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,
The Smurfs are little blue creatures that live in mushroom houses in a forest inhabited mainly by their own kind. The smurfs average daily routine is attempting to avoid Gargomel, an evil man who wants to kill our little blue friends.
The first animated television series to be shown overseas from its originating country. See more »
In the first episode, it's the year 2000 when Dr. Tenma/Boynton starts building Astroboy. One year passes as Dr. Tenma builds Astroboy, and several years pass as Astroboy is supposed to be growing up. However, later episodes in the series say it's still the year 2000. See more »
Osamu Tezuka's original Astro Boy manga was an overnight sensation, and by the mid-50s had inspired a live-action television show (very low budget, from what I can tell from the trailer for it I've seen). Then in 1962, Tezuka himself developed this animated cartoon series for television writing, drawing, even participating in the animation with his staff of six (some of whom went on to become notable figures in the anime industry). Due to budget constraints, the series uses what is known as 'limited animation' with stock backgrounds, stock shots, very limited figure movement, etc. But I admit this actually increases the charm of the series for me; it has a quirky surrealistically mechanical aura in many of the visuals.
It should be noted that animation had been a fascination for Tezuka long before he initiated this series. His father owning a movie projector, Tezuka was, from quite an early age, fascinated with American animated films, primarily those by Walt Disney, although the main influence discernible in the Astro Boy series is that of the Fleischer Brothers. The Astro Boy series could not duplicate the slickness or gloss of the better-budgeted American animated television shows or films of the time, but it does evidence a sophisticated humor and a visual inventiveness well in advance of them. (It should be noted that Tezuka's manga were also always in advance of work being done in American comics of the same era.) Astro Boy was originally designed for Japanese males in their early teens hence his physical appearance as a twelve-year old boy. The aesthetic psychology at work here is fairly plain. Astro looked like many of the members of his audience, but without physical blemish. However, he still represented the sense of alienation that young people often feel when entering the 'awkward years' of early puberty he looked human, but he was 'different' he was a robot.
Nonetheless, there were compensations for this alienation he was extremely smart, had amazing powers, and always demonstrated a conscience superior to many of the adult humans around him. So he wasn't just different, but his difference marked him as superior. Fortunately for the world, he had no vanity, so never exhibited smug satisfaction with himself. On the contrary, he was always trying to find his way through the world, trying to be both robot and boy in a world where many could accept him as neither.
So there's the initial hook for his young audience, the process of identifying with a like, though superior (in some way) hero.
But that's not the case for adults, is it? well, certainly many of us still secretly long for our childhood after all.
But I think the appeal runs deeper. For one thing, there are those big innocent eyes of his, staring out in wonder at the brave new world of the future. He can express a number of emotions, even negative ones, but the two primary expressions we see in his face (certainly the most memorable) are a fierce determination when in action, and a winning, unambiguous smile unambiguous because there is not the slightest hint of duplicity or of pretension in it. So Astro Boy is all of a piece he never seems temperamental or given over to deep doubt, he never holds a grudge or engages in hidden agendas. He says what he means (and frequently takes what humans say all too literally). And of course he is always willing to help others, frequently at the risk of his own existence: he's a true hero. In many ways an ideal human being.
Except he's a robot. And that makes all the difference.
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