu with a hidden radio receiver. So the professor is able to tell the police, Astro’s parents and Mustachio that he is innocent.

Meanwhile Dr. Ram gives Astro a choice. If he doesn’t consent to being modified he will be destroyed with an electro-mag gun. He is about to shoot Astro when Atlas returns and declares that he’s had enough of being treated like a slave and brutally injures Dr. Ram before Astro realizes what is going to happen. Then Atlas attacks him and almost defeats him. But Astro manages to throw him off and Atlas into the electro-magnet barrier that had kept Astro prisoner. He disintegrates into dust particles. Astro comforts Dr. Ram who realizes that in his insane quest for revenge misusing science and technology he brought his fate upon himself. He dies just as Professor Ochanomizu and the others arrive having pinpointed Astro’s location from his radio signal.

Trivia

There is a continuity reference to the Electro story in Volume 15. When Ochanomizu first hears about what happened at the Robotting Festival he reminds Astro of how Skunk bragged that a really perfect robot would be capable of doing evil just as much as good. Skunk has still only appeared in three manga stories so far but he is referred to in this one.

Another robot also called Atlas is a recurring adversary of Astro in the 1980’s anime series. He looks very different from the Atlas in this one shot manga appearance but they do share one thing in common. Both of them had something called the Omega Factor built into their electronic brains making them cruel, cold-hearted robots with no senses of justice or compassion.

4. S.O.S. FROM A SATELLITE

First appeared in the 1959 special Summer expanded edition of Shonen magazine.

A boy named Genchin is teased by some of the other kids at school about his father’s job. Genchin lives on a space station where his dad is a signalman. Genchin was born and raised on the station and the other kids make fun of him calling him a satelliter.

A creepy looking man observes this as Genchin leaves school followed by the bullies. He yells at them to scram and offers Genchin friendly comfort and a lift in his car. But he deceives Genchin. He is the boss of a criminal gang and they take him prisoner. They fly to the space station and confront Genchin’s mother and father with his school bag as proof he’s their hostage. They plan to take over the station and use it to help them smuggle stolen goods from Mars. When the parents plead that they must send a warning signal about a dangerous cluster of approaching asteroids the boss punches both of them hard in the face saying he doesn’t care.

All is not lost though for by very good chance Astro happened to observe Genchin being taken away by the bad guy. He has been searching for him back on earth and magnifying his hearing Astro tracks down Genchin grunting desperately tied and gagged inside the gang’s hideout. Genchin quickly puts on a space suit and flies in Astro’s arms to the space station. Astro overpowers and knocks out all the villains and Genchin is instructed by his father to send a warning signal since he is too weak after the punches he took. Genchin is able to warn a passing passenger spaceship and Astro assists holding onto the ship and guiding it safely through the asteroids. Genchin’s parents are so proud of him. One day he will take over as signalman like his father and grandfather before him.

Trivia

This story is used in the 1980’s series episode 16 Save the Carolina 3 where the role of the big boss is actually taken by none other than Skunk.

5. THE MYSTERIOUS BALL

First serialized from October to December 1957 in Shonen magazine.

Astro’s friend at school Kenichi emigrates to live in South America, Brazil with his uncle. They travel up the Amazon to the village of Bambooba but they discover all the people and cottages have disappeared. The area is covered with what appears to be silkworm manure and Kenichi finds a strange, small ball. At night it lights up like a lamp shooting a beam up into the sky. Kenichi seals the ball inside a box and sends it floating away in the Amazon River with a note to deliver the box to the Japanese Embassy in Rio if discovered. Just as he does so everybody in their traveling party is attacked by an unknown force but Kenichi and his uncle both dive into the Amazon and quickly swim away to safety.

Later on the box is found and the Japanese Embassy forwards it on to the Ministry of Science in Tokyo. Professor Ochanomizu shows the ball and Kenichi’s letter to Astro and Mr. Mustachio. Suddenly the ball gives off its weird ray and a strange creature appears and grabs at the ball. He is overpowered by Astro and Ochanomizu uses a mind-reading machine to interrogate the creature. He is an alien being called an Erosan. The Erosans travel from asteroid to asteroid eating them up to survive and now they have come to attack earth and eat it all up too. The ball is a signal to lead the Erosan forces to food. The alien eats through his chains and escapes with the ball.

Ochanomizu calls the police while Astro pursues the Erosan. While Astro fights the Erosan the police arrive and fire laser weapons terminating the creature. But the signal ball is missing.

While Astro searches for where the alien dropped it night falls and the light appears summoning the aliens in their spaceships. The Erosan eat everything their spaceships can scoop up. Even buildings of concrete and steel. It seems hopeless when the missiles they shoot into their ships are eaten as well before they have a chance to explode.

Just then Astro receives a radio message from Kenichi over in South America to report that when the aliens over there ate through a sugar cane field they all collapsed and died. Astro theorizes that sweet, sugary substances must be fatal to the Erosan. Sending out calls to all the candy makers in Tokyo they deliver tons and tons of sweets by trucks to where the spaceships are. Sure enough the aliens begin to eat it and are killed in agony. Once more Astro has helped to save the earth from alien conquest.

Trivia