ASTROBOY VOLUME 20

1. THE MELANIN TRIBE

First serialized from June to August 1966 in Shonen magazine.

Picking up the story from where Volume Nineteen left off Astro infiltrates the Robot Warehouse with his huge ally and finds his family in storage waiting to be scrapped. The giant robot awakens them with some of his energy and does the same to all the other robots setting them free. Even the robots who are legitimately defective and useless are released. The police want to arrest Astro for his insubordinate actions after the reject robots go crazy and begin to cause problems in the streets but Ochanomizu implores them to allow him to take full responsibility so he can tend to Astro himself.

Astro’s family discover their house has been sold while they were in storage. Astro sees the new owners are also robots so he lets them be and looks for a new house. To Mustachio’s shock and horror Astro throws him out of his home and picks it up off its foundations. He carries it away so his family can live in it. Astro does many more things to defy humans and even though his parents are getting upset about his behaviour Uran thinks he’s great. Their father tries to discipline them both but Astro departs for Africa taking Uran with him. When Ochanomizu hears that Astro plans to build a robot nation in Africa he catches a plane to follow him. Tenma insists on accompanying him though to see what Astro plans to do.

Astro flies by himself to Africa carrying his sister in a traveling suitcase. When they arrive their attention is caught by a glowing light emitting from a tiny cross sticking in the ground. A voice comes from the cross telling Astro to put it inside his chest and connect it to his electronic brain and he will gain super powers. But Astro says he already has plenty of super powers and responds by burying the cross in the ground where he found it. Unbeknown to him while he sleeps later that night Uran quietly digs it up and inserts it inside her body.

Next morning Astro and Uran come across an ambulance vehicle with dead humans lying all around. One of them is still alive and pleads for water. Astro is still cold and bitter towards humans and wants to just drive off in the ambulance but Uran does not share his feelings and demands that they turn back and help him. She actually finds that she has the power to force the ambulance to turn around against Astro’s efforts to steer it and he gives in. They go back and find some water nearby for the man. He is a doctor and and his team were attacked by an African army while delivering patients and medicine to hospital. The patients had an infectious disease and the African militants touched them when they attacked stealing the medicine boxes. He begs Astro and Uran to find them and show them how to inject themselves with the medicine or else the terrible disease will spread and become a plague. After pointing the direction they went he collapses dead.

In course of time Astro and Uran are attacked by the Africans. Astro fights a giant gorilla robot they bring out against him and both he and it are apparently blown up. Uran is devastated and in her furious grief flips some of the soldiers over onto their heads by added strength the cross has given her. Their leader Prince Bulbo of the Melanin Tribe suddenly appears and declares to Uran that her super powers reveal her as the foretold coming messiah. To her astonishment Bulbo says it was prophesied that the messiah would have a cross on the inside of the body. Bulbo says he is a robot and he has been waiting for her to appear and help him create a paradise for poor, enslaved robots. He takes her to his palace and shows her a magnificent bedroom with human slaves.

Later the voice from the cross speaks to her and says they are robots from an alien planet where there was a war between humans and robots in which the humans where all annihilated. When they heard about how humans rule over robots on earth they vowed to come to earth and destroy all of them too. They sent the cross to earth to recruit a helper among earth’s robots and though she tries to resist it takes her over and she helps Bulbo capture Tenma and Ochanomizu while they search for Astro.

Meanwhile out in the desert Astro is found shook up and out of energy by another robot named Spark. He isn’t really damaged however and Spark revitalizes him with some of his own energy. He tells Astro about Uran and the cross and runs away. Astro goes to seek Uran out and is captured by a revolving trapdoor. He doesn’t have enough energy to escape but a human woman helps him. She is the widow of the ruler of the tribe. They didn’t have any children of their own so they built Bulbo to be their crown prince. She sneaks Astro energy when Bulbo refuses to give astro any but begs him not to fight Bulbo, for she still loves him just like a flesh and blood son. Astro understands and goes to locate Uran.

Meanwhile Bulbo threatens Tenma and Ochanomizu if they don’t help him cultivate the germs of the infectious disease that has been killing his men. He wants to fire missiles all over the world to transport the disease and wipe out humans so robots will reign supreme. If the two scientists agree to help they will be injected with the medicine. Otherwise they’ll die. Even Tenma is feeling uncomfortable about this.

Astro is helped by spark who suddenly shows up again. Astro is almost destroyed by his own sister under control of the cross and she calls the guards after him. Spark gets Astro to safety and they come across Bulbo’s mother who has been overcome by the disease. Astro tells spark to do something about Uran while he takes the poor woman to search for the medicine. Bulbo is devastated to see his mother dying and tries to inject her. But when Ochanomizu and Tenma try to seize the medicine behind Bulbo’s back he is distracted and attacks them. Astro has had enough and they fight. Astro wins but he listens to the dying woman’s desperate pleas for her son’s life and refrains from finishing him off. Ochanomizu finally injects the medicine into her just in time. She begins to recover.

Next Spark reappears and he has successfully recovered the cross while Uran was asleep. However Spark is an agent of the robots from outer space and he attempts to force astro to take the cross into his chest so they can use him to lead earth’s robots in revolt against humans as they planned all the time. Uran sneaks up from behind and knocks the cross out of Spark’s hand so that Astro can jump on it to break it into little pieces. Spark realizes he’s been defeated and sets himself to explode. Astro picks him up and throws him far away from the palace just in time. He leaves a smoking hole where he lands.

Bulbo has learned the error of his ways and instructs his men to burn the palace down to kill all the lingering germs. He vows to return to civilization with his mother and all his tribe and seek to learn how to live as a good robot. Astro has returned to his normal self and he prepares to set off home to Japan with Uran, Ochanomizu and Tenma.

Trivia

The next story in this volume follows straight on chronologically.

2. MEEVA

First serialized from September to December 1966 in Shonen magazine.

While traveling home across the desert Astro and the others come across an oasis. Ochanomizu is about to drink from the water hole when he is attacked by a giant snake. Astro saves him only just in time killing the snake but then the entire oasis literally disintegrates into dust. Ochanomizu is terrified and says they should leave. Tenma insists upon staying to solve the mystery though he says Ochanomizu and Uran may drive off as long as Astro stays behind to help him investigate.

They agree and when the other two have left Astro notices even the snake’s corpse has turned to dust and all the water evaporates. Then they see a strange green-skinned man crawling over the horizon. Astro flies over and brings him to Tenma. The man begs for water and practically drinks an entire large bottlefull that Tenma gives him.

Then some men appear in a flying car and take the green man who they call Meeva prisoner but Tenma and Astro insist upon knowing why they’ve been tracking him down. So they take them to meet their boss, Mr. Damocles. He immediately recognizes Tenma and is pleased to explain that they found Meeva orphaned in the desert and raised him to be a slave. They later discovered he has a special super power. Meeva can summon the past when he is suffering terribly. Through torture they force Meeva to make a fifteen hundred year old temple appear and Astro and Tenma go inside and even see some ancient people. But then all the people and the temple structure disintegrates into dust around them just like the oasis. That oasis also came from the past summoned up by Meeva while he was suffering intense thirst.

Afterwards Astro visits Meeva in his cell where he mourns how his own mother abandoned him in the desert three years ago and he was captured by Damocles. Astro feels sorry for Meeva and digs a tunnel to help him escape.

Meanwhile Tenma gives Damocles his opinion about Meeva and his powers. He believes that Meeva is a fourth-dimension life form masquerading as a human in their three-dimensional world. Damocles shows Tenma all the jewels and treasure that Meeva has brought from the past in his storage basement. Damocles intends to buy the whole world with all the wealth of the past. when he hears of Meeva’s latest escape he sends his men out to bring him back.

Meeva asks Astro to strangle him a couple of times to use his power to protect them. But then Tenma himself appears and blasts Astro and takes his inactive body and Meeva tied up back to Japan. When Damocles realizes that Tenma has stolen Meeva he is enraged and sends his men to kill Tenma and retrieve Meeva.

On the way to Japan Tenma is accosted by Meeva’s mother in her metamorphic form. Meeva asks her why she abandoned him and tells her he wants to go home. She explains that he was sick and she had no choice but to leave him on earth or else he would have died. He can’t come home if he is to survive. She pleads with Tenma not to allow Meeva to use his special powers anymore. If he does he will become so weak he could die.

After she departs Tenma takes Meeva back to his home in Japan. But he is determined to use his powers for his own end so they go to the Ministry of Science where he explains to Meeva that he wants him to summon Astro from the past at the precise moment when he first created him. Tenma wants to start again from scratch. He bitterly regrets selling Astro to the circus and he wants a brand new Astro to raise as his own son. Threatening Meeva with laser beam blasts he gets him to bring a new Astro forth. However Meeva has also brought Tenma’s past self to the future. The past Tenma thinks th present Tenma is a thief disguised as him trying to steal Astro and shoots him dead. But when he realizes he really has shot himself he is aghast and then confused to see his dead body crumble into dust. At the same time the future Astro’s body back at Tenma’s home also disintegrates. Then something clicks inside Tenma and Astro and Tenma realizes that when their older bodies disappeared they ended up with their present age minds planted inside their past younger bodies. Tenma tries to force Meeva to summon the past again to put it right but Astro defies him and flies off with Meeva to his own home and family.

He begs his family to help him hide Meeva upstairs and later when Tenma turns up on the door demanding to be given Astro back his mother and father refuse saying that in the robot registry Astro is listed as their child now. Tenma has no rightful claim to him. At first he pulls out a gun to threaten them but his conscience tells him he is in the wrong and he bows his head in submission. He tells them all he wanted was a brand new chance to have Astro for a son again. That’s why he tried to use Meeva to bring him a new Astro from the past. He realizes how stupid his plans and hopes were now and acknowledges that they are indeed his rightful parents now. He promises to leave them alone in peace after all this.

Just as he leaves their house Damocles catches up with him and is about to destroy him. Astro swoops down and picks up his creator while lasers fire in the air around them. Meeva comes to the rescue as Damocles corners him using his power to summon up ancient Japan from ten thousand years ago. Ancient Japan was underwater so the sea completely engulfs the country. Astro lifts up his house protecting his family and presumably Tenma until the water turns into dust revealing the corpse of Mr. Damocles. Astro searches for Meeva calling his name and is met by his mother cradling his dead body in her arms. Mournfully she tells Astro that poor Meeva finally died of exhaustion. She passes on his final message to say Thank you to Astro for everything he did for him. Then she takes his body back to the fourth dimension leaving Astro grieving.

Trivia

There are a couple of curious plot holes. First how come all the valuable treasures Meeva had summoned for Damocles didn’t disintegrate to dust like everything else summoned from the past? And second while it’s obvious that Astro saved Tenma and his family during the time Japan was completely engulfed what about all the rest of the population? Why weren’t they all drowned like the villains were?

Tenma’s personality and character in these stories throughout Volumes 19 and 20 have already been noted to be very different from his previous appearances. But he is humbled at the end of Meeva. These stories may well take place chronologically before those others since the Dark Horse releases have not been following the actual continuity sequence.

General Trivia

At the end there is a three page manga story that documents the history and development of Astroboy as created by Tezuka. This is in fact the third installment of this informative series since it follows on from the first two installments which appeared a little way back at the conclusions of Volumes 13 and 14.