ASTROBOY VOLUME 21

1. ROBOT BOMBS

First serialized from December 1956 to August 1957 in Shonen magazine.

This is like two stories in one. Astro has two adventures one after the other relating to the same event.

In part one a mysterious robot attacks Astro’s school and infects Astro with a bacteria oxidizes or eats away slowly at his body. While Professor Ochanomizu tries to control and contain the disease, Mr. Mustachio is given an antidote by a strange man completely disguised by thick, heavy clothing and dark glasses. Mustachio takes the antidote to Astro but as soon as he drinks it they realize that the same robot has attacked the Ministry of Science at Ochanomizu’s office. Astro saves the Professor and the robot flies away.

Ochanomizu tells Astro and Mustachio that he recognized it as a Robot Bomb. They were designed to blow up targets they walked to. They were banned ten years ago. Later they capture the robot and reading its mind electronically learn that when all the existing Robot Bombs were dumped into the ocean they all started manufacturing and reproducing themselves and built their own undersea empire.

Later other Robot Bombs rescue their comrade and capture Astro and one of his school friends, Tamao and take them to their undersea base. Tamao is placed in a special vinyl bag to keep him alive and is placed with the only other human captive. An old sea captain. Meanwhile Astro is presented to the Robot Bomb Emperor who explains that they want Astro to help them invade and subdue the humans on the dry land. Astro protests that they don’t know what they’re thinking and they are deeply offended. Astro challenges one of them to a combat and they all gather in their public arena to watch. Astro pulls off the safety mechanism on the top of his opponent’s head. When he hears a ticking sound inside him Astro cries out that he is a bomb and will explode unless Astro puts what he took back in place. He doesn’t want to believe Astro but begs him to stop the noise and Astro complies.

The Emperor declares this all madness and tells his subjects that Astro has no proof that they’re all bombs and defiantly snaps off his own mechanism. As he floats overhead to address everybody he blows up. Astro tells the horrified community that there is absolute proof that they’re bombs originally built by humans. Humbled they all listen and free Tamao and the captain promising to return to the surface with them and learn to get along with humans. Astro tells them that Professor Ochanomizu will gladly arrange to have them modified so they’ll no longer be explosive.

Unfortunately in part two a passing ship full of scoundrels is alerted to the explosion of the Emperor. They rescue Tamao and the captain but when told about the Robot Bombs the greedy captain of the ship named Mason shows his true colours and forces the old man to tell all the Robots to obey Captain Mason. When Astro catches up with them Mason warns him that if he interferes he will command the robots to kill his friend Tamao. Astro retreats but secretly forces the ship to go to Japan to the amazement of Mason and his crew. It takes almost all of Astro’s energy but he grabs hold of the boat and drags it towards Japan’s dock with all his might.

He struggles onto the pier covered in barnacles and collapses. He is found and cleaned up by Boone Marukubi who reveals himself to be an ex-henchman of Captain Mason. When he hears about the Robot Bombs he offers his assistance in opposing his former boss. He takes Astro to Mason’s headquarters in Japan to confront him. Mason is an eccentric villain. They find him relaxing in a huge swimming pool full of stolen gold coins and he also even has a shower set up to rain coins down on him. He stubbornly refuses to release his hostages and tells Boone and Astro they’d better go now if they know what’s good for them.

The police attempt a raid on Mason but are no match for the robots. Boone has an idea and disguises Astro as a solid gold Buddha statue. An undercover policeman sells Astro to two of Mason’s henchmen disguised as a peddler and Astro is able to infiltrate Mason’s home and locate Tamao and the captain. While they all escape Mason suddenly becomes sick. His men send for a doctor who tells him he has sustained gold poisoning from bathing in his coins all the time. He won’t listen to the doctor however and continues to lie on top of his gold in the pool in spite of how it makes him feel. Then he overhears over the intercom some of his men talking about how he’s sure to die soon while they play cards. They reckon they may as well share the gold among themselves when the boss is no more and he is furious. He orders the Robot Bombs to fly off to Manila with all his gold stowed inside their chest cavities.

Next he sends one big Robot Bomb to bash all his men to death. But when he tells the robot to follow him to his chagrin it tells him that it has had enough. It won’t obey him anymore because he is not human. Mason has no human compassion so it flies away leaving him fuming.

As he leaves he is captured by Boone and the captain but he notices a woman and her daughter preparing to get into a nearby car. He seizes the little girl and takes her hostage in the car. As they drive off Astro shows up. He sneaks up behind the car, smashes through the back and out the front rescuing the child from the passenger seat. Mason is frustrated and in despair realizing he’s been defeated. He drives the car over the railing into the water either losing control in his mental anguish or else simply just trying to suicide. Astro just manages to save him in time. Mason is humbled that Astro would do that for even a bad guy like him and gives himself up.

Finally Astro sees all the Robot Bombs flying out to sea. He asks one of them where they’re going and it says they’re returning to the ocean depths. They may come back one day providing that the humans ever learn how to be better creatures.

Trivia

Robot Bombs is the very first manga appearance of Tezuka’s star character Boone and he was modeled upon Lino Ventura, a famous movie star in France.

The mysterious man who gives Mustachio the antidote to save Astro is undoubtedly his own creator, Dr. Tenma. In another scene shortly afterwards Tenma can be seen still disguised watching Astro secretly in a hidden corner while the first Robot Bomb is captured with Astro’s help. Apart from these couple of cameos Tenma has nothing at all to do with the rest of the events that follow.

2. MISSION TO MARS

First serialized from December 1953 to May 1954 in Shonen magazine.

In this story Astro is appointed Commander of an American exploration mission to the planet Mars by special request of Dr. Manmos. He explains to Ochanomizu that their previous expedition failed when a fight broke out among the crew and the men left some of their crewmates behind. Dr. Manmos feels that a robot Commander is needed to keep human emotions under control for their second expedition and Astro is given the rank of Major for the duration of his assignment. Some of the men are not happy about having a robot in charge, especially Captain Ketchup who protests to Dr. Manmos in person. But Manmos refuses to be dissuaded from his decision and orders the Captain to submit.

In the last minute before take-off a stowaway is discovered disguised in a crewman’s uniform. She turns out to be a young teenage woman named Cabet who wants to go to Mars to find her brother Captain Hars Lencon. Even though Astro wants to put her off before they leave there is no time with less than a minute to go. So she stays but he puts her to work with all the rest of the crew.

Next a strange space ship attaches itself to the outside of their rocket. Astro goes outside and lifts it up flying it away but somebody cuts the safety line that is securing him to their own ship and he begins to run low on energy. Realizing his plight he takes the only chance he has and smashes inside the space ship to search for an energy source. Astro discovers it is an alien space ship and all the aliens on board are apparently dead for dsome unknown reason. Astro uses one of the aliens atomic energy guns to help him get back to his men and brings an alien corpse to show them. Astro talks to Captain Ketchup about what happened when the first mission went into rebellion. Cabet’s brother, Captain Lencon claimed that Martians were planning to invade earth one day and that they should organize defence forces. His Commander didn’t believe him and after a riot Captain Lencom was abandoned on Mars along with all who sided with him. In spite of Astro’s evidence Ketchup laughs and ridicules the idea of a Martian threat.

Later while they prepare their base on Mars they are attacked by an army of robots. They turn out to under the control of Captain Lencon who reveals himself inside the body of one of them when he recognizes his sister. He tells Astro they must leave him and his robots alone or they’ll destroy their rocket and he tells Cabet she must return to earth when Astro’s men leave. Captain Ketchup wants to arrest Lencon and when Astro orders him to back off and let him handle the situation Ketchup rebels. He shoots Astro putting him out of commission and locks Cabet up in Astro’s quarters along with his lifeless body when she tries to prevent him attacking her brother. Ketchup leads some men on a search and discovers a secret factory where Lencon’s robots are at work producing themselves. They surprise Lencon in his bed who says he is building those robots to protect earth from the Martians. Ketchup still refuses to believe and punches Lencon out cold telling his men to take over control of the robots.

In the meantime Cabet discovers a message in a container around Astro’s neck with detailed instructions for repairing him. She succeeds and Astro helps fight the aliens who have begun to attack his men shortly before his revival. Astro follows Captain Ketchup to Lencon’s base with proof of the alien threat. He arrests Ketchup for mutiny and borrows Lencon’s robots to destroy their ships. Astro is about to pilot the main robot that controls the others when a remorseful Ketchup breaks free of his guards and climbs inside in his place. He confesses that it was he who spitefully cut Astro’s lifeline earlier because he hated having to obey a robot’s orders. Defying Astro one last time he leads all the robots in attack against the aliens and wipes them all out perishing himself in the process.

Cabet stays on Mars with her brother as Astro prepares to depart for home. He salutes Captain Ketchup for his heroic sacrifice as they drive past the battleground where he died.

Trivia

There is a short teaser story at the beginning in which Astro helps to capture a gang of hijackers on the plane while he travels to America with Professor Ochanomizu to meet Dr. Manmos.

There is some discrepancy with the name of Cabet’s brother in the English translation. At the beginning he is Captain Lencom but near the end his name changes to Rencom and on one occasion Rencon. No doubt this is merely due to typographical error.

This story was adapted for episode 15 of the 1980’s series “Astro Fights Aliens”. Some differences are in the rank given to Astro and Ketchup. Astro is only Captain instead of Major and Ketchup’s name is also different. He is called Lieutenant Blackstone.

3. SEA SERPENT ISLAND

First appeared in the August 1953 supplement of Shonen magazine.

Astro discovers heaps and heaps of bottles while diving in the sea that all contain a letter from some girl on an island called Pochom-Pochom. In every letter she begs for help saying that she and her father are prisoners and he is being worked to death. Astro and his friends, Kenichi and Tamao figure the bottles were all carried by the Japan current so Pochom-Pochom must be somewhere close by. But they can’t find it on the map and when Astro asks his dad he laughs it off saying it must be a joke. Pochom-Pochom does not exist.

Astro secretly goes out exploring the ocean and finds another bottle with a letter dated today. July 7th. Then he’s attacked by something scary in the water and he flies away landing on an island beach. He meets a native woman and asks her about Pochom-Pochom Island. She tells him that Pochom-Pochom refers to a giant sea monster with fiery eyes that swallows whoever goes out to sea alive. When she hears that the monster attacked Astro just now she runs away screaming in terror. Astro decides that the monster must come from the mysterious island. But he cannot investigate further now. He has only about half his energy to get home with. He only just makes it back to Japan.

However his head has been dented from the impact of hitting the beach when getting away from that monster and Mr. Mustachio notices how sleepy Astro is in class the following day. His mother and father are suspicious as they replace his damaged head and refill his energy but Astro tells them nothing. He slips out again that night and this time sees a ship attacked by the serpent. Before he can do anything the ship is completely destroyed. Then while he stands on a floating barrel pondering what to do next the monster attacks him again and this time he is swallowed up.

To his amazement he discovers that the serpent is an artificial monster and he has been deposited into an underwater mining camp along with the crew and passengers of the ship. They are informed by a gang of scoundrels that they have been shanghaied to slave in their uranium mine. Astro meets an old man who tells him that he’s been a slave for ten years. His daughter works in the hospital clinic and every now and then he bumps himself on the head so he can go and see her. He injures himself and sneaks Astro in with him to introduce him to her. She is called Rumiko and it is she who has been sending the letters every time she dumps all the empty bottles through the garbage hatch.

Astro has a plan to help Rumiko and her father escape. He disguises himself as Rumiko and hides the two of them inside a really huge jar each. His cover is blown by the bad lady in charge of the clinic who is suspicious of his boots. He runs as quickly as he can to the disposal hatch and dumps his friends jumping in after them.

The villains realize he’s a robot and try to capture him with the sea serpent. Astro is ready for it though and tears it to pieces so they can no longer shanghai innocent people. Then he drags the jars to the surface and deposits them on the island he visited the other night. He goes to see the native woman with one of the severed sea serpent heads as proof that Pochom-Pochom is no more. She is apparently the chief mistress of the island community and she proclaims Astro their hero and champion. She promises to do anything to serve him. Astro asks that Rumiko and her father be given a home and looked after for awhile. Then he returns to Japan almost running out of energy again.

Mustachio can’t understand what’s going on. Neither can his parents. His dad vows to watch over him the next night but finds out that Astro has tricked him by setting up his old damaged head in bed as a decoy while he flies off back to his friends on the island. When he makes it clear that he is going to leave once again the island’s head lady begs him to stay. But Astro insists that he must take his friends home and he must go home himself. He tries to ask for a canoe to transport them all but the lady goes crazy with grief and despair ordering her subjects to attack Rumiko and her father with swords. Astro protects them and they all make it to shoreline. But there are no boats to take.

Suddenly the lady appears by herself seeming to admit defeat offering them a boat to depart in. Astro’s friends settle inside and Astro prepares to cast off. But before he can get in the native woman suddenly slices off his head and runs away laughing with glee. Rumiko screams and faints. Her father knew that Astro was a robot but she thought he was a human boy. Astro’s body gets up and flies away begging him not to let Rumiko know he’s a robot. When Rumiko regains consciousness her dad tells her that Astro was killed and she weeps bitterly.

When they get back to civilization they tell the police about the underwater slave camp and presumably the villains are all arrested and the slaves rescued. Later they track down Astro’s school but they don’t see Astro. Rumiko’s dad speaks in private to Mr. Mustachio and they agree that it would be best not to meet with Astro. Besides the fact that Astro didn’t want Rumiko to know he’s a robot and she firmly believes that he’s dead there is another serious point. Technically Astro broke the law because any robot who dares to leave the country without special permission faces the penalty of having their energy terminated and being sent to the scrapyard. Therefore they both quietly leave the school grounds Rumiko’s dad telling her that this is the very school Astro attended while he was alive. Unbeknown to them both Astro silently watches them depart through an upper story classroom window.

Trivia

This story was adapted for episode 36 of the 1980’s series entitled Lilly on Peligro Island. Rumiko was given the name Lilly.

In the manga story the native woman who seemed to rule the island is dark skinned like all the other natives. However in the 1980’s cartoon she is uniquely presented as a white woman among all her dark subjects.

4. FRANKENSTEIN

First serialized from November 1952 to April 1953 in Shonen magazine.

In a robot factory in which all the human engineers have become lazy and quit their jobs letting robots take over completely a disaster is created. While the robot workers are trying to complete a large, strong robot he awakens prematurely and goes out of control smashing everything in his path. Astro is passing nearby and hears the commotion. He finds the factory wrecked and all the workers smashed. Reassembling one of them and awakening him he is told about the renegade robot who is known as Frankenstein.

While Astro attempts to search for him, Frankenstein crosses paths with some gangsters who decide to adopt him as a muscle man to assist with their crimes. When Frankenstein attacks a robot dancer just before she goes on stage the police realize that Frankenstein is involved as no human could smash a robot in the way that the dancer has been. Inspector Tawashi is furious and says if a human is attacked like this it will prove what he’s always been saying about robots being dangerous. Inspector Nakamura sticks up for Astro when his colleague snaps at him though.

Shortly after this Astro’s friend Tamao is kidnapped and the school bully, Shibugaki’s rich father is robbed by Frankenstein disguised as a valuable statue delivered to his mansion. Astro tracks him down at the scene of the crime and they fight just as Shibugaki Senior and his butler are attacked. Astro is in time to save their lives but just as the butler manages to call the police Frankenstein overcomes Astro and escapes. Before Astro can get to his feet and chase him the police arrive and he is arrested. Even young Shibugaki accuses Astro of working with Frankenstein though Nakamura is uneasy about this.

At the trial however Astro’s teacher, Mr. Mustachio, also known as the detective, Shunsaku Ban is his lawyer and he presents a good case. The jury declares Astro innocent due to lack of conclusive evidence.

As for Tamao it transpires he was kidnapped by different people not connected with Frankenstein. They contact Astro and arrange to pick him up at the Tokyo train station alone at noon. A masked man takes Astro by car to their hideout but on the way he plucks out and disables the radar gadget that Professor Ochanomizu had planted in Astro so they cannot be tracked. The gang tell Astro that they are all robots like him who are planning to make war on humans. Astro can’t believe that robots would think this way and refuses to join their cause however they threaten to hurt Tamao. If he does anything to interfere with them they will kill him. They blindfold Astro and Tamao and take them to safety.

Astro won’t say anything of course and neither will Tamao but Tamao does bad mouth Astro to the other kids at school, including Shibugaki. Even though Tamao knows Astro did it to protect him he tells everybody that Astro is a bad robot who has joined forces with human hating robots. Shibugaki and his friends give Astro such a hard time over this. Then robots are all declared to be dangerous and banished. The renegade robots encourage a bunch of the robots who are about to be transported to some far away island to join them in attacking the Ministry of Science. Ochamomizu and the other scientists are taken prisoner along with his friend Ken, but for Tamao’s sake Astro still does nothing.

Astro realizes he must find Frankenstein to put a stop to this madness. After searching he finally hears the noise he makes coming from the Shibugaki mansion. Mustachio has gone to visit Mr. Shibugaki to discuss how he believes Frankenstein is under control of humans who want to steal his artwork and valuables. While they were talking the villains were sneaking up on them and Frankenstein has seized Mustachio. Astro is just in time to save him. They knock Frankenstein out and tie up the gangsters. Then Mustachio calls for a robotic engineer to come out and repair Frankenstein to make him a good robot. The rest of the gangsters show up including the boss but Astro protects Mustachio and the engineer and Frankenstein is perfectly modified.

Astro subdues all the gangsters before Frankenstein is reawakened and then with a new found understanding of right and wrong Frankenstein goes to the Ministry of Science, captures all the robot rebels and rescues Ochanomizu and all the other hostages. The renegade robots take off their masks in confession revealing themselves to have been human revolutionists pretending to be robots. Mustachio announces on the media that everything was the fault of humans. Even the problem of Frankenstein himself was due to humans being lazy and leaving all the work at the factory to robots with no human supervision. Humans should feel ashamed of the way they treated robots in the whole affair.

Astro is hailed as a hero and everybody is reconciled to him. Even Shibugaki apologizes.

Trivia

Frankenstein appears as Episode 6 of the 1980’s series under the same title. The animated story featured Skunk as the chief villain and Frankenstein was a very huge giant. Almost King Kong like in size though the proportion does seem to slightly vary discrepantly in different moments.

Frankenstein is modeled upon the traditional image of the monster character from the classic horror novel of the same name written by Mary Shelley and in the manga he is also about as tall as the Frankenstein monster is generally depicted.

He also appears in Episode 2 of the 1960’s series in which his name is changed to Colosso.

EXTREMELY SHORT STORIES

5. THE CORAL REEF ADVENTURE

First appeared in the 1954 expanded summer edition of Shonen magazine.

Professor Ochanomizu reluctantly agrees to modify Astro for a period of two days so that he can find out what it’s like to experience fear like humans do. As soon as Astro is modified a creepy looking man shows up at Astro’s house requesting his services. He is a former sea captain and his ship crossed paths with what he calls a ghost ship. The ghost ship had been near the test grounds for a hydrogen bomb and radiation killed all the crew and made all his own crew sick and disfigured his features. He asks Astro to locate and take care of the ship and its contamination. Even though Astro is nervous his dad urges him to accept the job. Astro finds the ship and deposits it on a nearby coral reef in spite of being terrified by the thought of ghosts. He thinks there actually are ghosts but they turn out to be poor animals disfigured by the hydrogen bomb’s radiation. Afterwards Astro admits to Ochanomizu that he never wants to be hindered by scared feelings ever again.

6. THE TEST PILOT

First appeared in the September 1956 supplement of Shonen magazine.

Professor Ochanomizu calls Astro one night when a strange spacecraft appears outside his home. Upon examination they discover that it is not an alien ship, but a time machine with a scientist from the 22nd century at the controls. He explains that he was chosen as the first test pilot for it. He was supposed to travel back to the beginning of time but had to make an emergency landing in the 21st century. The machine suddenly kicks back in and takes Astro and Ochanomizu back to the age of the dinosaurs along with the test pilot. During the course of their adventure it dawns on the test pilot and Ochanomizu that they are in fact related. He is Ochanomizu’s great grandson but he refuses to share any of the time machine technology when he drops Astro and his great grandfather back in the 21st century on his way back home. He says that if a time machine is built by Ochanomizu some wicked person will surely misuse it. But Ochanomizu tells Astro he feels encouraged to research time machines himself knowing they will be invented in the next century.

7. SUPER CYCLONE

First appeared in the December 1956 supplement of Shonen magazine.

Japan is under threat by an extraordinary typhoon generated by a space station spinning round and round as it falls to earth. As it rotates clumps of it break off tearing everything in its path to pieces. All cities in the danger zone are evacuated. It seems that nothing can stop the horrible destruction that could completely destroy Japan, but fortunately Astro has an idea. He tells Professor Ochanomizu that the typhoon will pass over a volcano inside Mount Mihara so if he plants a time bomb in the mouth of the crater to explode just as the typhoon is directly overhead hopefully the lava will shoot up and consume all the little pieces of space station. The professor agrees to try Astro’s plan and to his immense relief it is successful.

Short Story Trivia

Two of these stories have similar themes in the 1980’s series. In Episode 46 “The Hijacked Airship” Dr. Elefun takes away Astro’s super powers for one day so he can know what it feels like for humans in their lives. In The Coral Reef Adventure he kept his powers. Merely was given the ability to feel afraid just like a human. Plus it was for two days as opposed to only one. In Episode 35 “The Monster of Clarken” Astro lures a giant sea monster over an underwater volcano and explodes it to kill the beast. Similar to what he does in Super Cyclone.