I have just finished PLUTO, the Urasawa manga based on the most beloved character is Japanese popular culture, and I'm not talking about Doremon. I'm talking about the boy robot himself, Atom. Urasawa makes a masterpiece out of a masterpiece while still keeping the integrity of the original and Tezuka's memory. All I can say, is that Urasawa is a genius pure and simple.
For all of those who know anything about manga history, they know that Tezuka Osamu is the man credited with it's rise. He also started one of the first, if not the first, animation studio, Mushi Productions, and Atom was brought to life not only in Japan but in America as well. While Mushi Productions and Tezuka have also been blamed for the low pay and general messiness of the modern animation studios, he is still seen as the summit of it's creators. One of the people who thinks this is the modern animation buddha himself, Miyazaki Hayao.
In the years since his death to stomach cancer in 1989; which is also the year that Empor Hirohito died, Tezuka's family has gone to great lengths to keep the integrity of his characters. Though that doesn't stop them from being used by Toyota after they asked the family. Atom is still seen everywhere and there was a huge event for Atom's "birthday" where Dr. Tenma (Tezuka's own son Makoto) brought Atom (a robot laying on a table) to life for the first time. The crowds ate it up, though it wasn't as big of a hit as they assumed it would be. And we all know what assuming does to people.
Yet Urasawa, who has been very open with how much Phoenix influenced him when he was younger, who had established himself with Happy, Yawara, Monster and 20th Century Boys contacted Tezuka's son with the idea for a manga that made a side character in Tezuka's world the main character in his world. Intrigued by the idea, Makoto said yes and even said he would help with ideas and thoughts while the manga was being developed and published. The amount of respect this shows to Urasawa should not be hard to see. It is a true mark of authenticity for Tezuka fans as well as for Urasawa. To have the family of the King of Manga give you approval to mess with their inheritance is a true honor and statement of Urasawa's place in the manga world.
And Urasawa did them justice. Not only did Pluto keep the integrity of it's original plot and characters, Urasawa enhanced them to where the issues Tezuka brought center stage in the original where represented and dealt with like the adult issues they were. Race is always a difficult issue and publications are always reflections on how those discriminated peoples were treated. We as readers only have to look at books like the recent The Help to see how the Civil Rights era housemaids were treated by those who employed them. The robots in the future in Tezuka's world dealt with very similar, if not some of the same problems.
The 7 most famous A.I units are the perfect representations of fighters who came home, saw horrors and committed them, and tried to move on. Even with their robot memories that never forget, struggles with extreme emotions and how to deal with constant snide comments from humans are the core of this story. They, just like when slavery was still a legal and accepted business in the Southern states, are people who deal with things just as humans do, but are never seen as humans. Hatred, one of the strongest emotions, pushes both human and robot to the point of no return. And in the end, Atom has to deal with how to handle his own pain and hatred.
There is a very i-Robot undertone, or maybe it was a very Atom undertone in i-Robot about how robots are going to end up taking over and replacing humans. With the world economical crisis and the more companies are turning to machines to make the assembly line work, this fear is a constant in some minds. What do we do when humans are rendered useless? Will that time ever come? How advanced does an A.I have to be to be able to blend into human life? These are questions the reader has to ask themselves as they read the series. Of course, robotics is no where near the level of the robots in this series, but who knows what will be happening in the future.
This series is a solid 5 out of 5. The intrigue, suspense, thought provoking plot, and reflections on modern society make Urasawa create a masterpiece, from a masterpiece.