Astro Boy tells the story of a youthful robot boy - Astro - modeled after the deceased son of a research scientist, Dr. Tenma. Originally intended to be kept a secret, the atomic-powered ... See full summary »
Tabitha St. Germain,
Astroboy (based on the Japanese cartoon character Mighty Atom) was the creation of Dr Osamu Tezuka, an influential figure in the early development of manga (Japanese comics). Atom was the first animated series produced by Tezuka's TV and film production company, Mushi Studios. The initial episode was shown as a TV special on New Year's Eve (one of the most widely viewed evenings on Japanese television) and an instant success. NBC networking executives visiting Japan saw the popularity of the series and purchased the US broadcast rights. Shortly thereafter, the English version, renamed Astroboy, was in syndication throughout America. The story line follows the adventures of a robot created in the likeness of a scientist's dead son. The scientist goes mad and sells the boy robot to a circus. In the climax of the first episode, the robots, though horribly mistreated by the circus owner, rescue circus patrons from certain death when a massive fire destroys the main tent. In reward for their heroism, the robots are granted their freedom. The remaining episodes deal with a wide range of issues, from the longing of robots for human emotions and families, to the destruction of the environment. Pretty hefty stuff compared to the funny animal hi-jinx of Saturday morning! In retrospect, the series is pretty remarkable. Though the translation was greatly softened and sometimes edited for juvenile audiences, the often dark and profound subject matter still is quite apparent. Some episodes, particularly toward the end of the English dubbed series, also exhibit increasingly dreamlike and surreal imagery. Simultaneously there was an increasing amount of violence in these programs and American parents were concerned on the effect of such shows on impressionable young minds. Sadly the American series was canceled after 104 episodes, but the Japanese productions continued for another 89 episodes. In the final episode produced in Japan, Atom sacrifices himself to save the world by manually guiding a missile toward a runaway asteroid.
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